What is Technical SEO?

Technical SEO is an intimidating way to say, “Let’s improve your SEO beyond content and link building.

Since Google’s “Helpful Content Update” that began in Fall 2022, about 25 percent of all websites took a hit on their SEO rankings. That’s because this series of updates by Google shifted the SEO game. Many still believe SEO is acting like a content factory and loading things with keywords. But the Google update changed the fundamentals of SEO.

The Helpful Content Update basically says:

Content matters.
Web design, responsive design, and ease of use now matter more than they did before.
Being original, so real people really read your page, matters most.

In other words, churning out blogs or web pages or hash tagging keywords is fine and well—but just one part of SEO best practices.

Churning out blogs, web pages and hash tagging is fine and well—but just one part of new SEO best practices.

So, today, technical SEO is a continuous, daily/weekly/monthly kind of effort. It involves not just content, but design, site speed, and other technical factors above and beyond keywords or backlining.

Does all this have your head spinning and smell like more expense? After reading this, hopefully you’ll have a sense of how to interview SEO experts, and you can investigate “group buying”( https://groupbuyseotools.org/) and other SEM and SEO resources where SMB-sized companies manage to compete but at more affordable rates.

Technical SEO Checklist

As we have said, search engines prioritize search results based on things beyond content. Do you offer a secure connection? Is the site responsive with quick loading times? There are countless resources and SEO checklists. Comb through a few of them, use some of the ideas and testing tools, then do your best to create a “burndown” list of issues that the tests show.

Then, take a deep breath and tackle them one by one. It takes time and patience, but it is worth it.

1. Do you have an SSL certificate?

You would be surprised how many sites—for all kinds of reasons—have failed to install or renew their SSL-Secure Socket Layer (SSL). An SSL certificate and installation are handfuls of dollars, but they converts the link between the browser and server, assuring the search engines and users that you have a secured site. You’re not some kind of fly-by-night company or worse, a site that will unleash doom upon your laptop, phone, and Office applications.

Google set in stone that you need HTTPS everywhere in your site back in 2014. So, you need an SSL as part of that evolution toward security assurances. Your hosting company, like GoDaddy or Bluehost, offer SSLs and easy installation.

2. Is your website mobile-friendly?

Responsive means a site can read what device the user is on and adapt the presentation of the content to the device.

Many digital marketing agencies now do mobile-first design—meaning, they design sites for phones, then back into laptops or desktops. This ensures the site delivers your message and content in quick, attractive ways to smaller devices.

Google now takes into account in its algorithms how responsive your website behaves. The less mobile-friendly, the less it may rank in search results.

Google now takes into account in its algorithms how responsive your website behaves. The less mobile-friendly, the less it may rank in search results.

So, re-visit your strategy on how you build pages and ensure responsiveness for users on mobile devices. Walk your team through the site, page by page. Are the parent and child pages well-behaved on an iPhone or Android phone?

Overtime, pages may get built on a deadline—leading to poor responsiveness, missed steps in quality assurance, and so on. Don’t get mad. Get squared away. Take the time to review your pages and templates diligently, re-design as necessary.

3. Speed up your website

Search engines prioritize fast-loading websites. Page speed is vital part to your website rankings—and therefore your SEO performance, authority scores, and all kinds of other knobs and dials.

Here are some ways to improve website loading speed.’

·     Minimize 'HTTP Requests' like scripts and plug-ins. Does your site really, truly need all those plug-ins? When’s the last time you looked at reviews and new offerings for plug-ins, so that you have the latest and greatest?

·     Choose a reliable hosting provider. It does not matter if they are big or small. Both can do well—and both also can have performance issues on any given day. Ask for how to get reports on their performance in delivering your site to various geographies, for example. A good webmaster knows how to look up those statistics. Don’t take average performance and say, “Good enough.” Even the big fellas may have issues with a particular site, settings, and so on.

·     Seek out a rapid DNS server provider. New to DNS servers? DNS or Domain Name System is a protocol that takes the domain names you enter into the browser. Then, it translates them into IP addresses to access those websites. Still sound like a language you don’t know? Seek a webmaster or consultant to help understand and pursue this topic. It is worth it, and it shouldn’t cost much to simply ask questions, then perhaps hire a freelancer to help you.

