Undoubtedly, SEO is a boon to your business. But, mastering SEO basics is just the bare minimum.
You can’t win over the game with fundamentals alone. Go beyond! Get into more complex concepts of SEO.
As far as we know, technical SEO is always a daunting task. At the same time, it is incredibly momentous too.
The typical SEO ranking factors include keywords, meta tags, image attributes, headings, and anything of its kind. Indeed, page loading speed becomes an essential factor both in and as typical or technical SEO.
Note: Being a WordPress user, you can refer to my previous article on “WordPress Speed Optimization Hacks” for more actionable tips.
When it comes to core technical SEO, you will be scary to get used to the terms. Topics like indexability, canonical tags, structured data, etc. would make you run away. Despite all, it becomes essential to perfect your site’s technical SEO.
Don’t panic, we made such complex technical SEO facets simpler for you, here.
Dear SEO professionals, let’s take a deep dive into the technical SEO factors and its best practices.
Technical SEO – The Definition
QuickSprout gives a simple definition of technical SEO.
Entire SEO works aside from the content that refers to technical SEO. Of course, it majorly focuses on how search engines crawl your site and index your content. With no proper technical SEO in place, no matter how awesome your content is – it makes nothing.
Fortunately, you may already be practicing some of the technical SEO tactics but not knowing it. Should you really care about technical SEO?
- Technical SEO – The Definition
- Technical SEO is A Need, Not an option!
- Search Engine Fundamentals – How it works?
- Significant Technical SEO Factors That Needs Your Attention
- #1 Preferred Domain
- #2 Page Indexing
- #3 Robots.txt
- #4 XML Sitemap
- #5 Crawl Budget
- #6 Website Architecture
- #7 URL Structure
- #8 Page Speed
- #9 Duplicate Content
- #10 Structured Data
- #11 Mobile-first indexing
- #12 404 Error Pages
- #13 Canonical URL’s
- #14 Redirects
- #15 Multi-lingual settings
- Finally, Let’s Wrap Up On Technical SEO Factors!
Technical SEO is A Need, Not an option!
IoT takes off anything and everything in recent days. SEO’s must optimize for it. With the evolution of more IoT devices, you can’t succeed just optimizing your pages for Google. Soon, there may be people to search for something through their IoT devices like smart refrigerators, smartwatches, etc.
So, it’s your responsibility to optimize your SEO for the growing technology. I mean, SEOs must optimize for everything everywhere.
However, this will be almost similar to optimizing for mobile searches. So, better focus on mobile SEO to begin but keeping smart devices in mind.
Further, technical SEO is dominant as crawlability is the foremost considerable factor when setting up an SEO strategy. Content comes secondary as a medium to include keywords and convey your messages.
Then, most importantly, technical SEO now encompasses all the best practices of SEO to avoid manipulations and murky tactics.
It helps SEO marketers to drive the site’s online performance as well as the crawler harmony. AI rules over every industry. By the way, it needs help from SEO professionals and big data scientists to drive it forward.
So, you are compelled to take a slight deviation in your SEO approach getting into the technical kinds of stuff.
Ready to uplift your SEO strategy to its next level? Let’s get rolling down!
Wait! Before getting deep into those technical SEO factors, I take responsibility to demonstrate how search engines work. If you are an SEO expert knowing all about it, just skip this section. Let the beginners learn something from it.
Search Engine Fundamentals – How it works?
The search engine’s workflow includes a few terms like crawling, indexing, and crawl budget. The search engine bots, or spiders, or crawlers work by crawling billions of pages on the web and added those pages to its own data structure called index (let’s call it as indexing).
The indexing includes all the crawled or discovered URL’s navigating through the links, based on some relevant signals like keywords, content, the freshness of the page, and previous user engagement, etc.
By the way, indexing is a repeated process. How soon the search engines re-index a page depends on how often the domain delivers fresh content and the frequency which the page undergoes changes.
Whenever there is a search query, instead of analyzing each individual page, the search engine would fetch the most relevant results from its index.
Search engines also refer to a few other relevant data before rendering the appropriate results. It includes – location, language detected, previous search history, and device.
At the same, the algorithms vary between search engines. Hence, the page that ranks #1 in Google maybe not in Bing.
