For most website owners, technical SEO can be quite overwhelming.
Content optimization and traffic generation are easy enough to understand. This is because these strategies involve targeting actual people.
For technical search engine optimization, the tactics employed serve search engines. Therefore, understanding technical SEO requires a basic understanding of how search engines work.
There’s no doubt that you need to employ technical SEO strategies for your website to succeed.
Sure, you can depend on on-page tactics and focus on perfect content optimization. But, that won’t make much of a difference if search engines can’t properly crawl your website in the first place.
You might have already employed all the SEO tricks you know. But, your website still isn’t anywhere close to getting decent Google rankings.
Now, you’re probably racking your brain about what else you can do. The answer most likely involves something you haven’t considered addressing like your website’s structure or load time.
Before we proceed, it’s important that you understand the whole context of SEO. This understanding will help you have a better grasp on technical SEO.
The Basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Simply put, SEO is a set of practices that aim to make websites more prominent in search engines.
Considering the context of “Optimization,” this means your website:
- Is accessible and easily indexed;
- Uses the right signals that search engines crawlers understand;
- Follows rules based on what search engine algorithms deem relevant and trustworthy;
- Has high-quality, engaging, and searchable content that’s relevant to your audience; and
- Has content that’s easy to understand not just by people but search engines as well.
Understanding SEO processes and practicing them consistently makes your website “SEO-friendly” which means it’s more likely to appear in organic search results for searches related to your content.
There are definitely loopholes in Google as well as in other search engines.
Amateur marketers focus on taking advantage of those loopholes. But, it’s actually smarter to focus on improving your website and its content following guidelines and best practices set forth by search engines.
Over the last decade, SEO has changed so much more than any other marketing channel. And, if you aren’t following the trends, something could really go wrong with your own online business.
There are 3 phases of search engine optimization:
It might be tempting to believe that technical SEO doesn’t have any advantages over the others.
But, before you make any judgments, here’s everything you need to know:
How Search Engines Work
Before you can begin to fix your technical SEO issues, you need to understand how search engines crawl and index your website.
Search engines have bots or computer programs commonly referred to as “spiders.” These spiders continuously scour the web for content. Then, they use algorithms to make judgments on what search terms they’re relevant for. Also, how trustworthy each page is.
Think of any time you’ve performed a search on Google. The list of results is actually in order of Google’s judgment of what’s most relevant to you. It also considers what might provide the most value to you as the searcher.
What Is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO is arguably the most crucial part of the 3 search engine optimization phases. It involves structuring your website for bots that crawl and index online content.
Understanding the meaning of technical SEO is a forward step in today’s marketing world. Many people still believe that everything about SEO revolves around on-page and off-page optimization. The problem is, that simply isn’t true. In fact, search engine optimization as a practice started from a technical perspective.
Technical SEO deals with the construction of your website. Addressing this helps improve its visibility on search engines. The good news is, it might just take one huge effort. You first carry out a technical SEO audit for your website. Then, once you’ve fixed all potential problems, you won’t need to do it again unless you go through a redesign.
Understanding technical SEO is also important to get a leg up on your competition. It’s very likely that your competitors focus on on-page and off-page tactics. Getting your structure just right will give you a huge advantage.
What Advantage Does Technical SEO Offer?
Imagine spiders trying to crawl through your website. What would happen if they can’t do so properly because of stumbling blocks in your code? If bots can’t go through your website, it simply won’t appear on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Note that technical SEO isn’t about your website content or any other form of promotion. Rather, it focuses on the website infrastructure or structural optimization.
Technical SEO practices help you improve your website’s structure. Specifically, it involves making your site bot-friendly. The goal is for bots to have no issues with crawling through and indexing it.
For a better understanding of technical SEO, consider the involved website components:
- Server Level
- Navigation Structure
- Page Level
- Meta Description
- Structured Data
Technical SEO is quite complicated but it’s good to understand the best practices to follow. Keep in mind that it’s highly recommended to hire an expert to fix your technical SEO issues. But, if you prefer to do it yourself, follow the tips below.
Here are some of the best practices for a technical SEO audit:
Decide if you want to use the www subdomain.
