Master the Six Major Aspects of Technical SEO!
It may sound daunting but if you can master the major aspects of technical SEO, your website will better appeal to Google and the other search engines and will provide users with an even better user experience. In turn, this will lead to greater traffic numbers to the site and potentially more of those all-important sales enquiries.
While there are a huge range of technical aspects of your website's SEO that need looking at, there are six in particular that could be very beneficial to you if you get them right. In this article, we'll break down the six major technical aspects of SEO that, if you master, can make a huge difference to your search results and rankings.
1. Improving your website's crawlability and indexing
One of the first, and most important, things you should do is ensure that Google and the other search engines can properly crawl and index your website.
You can use various tools to check the number of your site's pages that are being indexed by the search engines, including Google's Search Console for example. Just go to Google and search for 'site:yourwebsiteaddress.co.uk'.
When you do this, what you would hope to find is figures that show the three main search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo) all indexing the vast majority of your website's pages. If there is a huge gap between them, or they're not indexing pages that you think they should be, there are a number of issues that could be causing the problem, including;
An example of an orphan page is one that exists on your site but is not linked to by any other page. This essentially means it is invisible to search engines. It's therefore imperative to make sure that none of your important pages have become orphans.
Useful resources restricted from indexing
Google recently admitted that they have not supported 'rel=next, rel-prev' for a while now and would highly recommend going for a single-page content structure. While you may not need to change anything if you already have paginated content and it makes sense for your website and its layout, it might still be worth making sure where possible that pagination pages can stand on their own.
What you can do
There are two things you can do that are quick and easy. One, you can check your robots.txt file and make sure that it's not blocking any important pages on your website. Secondly, you can double check for even greater peace of mind by crawling your site with a website crawling tool that can render all kinds of resources and find all relevant pages.
2. Look in depth at your site structure
The most effective and sales-generating websites not only look amazing but also have a well thought out navigation and site structure that helps users quickly and easily find what they need or want. In addition to this, creating an efficient site structure helps bots and crawlers find and access all the important pages of your website, which in turn leads to better search engine positions.
When it comes to making the site structure work for you, there are two crucial things you must consider;
In essence, a sitemap will not only help search engines to find your website but also read its structure and discover fresh content whenever its updated. If, for whatever reason, your website doesn't have a sitemap (it should be listed somewhere on the site if it does), it's incredibly important to have one created and then uploaded to Google's Search Console.
Once you've done that, it is important to;
- Keep it updated and make changes to it whenever you add or remove anything from the website
- Keep it concise (basically under 50,000 URLs)
- Keep it clean and free from blocked resources, redirects and errors
Internal link structure
While many SEO companies pay incredible attention to external links (and so they should), many don't pay as much attention to internal links (which they should). Clever and innovative internal linking not only helps to spread power across all pages evenly and efficiently but also potentially gives a traffic boost to pages with less authority.
In addition to this, you can also create 'topic clusters' by interlinking related content within your website to show Google and the other search engines that you are an authority in a particular field.
There are a few things you can do to make sure that your internal link structure is as strong as possible. Firstly, you can try and reduce the number of clicks it takes for users to get to a page from the homepage for instance. It's generally advisable to keep each page up to a maximum of three clicks away from the homepage. One of the ways you can combat this, especially if you have a large site, is to add breadcrumbs or an internal site search.
Secondly, you can consider including links to your pages with related content whenever you add new pages to the site; whether that's blog posts, product pages or case studies. These sorts of links have much more SEO weight than navigational ones that you'll find in headers or footers.
Finally, it might be worth trying to include keywords in the anchor texts of internal links. This will then inform readers and website visitors what to expect from any linked content. You can also do the same for alt attributes for image links too.
3. Enhance your page speed
Website loading speed has become vitally important in this age of 'I need it and I need it now'. In fact, just a one second delay in a page's loading time can lead to a huge traffic drop.
It's no wonder then that Google is paying more and more attention to a website's speed. In fact, back in July last year (2018), mobile page speed became a ranking factor. While website speed is measured in a number of different ways, including technical optimisation, lab data and field data like the loading speed of real users, there are ways in which you can optimise your site to take all these into account.
In fact, technical optimisation matters the most for your rankings and that's something that is totally under your control. There are six factors that you can relatively easily correct, including:
- Heavy images - It's best to use responsive images and leverage optimisation techniques, like using web fonts instead of encoding text in an image, vector formats and removing metadata etc.
- Uncompressed images - It's worthwhile to remove unneeded resources before compression. You can gzip all compressible resources, utilising different compression techniques for different resources etc.