SEO has undergone tremendous changes and upgrades. There are a lot of terms and factors to consider when it comes to ranking. Ultimately, search engines want to display the most accurate and relevant results to the searches. Hence, Google often scrutinizes its ranking algorithms.
I have just touched the areas. I haven’t dig more in-depth as it deviates from the topic of technical SEO factors. So, let’s get started with the technical SEO factors that greatly impact your online performance these days.
Significant Technical SEO Factors That Needs Your Attention
#1 Preferred Domain
These are the multiple versions of a site.
While setting up your website, define your preferred domain and instruct search engines about the one that you will use forever. Ensure that all other versions pointing to the correct one. When a user access a version, redirect them to your preferred one.
However, your website is accessible with or without www (like http://www.example.com or http://example.com) for the users. But, search engines will get confused, considering these two are different pages.
As a result, your pages would encounter duplicate content issues and hence, the loss of page authority.
Indeed, there is no SEO impact using any of these versions over the other. You can choose it personally but be consistent. All you need to do is let search engines know about your choice.
In multiple ways, you can set your preferred domain and intimate Google about it. Earlier, you can set your preferred domain in Google webmaster tools. Now, you don’t have that option in GSC. So, add rel=” canonical” tags to the HTML pages to tell Google about your ideal domain version.
Use 301 redirections to send all the website visitors to the preferred domain.
And, use only the preferred domain in the XML sitemap not to interpret the non-preferred domains.
Finally, use any of your favorite website auditing tools to make sure that all set right. But, to keep your site encrypted and build the trust factor, upgrade your site version to HTTPS.
#2 Page Indexing
If a page isn’t in search engines or let’s take Google’s index, it hardly receives organic traffic.
In a nutshell, indexation is the 2nd step in how Google works displaying the search engine results.
If you entail your pages to drive organic traffic to your site, then make sure the pages are indexed. Having your web pages indexed is a critical part of a search engine’s ranking process.
So, how to check if your pages are indexed or not?
Simply check any particular page’s indexation status, just use the below query in Google search box and get to know.
In case, if your targeted page is not in Google Index, you will get as below.
You will get the list of indexed pages on your website.
Otherwise, to understand the overall site’s indexing status, you may use Google webmaster tools or any other site auditing tools Screaming Frog, SEO PowerSuite’s Website Auditor, Cognitive SEO, etc.
Fortunately, Google Search Console gives you more detailed insights regarding your web pages indexing status.
Click on ‘Coverage’ under ‘Index’ in your GSC to know about the indexation rate of your pages.
Ideally, the number of indexed pages must be close to your total pages on the site. If you see errors or number of pages outside the index, then –
- You might have URL’s that are intentionally blocked for indexing (via robots.txt, etc.)
- Site might have more pages of low quality or thin content that Google deems less worthy to index.
- Your site’s authority may fall short to justify all your pages to index so quickly.
Here are some of the quick tips to get your pages indexed by Google.
- Use more internal links or generate authoritative backlinks to get certain pages discovered by Google.
- Block low-quality pages on your site from Google’s index.
- Make sure those pages are included in your site’s XML sitemap.
- Share the pages on high traffic sites and social media platforms like Twitter that Google crawls and index regularly.
- Make sure that you haven’t marked those pages with no-index tag.
- Manually, request indexing via Google Search Console. But, don’t overdo for more pages.
Also, you can revisit your robots.txt file and optimize to maximize your indexation rate.
Indeed, the very next technical SEO factor is the same, robots.txt.
Mostly, the crawlability issues are related to your robots.txt declarations. The moment you notice that all your pages aren’t indexed, your robots.txt file would be the first place to look.
Check for “Disallow: /” if you have accidentally blocked your important pages from Google indexing.
When you want Google not to crawl the low-quality sections of your site, then robots.txt comes into rescue.
Also, when your site has very clean architecture and resources, you do not need to block crawlers. It’s highly acceptable not to have a robots.txt file with a 404 status.
Here are a sample and standardized syntax and formatting rules of a perfect robots.txt file.
You can also refer to other experts sharing their own site’s robots.txt file as a sample. You can tweak it for you.
Here is Google’s robots.txt file: https://www.google.com/robots.txt
Pro-tip: Above all, Make sure to add your sitemap locations to your robots.txt file. Mention a line (as below) for each sitemap you have.
