SEO can be overwhelming. You may understand the fundamental importance of optimizing your website for search engines, but making that happen is an entirely different story. With this article, we’d like to pull back the curtain on some of the key elements of technical SEO and proper web design for the average site owner. We can’t promise to make SEO “easy”, but we will present a clear and informative outline of the key technical factors you need to understand. Let’s dive right in!
A Quick Introduction to Technical SEO
When talking about SEO, the conversation can go in many different directions. For example, content marketing plays a big role in search optimization, so you might think about adding new, original content to your site for an SEO boost. That’s a worthwhile objective, but it’s not quite what we mean when discussing “technical” SEO.
On this topic, we are talking about the behind-the-scenes workings that can help put your site in the good graces of Google and other search engines. Unfortunately, this side of SEO is often ignored by the average business owner or marketing manager, simply because it feels less approachable. Most people can understand the concept of creating content around keywords, so that is where they spend their time and money. However, if you are willing to dig into the details on the technical side of this equation, you just may be rewarded with improved rankings.
Before we go any further, we want to offer a word of encouragement… You don’t need to be an experienced developer or coder to work on technical SEO. You may have to educate yourself on some of the basics of how websites work and how search engines do their magic, but most of this is well within reach for anyone with average computer and internet proficiency.
Six Big Factors in the SEO Puzzle
We aren’t going to claim that this article will cover every last technical piece of the SEO puzzle. That’s just not possible in one post. With that in mind, what we’d like to do is highlight five big factors that should be on the radar of every site owner. Those five factors are as follows:
- H-tags and meta data
- A Secure Site
- Mobile-friendly Design
- Fast Load Times
- Only Original Content
If you can create a site that performs well in these five areas, you’ll be well on your way toward solid technical SEO outcomes. Sure, there may be some more advanced points you could consider later on, but those are a concern for another day. For now, we are going to spend the rest of the article explaining each of these five factors in greater detail.
H-tags and Meta data
To get started, let’s start with something that is super easy that anyone can do. When a search engine visits your website, it’s looking around for content. It’s trying to understand that content. It needs to decide if it should return the content when people are searching for that topic or the service that you’re providing.
One of the most important factors in that decision is the title of your page. Why is this a technical issue you ask? Well, it’s because you have to properly code the title of your page with an H1 tag. Many content management systems do this automatically for you when you write a title for the page. But it’s important to know that the title of your page is a critical element to successful SEO. Make sure that your title is descriptive, that it has the right keywords, and it’s coded properly and you’ve just made a big step forward with technical SEO. You should also know that the title of your page is what shows up in search results. This is just another reason why you should craft one with care.
The second technical aspect involves a little more coding and that’s creating a proper meta description for the page. Your meta description shows up in the search results directly under the title of your page. It doesn’t directly influence your search rankings, but it does help users to determine if the content is relevant to their search and it can affect whether someone clicks or not.
As you continue down through the content on your page you should attempt to break up your content into sections. You can do this by including additional sub-headings that are properly coded as H2, H3, etc. to indicate hierarchy, and further help readers and the search engines understand your content.
Lastly, create a descriptive URL for the page. This will also help the search engines and users to understand what the page is about and it’s just another factor that might improve click-throughs to your site. To give you a simple example, the url of this page is /technical-seo/ instead of something random like /web-page-09846?/ that doesn’t mean anything.
Offer a Secure Site
At one time, adding security to your website was an optional step, usually reserved for those websites that dealt with sensitive information, such as a bank website, or an e-commerce site where you would enter credit card information. Those days are gone, however, and now any site that hopes to bring in organic search traffic by climbing the rankings needs to take security seriously.
On the security front, the first point you should emphasize is to make sure HTTPS is in place. It’s easy enough to check; Just go to your website on any browser and check out the URL that appears in the address bar. Does it say “HTTPS” at the beginning, or just “HTTP”? Depending on the browser you are using, there may also be a small lock symbol displayed somewhere near the address if you are using HTTPS.
All that is required to get your site onto HTTPS is to put an SSL certificate in place. This certificate allows for the secure transfer of data between the user of the site and your server. Fortunately, since SSL certificates are more important now than ever before. If you aren’t yet running HTTPS, check in with your hosting company on what it will take to make that happen.
Here’s a little more information if you’d like to explore more about securing your website.
