Introduction to Technical SEO
Technical SEO is the process of optimizing your website so that search engines can find, crawl, and index your content without any problems. It is called “technical” because it has nothing to do with the actual content of the website or with website promotion. The main goal of technical SEO is to optimize the infrastructure of a website.
It is a very important step in SEO because if there are problems with your technical SEO, search engines may not be able to index your content and this will negatively impact your SEO efforts. Thus, it is crucial to perform a technical SEO audit and fix any errors existing before you proceed with any other task. The good thing about technical SEO is that you don’t have to deal with it again. However, carrying out periodical technical SEO checks is necessary for the smooth functioning of your website.
There are two kinds of sitemaps, sitemaps for humans and sitemaps that are for search engine robots, crawlers, or spiders. The one for the humans is called the HTML sitemap. It’s common to find a link to the sitemap in the footer section of a website. If you click on it, it shows you the major sections of the website and the hierarchy of the website. On the other hand, the sitemap for robots, crawlers, and spiders is called an XML sitemap.
It is not linked from any page of the website but exists as an independent file on your server. It is specifically formatted for search engine spiders using a programming language called XML, and it shows the hierarchy as well as the priority of each of the URLs of the website’s every page, every document, every image and it also shows the date that each page was last updated or changed.
Sitemaps, both HTML and XML are extremely important when it comes to SEO. These instruct Google to index content that can’t be found through crawling links. Plugins like Yoast SEO generate the sitemap for your website. Once you have generated the sitemap, you have to upload it to your website domain and then direct Google to find that site map, using the Google Search Console.
It is a small yet powerful file within your website that instructs Google and other crawlers on how to handle the URLs and sections of your website to index your website. Using the two options of allowing and disallowing in the file, you can instruct the crawlers like Googlebot or any other crawlers across the web to access or not access specific areas of your website.
Hence, it is an important file when it comes to technical SEO. In cases when you don’t want specific content to be indexed, for instance, a ‘Thank You Page’ or landing pages; you do so by using the robots.txt file. It is extremely important to define your sitemap location in your robots.txt file to tell the crawler where to find your sitemap so it has a good understanding of your content.
Every time you click on a link or type in a URL, your browser sends a request to the web browser for the site you are trying to access. You make this request using the HTTP protocol (also known as HTTP status codes). These status codes indicate whether the request was a success or a failure. Search engine spiders and bots see the HTTP status codes while they are crawling your site and hence influence how the pages get indexed and how the search engine perceives the health of your site. There are different HTTP status codes such as follows,
- 100-level HTTP status codes are informational requests
- 200-level HTTP status codes are successful requests
- 300-level HTTP status codes are redirection requests
- 400-level HTTP status codes are client errors
- 500-level HTTP status codes are server errors
The 100 & 200-level HTTP status codes imply that everything on your website is working as it should be and won’t have much impact on your SEO. It is always the higher level of codes that matter the most for SEO.
400 and 500 level responses prevent spiders from crawling and indexing your site. Too many of these errors can also indicate your site isn’t of high quality thus hurting the rankings.
300-level codes are Redirects used to communicate that content has been moved to a new location. However, these have even a higher level of negative impact on SEO. To understand its impact, you need to understand the difference between permanent and temporary redirects. Temporary redirects i.e. 307 are for pages that have moved to another location temporarily. Permanent redirects i.e., 308 status codes are delivered when a website or content has been moved to a different location permanently. Having 300-level redirect codes delivered, you lose the SEO advantage of all the backlinks you have built on that particular page.
Google Search Console helps you monitor how Google perceives the HTTP status codes of your site and WordPress Plugin Yoast SEO helps you manage and troubleshoot these crawl errors on your website.
Duplicate content can negatively impact the SEO of your website. Having a copy of the content on a page on your website that exists elsewhere on the web or also exists elsewhere on your website is disfavored by Google and it will demote your page to lower rankings. If two pages have the same or similar content, the value of each of the pages decreases because neither of them offers anything unique.
Google in their ‘SEO Starter Guide’ directly states “Create fresh unique content. Avoid rehashing or copying existing content that will bring little extra value to users. Avoid having duplicate or near-duplicate versions of your content across your site.” However, Google also states, “Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the duplicate content intends to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results”. In other words, duplicate content might not harm your website but don’t risk it anyway, and avoid copying large amounts of text from one website and pasting it on one of your web pages.
You should always ensure that your website structure follows a logical hierarchy. Website structure is basically how well you organize the content on your website. For instance, at the top, you shall have your homepage. Followed by the main topics that branch out from your homepage like products or services page, blog page, about us page, contact us page, and so on. From these main topics, you might have more branches to other pages.
These branches represent internal links which are simply links from one page to another page within your website. These internal links help search engines understand the relationship and relevance of these pages and help crawl your pages more efficiently. Properly organizing the content on the website also helps visitors to easily navigate your website and serves a better user experience which is why having a logical hierarchy is very important.
URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. The primary core of the URL is the domain name, for example; XYZ.com. This is the first thing that people see. Make sure that the domain name does not look spammy but is easy to spell and easy to pronounce. The domain also contributes factors to your overall rankings such as the age of the domain which would include ownership information such as the length of time owned and operated by a company, and the real business information tied to that domain such as the business address is the same as the business registration address for the domain.
Everything after the domain is a subdirectory, for example; XYZ.com/about-us or XYZ.com/contact-us. This is based on your website organization. The next step in optimizing the URL is to name the page in a way that explains the content of the page. Keep the URL structure readable where the domain name is followed by the page name or post name and things alike.
Responsiveness of a website is just another way of saying a mobile or a tab-friendly website. When you visit a website on your smartphone or your tab, you want it to be formatted in a way that’s optimized for the phone or tab. On a smartphone, the website’s page content will be collapsed into a single column making it legible for the visitor to read the content. On a tablet, the website’s content might have a different layout.
The reason the responsiveness of a website matters in SEO, especially it to be mobile-friendly is that back in 2020, Google announced mobile-first indexing. If your website is not mobile-friendly, it will be limited in visibility as Google’s primary index is focused on mobile devices and mobile delivery. Thus, it is extremely important to design your website to make it mobile-friendly and also optimize it for tablet devices.
The implementation of Site Speed is another ranking factor. Slow loading pages with a lot of extraneous code that slow the delivery of the page will be penalized as they take away from the user experience. Optimizing the page code, and speeding up the load time of the page can directly impact your rankings and this is closely related to the mobile-friendliness of your website.
There are two basic things you could do to speed up the load time of your website. The first is to cache your website’s content. Caching is a way to temporarily store copies of files, so they can be delivered to visitors more efficiently. Secondly, compressing the images makes the file sizes smaller resulting in faster loading of the site.