What is Technical SEO? Your Guide to the Basics.

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What is Technical SEO?

Technical SEO is a set of website optimization practices that help search engines crawl and index your website and improve the user experience on your site. 

Why is Technical SEO Important?

Technical SEO is important because search engines are more likely to display technically optimized sites in search results. Technical SEO is only one part of the SEO puzzle, but a well-optimized site can considerably boost SEO performance.

Elements of Technical SEO

Security

Making sure your site is secure is one of the first steps in Technical SEO optimization. 

A Secure Sockets Layer certificate (SSL certificate) is essential to establishing a secure website. 

A valid SSL certificate creates an encrypted link between a browser and a web server. 

How to tell if a site has a valid SSL certificate?

  • Sites with a valid SSL certificate will have URLs that start with https://
  • Sites without a valid SSL certificate will have URLs that start with http://

Without an SSL certificate, users will be directed to a page warning their connection to your site is “… not private”. 

In 2014 Google made HTTPS a ranking factor. That means not having an SSL certificate will negatively impact your website’s ability to rank in search results.

Learn how to install an SSL certificate on your site.

Website Speed

Another critical aspect of Technical SEO is website load speed. 

Page speed was announced as a ranking factor for mobile search in 2018. Meaning the rate at which a page loads would start impacting search ranking for mobile results.

Then in 2019, Google announced Mobile First indexing. Google started using the mobile version of a site as the primary source for indexing and ranking. 

These two updates mean a fast-loading mobile website is an essential aspect of Technical SEO optimization.

Here are a few ways you can improve your website’s page speed.

  • Use fast hosting
  • Use a fast DNS provider
  • Reduce HTTP requests
  • Compress your images
  • Compress web pages
  • Use a single CSS stylesheet
  • Minify your site’s code 

Note: Google formerly recommended site owners use an HTML framework called Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to improve mobile load speeds. However, in June of 2021, Google announced they would no longer give ranking preference to AMP websites as the page experience update would make the framework obsolete.

Page Experience

In February of 2022, Google started the rollout of the Page Experience Update. This update introduced a set of ranking factors aimed at improving user experience on websites. 

With the release of this update, page experience became an important aspect of technical SEO.

The Page experience update introduced the following ranking factors:

Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals are a set of three metrics that gauge loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability.

The Three Metrics:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – LCP is a measure of “Perceived Load Speed” because it measures when the page’s main content has loaded. Google recommends websites aim for a LCP of 2.5 seconds or less.
  • First Input Delay (FID) – FID measures interactivity by calculating “load responsiveness”. This metric aims to quantify the feeling users experience when trying to interact with a website. Google recommends websites aim for FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift(CLS) – CLS measures visual stability by quantifying how often user experience unexpected layout shifts. Google recommends websites aim for a CLS score of less than 0.1.

You can test your site’s Core Web Vitals score in Google Search Console or with Lighthouse reports.

Mobile-friendliness

This metric is not explicitly defined, but many people in the SEO community believe it is a reference to responsive design. Google has publically stated that responsive design is their preferred format.

A responsively designed site is one that automatically scales and reformats page layouts for the screen they are being viewed on. 

Is your site mobile-friendly?

Test your site for free using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

No Intrusive Interstitials

Google doesn’t like it when you use obnoxious pop-ups on your site, making it harder for users to access your content.

Note: Google also reinforced the need for sites to use https in this update.

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Crawlability

The next step in Technically optimizing your website is making sure it’s crawlable.

Google uses programs called spiders to crawl your website and examine its page structure and content. If Google can’t crawl your site, it won’t get indexed and won’t rank.

You need to take a few steps to make sure your site is crawlable.

Create an XML sitemap

An XML sitemap lists all the essential pages on your website. 

Creating an XML sitemap helps Google understand the structure of your site and which pages are more important than others. Creating an XML sitemap makes it easier for Google to crawl and index your pages.

Set up your robots.txt file

robots.txt file is a set of instructions your site gives to search engine crawlers. Your robots.txt file tells crawlers which URLs on your site it can access.

Note: be careful when setting up or editing your robots.txt file. Minor errors can prevent crawlers from accessing essential pages and files on your site.

Eliminate 404s

Everyone hates clicking on a link only to be directed to a page that doesn’t exist. If search engine crawlers find too many dead links on your site, it will negatively impact your website’s ability to rank. You can correct this issue by properly redirecting pages.

Fix Duplicate Content Issues

If your site has the same content on multiple pages, it can confuse search engines. 

When search engine crawlers find the same content in multiple places, they won’t know which one is most important. As a result, crawlers may give all versions of the content a lower rank.

This might sound like an uncommon problem. 

Who would create the same content on multiple pages, right?

But you may have duplicate content on your site without knowing it. Due to technical reasons, different URLs can show the same content on your site. 

Most users won’t even notice this, but search engines will. 

To resolve this issue, you must add a canonical link element to all pages with duplicate content. Adding this element to the duplicate pages will tell search engines which page you consider the definitive version.

Learn more about Canonical Tags

Add Structured Data to Your Website

Structured data is code that you can add to your website to better explain your content to search engines. Search engines are pretty smart, but they don’t always understand what your content or web pages are about. Structured data allows you to format important information in a way that search engines can readily understand.

Using structured data also allows your content to rank for special search features called rich snippets. These special search features are more visually impactful in search and have higher than average click-through rates.

Learn more about structured data

Use Hreflang on Multilingual Websites

If your site is going to be used by people in multiple countries with multiple languages, you will want to use hreflang. Search engines don’t always know which version of a page to show users in a given country.

By adding hreflang to your site, you solve this problem. Hreflang allows you to tell search engines which version of a page should be shown to searchers in each region.

Register Your Website with Google Search Console and Bing Webmasters Tools

The final important step in Technical SEO is registering your site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmasters Tools. These are free tools that allow you to submit your website for indexing and allow you to monitor the technical health of your site and its performance in search.

Want help optimizing your Site’s Technical SEO?

Contractor Growth Network offers SEO Services and Website Development. Contact us!

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