Adding this also helps other search engine spiders where to check and crawl your pages. Plus, Google can crawl your pages referring to the sitemaps even if your indexing request had any problems.
#4 XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap includes the list of your entire site URL’s. Besides the URL, it also displays the last modified date and number of images in the specific URL’s.
It acts as a roadmap or guide for search engines to identify and crawl your pages easily.
Having a proper XML sitemap enables crawlers to visit your entire pages with one visit instead of directing via internal links.
Sitemaps are SEO essential for sites that –
- Have more pages with deep site architecture
- Comes up with new pages more often
- Frequently modifying the content of old pages
- Suffers from improper internal linking and orphan pages
- Doesn’t have a strong external link profile
If you don’t have a sitemap so far, create it today. Most of the SEO tools and WordPress plug-ins (like Yoast) automatically generates an XML sitemap for a site.
Make sure the XML sitemap file is clean, up-to-date, concise, follows XML sitemap protocol, and submitted to Google Search Console.
Technically speaking, searching engines can find your URL’s without accessing the sitemap. At the same time, there is no guarantee that pages added to your sitemap will get crawled for sure. Still, this can increase the chances and makes crawling easier.
#5 Crawl Budget
Crawl budget is not something that deals with money. It’s the number of pages search engine bots crawl a website’s pages within a specified time.
Should you bother about your site’s crawl budget?
Google is really awesome in finding and indexing pages. Still, there are a few cases Google doesn’t index your website pages.
- If you have a site with thousands of pages (like in eCommerce sites), bots find it hard to index entire pages.
- If you add hundreds of new pages (at a stretch) to your big-league site when you have crawl budget shortage.
- If you have a lot of redirects that waste your crawl budget.
So, if a page isn’t indexed – it is not going to rank anymore.
Though crawl budget isn’t a ranking factor, still crawl budget optimization makes sense for big sites that have thousands and millions of pages.
Knowing your average crawl budget, here are some of the active measures to optimize it.
- Allow crawling of your important pages first with instructions via robots.txt file.
- Check out & reduce redirect chains that limit your crawl budget and prevent crawlers from being indexing your important pages.
- Use HTML, possibly as other search engine spiders are not yet to crawl and index Flash, and XML.
- Reduce HTTP errors (404 & 410) eating your crawl budget.
- Interlink your essential pages to the homepage to reducing the click depths & hence quick crawling of those pages.
- Limit duplicate content as it hurts crawl budget wasting Google’s resources to index multiple pages with similar content.
Every technical SEO professional should keep in mind that crawl budget optimization is, was and will be significant than you think.
Despite all, if you have more obsolete pages on your site, request Google to remove those pages from its index temporarily. Get it de-indexed. So that search engines can crawl of more fresh pages within the specified time rather than re-indexing the unwanted pages.
#6 Website Architecture
Website architecture is nothing but how the pages in a site are structured and linked together. A properly organized website helps users and search engine crawlers to find what they are looking for on a site than other sites.
Indeed, website architecture plays a significant role in impacting your SEO.
By the way, you can design your architecture based on the number of clicks (required to reach a particular page) from the homepage.
- Flat architecture – Users can reach any page on your site within 4clicks from the homepage.
- Deep architecture – requires 4 to 10 clicks.
What difference does it make having a simple and flat architecture?
Pages that are far (click-depth) from your homepage, then those are less likely to crawl by bots. Search engines find a hard time to find those pages and index. When your entire site pages are interlinked, spiders can discover all the pages via links.
When you have more internal links to your important pages, it passes more link juice and hence authority. That’s a valuable signal to improve rankings of that particular page.
Besides all, the right website architecture with appropriate linking makes it easy for visitors to navigate and find what they want.
Organizing your pages for SEO is made easy as you follow silo-based architecture.
Usually, the home page would be the most authoritative page on your site with lots of backlinks. Here you are directly linking your category pages to the home page. And, every individual page on your website comes closer to the home page with interlinks via the category pages.
That sounds good, right?
Indeed, adhering to this silo model, you can establish website hierarchy even you publish thousands of posts in the future.
Keep things simple, enabling users to skim through the relevant pages effortlessly, improving your site’s user experience.
#7 URL Structure
URL is the first impressive thing both the search engines and the users are likely to see.
