Technical SEO is about making it easy for users and search engines to access and understand your web pages.
If Google can’t find and index your pages, your website won’t appear in search results.
Technical SEO provides a solid foundation for organic growth.
In this guide, you’ll learn the important behind-the-scenes elements that impact your search ranking.
- Why technical SEO is important
- The factors that affect technical SEO performance
- How to perform a technical SEO audit
What Is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO is the process of optimizing the technical aspects of a website to enhance its visibility in search engine rankings. It involves improving the website’s structure, coding, and other elements.
The goal is to make sure search engines can easily crawl and index the content.
While keyword research and backlinks get lots of attention, technical SEO is often neglected.
In a recent survey, 55.6% of SEOs said that marketers tend to place too little importance on technical search engine optimization (SEO).
But it’s a key pillar of SEO strategy.
You might have great on-page SEO and heaps of backlinks, but you’ll struggle to rank if your site is a technical mess.
Benefits of Technical SEO
So why is technical SEO important?
Let’s break down some of the benefits:
Improved Search Engine Visibility
A technically optimized site makes it easy for search engines to index your content. This means your pages are more likely to appear in Google results when people search for relevant keywords.
Better User Experience
You want your site to be fast to load, easy to navigate, and error-free. Technical SEO helps improve your site’s user experience and keep visitors engaged.
Higher Conversion Rates
A seamless user experience often leads to higher conversion rates. Optimizing for technical SEO can boost sales, sign-ups, and opt-ins.
Factors That Affect Technical SEO Performance
There are lots of elements that contribute to technical SEO performance and impact search engine visibility.
Here are the key factors:
Page Speed and Load Time
Slow-loading pages are frustrating. Visitors will get impatient and leave if your website takes too long to load.
It’s not just about keeping visitors happy.
Search engines also care about website speed. They want to provide searchers with results that offer a great user experience, so they reward websites that load quickly with higher rankings.
Here’s how Google describes it on the Search Central blog:
“Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed – that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings.”
- Mobile Friendliness and Responsiveness
Most people use their phones or tablets to browse the internet. Mobile overtook desktop traffic back in 2016:
Google has been primarily using the mobile version of webpages for ranking since 2018.
So your website needs to be easy to use on mobile devices. Buttons should be big enough to tap, text should be readable without zooming in, and images should fit nicely on the screen.
The easiest way to make your website mobile-friendly is to use a responsive design. That way, your website will automatically adjust to different screen sizes.
Site Architecture and Internal Linking Structure
When your site architecture is well-organized, it’s easier for search engines to crawl your website.
Internal linking is key here.
These are links that connect one page of your website to another.
Internal links help visitors move around your website and discover your content. Strategic internal links also help search engines understand how multiple pages are connected.
Links from authoritative sites are nice and all but have you ever fixed the internal linking structure on a site and doubled organic search traffic over the next week?
Because damn, that feels nice.
— Yuriy (@YuriyYarovoy) February 3, 2021
HTML Code Quality and Optimization
HTML is the standard markup language used to create web pages. When you visit a webpage, your browser reads this code to show you images, text, and everything else.
Clean, well-structured code makes it easier for browsers and search engines to understand what your web pages are all about.
If your code is sloppy and inconsistent, it can impact keyword relevance, page speed, and other technical SEO ranking factors.
URL Structure, Canonicalization, and Duplicate Content Issues
A well-structured URL helps visitors and search engines understand your web page. For example, if you visit a shoe store website, you’d expect to see a URL like:
The URL structure is organized logically.
This helps search engines understand what it is about.
The structure of a website matters when it comes to SEO.
Focus on title tags, meta descriptions, URL structure, and headings.
It’s like a roadmap to search engines.
Make it easy to find and you will be rewarded.
— Sam Romain | AI Automation Agency (@Sam_Romain) April 9, 2023
Duplicate content issues happen when a single piece of content is accessible through multiple URLs.
This can confuse search engines and limit ranking potential. Search engines find it hard to decide which version to show in search results. It also means the authority passed on through backlinks is divided between multiple pages.
You can use URL canonicalization to tell search engines which URL should be considered as the primary page.
Alt Text for Images, Video Sitemaps, Structured Data Markup & Rich Snippets
Technical SEO also involves the visual elements of your website.
Here’s the thing – search engines can’t “see” images and videos.
That’s why alt text is so important.
Alt text is a description that you add to images and videos to provide context to search engines.
The alt text is also displayed if the image or video fails to load.
If video is part of your content strategy, and it should be, then you’ll want to include a video sitemap.
A video sitemap tells search engines where to find all your videos.
Here’s how it’s described on Google Search Central:
“Creating a video sitemap is a good way to help Google find and understand the video content on your site, especially content that was recently added or that we might not otherwise discover with our usual crawling mechanisms.”
You can use Schema Markup to provide search engines with extra context about your content. Search engines use this structured data to display rich snippets.
Rich snippets can include star ratings, prices, and other details that stand out on the search engine results page (SERP).
These snippets can significantly impact SERP visibility and boost click-through rates.
Broken Links & 404 Pages
A broken link usually happens when a page is moved or deleted, but a link to the URL is still on another page. When users click on the link, they land on a 404 page.
This can frustrate visitors and impact how search engines crawl your website. It can waste your crawl budget.
File Size & Compression
File size is like the weight of the digital elements on a web page. If they’re too heavy, it takes longer for them to load.
A Backlinko study found that the total size of a page is the most important page speed factor:
You can speed up load times by compressing large files like videos and images. Compression reduces the size of files.