To understand this point, you need to understand a little bit about how search engines work. When attempting to capture as many of the available pages on the web as possible, search engines use links to move from one page to the next. These links contain a massive network that allows the search “bots” to index billions of pages and store their data to be served up in search results. So, if you want to position your site for quality SEO results, you need to make sure all of your pages can be discovered by those bots as they move around the web.
Perhaps the best thing you can do to make sure your pages are discovered and indexed is to create a solid internal link structure for your site as a whole. This means there are no “orphan” pages—pages that don’t have any internal links pointing to them. You want your site to be well linked throughout, with logical hierarchies moving throughout your sections and various pieces of content. Spending plenty of time on site structure can help you craft something that will make as much sense to the search bots as it does to your human visitors.
Also, you can submit a sitemap to Google to make sure your pages are properly indexed. Once you create the sitemap in one of the accepted formats, like XML or RSS.
Get your site indexed by setting up an account with Google.
To learn a little more about internal linking on your website click here.
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that at least half of your website’s traffic, if not considerably more, will come from mobile devices. In fact, you may know this already if you monitor your analytics regularly. With that in mind, it’s essential that your site is optimized for mobile performance, so those visiting on a mobile device enjoy an excellent experience from start to finish.
So, what makes for great mobile design? First, the site needs to be responsive. That means a different version of the site renders on a mobile device than what is seen on a desktop or laptop computer. Responsive design is pretty standard these days, but if you have an older site, it’s worth exploring this concept with a professional website development firm because it doesn’t happen automatically.
Also, you’ll want to make sure your site is “light” enough to load quickly when users are on a phone or tablet. By “light”, we simply mean that there aren’t too many elements on a page with large file sizes. Too many big files will cause mobile devices to load your site slowly, as well as users who have a slower internet connection. You can still use images and even video on a site that has been optimized for mobile, but make sure those files are compressed properly and you don’t put too many of them on the same page.
Fast Load Times
This next point fits in nicely with the previous discussion on page load speeds for mobile devices. In the bigger picture, quick loading times are important across the board, no matter what kind of device your visitor is using. When pages are slow to load, users don’t enjoy a good experience, and they may leave before your content even appears. As a result, search engines like Google have started to consider page load time as an element in their rankings, and you need to respect its importance as a result.
So, what can you do to make sure you are living up to page speed expectations on the web? First, test your site’s performance. There are countless page speed testing sites online, so you can quickly and easily see how you are doing. If improvements are needed, consider the following ideas:
- Upgrade your hosting. Low-quality hosting is likely the biggest culprit when it comes to page speed problems. If you are on a cheap shared hosting plan and your site has started to get a meaningful amount of traffic, that server probably can’t handle the growing demands of the site. Make sure you are using a trustworthy hosting company, and upgrade your plan if needed to maintain enough bandwidth to serve all of your visitors properly.
- Avoid software bloat. If you are running your site on WordPress, it’s easy to fall into the trap of adding a new plugin for every little thing you’d like to do on the site. That might seem harmless, but all those plugins can weigh your site down and make it slow. It’s fine to use a select few plugins for required tasks, but don’t go overboard and accidentally move your site into the slow lane.
- Consider a CDN. In web speak, CDN stands for “content delivery network”, and it is basically a way of speeding up your website’s performance for a global audience. A good CDN will store your files in various places around the world, and it will then serve those files to visitors based on their geography. With the data now making a shorter trip, load times should be improved for all.
Only Original Content Will Fly
To wrap things up, we are going to talk about a point that does relate to your content, but it doesn’t have anything to do with keywords or content marketing. Rather, this is a technical point, and it’s quite simple—the content on each of your pages needs to be unique. Duplicate content can throw off the search bots when they are trying to index your site, and copying content from another site is a sure way to fall down the rankings.
It’s easy enough to be tempted to just copy/paste content from one page of your site to another, if the pages are delivering a similar message. Don’t fall into that trap. Duplicating content isn’t worth the risk when you could simply rewrite the copy and have it appear as original. There are plenty of ways to say the same thing with different words, so there is really no excuse to have duplicate content on your site. If your site is old and has a lot of content, you might consider performing a content audit to confirm that there is nothing on your pages currently that will raise any red flags.
You shouldn’t need to tear down your existing website and build a new one from scratch to hit on these important technical SEO points. While it might take some time and effort to improve your performance in each of the five categories we’ve identified, it’s certainly not impossible. Work through the list of points in this article one by one, and gradually your site will find itself on much firmer SEO footing. Thank you for visiting and good luck with this project!
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