By the way, I don’t insist you not to optimize the URL’s. Yes, I mean it since it is not good to change URL’s like you play around with other SEO factors. Get them perfect for the first time itself.
Many people never care about their URL structure having it non-optimized. I don’t say, Google doesn’t accept those URL’s. But, having your URL’s optimized (keep it short, embed keywords, and make it descriptive) improves user experience and search engine visibility.
By the way, lengthy and ugly URL’s can even make you lose some link building opportunities too.
Avoid using dynamic URL’s that confuses and never entices any user to click through.
Build easy to follow, keyword-rich, descriptive, and short URLs.
Despite all, I don’t recommend you to change the URL’s of your existing posts as it makes little sense.
But, you can practice the best practices now and then for your upcoming posts.
#8 Page Speed
Don’t take it too lightly as I am talking about this critical technical SEO factor – page speed, too late (#8).
Indeed, please be noted that I haven’t listed the factors in a hierarchy.
As we all know, SEO is not at all a game that gets results changing one big factor for once. It’s a series of steps making little, incremental changes considering tonnes of metrics.
In that case, page loading speed is a great boon or bane to any site impacting SEO performance.
Faster is better. Be the FASTEST, then!
Make your site load within 2 seconds to serve your audience (what they want) before your competitors do. Otherwise, you will be incurring a loss in terms of traffic, engagement, click-through, conversions, and hence, revenue.
Also, search engine crawlers would take more time to crawl and index every single slow-loading page on your site. That can even eat up your crawl budget before being your important pages is indexed.
Certainly, handling site speed is, of course, involves a lot of technical gigs. Get started with testing your site’s current speed and performance using these tools.
Also, you will get clarity on the metrics that slow down your site and recommendations to fix the issues.
Generally, you can employ the below tactics to make your website faster –
- Upgrade hosting
- Optimize your site images
- Compress and clean code
- Activate browser caching
- Minify JS & CSS
- Upgrade WordPress, PHP and all plug-ins to its latest versions
- Avoid adding too many external scripts to the header
- Minimize the usage of plug-ins
- Use CDN & so on.
You can also get access to our proven WordPress speed optimization Checklist for the price of your email id.
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#9 Duplicate Content
Google tries hard to deliver the most appropriate search results to the online users. Since 2011, Google Panda update was targeting low-quality, thin, and duplicate content.
The users are not likely to consume your copied and deceptive content. Hence, Google doesn’t like content plagiarism.
Duplicate content refers to the content that is the same (word-for-word) as the other on other sites or different pages on the same site.
Check out this sample –
Indeed, this falls under content duplication; even it is slightly rewritten or spun.
When it comes to content creation, it’s our responsibility to make it unique. Not to mention, producing a distinct piece of write-ups.
Why should Google consider your content as it already has a page with the same content in its index?
So, it is always awesome and pleasure to bring out your original content to the seekers.
Meanwhile, it is always a pain to create such breath-taking, non-plagiarized content. But, when you want your pages to rank better, you must.
Technically speaking, multiple pages with similar content frustrate Google spiders to crawl and index.
Also, it dissipates your crawl budget.
Before publishing your content, make sure it is original and stands-out using any matured plagiarism checker tools.
As seen above, intimate Google about your preferred domains to avoid duplicate content issues.
In the case of eCommerce sites that have multiple pages for a single product (individual page for each color, size, etc.), use canonical tags to tell search engines about your primary page and to ignore other similar pages.
In another case, if you have pages with similar content, merge those into a single mega page like the content hub.
For an instant, you have individual articles on –
Ultimately, get into Google’s good books (index) as a trustworthy resource, consistently producing original and valuable content.
#10 Structured Data
Structured data has nothing to do with your ranking boosts, directly. But, it is one of the most demanding factors to improve your click-through rates.
Other than typical search results, Google has multiple other things like knowledge graph, People also ask, Top stories, Featured snippets, Image pack, Video carousel, and more.
With all these, Google intends to render the necessary information to its users, hassle-free. That means, even with no clicks, the user gets information.
Just targeting Google text results is still inadequate.
Structured data is the code you can add to your web page that lets search engines to understand the context of your content better and display rich results to the users.