Specifying your preferred domain is probably the first step you need to take when creating your website or blog. You should be careful when selecting from the domain options. If you make a mistake at this point, you may need to change it in the future. That could negatively impact your SEO ranking.
Did you know that a website by default is accessible with or without the www subdomain? Whether or not you chose to add www at the front of your domain, it doesn’t make any difference. Your visitors will still be able to find you.
For example, www.example.com takes you to the same website as example.com. But, the problem is that search engines may view them as two different websites with the same content. This means you can’t use both for one website. Otherwise, you may encounter duplicate content and indexing issues. So, make sure you specify whether you want to use the www subdomain. Then, stick with your decision to avoid negatively impacting your page rank.
The choice of using a subdomain is completely up to you. What’s most important is that you declare your decision. You can accomplish this through your domain registrar or your CMS.
If you’re using Google Webmaster Tools, you can set your preferred domain in 3 easy steps:
- Go Search Console Home and select the site you want to set.
- Click on the gear icon and then select “Site Settings.”
- Find the section called “Preferred Domain” and select your preferred option.
Optimize your website for speed.
Google often mentions the importance of speed in website optimization. In general, very fast websites perform better than slower websites.
Tools like Pingdom and Google Mobile Speed will help you check your website speed. These apps will also offer some recommendations to improve your website’s performance. Typically, changes involve technical issues that require the knowledge of an expert developer. However, you can try to improve your website speed by following these recommendations:
- Don’t use heavy pre-made themes
- Upgrade to PHP 7.2
- Upgrade your server to 64-bit operating system
- Optimize the size of your images
- Use a caching plugin to distribute cached pages to your users
- Upgrade your WordPress and all the plugins to the latest versions
- Optimize your CSS and JS Files
- Don’t use too many scripts in your website
- Minimize the use of plugins
Redesign your website structure and navigation.
Before building your website, you must consider the structure and navigation. But, if your website is already up and the structure and navigation isn’t ideal for SEO, you’ll have to redesign.
Your website’s navigational structure helps users quickly find the information they’re looking for. It will also encourage them to stay on your website longer. Additionally, this makes the search engines understand your page better for easy indexing. Surely, neglecting your website structure will negatively affect all your future SEO efforts.
Check on your robots.txt file.
Robots.txt is a file embedded within your website’s root directory. It gives the search engines instructions on which pages they should crawl and add to their index. Because the robots.txt file is significant to your website’s crawl-ability, you need to check and optimize it.
Note that you don’t have to make any changes to the robots.txt file format. All you have to do is check and confirm that there aren’t any malicious blockings. Scrap anything that will keep the bots from getting your website indexed.
Optimize your URL structure.
To optimize your URL structure, simply take note of the following best practices:
- Never use uppercase characters
- Use a hyphen (-) to separate words
- Use short and descriptive URLs
- Never use dispensable characters or words
- Use targeted keywords in your URL (but avoid stuffing)
Once you’ve optimized your URLs, you won’t need to do it again. You just need to make sure the ones you use for new posts follow these tips as well.
If you’re using WordPress, you know that it automatically creates your post URL using the title of the post. That isn’t a bad thing. However, there might be a need to tighten it up after it’s been automatically generated. This is important for accuracy and focus on your most targeted keywords.
Take a post entitled “How to Find the Best Virtual Assistants to Handle Your SEO Projects,” for example. WordPress’ automatically generated URL will look something like this:
But, if you take the time to tighten it up, you’ll get more focused URLs like this:
A URL structure like this may be more valuable for SEO. As an added bonus, it’s easier to remember and may also bring in more direct traffic.
Consider your structured data.
In recent years, Google has placed more and more importance in structured data. Structured data is basically code added directly to a page’s markup to declare what type of content it is. Keep in mind that bots don’t read and comprehend website content like humans do. It helps to let them know what type of content they’re consuming so they know exactly how to index it.
In an SEO perspective, this helps search engines give more relevant results to its users. In turn, website owners get more highly targeted traffic.
Is structured data really part of technical SEO?
Yes. Although it’s connected to the content of a website, it mostly involves how content is coded.
Once you’ve defined your structured data, add it to your CMS template. Then, it will automatically apply to all new content moving forward. Apart from enhancing the presentation of your content, it greatly impacts your SERP rankings. By getting special rankings like featured snippets, you could increase your traffic tenfold.
