In our previous tip The Importance of On-page SEO and 7 tips to implement we took a look at the relatively non technical things that you can do “on page” with your website. This tip steps deeper into the world of search engine optimization by breaking down 7 key elements of technical SEO.
What is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO refers to everything you do to optimize your website. Your site’s load speed will play a major role in how quickly the search engines can deliver your content to users.
Why is Technical SEO Important?
There are 3 key reasons why technical SEO is so important:
- Technical SEO will help you ensure that your website is in the best form to allow for search engines to crawl and index it easily.
- Technical SEO improves your website speed which directly affects user experience in that faster page speed will lead to higher conversions on your website.
- Search engines usually show a preference for websites that have certain technical characteristics in check, including — for example, a secure connection, a responsive design, or a fast loading time.
7 Key Elements of Technical SEO
- Make Sure You’re Using HTTPS (SSL)
- Improve Your Site Speed
- Find and Fix Crawl Errors
- Use an SEO-Friendly URL Structure
- Check the Page Depth of Your Site
- Confirm that there are no Duplicate Versions of Your Site in Google’s Index
- Include Structured Data on your Site
It is possible to create solid foundations within your website to make sure it ranks well in search engine results and also serves your web visitors efficiently. If you do a Google search you’ll find that there are longer lists of technical SEO elements. We want to tackle the top 7 that you should make sure you’ve got nailed down.
Make Sure You’re Using HTTPS (SSL)
HTTPS was introduced as a ranking factor in 2014 and has made technical SEO simpler since then. If you haven’t migrated to HTTPS yet and are still using HTTP, internet browsers like Chrome, Edge, Firefox and others will show a “not secure” message when people come to your site.
Not sure how to tell if you’re secure? 1) Do you see a “not secure” message? If not, then you’re good to go. 2) Do you see a padlock to the left of the URL to your site? If yes, you’re good to go. BUT, if your website isn’t secure, here’s a tip on how to get SSL set up.
IF you do need to get your site secure, first, connect with your hosting company — there are free SSL certificates out there and they can walk you through the steps to get it installed. Second, if you’re on WordPress, use the Really Simple SSL plugin to switch your site over. And, if tackling your own SSL is too geeky for you, reach out — we’ll give you a helping hand.
Improve Your Site Speed
Slow sites are a recipe for poor user experience. In fact, back in 2021, Google listed page experience as an important factor when ranking search results. People are impatient, and you only have 3-5 seconds to get their attention and convince them that you can solve their problem. So it is important that you make sure that your site loads quickly.
There are 3 main elements to page load time:
- Your server response time. How long someone has to wait from the time the page is requested to load until it starts to load.
- Caching the code behind the scenes. There are a number of good cache plugins for WordPress, so you’re just a few clicks away from fixing this issue. Our favorite is WPRocket, and while it is a premium plugin, it’s worth every penny.
- Optimizing your images. Between crunching your images (reducing file size) and serving up the WebP format, you can significantly improve your load time. Like cache plugins, there are a number of great image optimization plugins. The awesome thing about WPRocket is that they created an image optimization plugin that works hand-in-glove with WPRocket. Imagify is free and has a free level of optimization. Unless you’re a super heavy content creator using a ton of images, once you get your images optimized, the free version will fully cover your needs.
If you are not sure about your page speed or overall performance, start with a free GTMetrix site scan. It will give you feedback in easy-to-follow language, and you get the server lag time if any from the Waterfall tab. Hover over the colored blocks at the very first line with the /. The longer the connection or waiting time, the slower your server response time.
Find & Fix Crawl Errors
It is easy to identify any crawl errors that exist and fix them using Google’s Search Console. When you look through the coverage report, you will find a list of both errors and excluded pages, along with those which are valid.
When you get the report, make sure you resolve any errors that you find. Find out the cause of excluded URLs in more detail and have them solved. Sometimes, issues like 404 errors along with a list of the pages that are not correctly canonicalized may show up here, and you should resolve them too.
If you don’t have Search Console set up and running, follow the steps we gave in our tip Using Google Search Console. You will need to wait until the first crawl is complete.
Use an SEO-Friendly URL Structure
When your URL structure is SEO-friendly it means search engines can crawl your web pages easily and figure them out.
Make your page URLs simple and descriptive, especially for your users’ sake. For example, this URL is not descriptive at all:
If you want to make the same URL descriptive and SEO-friendly instead, it can look something like this:
Make sure you use hyphens to separate words in your URLs; do not use underscores.
Generally, short URLs rank higher than longer ones. Try and keep your page URLs as short as possible to improve its chances in organic searches.
Check the Page Depth of Your Site
In the perfect scenario, a user should only have to click three times to get the full detail about your service and complete the next step in becoming your customer (Lead Created). This can be a form submitted or an online booking for a meeting completed. We take a deeper dive into page depth in our tip How Many Clicks. There are many scenarios where this 3-click ideal scenario doesn’t fit, but for the majority of business owners, there’s no excuse to have 4-5 clicks for people to get to the point of doing business with you.
The big exception is eCommerce. Depending on how your categories are set up, your products may be several categories deep. Let’s use shoes as an example. Here’s a potential path: Home page > Women’s Shoes > Casual > Sandals. But, because I’m able to find exactly what I want (casual women’s sandals), the longer path isn’t frustrating, but reassuring that I’ll find the results I’m looking for.
This is important to Google because the Google Robot has a certain “budget” so to speak when it comes to your site. The shallower the level, the easier it is to get to ALL your pages within the budget.
Confirm that there are no Duplicate Versions of Your Site in Google’s Index
It is important that Google indexes only one version of your site. You may have different URLs of your site, but they should all point to a single one.
Whether you use a www or a non-www version for your website is entirely up to you. Once you choose your primary version, use the 301 direct function to redirect all other variants to the primary one. To easily confirm whether each variant automatically redirects to your primary one, simply enter each variant into your browser bar and see where it ends up.
Include Structured Data on your Site
Structured data is becoming increasingly valuable as Google builds a more semantic web. With structured data, your pages are more prominent in web results. The Geek term for structured data is Schema and truly deserves its own entire tip. But, to prevent a cliffhanger, let’s at least turn the Geek into English.
- A way of tagging information to show how it is related
- A way of telling the search engines what your content is related to
A very small ranking factor for Google
- What is at work when you see a definition or information when doing a Google Search
How to implement Schema
Take the time to read a “Getting Started” article to better understand what Schema is all about. Neil Patel is a favorite resource of ours, and he’s got a great article: How to Boost your SEO by Using Schema Markup. And, Yoast SEO has a complete guide as well.
Most of the SEO plugins for WordPress take the technical work out of implementing Schema. We use both Yoast SEO and RankMath. The free version lets you do the basics in selecting the schema type, while the premium version allows you to get more granular.
This tip was a lot techier than usual, and if you’re still with us – awesome! Here’s a simple summary to give you a checklist to work from:
- Is your site running on SSL?
- If you see the little lock to the left of your domain, the answer is Yes.
- Site Speed
- How’s your server response time?
- Do you have good cache and image optimization plugins installed and running?
- Do you have any crawl errors in the Search Console that need to be fixed?
- Do you have an SEO friendly URL structure?
- How many clicks does it take to get to your key pages?
- Is Google indexing both the www and non www version of your site? You only need one.
- Have you implemented basic Schema using your SEO plugin?
- Is your site running on SSL?
Your Online Partner… for Success
Did the technical SEO tips spin your head around? Or, you’ve taken the first pass and would like a second set of eyes? Book a “20” with Christy and get your questions answered, or work reviewed.