Try to find a balance between quality and file size. You want to compress images and videos without sacrificing too much quality.
Server Response Time & Caching
Server response time is how long it takes for your server to respond once a user has accessed your site.
This is important for a couple of reasons.
First, a slow response time can lead to people leaving your site before it loads.
Second, a slow server response time can limit the time Google spends crawling your pages.
⚡️ #SEO Tip – Crawling ⚡️
💡 Keeping your server response time lower (below 300 – 400 milliseconds on average) can help Google crawl more pages on your website. pic.twitter.com/3nCUakr2ZB
— Praveen Sharma (@MusingPraveen) September 30, 2021
Aside from upgrading your hosting, caching is the most effective way to reduce server response time.
Caching works by storing parts of your website in a user’s browser. When they reaccess your site, some of the content is already loaded.
Search Engine Crawlability & Indexability
The are two processes that search engines perform to discover your site and list it in search results.
First. search engine bots crawl your website. Once the crawlers have gathered information, search engines index the content.
You need to make sure the website is easily crawlable and indexable.
That means making sure issues like orphan pages and ‘noindex’ tags don’t prevent crawlers from accessing important pages.
It also means using clear title tags and meta information to help search engines understand your content. These technical SEO best practices make it easier for search engines to index your site.
How to Audit Your Website’s Technical SEO Performance
A technical SEO audit is one of the first things you need to do when taking on a new client.
Here’s how to do it:
Use Google Search Console (GSC) to Diagnose Site Issues
Google Search Console pulls data directly from Google. You can see how the search engine sees your website.
Here’s how to use it to uncover SEO issues:
XML Sitemap Confirmation
The first step is to check the Sitemaps section to verify if your site has an XML sitemap submitted.
An XML sitemap lists all the URLs you want Google to crawl and index. It helps search engines understand the structure of your website.
If you see the status error “Couldn’t fetch,” make sure the Sitemap URL is correct. You can manually add a new Sitemap by entering and submitting the sitemap URL.
Index Coverage Check
The Index Coverage report shows how Google is indexing your web pages.
It categorizes pages as valid, warnings, errors, or excluded. Errors need immediate attention as they could be causing indexing problems.
Clicking on specific error types will show you a list of problematic pages.
You can use Google’s URL inspection tool to diagnose the issue and get troubleshooting tips.
Crawl Health Check
The Crawl Stats report helps you monitor how Google’s bots crawl your website.
Keep an eye on total crawl requests, download size, and average response time. These metrics help you identify trends and potential issues.
Noticeable dips in average response time could indicate server-related problems.
Page Experience Check
The Page Experience covers three areas:
Core Web Vitals
This shows how fast, responsive, and stable your pages load. It gives a rating of Good, Needs improvement, or Poor.
Tests if your site is responsive and user-friendly on mobile devices.
You need to use HTTPS encryption to receive a Good rating. This shows that the connection between your website and visitors’ browsers is secure.
Google is phasing out the Page Experience report. You can still access it for now, but maybe not for much longer.
Structured Data Check
The Enhancements section in GSC shows errors, warnings, and valid structured data implementations for your website.
If you see an “Unparsable structured data” error, it means Google can’t understand the structured data on a page.
There are multiple error types. You can use Google Search Console Help to identify the cause and how to fix it.
Manual Penalties Check
This section shows if any manual penalties affect your site’s performance.
Manual actions are penalties imposed by Google for violating webmaster guidelines.
If a website suddenly drops out of search results, a manual penalty could be the issue.
Internal Links Analysis
The report shows how pages within your site are interconnected. This analysis can help you optimize the flow of link equity and avoid orphan pages.
Make sure important pages receive relevant internal links to improve their visibility and authority.
You may also want to remove excessive internal links from less important pages to prevent dilution of link equity.
How to Do Technical SEO Analysis With Screaming Frog
Screaming Frog can provide additional insights for your technical SEO audit. This tool simulates how Google crawls your site.
Semrush and Ahrefs also provide helpful site audit tools for technical SEO.
Google Analytics Code
You can use Screaming Frog to identify the pages on your site missing the Google Analytics tracking code.
Google Analytics tracks website traffic and user behavior.
After running a site crawl, go to the Configuration tab in the navigation bar, then Custom.
Add “analytics.js” to the custom search filter and select “Does not contain.”
This will show you a list of pages that are missing the tracking code.
Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager makes it easy to track user actions on your site.
Using Screaming Frog, you can identify pages missing the Google Tag Manager snippet.
Go to custom search, add “<iframe src-“//www.googletagmanager.com/,” and select “Does not contain.”
This will show you which pages are missing the snippet.
The robots.txt file instructs search engine spiders which parts of your site they should or shouldn’t crawl.
After running a Screaming Frog crawl, go to the ‘Response Codes’ tab, then use the ‘Blocked by Robots.txt’ filter.
This will show you the pages that are currently blocked from search engines.
Redirect chains can lead to slower page load times and poor user experience.
Using Screaming Frog’s “Redirect Chains” report, you can see the path of redirects on your site.
You’ll need to download the report as a spreadsheet.
Make a note of any high number of redirects or 404 status codes to fix later.
The Third Pillar of SEO Strategy: Technical SEO
Technical SEO provides the foundation for building search engine visibility. It also enhances user experience, leading to increased engagement and conversions.
So make technical SEO a key part of your SEO strategy.
Regular audits can help you stay competitive and rank as high as possible in search results.
Head of Content
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