In any conversation that deals with digital marketing, you’re likely to hear the term SEO thrown around quite often. SEO, or search engine optimization, is a set of strategies digital marketing professionals use to increase the organic rankings of a given website. In layman’s terms, SEO is how digital marketers get their client’s website to rank highly on a search results page. There are many different strategies that can be used when it comes to SEO, however, technical SEO is one of the most important pieces of the SEO puzzle and, unfortunately, is often one of the least talked about. In today’s post, we here at Riverworks Marketing Group want to take some time to go over the major points of technical SEO and how this base level optimization is the foundation upon which all other SEO strategies are built.
The Technical SEO Checklist and Why it Matters
Search engines, whether it be Google, Bing, Yahoo, or any other web scraping tool, give preferential treatment to websites that display certain technical characteristics. For example, a search engine is going to rank a website with a secure connection, responsive design, and a fast loading time higher than it would rank a website without these characteristics. Technical SEO is the work done at the beginning of a website’s launch to ensure all foundational optimization is completed and that the website is ready to move into the next phase of optimization.
Below is a checklist of items that need to be considered in order to make sure that a website is technically sound as far as SEO is concerned. Following these steps will help to ensure that the security and structure of a given website meet the expectations of search engine algorithms and, more importantly, are rewarded for doing so.
Use SSL to Make Sure the Website is Secure
In the beginning, the internet was often referred to as the new Wild West. Pretty much anything went and websites were not policed as strongly as they are today in relation to how secure they are for the end-user. This lead to an era of abundant viruses and many angry computer owners. Luckily, the internet has evolved since then and, during this evolution, became much more secure. SSL, or Secure Socket Layer, is a security technology that creates an encrypted link between a web server and a web browser. Spotting a website that uses SSL is pretty simple. If the URL begins with ‘https://’ rather than ‘http://’, the website is secure. This is important from a technical SEO perspective because in 2014 Google announced they wanted all websites to begin using SSL in an effort to better secure the internet. As an incentive, Google began rewarding websites that used SSL by giving them preference over non-secure websites in search results.
Fast Websites Get Rewarded
If you think back to the late 90s when the internet was just becoming a daily part of most people’s lives, you probably remember the agonizingly slow speeds dial-up internet offered. Just to get on the internet required a few minutes of a robot screeching out of your computer’s speakers and, once connected, the speeds left a lot to be desired. Luckily, we live in the era of high-speed internet, meaning that we don’t have to wait a full minute for a page to load. Because the majority of people now expect their internet access to almost instantly display the information they are looking for, Google decided faster websites would be given preference over slower ones. In fact, Google has gone so far as to say that page speed (the speed at which a page on a website loads) is one of the top-ranking factors they take into consideration when updating their algorithm.
Mobile Websites are the New Normal
As more people turn to their smartphones to access the internet, how friendly a website is on a mobile device has become an important aspect of technical SEO. When browsing the internet, few things are as frustrating as a website that is not built to correctly display on a small format screen. To ensure websites display properly on all screen sizes, website developers have, for the last few years, built sites that are, “responsive.” Responsive websites automatically adjust themselves to whatever the screen size is of the device through which they are being accessed. This makes the website easy to navigate and read no matter what type of device it is being displayed on. Google has made it very clear that having a responsive website is considered a highly significant ranking signal by its algorithms and, more recently, has taken the next logical step by saying it is indexing the internet with a “mobile-first” approach. What does this mean? It means if a website isn’t as good on mobile as it is on desktop, the algorithm will not be kind to it.
Don’t Let Duplicate Content Sink Your Website
Duplicate content, content that is the exact same on one page of a website as it is on another, can be confusing to both the end-user and search engine algorithms. In the early days of the internet, duplicate content was used inappropriately by certain websites to artificially inflate their ranking in a search engine. Google quickly caught onto this and for the last few years has heavily penalized websites that display duplicate content. Avoiding duplicate content is one of the easiest ways to make sure your website is sound from a technical SEO standpoint.
Always Have a Sitemap
Even though search engine algorithms are smarter than ever they are still, at their core, algorithms. This means they can only take in the data given to them and make the most educated guess on what a page’s content is about. Luckily, XML sitemaps are a tool that can be used to help search engines better understand exactly what is on a given webpage and the overall structure of the website being crawled. XML sitemaps act as a roadmap of sorts to search engine crawlers and setting one up is as easy as installing one of a number of SEO plugins that will automatically generate a sitemap for you.
Register Websites With Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Search Console
Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools are free resources from Google and Microsoft respectively that allow for the submission of a website to a search engine for indexing purposes. Once a website is ready to launch, the XML sitemap needs to be submitted to both Google Search Console and Webmaster Tools so they can crawl the new website and begin to display results from it in search results.
Thank you for taking the time to read our blog post on some of the most important aspects of technical SEO. If you are a business owner who wants to learn more about technical SEO and whether or not your website is as optimized as possible, please give us a call. We are a full-service digital marketing agency based in Chattanooga, TN with years of strategic SEO experience.