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The Role of Technical SEO: Understanding Its Importance

Search engine optimization is a multifaceted discipline that encompasses technical SEO, keyword research, on-page SEO, content creation, and link building/off-page SEO. Among these components, technical SEO often causes the most confusion, yet it is one of the most crucial SEO strategies a company should prioritize.

If you’re looking to take your SEO understanding to the next level, this article will provide a comprehensive guide to technical SEO, including what it is and how to determine if your website needs it.

What is Technical SEO?

At its core, a search engine is a computer program designed to explore web pages, examine their content, and apply an algorithm to sort and prioritize that content on the search engine results pages.

Technical SEO is a set of practices aimed at helping search engine crawlers locate, explore, and understand the content on your website. While having high-quality, optimized content is crucial, it becomes useless from an SEO standpoint if search engine bots cannot crawl your site.

The Main Parts of Technical SEO

There are multiple aspects to technical SEO. Below are the services most commonly done to improve a website’s technical SEO performance.

Page Speed/Website Performance

A primary objective of technical SEO is to boost the performance of your website. This means improving its loading speed, minimizing mobile layout errors, and optimizing for Google’s Core Web Vitals. Technical SEO specialists analyze a site’s structure and resources, such as CSS, JavaScript, HTML, and images, to implement best practices that can boost its performance. But why is this important for SEO?

In 2021, page load time and other performance metrics, known as Core Web Vitals, were officially added to Google’s algorithm as ranking factors. This change means that websites with superior technical performance receive more attention from Google.

To evaluate your website’s performance and identify areas for improvement, check Google Search Console for errors or warnings and use Google’s Pagespeed Insights testing tool to conduct an in-depth review. When running tests, it is important to examine URLs beyond the homepage; test key pages like blogs, archives, and product pages to assess their performance.

If you use a WordPress website, there are plugins that can help alleviate some of these issues, such as minifying website files and images. However, a comprehensive technical review is still necessary to implement lasting changes.

Mobile Friendly Layouts

Google uses a mobile-first indexing method, which means it crawls the mobile version of a website when scanning its content. Without a responsive or mobile-friendly design, Google’s bots can struggle to crawl your site. Beyond this, a website that isn’t mobile-friendly gives users a poor user experience.

To test how your website performs on mobile devices, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, or load your website on a phone or tablet to see how it looks. If you find errors, a good web designer can help fix them.

Duplicate Content

Technical SEO analysis can detect potential duplicate pages and offer a strategic approach to managing them. When two articles focus on the same keyword and contain nearly identical content, it results in “keyword cannibalization.” Both pages compete against each other for a keyword ranking which leads to a negative impact on their respective rankings.

By examining Search Console analytics as a part of a technical SEO review, you can identify duplicate content issues and develop a plan to resolve them. This is a common issue that a lot of websites face but struggle to recognize without the aid of an SEO specialist.

Schema Markup

Search engines use a unique type of language called schema, often referred to as structured data markup, to comprehend and rank specific content. Although this code is invisible to readers and users, it plays a crucial role in achieving better rankings.

If you have noticed various types of content, such as “people also asked” dropdowns, featured product boxes, videos, maps, or other new sections in the search results, you know Google has a diverse approach to displaying content. To rank content in some of these sections, also known as “rich snippets”, they provide special schema markup to search engines.

Schema markup aids search engines in displaying product prices, star icons for reviews, and answers to questions in dropdowns. The presence of schema markup doesn’t guarantee your website will show in these sections, but it’s a strong signal and helps.

To view dozens of examples of schema markup, visit schema.org. If you use WordPress, plugins such as Yoast SEO and Rank Math can seamlessly add structured data.

301 Redirects

Uncovering issues that stop content from ranking is at the core of SEO. Most websites do not do technical SEO consistently and often have a lot of broken parts of their website that hurt their SEO. That’s why technical SEO includes things like analyzing 301 redirects, 404 broken links, canonical URLs, and internal link optimization.

404 Broken Links

When a page no longer exists, is blank, or has been deleted, it creates what is called a “404 page”. Technical SEO takes

When you fix broken links with proper redirects, you can also provide an SEO boost to key pages. Some broken links had backlinks, and when you redirect that broken page to a current page, the backlink power goes to the new page.

Canonical URLs

Canonical URLs can be a hidden but serious issue that many websites experience in their SEO efforts. A canonical URL is a specific URL that you want a search engine to index and rank.