Review your canonical URLs.
A canonical URL allows you to declare which exact URL you want Google to crawl and rank. This is especially useful when you have different URLs leading to the same page or similar pages. Setting a canonical URL will let you identify which is the master copy. The rest can be ignored. Without explicitly doing this, Google might mistakenly penalize you for publishing duplicate content.
Each page of your website must have a canonical URL. This involves a tag like “, in theof your pages and posts.
To confirm that any of your pages has a canonical URL, follow these steps:
- Open the page you want to check.
- Right-click anywhere on the page.
- Click “View Source.”
- Use the Find function on your browser (Cmd+F on Mac and Ctrl+F on Windows) to look for the rel=”canonical” tag and confirm the value.
If you can’t find the rel=”canonical” anywhere in the page source, go ahead and add it. If you’re working with WordPress, you can easily do that using the Yoast SEO plugin.
Create and add a breadcrumb menu.
A breadcrumb menu is a collection of links placed at the bottom or top of a page. This allows your website users to easily navigate your webpages.
Is it important to add a breadcrumb menu for technical SEO?
The advantages below show the significance of a breadcrumb menu for technical SEO:
- It helps visitors navigate easily through your website.
- It gives search engine bots directions on how to crawl through and index your site.
Leaving a breadcrumb trail is a practice that’s recommended by Google. It helps bots understand the hierarchy of pages on your website and so impacts SEO greatly.
Check and optimize your website’s 404 page.
There are many reasons why a website can go down. But no matter the reason, they simply do happen. And when they do, a 404 page appears. The same is true when only certain pages are down or even when users type in the wrong URL.
While a standard 404 error page works well enough, it’s always better to set your own. Here are some benefits of having an optimized 404 page:
- It looks more professional
- You have the opportunity to explain why a page doesn’t exist anymore
- You can use it to lead visitors to another page
- You can publish your site navigation and let users decide where they want to go
Custom 404 pages don’t just give you another opportunity for content optimization. It also helps improve your technical SEO through proper navigation and internal linking.
Review your website’s mobile friendliness.
Majority of web traffic now comes from smartphones and tablets. So, you need to make sure that your website is properly optimized for mobile viewing. The small display and touchscreen operation makes mobile browsing different. A website that doesn’t respond well on mobile can be irritating to use or even completely broken.
In an SEO perspective, having a mobile responsive website allows it to rank higher of SERPs. For one, it should boost your mobile traffic and lower your bounce rate. These impact SEO greatly. Additionally, it should load more quickly, further boosting your website for SEO.
Consider website pagination.
Pagination is a manner of dividing large pieces of content. Each part is then published on a separate yet linked page. Basically, you’re breaking your website up into multiple pages. This not only makes your site look more presentable. It also makes it easier for visitors to take in your content. More importantly, it plays a huge role in technical SEO. Generally, it is considered as a great practice to impact your search rankings.
Check on your XML sitemap.
An XML Sitemap is essentially a table of contents for your website. The markup is in XML and it’s not really meant for the consumption of regular visitors. It’s mainly there for the benefit of search engine bots.
With a complete XML Sitemap, bots can easily navigate your site. Plus, they have more information on what each page contains. Consequently, that leads to better rankings in SERPs.
Make sure your website is protected.
It might not be obvious but site security can actually affect your rankings in SERPs. For one, more informed users now check whether the sites they visit are secure. That means, having a secure site can positively affect your traffic. More importantly, site security is also an important part of technical SEO.
Search engines like Google value trusted websites. And, there are various parameters to gauge a website’s trustworthiness. Among them is having an SSL certificate. With an SSL certificate, you won’t just be able to lead visitors to https pages. Your site will also gain trust points with Google.
On the surface, technical SEO might sound like something a newbie can do.
Sure, you can do your homework and read through all the tutorials you can get hold of. But, the stakes are too high to make that gamble. One mistake can break your website and it might cost your more to get it back up.
No doubt, nothing beats the expertise of a seasoned web developer that specializes in SEO. In the end, whatever you pay an SEO professional, you’ll get back tenfold in boosted sales from your website.