If you are working in the digital marketing or web development industries, then you probably already know how important Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is for your website. SEO is the practice of optimizing onsite and offsite elements to appease Google—or other search engines—by prioritizing the elements their algorithms analyze. The search engine then uses the elements to determine which websites should rank where for unique search queries. Every website should incorporate front end best practices to develop a strong User Journey and optimize the site’s UX for optimal engagement. But before you get to that stage, or any offsite strategies, you must set up a clean, thoughtful back end to appease the search engines. Our subject for today—technical SEO—is like the back of the house. While you may not be able to see everything that is happening behind the scenes, technical SEO is critical for establishing a website that people will be able to find. Today, we’re going to be looking at the basics of technical SEO so you can get a better understanding of why it is important, how it works, and how you can optimize your website. Luckily, the team at Responsival are experts in enterprise SEO services and can break down each step it takes to improve your technical SEO. Let’s get started!
Where SEO refers to the general practice of optimizing a website for a search engine algorithm, technical SEO refers specifically to the back end of your website. When you implement strategies to optimize your website, you are making it easier for search engines to crawl, index and render your website. In layman's terms, this means that you are making it easier for search engines to find your website, position your site on the search engine results pages (SERPs), and load your website quickly. These are essential aspects of a website that search engines look for to determine whether a website is high quality or trustworthy enough to display at the top of the SERP.
Each year, more and more websites are created and indexed by search engines. From an SEO perspective, that means more competition. Because specific keywords and industries are all vying for the same top SERP position, it is important to use everything at your disposal to optimize your website. So, if on page SEO efforts aren’t getting the results you expected, then you need to start looking at a technical SEO audit. Not to mention, these back end technical elements are the foundation of your SEO. You may attempt quality UX and on/offsite content strategies, but without a solid technical foundation, you probably will not rank as highly as expected.
Think of it like a restaurant: if you visit a restaurant that has beautiful decor and delicious food—that’s great! But if there is chaos behind the scenes, long wait times, and incorrect orders coming out of the kitchen, you will probably have a less-than-ideal dining experience. In this case, your site’s technical SEO is everything happening behind the scenes that contributes to both the search engine rankings and the user experience. Some examples of poor technical SEO practices—those background issues—are broken links, duplicate content, poor programming, and a slow site load speed. In the next section, we’re going to be showing you how technical SEO best practices can help you take your website to the next level and help your business start ranking well on SERPs.
Since all of our services, from IA and UX Design to Development and Growth marketing, are executed with SEO best practices in mind, we thought we would share some of the top things we look for when it comes to a technical SEO audit for our clients. By addressing these aspects of technical SEO, we can help our clients boost their SERP ranking and boost traffic to their sites.
One of the most obvious steps to take to optimize your site for technical SEO purposes is to make sure your site loads correctly on mobile devices. Think about it—how often have you been on the go and needed to search up a business’s website? If the site doesn’t load properly, you’ll most likely move on to the next search result.
Search engines feel the same way and won’t display your site as high on the page if it's not optimized for mobile. At Responsival, we specialize in mobile optimization as the core of our business, which is why we work exclusively in Webflow to assure mobile optimization with ease. Another way that you can optimize your site for mobile is by using an accelerated mobile page (AMP). AMP is a special code developed by Google designed to help mobile pages load quickly. The AMP code automatically ignores certain aspects of the site, keeping only what is necessary to load on mobile. This way, visitors can access important content like images, text, and videos without the additional scripts and forms.
As a result, by using AMP, your site will be able to load faster than ever before. As we mentioned, this sets your site apart for the algorithm and the site visitor.
One of the biggest concerns among internet users in cybersecurity. These days, a single click is enough to compromise your information. To let the algorithm know your site is safe for search engine users to visit, you need to use a secure sockets layer (SSL) to create an encrypted link between your site and the user's IP address. In recent years SSL has become an industry standard, so if you are working with an SEO service, there is a good chance that the site build already includes SSL. If you are working on a site build without outside help, you can install an SSL certificate on your website individually.
Another strategy to increase your SERP rankings is by improving your site speed. On average, a site visitor will wait less than 3 seconds for a site to load before moving on to the next search result. The algorithm will notice this too, which will hurt your ranking over time unless you take steps to address your site speed. There are a few ways to increase your site speed, either with the help of an enterprise SEO service like Responsival, or on your own. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Just by implementing these strategies, you’ll help your website load faster and help your site look more appealing to the search engine algorithms.
When trying to appease the algorithm, you want to make sure that it doesn’t have to do too much work to understand how your site is set up. To make your site easy to understand to the search engine, you need to get an accurate and clean XML sitemap. The XML sitemap lays out every page of your site and how collections are organized so search engines can easily navigate and find every page that needs to be indexed. The XML sitemap will include page modifications, what priority each page has on your site, and how frequently each page is updated. This is how search engines know to push more recent site updates toward the top of the SERP. Getting a sitemap is relatively easy to do if you are auditing your site for technical SEO as there are lots of services available that can automatically generate an XML sitemap. To expedite the results, be sure to request indexing directly to Google by submitting the sitemap in Google Search Console after any changes.
Duplicate content is another example of a technical SEO element that affects both user experience (UX) and page rankings. If you have duplicate content on your site, the duplicate pages are essentially competing with each other, meaning that neither page will rank very well. There are also ways that duplicate content can be used in an attempt to “outsmart the algorithm.” The issue here is that the algorithm will eventually catch on and penalize your site pages.
There are a few ways to optimize your site and make sure that your site is free of duplicate content. The first strategy is to stipulate that your CMS cannot post duplicate content—this includes printer-friendly content. The second strategy is to designate a canonical page that contains the primary content source, and set up the proper canonical redirects. By using both strategies, you can ensure that your site is easy to navigate from a visitor and search engine perspective.
Speaking of duplicate content, the last thing we want to discuss when it comes to technical SEO is writing title tags and meta descriptions. Title tags and meta descriptions are important parts of technical SEO because they function both for backend site crawling purposes and they are displayed in the SERP. On a SERP, each search result will have a “headline” and a short bit of text underneath to inform you about the site content. The “headline” in this case is the title tag and the information below is the meta description.
It is important for your back end and for the SERP ranking that all of your title tags and meta descriptions are unique. Even if there are similar pages on your site, you never want them to have the same title or meta tag otherwise the pages will compete against each other. As we just mentioned, this kind of internal competition hurts your page rankings. It is also important to make sure that there are no missing title tags or meta descriptions on your site.
The last thing you need to make sure of when you are writing titles and meta descriptions is to keep both to the ideal character length. While this is not an exact science, there are guidelines that all sites should follow. Title tags can be anywhere from 50-60 characters while meta descriptions can be anywhere from 155-160 characters. The reason it is important for sites to hit these character counts is because there is a maximum amount of characters that can be displayed on the SERP. Additionally, it is important that the algorithm and the search engine user get as much information about your site as possible. You should also be aware that title tags and meta descriptions are excellent places for keyword placement. Just make sure that the keywords are properly placed and very relevant and accurate for the page being described.
Now that we’ve discussed some of the basics of technical SEO and some of the most common solutions, it is up to you to apply them to your website. If a lot of this information went completely over your head—that’s ok too! Responsival offers fullstack SEO services for our clients to make sure their website is always optimized for technical SEO. Our team’s combined decades of expertise has made us one of the leading web development agencies in the Pittsburgh area, though we serve clients across the U.S. If you are interested in working with Responsival, schedule an appointment with us to meet with one of our client success managers!
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