What is Technical SEO?
We’ve talked about the importance of Content in an earlier post. Just as a car will not run without an engine, a content strategy will not work unless you have the technical SEO element right. Your web site need to be functional and easy for Google to index. Google likes users to have a good experience on the websites it recommends in the listings. This makes absolute sense because if the integrity of the Google listings were to be questionable then people would start to use another Search Engine. Which means less advertising!
When we talk about technical SEO, we mean the stuff that makes your website accessible to users (and search engines). It is widely known that Google actively penalises sites for broken links (404 Errors), but what is not so widely known is the very wide range of errors that can creep into a site as it is being developed. For that reason, we always recommend that you carry out a Technical SEO audit and fix as many errors as you can, before embarking on an SEO campaign.
What is a Technical SEO Audit?
We always start with a technical audit. There are two reasons. Firstly it gives us an opportunity to resolve all the issues that will contribute to a low score for the site. Secondly it shapes our research into new keywords and content in the second phase.
To build a good user experience, site loading speed is really important. If you can do sub-second that makes a big difference. Anything over 5 seconds is a really bad idea. Mobile Friendly means using a responsive theme at minimum. Google really focuses on the mobile experience these days, so this is no longer optional.
Broken Links are an irritation, Lists, and Headings make the content easy to read. Use H1 once only, at the top of a post and break up your sections by using H2 and H3 – these function as extra keywords. If a post is really long, its worth including a table of content at the top.
Internal linking makes your posts easier for the user and the search engine to find, as does the ubiquitous Related Posts, found at the end of a page.
All of these things are possible to do manually, but if you run more than one website, you’ll soon discover that SEO can be a full time occupation. We use tools including SiteBulb and SemRush in order to audit our sites and discover what’s going on under the covers.
It’s useful and focuses the attention to split the analysis into two parts, Off page SEO and On Page SEO
Off Page SEO
- Site Loading Speed
- Mobile Friendly
- Friendly URLs
On Page SEO
- No Broken Links
- All Images with Alt Attributes
- Internal Linking
Technical SEO Behind the Scenes
SSL is mandatory these days. Google wants the web to be secured and that means even your Contact Form. An SSL Cert will encrypt the content of any messages passing from your website back to the server.
Broken Links and Redirects
are a web designer’s nightmare. Top tip – decide on your user friendly, SEO optimised page titles and get them right. Once you start your internal linking, any change to that title will make for a broken link or an unnecessary redirect. Redirects are a necessary evil – many CMSs generate URL’s on the fly, depending on how the user navigates to a page. You can also use 301 redirects to move viewers from an old page to a new one with similar content, thus avoiding a 404 being triggered from previously indexed pages. Similarly you can use canonicals to advise Google which one of a range of similar pages to list. It is a pain, but you have to weed all the old links out of your pages manually. A tool such as SiteBulb will generate a list of broken links and tell you what page they are on.
Plugins like Yoast and RankMath generate their own sitemaps. A sitemap tells Google what it needs to crawl in order to index the site. If you don’t use an sEO plugin then you can use an online generator such as XML Sitemaps to create one for you. You then need to configure Google to read the sitemap and search your site.
The Alt Attribute for Images
Images are an often overlooked source of traffic. Giving images a title and an alt attribute is a missed keyword opportunity.
URLS should give the reader a view of what the page is about and what type of content it will contain. Use a hierarchical structure to indicate the type of content e.g. “mysite.com/products/widget1″ is more useful than “mysite.com/widget1″ Do not go more than two or three levels if you can avoid it.
We haven’t mentioned keywords. And there is a reason for that. Keywords matter little to search engines and a lot to humans. We use the description field to tell Google what the page is about, the Title and H1 reflect our focus keyword and the headings contain semantically related keywords (not synonyms). This approach gives a post focus and structure, makes it easy to read and index. We will be writing at length about keyword strategy soon.
Conclusion – What is Technical SEO?
Once all of these things are in place, you can start to add the killer content that will make your site the honeypot for viewers that it deserves to be!
As SEO consultants we work with many websites, keeping them at the forefront of the rankings. If you are looking for an answer to “What is Technical SEO?” and this article only makes your heart sink, then give us a call on 01743 224 095 to find out how we can help you.