·     Use best-practice CSS stylesheet. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) can optimize online content, and that is an important step in technical SEO. There are strategies from a technical standpoint to boost your content, and experts know the latest, greatest way to create and deploy the right CSS.

Trimming the fat in your code makes a difference in page speed…and, therefore, technical SEO.

·     Optimized images. Okay…so, this topic could be an entire book. Your images need to be scaled to the smallest possible size. They need alt tags. You may want to weigh JPEG vs. PNG vs. SVG. Is there one best answer? No, and different experts may have differing opinions. So, you listen, pick a strategy, then measure it and go from there. Websites are super intense experiences from a visual perspective. There are pros and cons of how you deploy images, what file types, captions, and so on. It is art and science.

·     Shrink your site. Some will tell you, “Yeah, use GZIP.” Not sure that’s the whole answer? This item is worth checking into, because there are ways to reduce the weight or size of your site—so it loads and performs faster. Over the last five or so years, the average sites have ballooned. Some criticize CMS-based templates, like WordPress, because the templates themselves come pre-loaded with code and features. But much of this code is never used in your actual website; it was there if you wanted it—but you probably didn’t use it.

·     Along the lines of the above, have an expert look into unused pages, code, unnecessary line breaks, indentations in your markup language, CSS, and JavaScript. Trimming the fat in your code makes a difference in page speed…and, therefore, technical SEO.

4. De-dupe duplicate content

Duplicate content confuses users and search engine algorithms. Duplicate pages, content, images, and so on affect your search rankings.

Search engines today see duplicates and shy away. Most of us know not to scrape or lightly edit other people’s content. Plagiarism is an ugly business and backfires on your SEO rankings.

To prevent your CMS from ginning out multiple versions of a page or post (human error or otherwise), there are sure signs like inactive session IDs. Use canonical links to let search engines recognize wherever the original page lies, then get rid of the rest. You want to preserve the original content in most all cases.

5. Post & Update Your XML Sitemap

The XML sitemap is an important backend “summary” of your current site’s pages and their places in the navigation’s taxonomy. Search engines love, love, love sitemaps. Yet, in the heat of the moment, many webmasters neglect to update, or even post the first time out, the site’s XML sitemap.

Some platforms, like BigCommerce or Shopify, automatically post the sitemap for you. Others may not. Be sure you have an updated sitemap for your site.

6. AMP

AMP is a Google-backed project to help with performance on mobile devices. AMP is not for everyone or every website. But your webmaster should keep abreast of AMP and other newer code and platforms, especially if your site is the cornerstone to your monetization. AMP may be a solution worth considering, if you have a high proportion of mobile users and you rely on your site, its content, or transactions to generate the bulk of your revenues.

7. Structured LAN

Structuring data using the good stuff you can find at www.schema.org  improves search results by reusing information to enhance analytics and onsite search. It also yields benefits when users use voice or chatbots.

Structuring your data helps to define the content and increase a machines’ chance of matching your content with voice queries.

8. Use Search Engine Webmaster Tools

Bing Webmaster and  Google Search Console Tools are free tools from Bing and Google. Webmasters know how to do this, but oddly, those building new sites get so focused on the new site, they do not plan or budget for even the simplest work involved with your search console.

When you launch a site, your XML sitemap should be submitted to Google Search Console. This is key to SEO. It enables engines to crawl your website and yield search results for users hitting your keywords and structure.

New trends in technical SEO

Technical SEO is, well, a technical subject. It has gone beyond keywords, and top-ranking sites have an encompassing workstream that includes technical SEO best practices.

If you are building a new site—or wondering what happened following Google’s Helpful Content Update—have your team audit your site. Alternatively, invest in an SEO expert to audit it and provide a list of issues and recommendations.

Then, if your business depends on being found online—and whose doesn’t—invest in ongoing SEO and site improvements. It is a living thing, and your site can always, always do better…

Contact Merton Way if interested in improving your SEO or to have an SEO audit.