Don't let the title of this blog post scare you!
Neil Patel describes technical SEO as: "any SEO work that is done aside from the content." Technical SEO focuses on how well search engine bots can crawl your site and index your content.
You can't "game" search engines from a technical standpoint, but there are still some factors that you should consider if you want to improve your website rankings. Fixing even the smallest technical issue could have more benefits than the best authoritative link. Even if you can't personally fix the issues outlined below, it's important to know what to look for and how to fix it--and then connect with your web developer to implement it.
You Need a Fast Website
Site speed is a google ranking factor and "time to first byte" (TTFB) correlates highly with rankings. We also know that 40% of people will close a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Even worse is if they click the "back" button and choose a different search result. This is known as pogo-sticking.
Zoompf analyzed the top 1,000 Alexa-ranked sites for site speed and found that the following four problems were the most common (in order from most to least):
- unoptimized images
- content served without HTTP compression
- too many CSS image requests (not using sprites)
- no caching information (expires header)
To help diagnose any of the above problems, I recommend a few tools.
If you do nothing else, at least start with your images and compress them. Use a tool such as Optimizilla to compress pictures beforehand, or use a plugin such as WP Smush to compress any pictures you upload to WordPress automatically.
Have you Optimized for Mobile?
On April 21, 2015, Google released the "mobilegeddon" update. And with it, Google made its opinion on the importance of mobile-friendly content very clear.
You can test your site's mobile friendliness with Google's mobile friendly checker tool.
Making your site mobile friendly is often easier that optimizing your website load speed. That said, here are four common mistakes to watch out for.
- Don't use flash video; HTML5 is the best option
- Avoid pop-ups because they're much more difficult and annoying to close on mobile
- If you decide to create a separate mobile version of your website, ensure you always link within that
Avoid Confusing Search Engines with Redirects
Whenever someone accesses your page, it will send a response to the web server saying what's happening.
The two most popular redirects are:
- 301 redirect: a permanent redirect
- 302 redirect: a temporary redirect
When you tell a search engine that a page has been permanently been moved to a new URL, it will transfer most of the old page's authority to the new one.
Another common error code is 404 (not found). This typically happens when you moved a page, someone linked to an incorrect URL or you deleted a page.
The easiest way to track down the 404 pages on your website is via Google's Search Console. Another option is Ahrefs--most useful for tracking down off-page broken links.
Get Rid of Duplicate Duplicate Content
See what I did, there? Google is getting better at identifying and detecting duplicate content. It's bad for both user experience, plus search engines don't know how to rank duplicate pages for relevance.
The first step to correcting this issue is finding duplicate content. You can use either Search Console or Siteliner. From there, the best way to get rid of duplicate content is to just delete it; however, you could also add a canonical URL to each version.
A canonical link tells Google that you realize there are similar pages on your site, but there is one preferred version that is the best version for readers to go to.
You might also consider that you're returning duplicate content errors because of your “read more” descriptions. You can reduce the number of words you show on your blog and category pages, or alternatively, write a custom description for each.
Be a Pro with Structured Data
Structured data isn't new, but similarly to the term "technical SEO" it can make folks squeamish. There are multiple structured data markup libraries, but it's best to stick with schema.org, which is a project that was created by all major search engines.
Schema is the vocabulary used to describe your content to search engines.
Now, it isn't a direct ranking factor, but it can be used to create rich snippets--those things you see such as star-ratings, pictures and anything besides plain text in search results. And they almost always increase your click-through rate.
There are THOUSANDS of schema terms that you can use, but I suggest starting with Google's markup helper, which takes you through a step-by-step process for each URL you enter. At the end, you can see the structured data incorporated into your page's code with the changes highlighted. From there, you can either manually copy the changes onto your page or click the download button to download the entire page code.
If you’re using WordPress, you could also use the Schema Creator plugin by Raven. It allows you to type in a limited number of important schema values into the WordPress page editor.
To become an expert SEO ninja, you must practice your skills. The above is just scratching the surface for beginner SEOs. I would advise you to pick one or two of the aspects above, apply them to your site and fix any errors.
If you have any additional questions or you have some experience with technical SEO that you'd like to share, leave a comment below.