Understanding Technical SEO: 8 Key Aspects You Need to Know
In this article, we will cover the fundamental aspects of technical SEO. Although the term “basic” may seem contradictory to the technical nature of SEO, having a fundamental understanding of its technical side can make a significant difference in achieving a high-ranking website. Technical SEO can be challenging, but we will explain the essential elements in plain language that you or your developer should focus on when working on the technical structure of your website.
Technical SEO pertains to enhancing a website’s technical elements to boost its pages’ search engine rankings. The key elements of technical optimization involve improving website speed, ease of crawling, and search engine readability. It is a critical aspect of on-page SEO, which aims to enhance website elements to achieve better rankings. Conversely, off-page SEO is focused on generating website exposure through various channels.
Optimizing your site technically is crucial to achieve higher rankings in search engine results pages. Search engines, such as Google, evaluate web pages based on various factors, including user experience and page relevance. Improving technical aspects, such as website speed and structured data, helps search engine robots crawl and comprehend your website better, which can lead to higher rankings and rich results.
On the other hand, serious technical mistakes on your website can harm your search engine rankings. Even a small error, such as incorrectly placed trailing slashes in your robots.txt file, can block search engine crawlers from indexing your site.
However, optimizing your website’s technical foundation should not only be for search engines but also for your users. A website that is fast, clear, and easy to navigate benefits both search engines and users alike. Thus, creating a strong technical foundation can result in a better experience for your users and higher rankings for your website.
Characteristics of a technically optimized website include fast loading speed for users and ease of crawling for search engine robots. Proper technical setup also aids search engines in comprehending a website’s content and reduces confusion resulting from duplicate content. Furthermore, such a website avoids leading visitors and search engines to dead-ends caused by non-working links. In the following sections, we’ll discuss some essential features of a technically optimized website.
Fast loading speed is a crucial characteristic of modern web pages. In fact, research from as early as 2016 revealed that 53% of mobile website visitors abandon a webpage that takes more than three seconds to load. This trend has persisted, with recent research indicating that ecommerce conversion rates decrease by approximately 0.3% for every additional second it takes a page to load. A slow website frustrates users, leading them to seek faster alternatives, causing a loss of traffic for the website.
Google recognizes that slow-loading pages provide a suboptimal user experience, which is why they prefer faster-loading pages. Consequently, a slower webpage ranks lower in search results than its faster counterpart, which further reduces traffic to the website. Since 2021, Google has officially made Page experience, which encompasses website speed, a ranking factor.
If you’re wondering if your website is fast enough, you can easily test your site speed and receive optimization tips from most speed tests. You can also refer to Google’s Core Web Vitals, which they use to evaluate Page experience. Additionally, we’ve compiled common site speed optimization tips here to guide you.
An optimized website is one that search engine robots can crawl with ease. Robots, or spiders, follow links to find content on your site, so having a solid internal linking structure will ensure that they can locate your most important content.
In addition to using internal links, you can also guide robots by blocking them from certain content or instructing them to crawl a page but not include it in search results or follow its links. This can be done through the use of the robots.txt file or the robots meta tag.
However, it’s important to be cautious when using these tools as even small mistakes in the robots.txt file can prevent robots from crawling important parts of your site. Additionally, blocking CSS and JS files in the robots.txt file can cause search engines to overlook issues with your site’s functionality.
If you’re unfamiliar with how to handle the robots.txt file or robots meta tag, it’s recommended to consult with a developer or take time to learn more about them. With Yoast SEO, it’s simple to noindex or nofollow a post or page, but it’s important to consider which pages would benefit from these actions.
Ensuring that a website loads quickly is crucial for providing visitors with a good user experience. However, encountering a non-existent page or dead link can be even more frustrating for users. This results in a 404 error page, which can negatively impact the website’s overall user experience.
Additionally, search engines dislike finding 404 error pages, as they tend to find more dead links than website visitors. Unfortunately, dead links can be common on websites due to continuous updates and changes. Fortunately, tools are available to help retrieve dead links and address 404 errors.
To minimize dead links, it is recommended to redirect the URL of a deleted or moved page to a new page, ideally one that replaces the old page. Yoast SEO Premium provides an easy-to-use solution for creating redirects without requiring a developer’s assistance.
To avoid duplicate content issues, it is important to ensure that the same content is not present on multiple pages of your site or on other sites. Search engines may have difficulty ranking pages with identical content, as they will not know which one to prioritize. The issue of duplicate content can arise even if you are unaware of it, as different URLs may display the same content for technical reasons.
Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem. By using the canonical link element, you can specify which page should be considered the original or primary one. This will help search engines understand which page should be given the highest ranking. With Yoast SEO, setting a canonical URL for a page is easy, and the plugin adds self-referencing canonical links to all pages to prevent duplicate content issues.
Ensuring a secure website is a crucial aspect of technical optimization. In today’s world, it is essential to make your website safe for users to protect their privacy. Implementing HTTPS is one of the most crucial steps towards securing your (WordPress) website.
With HTTPS, data sent between the browser and the site is encrypted, ensuring that no one can intercept it. This makes sure that sensitive data like login credentials are kept safe. Implementing HTTPS requires an SSL certificate, which is essential for website security. Google recognizes the importance of website security and has made HTTPS a ranking signal. Secure websites rank higher than their unsafe counterparts.
To check if your website is HTTPS, you can look for a lock icon on the left-hand side of the browser search bar. If it’s safe, you’ll see the lock icon. However, if you see the words “not secure,” it’s time to take action and make your website secure.
Structured data is an essential element that can aid search engines in better comprehending your website, content, and business. With structured data, you can specify to search engines the type of product you offer or the recipes you have on your website, and even provide comprehensive details about them.
The structured data format is fixed, and it is described on Schema.org. By providing information in this format, search engines can easily identify and interpret it, enabling them to fit your content into a bigger picture. You can read more about how it works and how Yoast SEO can assist you in this regard.
Yoast SEO offers a Schema graph for your site and structured data content blocks for How-to and FAQ content, making it easy for you to integrate structured data. Moreover, implementing structured data on your site could make your content eligible for rich results, which are those enticing results that have stars or additional information that stands out in search results.
To put it simply, an XML sitemap is a comprehensive list of all pages on your website that serves as a roadmap for search engines. It ensures that important content on your site is not overlooked by search engines. The XML sitemap usually categorizes posts, pages, tags, or other custom post types and includes the number of images and the last modified date for each page.
Ideally, a well-structured website should not require an XML sitemap. Internal linking should connect all content seamlessly, obviating the need for robots to access it. However, not all websites are well-structured, so having an XML sitemap can only be beneficial. Therefore, we always recommend having an XML sitemap on your site.
Additionally, for websites that target multiple countries or regions where the same language is spoken, it’s crucial to use hreflang tags to assist search engines in understanding which language and country each page is intended to serve. This will enable search engines to display the correct version of your website in search results for the user’s region or language, avoiding any confusion.
By implementing hreflang tags, you can also prevent potential duplicate content issues, ensuring that even if your US and UK sites have identical content, search engines will identify them as distinct websites targeting different regions.
Optimizing international websites is a specialized area of SEO.