As you probably already know, SEO (search engine optimization) is a set of strategies and practices that improve a website’s ranking on search engines. However, it is usually separated into two main categories: technical SEO and on-page SEO. In order to come up with a functional strategy, you need to have an equally good understanding of both components, and this article will give you a great foundation by helping you understand the basics of technical SEO.
Technical SEO is the process behind the improvement of the performance of your website, and the work usually happens in the back end or in the code of the site. It requires a good understanding of how search engines work, as it involves a number of disciplines that help the websites become easier for search engine robots to crawl and index. On top of that, it improves the site’s load time, as well as the user experience. And thanks to all of those factors, the website gets to score a higher ranking in search engine results. When compared to the on-page SEO, the technical counterpart is considered more complicated and intensive.
As mentioned above, technical SEO has a great impact on the website’s performance on Google. Namely, no matter how well-designed the pages of your website may be, if the search engines cannot access them, they will not appear in search results. As a result, the website will experience a serious drop in traffic volume, which directly impacts the revenue of the business in a negative way. Moreover, mobile-friendliness and page speed are both valid Google ranking factors, and both are can be controlled through technical modifications. If the site’s pages have slow load times, the visitors can get frustrated and leave abruptly. Such user behavior indicates a poor user experience, which is a signal for Google to lower the rank of the website.
In order to make sure you’re website can be properly crawled by search engines, you need to have a good understanding of the following points:
Crawling is the process where search engines inspect the pages they already know, and follow the links on them in order to discover the pages they haven’t seen before. For instance, each time you publish a new blog post, you should add it to the blog archive page. If you do that, every time a search engine crawls the blog page, it will spot all the recently added links to new pages. Of course, there are ways to control what will be crawled on your own website.
Firstly, there are robots.txt files that you can update in order to tell the search engines what they should and shouldn’t crawl on the website. Next, you can determine how often the engines are supposed to crawl the pages by updating the crawl rate on your own. And finally, if there are some pages you want to make accessible to just a portion of your users, without allowing the search engines to crawl them, you can use access restrictions. The most commonly used methods for this purpose are IP whitelisting which only allows access to specific IP addresses, HTTP authentication which requires a password use, or simply some kind of a login system.
The frequency of crawling on a particular website depends on two factors: the number of times a search engine wants and intends to crawl it, and the number of sessions that the website itself actually allows. Basically, the pages that are popular and the ones that often go through changes will be subject to more crawling sessions than the ones that are poorly linked and not as popular with users. On top of that, if crawlers encounter obstacles or difficulties, they will either slow down or terminate their actions until the issues are resolved.
Even though there are other search engines out there as well, the majority of website owners are mainly interested in the results regarding Google. In order to see how Google is crawling your site, you need to go to the Google Search Console and check out the Crawl stats report. And if you wish to further inspect all crawl activity on your website, you will need to get access to server logs.
The moment the search engines finish crawling the pages, they move on to trying to analyze and comprehend the content published on the pages. After that, all the pieces of content are stored in the search index - a master list that contains billions of web pages that can be shown for particular search queries. Therefore, in order for your website pages to appear in search engine results, they need to be indexed first.
The easiest way to check whether the pages are indexed is to complete a “site:” search. Basically, in order to check the index status of your website, all you need to do is type site:www.yourdomainname.com in the search box, and the result will show you the number of pages that were indexed by Google.
Let’s go over the most important components of indexing:
The no index tag is a useful HTML snippet that you can use to keep certain pages out of the indexing process. The tag is placed in the <head> section of the webpage and this is what it’s supposed to look like:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex"
Since the goal is to have all the main pages properly indexed, you should only use this tag with a few exceptions like the thank you pages and the PPC landing pages.
When search engines detect similar content on multiple website pages, sometimes they don’t know which one should be indexed and shown in search results. In order to avoid such confusion and make it easier for search engines to do their job, websites owner use canonical tags. The canonical tag (rel=”canonical”) marks one of the links as the original version of the content, helping the engines know which one they should index and rank. The tag is placed in the <head> section of each page that is a duplicate, and this is what it looks like:
Check out some of the most effective strategies that can elevate your efforts when it comes to technical SEO:
Links are useful to search bots because they help them understand where each of the pages fits in the grand scheme, and they also give them information on how to rank a particular page. Internal links connect one page on your website to another one, and they help all the pages involved be found and ranked higher by search engines.
Backlinks or links from other sites to your own can be seen as a vote of confidence for your website. In other words, backlinks tell search engine robots that all the external websites that link to your content consider your pages worth crawling. And as the engines see more and more such votes, they add more credibility to your website. However, adding backlinks is definitely not a matter of quantity, but quality. In fact, linking to low-quality pages can hurt your hard-earned rankings.
HTTPS is a more secure version of HTTP, and it helps protect personal and financial user information from being compromised in any way. If you’re unsure whether your website already uses HTTPS, simply visit it and check out the “lock” icon that you can see in the address bar. If it shows a warning that reads “Not secure”, you are not using HTTPS and you should switch to it as soon as possible. And once the website moves from HTTP to HTTPS, make sure you include redirects from the HTTP to the HTTPS version of the site.
If your website is not mobile-friendly, its performance has been compromised for a while now. Back in 2016, Google introduced mobile-first indexing, giving priority to the mobile experience over the desktop. This means that in the process of indexing and ranking, Google relies on the mobile versions of your pages. To keep up with the trend and also check for any potential improvements, you should refer to the Mobile Usability report in the Google Search Console.
HTTP errors can hold back the work of search engine bots by blocking their access to important pieces of content on the website. Therefore, if there are any errors on your site, it is extremely important to address them promptly. However, each of the errors is unique, and it requires its own specific solution. That is why we prepared a list of the errors you may encounter:
Core Web Vitals are the speed metrics used by Google to measure the user experience on a website, and they include:
In order to check your current stats and improve them if needed, you need to check out the Core Web Vitals report in the Search Engine Console.
If your website has content versions in multiple languages, you will need to include hreflang tags. Hreflang tags are HTML attributes that define the language of a webpage, as well as its geographical targeting. The tag helps Google presents the users with country and language-specific versions of the site, depending on their location.
Even though all the components of an SEO strategy are equally important, without proper technical SEO, your website would never even get a chance to be discovered and ranked by search engines. Therefore, technical SEO plays a key role in getting your website as close as possible to the top of search results, and in front of the eyes and minds of potential clients.