Beginner Technical SEO Guide

What is Technical SEO

The goal of Technical SEO is to optimize a website so that search engines can easily crawl, index, and render its content. Technical SEO includes creating a website that is fast, reliable, and easy to navigate so that web crawlers can visit more directories on the website, crawl more web pages, and index more content.

These modifications allow search engines to efficiently:

  • Crawl: Find essential web pages, visit them, and determine what they are about
  • Index: Store the webpages for the future
  • Render: Show the web pages to users

By attending to these technical components, you can ensure that crawlers can make the best use of their limited crawling resources, thus increasing your chances of achieving maximum SEO success. 

Another thing worth noting is that, Technical SEO is different from the other two domains of SEO. While On-Page SEO focuses on optimizing your website’s user-facing elements, technical SEO is about fixing backend components. Technical SEO is also different from Link-Building which is about building brand awareness and online authority.

Why Does Technical SEO Matter

Technical SEO matters because if your website is difficult to crawl, there is very little chance of having SEO success, as your website’s content would never reach Google’s index in the first place and thus would never be seen by searchers.

Additionally, having a slow website speed can lead to users abandoning your website prematurely or not taking the desired actions when they are there.

Having a technically sound website is not just for improving rankings, it is also about improving your conversion funnel to help visitors eventually convert into customers.

Technical SEO Components

In order to implement Technical SEO properly you must also have a thorough understanding of each component. Understanding this will help you decide if something is worth fixing or changing.

Web Hosting

In order to make your website visible on the internet and searchable by search engines, it must be stored on a server, which can be thought of like a “digital neighborhood”. The reason we say digital neighborhood is because often multiple website owners have their websites stored on a single server. 

When just getting started using shared hosting can be a great idea, but over time you will find that as your site’s traffic increases, and you add more digital assets to your website, website speed and performance may take a hit.

Server Response Codes

When using a server, there are issues that may arise from time to time that can affect your website’s performance and SEO score. Some common server response codes you may have encountered or may encounter are: 

    • 200 (OK)
    • 500 (Internal Server Error)
    • 503 (Service Unavailable)
    • 404 (Not Found)
    • 301 (Moved Permanently)
    • 307 (Temporary Redirect)Let me explain each response code and what it means.

200(OK)

A 200 response means that the server is able to find the URL and send it to the users. Basically, everything is working fine. This is the response code that you want to return back to your website visitors and search engines.

500 (Internal Server Error) and 503 (Service Unavailable)

500 and 503 are generally out of your control, as this indicates that the“server is unavailable”. This generally happens when the web hosting company is having technical issues. This is by far the most frustrating of the server response codes because you often have to wait for your hosting company to resolve this. Not to mention there is very little explanation from them on what the issue is.

404 Not Found

A 404 (Not found) response code indicates that a URL is unable to be accessed. Having broken links is arguably one of the most common problems with websites and is also one of the most frustrating things for visitors. 

301 Redirects

A 301 Redirect is a way for you to tell the server to redirect or move the contents of your webpage to a new URL address. The name “301” comes from the response that the server gives when a user accesses the URL after it has been redirected.

307 Redirects

In addition to 301 redirects, there are also 307 Redirects which are temporary redirects. We typically recommend avoiding the use of 307 redirects for security reasons; however, it is still an option available to you.

URLs (Uniform Resource Locators)

A Uniform Resource Locator (URL), also called a “web address,” is the location of a website or file on the Internet. It was developed in 1994 by Tim Berners-Lee as a way to make the World Wide Web easier to use and more accessible. 

Why does URL structure matter?

There are a number of benefits to having a clean URL, the main reason why you want to have URLs that are easy to understand and easy to access it makes it easier for your users to find the content they want. Imagine how confusing it would be to find a webpage if it was named this:

http://www.domainname.com/list-1010-5ucsk-wqo-#If#-$$

A URL like this is really confusing and hard to not only read for your users, but also for search engines to understand and crawl. Additionally, having clean URLs can lead to higher visibility and ranking in search engines

Robots.txt file

Invented by ALIWEB creator, Martijn Koster in 1994, the Robots.txt file also referred to as the Robots Exclusion Standard or Robots Exclusion Protocol is a file used to tell search engine web crawlers which directories or web folders on the website the crawler can access. The file can also be used to specify which folders the crawlers are “blocked” from or should not/cannot access on a website. It’s best practice to include one on your site.

XML Sitemap

An XML Sitemap is a file that tells search engine crawlers about the organization of your website’s pages. The file is essentially a “map” that shows web crawlers how to access each URL or location of content on the domain; hence the name “sitemap”. 

Additionally, the file indicates to search crawlers the priority/ hierarchy of pages on the website; and lastly, it can be used to alert search engines about changes to your website. Again, it is best practice to include one on your site. 

No Index Meta Tag

The noindex rule, also sometimes referred to as a Noindex Meta Tag or simply the No index tag, is a directive that can be specified in the Robots Meta tag (a tag placed in the HTML <head> of a webpage). The tag is used to tell search engines not to index or include a specific URL/webpage in their database.

Canonical Tag

A Canonical Tag is a piece of HTML code that is added to webpages to tell search engines which page is the original or the preferred version of a page to index.

According to Google’s documentation, the tag should be used to mitigate crawling issues that may arise when multiple pages on a website contain the same or similar information; this is referred to as Duplicate content.

Hreflang Tag

A Hreflang Tag is a piece of HTML code that you add to your webpage’s <head> element to indicate to search engines the languages and countries you are targeting for an alternate version of the webpage.

The snippet is used to help search engines show the correct copy of the page to users in a specific language and country. 

Core Web Vitals

The Core Web Vitals is a Google report that evaluates a website’s UX, speed, and performance through user data. The term “Core Web Vitals” generally refers to the three metrics used by Google to compare URLs.

  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
  • First Input Delay (FID)
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
Largest Contentful Paint

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures the time it takes for the biggest content element to become visible on a user’s device viewport from the moment they access the webpage. This element is often a picture or video, according to Google.

LCP measures in seconds. A score of 2.5 seconds or less is the desired score for optimal performance, and anything over 4 seconds is a possible reason for alarm.

First Input Delay (FID)

First Input Delay (FID) is a measure of the time it takes for the browser to respond to the first interaction a user has with the webpage. The interaction can be something like clicking a button, or a link.

FID is measured in milliseconds, with a score of 100 ms or less showing good performance while a score of over 300 ms indicating poor performance. 

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is the sum of layout shift scores for all unexpected movements on a webpage during use.

This Core Web Vital metric is evaluated by numbers between zero and 1, with a CLS of 0.1 being the target, and a CLS of over 0.25 indicating a need for improvement.

Similar to the LCP, an image or video is often the reason for a poor score.

Schema Markup

Schema Markup, also known as Schema.org structured data, is a library of code that can improve the accuracy of search engine interpretation of your website’s content.

The code is typically added to the <head> section of each webpage that you want to mark up. It may be worth it to add schema markup because it can increase the chance of getting an “enhancement”, or a rich snippet. This is where the webpage search result is larger and takes up more space on the user’s screen.

Additionally, it is believed that there is a correlation between getting a rich snippet and the increased likelihood of a user clicking on the result by 30%. So it is definitely worth including on your website.

Last words about Technical SEO

Technical SEO, is all about improving the usability and performance of your website to make it easier for search engines to crawl and index your website. Essentially by having a strong technical SEO presence you are making it easier for search engines to find content that is important for your target audience to see.

Want more knowledge, visit my free technical SEO course.

 

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