One of the most common examples of canonical URL usage is with product pages on eCommerce sites. When filters or variants are applied to a product, it can result in additional characters being added to the URL. For instance, if a customer applies certain filters to a blue shirt product page, the URL can become www.example.com/product/blue-shirt?sz=small&status=in-stock%sale.

However, the canonical URL for the same product page should be www.example.com/product/blue-shirt/ (no filters) and is the URL that the search engine should index and rank. If search engines index and rank URLs that are not the canonical URL, it can negatively impact the website’s SEO.

There are some exceptions to this rule, especially for larger eCommerce websites. A technical SEO specialist along with a developer can identify and resolve any canonical tag issues your website may encounter.

No-Index URLs

If a URL is marked as no-index, a search engine will usually ignore it. Unfortunately, many times a piece of content is marked as no-index accidentally by a developer or editor. Over time, this no-index tag will remove the content from Google’s index and cause a loss of organic search traffic. Not all no-index URLs need to be fixed as some are marked on purpose, but a technical SEO audit can find pages marked as no-index and determine if there are any fixes to be made.

Robots.txt File Review

Search engines like Google and Bing have a limit on how much bandwidth they spend on crawling a website. This limit is referred to as the crawl budget. If a website serves a search engine millions of blank pages, incorrect canonical URLs, or broken links, the crawl budget gets used up. This means the content they want to rank – service pages, articles, blogs, products – doesn’t get crawled.

To fix this, technical SEO specialists will examine which URLs are being crawled, and make changes to a site’s structure and robots.txt file. In this file, commands are written which tell search engines to ignore specific URL patterns. This ensures search engines only crawl the most important content.

XML Sitemap Review

A sitemap is a file that contains a list of your website’s main URLs and basic information about them. Search engines use these sitemap files as a way to quickly find URLs on your website and to understand your website’s structure.

A technical SEO review should audit the URLs in the sitemap to make sure they’re being updated correctly and have the most important pages included.

What Else Is Included in Technical SEO?

Other common technical SEO tasks include analyzing a website’s javascript usage, subcategorization, and categorization.

  • Server Log review – What content is a search engine crawling the most?
  • SSL Certificate review – Is your website secured and is content being served consistently over HTTPS?
  • Hreflang tags – If you’re serving multiple languages on your website, a technical SEO should review your usage of hreflang tags
  • Javascript website/ SPA indexing – If you have a website built on javascript, technical SEO will help search engines read the dynamic content

When Do I Need Technical SEO?

Most websites require technical SEO, but some require it more than others. If your website is relatively small with fewer than 100 pages or is not in active use, you ought to have a technical SEO audit done every year, but you may not need ongoing technical SEO support.

If you’re running an eCommerce site, regardless of its size, you’ll want to focus on technical SEO regularly, so ongoing support is recommended. Technical issues are common in eCommerce sites due to filters, variants, URL structure, and categorization requirements.

The same applies if you’re using your website as a publishing platform for news, articles, blogs, and lead magnets. A technical SEO agency can complement the effort you’re putting into content SEO.

Many brands overlook technical SEO, assuming it isn’t necessary because they’re not seeing any drastic problems. However, a technical SEO issue can occur at any time and can have catastrophic consequences if not caught and corrected promptly.

Several SEO tools are available to provide basic technical reviews, but these tools rarely find the core issue causing the error. If you’re experiencing technical issues, the best step is to hire an SEO agency or consultant to do a technical SEO audit.

Will a Faster Website Improve My Keyword Rankings and Organic Traffic?

Yes, it will, but the SEO boost may not be noticeable if you haven’t done other SEO work. Improving the performance of your website is absolutely important, but it won’t replace great content and link building efforts. Our experience shows technical SEO health is a minor ranking factor compared to other parts of SEO.

Conclusion
Technical SEO is key to a successful SEO strategy. Optimizing the technical aspects of your website makes it more visible, accessible, and user-friendly. By investing in technical SEO, you can improve your search engine rankings and attract more organic traffic. So, don’t ignore technical SEO! If you’re looking for support, please contact Sitemap.io today for an audit or ongoing SEO services.

Austin Cline

Austin Cline

Austin Cline is the founder and principal at Sitemap.io. He is actively involved in the SEO community and frequently writes about the intersection of great content marketing and search engine optimization. You can connect with him on his LinkedIn and sign up to get his posts to your email by joining our email newsletter.

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