- Unminified resources - Use minification alongside compression
- Absence of caching policy - Try introducing a caching policy according to Google recommendations
- Long server response times - Take a look at site performance data to detect what slows down your website (you can use tools like GTmetrix, Pingdom, WebPage Test or Chrome Dev Tools)
4. Is your site mobile friendly?
With every man and his dog on their mobile phones now, it's even more imperative to make sure that your website works on all devices. The benefits of this are twofold; one, it will be helpful for the website users to have a site that is optimised to work on whatever mobile, tablet or computer they're browsing it on and two, it will make it more likely that Google and the other search engines will consider your site more worthwhile of a higher ranking position.
In fact, by the end of 2018, Google was using it's 'mobile-first indexing' strategy for over half of the websites and pages shown in search results. Essentially, this means that Google crawls the web from the point of view of a mobile phone; it's now even more likely that a site's mobile version is used for ranking and indexing even for search results shown to desktop computer users.
While your website will be moved to the index anyway, regardless of whether it's designed with mobile and tablet devices in mind, you can take advantage of this and get ahead of the competition by making sure that it is indeed 'mobile-friendly'.
There are a number of things you can do to ensure this;
- Try using expandable content on mobile - You should try using tabs, expandable boxes, hamburger and accordion menus and more. While doing so, you should however avoid using things like intrusive interstitials.
- Test your pages for mobile-friendliness - Use Google's Mobile-Friendly Test tool to evaluate your site according to various usability criteria, like the size of text and buttons, use of plugins and viewport configuration.
- Track mobile performance of your site - Using something like Google's Search Console will give you a better idea of the amount of people viewing your site on their mobile phones or tablets and whether they're instantly clicking off it or having a reasonable user experience while there.
- Run an audit for your mobile site - Try using a custom user agent in your SEO crawler to make sure that all your important pages are able to be reached by search engine crawlers and are free from errors. It's worth paying attention to structured data, H1 tags and titles etc.
5. Consider having structured data added to your site
Nowadays, some Google and other search engine users won't even click on any of the links if they can get the information needed from the search results page itself. For instance, if you were searching for something like 'macaroni and cheese' because you were thinking of cooking it later that day and the first result shows you all ingredients needed, you might not need to visit any other pages.
While this is a very simplified form of what we mean, adding structured data to your site will allow Google to provide similar sorts of information for your website in its search results. Rich results like these required full structured data implementation, but this isn't as hard to do as it sounds.
Structured data is coded with the website's markup and provides Google and the other search engines with information about its content. Essentially, it better structures the way in which data is sent to the search engines and improves the presentation of your website in search results.
What you can do
Adding structured data markup to your website is actually a lot easier than you think. Just visit Google's Structured Data Markup Helper and select whichever schema is most suitable to you (most likely the Local Businesses option). Adding the relevant information, like company name, contact details and company logo, is as easy as just clicking on the relevant part of your homepage and selecting the right thing.
Once you've finished doing so, you can use the code generated by the program and add it to the site's index.php file. You can also test your markup in the Structured Data Testing Tool to make sure that it's working as well as it should too.
However, it's important not to expect Google to display your enhanced results right away. It can take a few weeks, so perhaps give it a month before checking the search results to see whether the structured data has been properly incorporated.
6. Maximise your 'crawl budget'
We can define crawl budget as the number of visits from a search engine bot to a website within a particular period of time. For instance, if a bot from Google visits your website 2,500 times per month, then your monthly crawl budget for Google is 2,500.
SEO specialists used to believe that backlinks and internal links were the major factors in affecting how frequently Google's crawl bots visit a website (and to be fair, that was the case). But things have changed. Nowadays, the best way to amplify your crawl budget is to use effective and natural techniques that will make search engine bots and spiders crawl as many pages of your site as possible.
There are a number of ways in which you can do this;
- Avoid long redirect chains - The best practice here is to use no more than two redirects in a row
- Fix any broken pages - If a search engine spider stumbles across a page with a 4XX/5XX status code (i.e. a 404 Not Found error or 500 Internal Server error), one unit of your crawl budget goes to waste
- Tidy up your sitemap - To make the content easier for users and crawlers to find, remove any unnecessary redirects, blocked pages, non-canonical and 4xx pages
- Cater to your URL parameters - If you have dynamic URLs leading to the same page, specify their parameters in Google Search Console>Crawl>Search Parameters
- Maintain and improve internal linking efficiency - Essentially, you should make your site structure almost tree-like so that search engine spiders and crawlers can easily and quickly access all important pages on your site
If you want your website to rank higher in search engine results, technical SEO is absolutely something you can't do without. However, undertaking a lot of this isn't as hard as you might have thought and hopefully this guide will have helped you understand what's needed and how to carry it out.
Of course though, if you would like any more information about anything we've mentioned or anything related to search engine optimisation, contact Kent's web design and SEO experts at Smart Domain Group.