In SEO, you can think of two different kinds. The On-page SEO part that is all about optimizing your website and it’s contents, and the Off-page SEO part that is all about connecting your website with other spots throughout the internet. A few years back this would be the whole story of SEO. But things got way more complex! Welcome Technical SEO, the new “3rd” SEO discipline.
Technical SEO: what is it?
You might say now: a 3rd SEO discipline? The first two were difficult enough of me to handle! Do I wanna hear about this? The answer is YES, you should!
This SEO discipline is about all that can be done and optimized on your website and it’s server apart from content. It takes into account search engine guidelines to improve the crawling of your website. As these guidelines are constantly getting more complex in order to keep track with Google and competitors, you could say that Technical SEO is a way of permanent refinement.
“The steady optimization of technical aspects of your server environment and website to constantly build the necessary base for your website content to be approachable and visible in the best possible way” – that would be our short definition of Technical SEO.
It’s about all the necessary work that is not directly related with content. Speaking about server-level, it’s so complicated most developers wouldn’t even understand, or need ages to catch up.
Maybe examples and details will help to get a clearer picture…
Technical SEO Aspects
1. Load speed of (integral parts) of Your Website
In leading eCommerce businesses it’s a well known fact that 100ms higher loading time of a product page will bring a 1% cutback in product sales. Thus, Page Load Speed is one of the leading ranking factors in the Google realm. And it’s more complex than you think.
Don’t think of a page loading as one big piece within a certain time. Think of certain aspects load in different amounts of time. Some of these aspects are called First Contentful Paint, Time to Interactive, Largest Contentful Paint, Cumulative Layout Shift or Total Blocking Time.
It’s mostly still true that the faster all parts of a page load, the better. But keep in mind that Google also wants them to load in the right order. The user should be able to start to read and understand as soon as possible, even if lower parts of the page are still loading.
To begin with, it makes sense to look into the basics of Page Speed Optimization. What can be done to make the user experience as good as possible?
- Image Optimization
This is one of the most efficient page load speed measures. Adjusting image sizes will make lots of difference on your page load behavior. But watch out: your images NEED to remain SHARP!
Jpegs are usually good for photographs, while Pngs are good for graphics. Also work with smaller and more optimized images rather than large, data heavy ones. And make them load in the perfect way, not separated one by way.
LazyLoad content loading plays an important role. Most browsers support this and should work well. LazyLoad is lazy loading of content. Such as iframes, images and video. It is imperative to introduce this technology to the site first.
Consider embedding WebP images on your site. You can see the full list of supported browsers. For embedding WebP images on a site, it is best to be dynamic so you can serve images across all browsers.
Styles should also be optimized and not have any duplicates. Keep your styles to a minimum. Try not to include the “! Important” parameter in your styles, because this parameter delays the rendering of your pages.
- Simple, Minimalistic Codes
Every piece of code that you add to your website needs time to load. As easy as that.
That is true for the website template components, all designs, widgets, plugins, but even for tracking codes! Especially when they load separately (not recommended).
The question is how long you would like the user to wait? Or wait yourself as a user. Keep it to a strict minimum and to 3-4 seconds max. Count loudly: one, two, three… this is a long time for a website you’re opening to load!
Of course the design shouldn’t suffer as well. Try to optimize and adjust wherever you can, but never compromise on the perfect (user friendly, SEO optimized-) design!
- Browser Caching
What technically happens here is that information and parts of a website are saved on a local device when the website is visited. It’s stored as the website’s cache in your browser. This helps to load the page faster the 2nd, 3rd, … time the website is visited.
The options of Browser Caching for Page Load Speed are a bit limited, and often pursued on a deeper server level. But it’s worth to look into it and support your users from the next time they visit.
- Keep redirects to a minimum
Every redirect will cost some time for the user until the next content is fully loaded. Google hates redirects, especially two or more combined ones.
Make it a conscious habit to check all redirects on your website and check which ones can be avoided. As a common rule make sure there is one redirect per page as a maximum.
The best known redirect is the 404 error page. This of course can’t be avoided for 100%, so make the best out of it. It should definitely be a friendly, custom page that matches your web design and personality of your business. It should guide back to the right places.
We’re happy to file a report for you here and helping you to guide your users from these unwanted 404 error occasions. This is very important, as 404’s usually lead to bounces.
