Technical SEO Guide
It’s instrumental for each website owner to know at least the basics of Technical SEO in order to avoid unnecessary problems like mistakenly removing your website from Google’s index or not allowing certain search engine crawlers to reach it.
What is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO refers to the process of optimizing the website from several points of view that are crucial for Google Bot to properly understand a website. When we talk about technical SEO, the first things you should look at are:
1. Website Functionality
2. Content Optimization
3. Website Speed
4. Mobile-First Indexing
The ones mentioned above are the most common but not by far all of them. When conducting a Technical SEO Audit you have to structure it in several segments, for example:
- Can google crawl our page?
Do we have the website indexable for search engines or do we have the noindex directive in HTML or robots.txt code?
- How does Google see our page?
A good way to see through the eyes of the Google bot is to use the "Live Test" function in the Google Search Console. Through this function we can detect if Google sees the website in the correct way and if certain optimizations need to be made.
- What is the status code of our pages?
It is very important to check if our pages do not return a 404 or any other code that may adversely affect the website. Even 301s redirects must be properly thought out because they can reduce the link equity throughout the website.
In this age of technology and online payments, security must be a priority for each of us. In 2014 Google announced that the https protocol will be considered a ranking factor, which means that all websites that use it will receive a small boost in ranking just for offering their users a more secure experience.
Cannibalization occurs when a website targets the same keyword with multiple pages. At that point it becomes difficult for Google to decide which page is worth ranking in the results.
It can also be a problem for the website in the context in which the page meant to rank fails due to the other one.
Hreflang is usually used on international websites that have dedicated pages for each country. This way, we tell Google which page to use in the search results depending on the location of the person looking for the information.
Implementing the code on all pages is a bit complex but there are online generators that can help with this.
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="x" href="https://seoatlantic.com/alternate-page" />
When you add external links to other websites we must keep in mind to check these links if they are still current or if they still work. Google Bot always takes notes when it finds malfunctioning 404 links that may impact the user experience.
Regular checks with specialized software such as Screaming Frog are recommended in order to avoid any problems.
Most often, 301 redirects are encountered when a page changes its URL or when a website migrates from one domain/subdomain to another.
It should be noted that when there is a 301 redirect to another page, 10% of the link juice from the main page is lost. That is why it is recommended to do these redirects only when needed and not to abuse them.
They are also used when a page becomes outdated and can no longer be saved. In this case, the page is redirected to the closest version of the topic
Duplicate content is a common problem, especially on e-commerce websites. Due to the numerous filters that can be applied in the product list, multiple pages with similar if not identical content are generated.
Problems like this can be solved by proper planning and noindex directives that prevent search engines from indexing duplicate content.
There are other alternatives such as GoogleOn / GoogleOFF that can exclude from indexing only the content on the page, not the page itself.
Schema.org is an excellent way to explain the content to search engines. Once understood, your pages can be enhanced on the search result pages depending on the type of content you have by covering a larger portion of pixels and becoming more clickable by users.
Most common schema markups that are displayed on Google are:
- Covid-19 Announcements (2020 Beta)
Canonical tags are used when we want to tell the search engine which is the main page we want to be displayed on Google. They are often used to solve the problem of duplicate content.
There are cases where a single slash at the end of the URL can create a duplicate page in the eyes of Google.
Note: Canonical tags do not have the same effect as 301 redirects.
Not long ago, Google announced that the speed of a website is a ranking factor. It can be measured through tools such as GTmetric.com or even Google PageSpeed Insights.
It is important not to be fooled by the loading speed on the Desktop version. Since Google switched to Mobile-First Indexing, the speed on Mobile is what determines if a website passed the speed quality test.
- Optimize images - Compress, Gzip, NextGen Format
- Server response-time - Choosing the right hosting
- Lower HTTP requests / links on page
Note: If you’re using Wordpress, there are tons of plugins available that can help with this
Because most users use mobile devices to access search results, Google decided on July 1, 2019 that the mobile version will be the one that matters when it comes to indexing and ranking.
- make sure that Google can access and render the content
- Don’t lazy load primary content (Google won’t see it)
- make sure the content on mobile is the same as on the desktop version
If the mobile version has hidden content due to the design, you will experience a loss in keywords ranking
- Use the same meta-data (Title, Descriptions, etc.) on both versions
- Don't use fragment URLs on Mobile because they are usually not indexable
- Make sure it loads fast on the mobile version as well
Technical SEO Tools
There are certain free or paid tools that can help you do a technical SEO audit and can identify from the above issues.
- Screaming Frog & SiteBulb
Both Screaming Frog and SiteBulk are used to crawl all pages on the website and identify technical issues such as:
- Missing Titles, H1 Tags, Descriptions, Alt tags, Canonicals
- Broken internal and external URLs
- No-Index, No-follow pages
You can also use Screaming Frog + Google PageSpeed API to check all of your pages’ speed, response time, page size, image size and much more.
This tool is used to detect display issues in the mobile version. Most websites experience the following issues:
- Clickable elements too close together
- Content wider than screen
- Text too small to read
Google Schema Checker is a great way to check that the markup you use is technically correct (no errors or warnings). It can also be used to keep an eye on the competitors and copy their markup strategy.