What is Technical SEO?
‘Technical SEO’ is a term used to describe the set up and structure of a website and is sometimes referred to as ‘on-page factors’. It covers everything from the type of server a site is hosted on right through to the content on its pages. Essentially, the better the setup the better the site is likely to perform in the search engines.
Google provides a list of basic principles webmasters should follow in order to ensure that they have the optimum setup, or in other words an SEO friendly site whose pages can be found, indexed and ranked by Google.
If you’ve never built a website from scratch, and never dabbled in HTML or CSS coding (like most of the population) then the term Technical SEO can seem quite daunting. Back in my agency life it was always an aspect of SEO that most new trainees would look forward to learning the least.
Because they thought it was complicated, full of jargon and that you had to be a web developer to have any chance of analysing a site. If you’re reading this and thinking exactly the same, then this blog post could be very useful to you.
I’m not going to lie, some aspects of Technical SEO do require a little coding knowledge and at times you’ll need a developer to make those bigger changes, but many tasks are much more simple with the main skill required being common sense.
Why Should You Give Any Time or Attention to Technical SEO?
I cannot stress enough the importance of Technical SEO.
It’s the area that has the biggest impact on site performance, making it the cornerstone of any SEO strategy.
Put simply, if Google can’t index a website then no amount of content or link building is ever going to help improve things.
The results achieved from technical SEO improvements also can’t be ignored. In some cases, we’ve seen sites increase their organic traffic by up to 20% year on year. This level of uplift is typically reserved for those sites that were once suffering from widespread issues, but it should give a lot of hope to site owners that things can be corrected and significant improvements achieved.
On the flip side, when a once technically-sound site has been neglected, over time, SEO issues can accumulate which inevitably leads to a decrease in performance. This can be difficult to bounce back from and can leave you with a lot of catching up to do, especially if your competitors have stayed ahead of the game.
If your site isn’t in that bad a shape (which is hopefully the case) then there’s still gains to be made. Even small page-by-page improvements when applied across the site can make a big difference, not only to visibility within the search engines but ultimately to your all-important bottom line.
All of this is why Technical SEO should be treated as a priority and why it should be a major point of consideration in the day to day running of any website.
Day to Day Tasks you Can Perform on Your Own
There are a lot of tools out there that help to analyse websites and determine if there are any areas of concern as well as for improvement. These tools can be expensive and you need to have a trained eye to interpret their results, which is where we as SEO experts come in.
That being said, there are plenty of tasks involved in the day-to-day running of a website, which would benefit greatly from some technical input and which don’t require an expert, just a little bit of knowledge and some common sense.
In this section we’ll aim to give you that knowledge, for three of the most common day-to-day Technical SEO tasks, ensuring you’re able to get the most benefit from them.
- Blog Post Titles
There’s often very little consideration given to Technical SEO when trying to come up with a good Title for your latest blog post or news story.
Usually, you’re trying to come up with something catchy that will attract the user’s attention. While this is certainly high on the priority list it shouldn’t be at the expense of good SEO, so here’s what you’ll need to keep in mind:
- Keep it Relevant: Would someone know what the post is about just by reading the Title. If not, change it to something more representative.
- Make Adjustments to the Title Tag and Page URL: Most blogs are typically set up so that by default your post Title will appear in 3 places:
- The Page Header
- The Title Tag: The anchor text which appears in the Search Engine Results
- The Page URL
While you may have come up with the perfect Heading, it may not be so effective when it comes to the Title Tag or Page URL. Therefore rather than leaving them to the default setting, there are some adjustments which can be made to help them perform better.
- Title Tag: Try to put your most important keywords as close to the beginning as possible and keep it within a 60 character limit.
- Page URL: Remove any unnecessary words. Unlike the Heading and Title Tag, the focus is not about it being click worthy. Instead it needs to be clean and focused, ensuring that it contains the keyword/s.
Mashable has some good examples of this on their site, with many of the Page URLs differing slightly from the Heading so that they’re a better fit for purpose, e.g:
Blog Post Header: That gold-plated PlayStation 5 costs half a million dollars
- Internal Linking
An internal link is a hyperlink that points back to a page on the same domain.
You’re probably creating internal links all the time, to point to that best selling product or to link to a new competition you’re running and as long as the link works correctly and takes the user to the correct page you’re probably thinking, job done.
However, the next time you’re setting up an internal link, follow the guidelines below to make sure you’re getting the full SEO benefits.
- Anchor Text: It’s easy to just use anchor text which says ‘Click Here’, but that gives no relevancy to the search engines as to what the link is about and what kind of page they can expect to end up on. Instead choose anchor text which better represents the topic of the page being linked to.
- Context: It is far better for SEO to provide context around the link with the use of text and/or images. Providing context not only helps to draw users attention, but also gives relevancy signals to Google which passes much more value to the page being linked to, helping it to perform better in the Search Engines.
- Topical Relevance: Whenever you create a new page, whether that be a blog post or a new product page, think about which other pages of your site are topically related and interlink them. This helps to boost the topical relevance of all the related pages, strengthening their performance. It can also help to improve engagement metrics as users are more likely to click on topically relevant links.
- Placement: Google puts more value on links that are clicked and so with that in mind think about where you’re placing them. Are they always at the bottom of an article e.g. related posts? Are users clicking on them? If not then think about placing the most important links in a more prominent area of the page. The Moz blog is really good at this and often places relevant internal links at appropriate points throughout the content.
Images can add a lot of value to a page. As well as being visually pleasing they can help break up text content, making the information on the page easier to digest. It’s important to choose the right images for the page, but once that’s done image optimisation is key for both users and the search engines and here’s how to go about it.
- Compression: Page Speed is one of the signals used by Google’s algorithm to rank pages. It’s important for both user experience as well as for indexation, ensuring that the search engines are able to crawl as many pages as possible on your site within their allotted crawl budget.
The inclusion of images will inevitably increase the page load time and so it’s crucial that their file size is reduced as much as possible, making it the smallest it can be without losing too much of the image quality. To achieve this the images need to be compressed.
Thankfully, there are plenty of tools out there that make this a very easy process. You simply need to upload your image and they will compress it for you. Some of the more common tools are Tiny PNG and JPEG-Optimizer but there are plenty more, so try them out and find which one works best for you.
- Relevant File Name
The filename of an image isn’t something people give much thought to. If taken on a camera the filename is often just a series of numbers and letters. Once uploaded to a website this type of name provides no relevancy at all to the search engines. Instead take the time to rename the file to something descriptive.
- Alt Text
Similar to the filename, make sure to include alt text which describes the content of the picture. Alt text (or alternative text) is used to describe an image for visually impaired users. It also helps to give the search engines more relevancy. Most websites have this option available within admin, so look out for it next time you upload an image and make sure to enter a good description.
There are many more day-to-day tasks in which Technical SEO plays a part but these 3 most common are areas where technical is often neglected. If you’re able to and have the time, try making these small improvements across your entire site, you might be surprised at the results.
If you’ve done all you can on the DIY Technical SEO front and need an expert hand, get in touch. We’d be happy to have a chat!