2. Mobile First – really, 1st!
All of you heard about this before. Google emphasized crawling for mobile rather than desktop. Since April 2015, their algorithm focuses on the mobile version of a website and from there rather additionally checks for desktop friendliness. While still, most web designers design websites for desktop and then “translate” it into mobile.
Mobile Friendliness, especially for mobile search of course, is a key factor today when it comes to search engine rankings. Take this one seriously and make it a habit to use your own website in the mobile version, even if you sit in front of your laptop. You will have a better perspective and discover possible mobile issues much earlier.
3. Site architecture
The website architecture is a crucial part of Technical SEO. A secure SSL certificate, breadcrumbs, a well organized URL structure and a professional robots.txt file belong to the architecture of a website for SEO purposes.
- Professional Robots.txt
In all of our tests replacing the normal robots.txt file by a very extensive detailed one gave significant and often incredible ranking boosts. Such a file consists of lines to block unwanted crawling bots and enabling Social Media crawlers in the perfect way.
Adding a professional robots.txt file doesn’t take much effort and will even save you server usage. If you don’t use such a file yet, please contact us to be helped.
- The Format of your URLs
The task of URLs is to give details about the page for search engines and users. When using the right, user-friendly and search engine-friendly format it has the potential to increase page rankings for sure. And in contrast, when messing it up the rankings could suffer quite a lot. Perfectly, the user is supposed to grasp right away what content topic to find on a particular webpage.
Every URL should contain the target keyword of the given page. That will increase the keyword-relevancy and rankings of the entire page.
At the same time it’s important to keep the URL readable in an appropriate size. Try to minimize by removing unnecessary filling words. Also make sure the words of the URLs are separated with hyphens.
- SSL Certificate
Since 2014 HTTPS is a ranking factor for Google. Nowadays Google even made clear that every website should use a secure SSL protocol.
Making it clear, using HTTPS:// will increase your Google rankings. Even in today’s search results, you’ll still find a very few HTTP sites ranking well. But better take care of this detail, in order to be ready for upcoming safety updates of the Google algorithm or being able to view the referrer details in Google Analytics. This is only possible with HTTPS.
Breadcrumbs are also very important for the website architecture and should not be overlooked.
So what is a breadcrumb? It’s the part of the page that shows the current location of the user within the website architecture. That’s especially important for large websites with many pages in ecommerce. But also forums or other websites with lots of different content pages and multi-level hierarchies.
Can you imagine that the name of this technical SEO term comes from an old fairy tail? True story!
Breadcrumbs are essential to tell the user in addition to URLs about where exactly he is located within the website hierarchy right now. It also helps the user to go back to certain categories or previously opened pages.
- Internal linking
Internal links are the connections between newer contents, for example on your blog, and older more established content on your website. For that, links are added to content with thematic relations between the two pages.
One rule that you should apply here is to keep relations always within one category, not between all categories of the website. Otherwise the user would be forwarded to another topical category, that he might not primarily be interested in. In other words, keep the categorical focus here, also called “siloing” or the pyramid structure of a website.
This focus and structure will result in better rankings, through the fact that frequently linked pages are crawled more often while topical discipline is kept.
4. Duplicate Content
The easiest way to check for Duplicate Content issues is using Google Search Console. But also most OnPage SEO tools will give you details about duplicate pages, meta titles and descriptions or text parts.
There is no need about entirely removing entire pages with duplicate contents. Sometimes rephrasing the right parts can be enough. Especially when it’s just the Meta Data.
If you want to keep the duplicate content for some reason, e.g. as a separate landing page, you might wanna use Canonical Tags telling Google that only one of the pages should get the link power.
5. Mark up with Structured Data
You heard of Rich Snippets or Structured Data before. It basically supports Google a lot by giving details about what exactly can be found on a certain page or part of a page on your website.
Examples are Rich Snippets are the questions Google shows just below the search query, reviews (stars) under certain search results or boxes giving the answer to your questions in text or bullet points format.
All this can be enhanced by using structured data in your CMS. In WordPress also known as Schema.org, otherwise Google Markup Helper will do the job.
To check on your Structured Data, use Google’s free structured data testing tool. Or simply send us a mail for hiring us for that topic.