It’s a way to describe your content to the search engines in its language, schema.org. You will be using one of these formats to display rich search results.
Once you set your page using structured schema data, test it using the Google Structured Data testing tool. Make sure it doesn’t comply with Google’s structured markup guidelines.
The most commonly used structured data are recipes, events, reviews, product stock, business working hours, etc.
Rich snippets can alert Google that your page is more informative than the surrounding results. Also, data-rich results would tweak users to click through your page.
#11 Mobile-first indexing
When the volume of mobile searches dominates the desktop, Google decided to index your site’s mobile version first.
Earlier, it was indexing the desktop version of your site, evaluating the relevance of the page content to the search query. To prioritize the mobile results, Google switches over to this mobile-first indexing.
Keep in mind; Google has no separate index for mobile versions. It has only one index to fetch the results.
When you have a mobile-optimized site, your pages will rank well on both mobile and desktop search results. Otherwise, if you don’t have, then this will adversely impact both desktop and mobile rankings.
There is an exponential increase in searches that include more personal and conversational slang like me, my & I. And, these queries are raised mostly through mobile devices.
Google states that these kinds of personalized queries falls under the categories – solving a problem, getting things done, and exploring things around.
What makes your site mobile-friendly?
These are the major aspects to define your site is mobile-friendly.
- Site loading speed for mobile users
- Ease of use on mobile devices (User experience, navigation, readability, all includes)
If your website does pass the mobile test, you don’t worry about mobile-first indexing.
In other cases, if your site fails or if you have a separate mobile website (on a sub-domain or sub-directory) –
- Use mobile responsive themes to design simple but bold website.
- Make sure the mobile website content remains the same as the desktop version.
- Ensure that both mobile and desktop sites have the same structured data.
- Put the same title, meta tags, and description on both.
- Use only supported formats of visuals.
- Avoid or minimize using the pop-ups that annoy mobile users while scrolling.
- Strategically place your CTA’s not to deviate the mobile readers.
- Optimize your content for local searches.
- Keep your paragraphs short for better readability.
- Make your site even faster.
- Don’t use Flash (users don’t have supporting plug-ins in their mobile phones). Instead, use HTML5 for adding special effects.
Don’t let the lack of mobile-friendliness suffer your desktop rankings too. Focus on to optimize your site to be mobile-friendly. Mobile internet use contributes more than half of the total internet use.
#12 404 Error Pages
It is always essential to spend some time to make your site functioning smoothly. Keep your website organized, checking, and fixing the error pages.
Such error pages have many adverse effects on your website.
Most importantly, 404 error – ‘page not found’ upsets the user, as well as Google, doesn’t want to kill its crawling time landing on such ‘not-available’ pages.
So, you must quickly identify and fix those 404 errors.
A 404 error occurs when the particular page is not available or permanently moved. It happens when you delete or remove the pages, re-launch your website, or transfers domain (with no proper redirections); URL restructuring would cause 404 error pages.
Once identified, here is how you can handle 404 pages.
If you have similar content on some other pages on your site, you can redirect the users to that.
Otherwise, display a message that the page is no longer available. Additionally, you can have the search option (on the 404 pages), letting users search for something else on your site. Here is a screenshot on the site 3Hundrd.
You can be more creative to convince the visitors and make them stay on your site even after landing on your 404 pages.
Rather than using redirects, customize the error pages not to lose the customers.
#13 Canonical URL’s
Canonical tags are added to your HTML pages to tell bots about your primary page to index, in case of having multiple other similar pages. In such a case, search engines would consolidate the entire ranking signals to the particular page.
Like, how we do instruct Google about your single preferred domain.
Also, as we have seen above (under the section content supplication), you can use rel=” canonical” to avoid duplicate content issues.
Consider, you have individual pages (for each color) for a single product, “Nike Superbad Football Gloves.”
In this case, you can rel=canonical those pages to the primary page.
If all the four URLs are indexed, entitling duplicate content issues, then there is no point. So, include a canonical link on these pages, pointing to your original URL.
Redirects are inevitable to keep your site aligned and up-to-date. It can save you from issues related to broken pages, page not found, etc.
At the same time, redirects can also eat up your crawl budget if you overdo. More number of redirections can also slow down your site.
Indeed, more redirects you have, the user will take more time to settle on their desired landing pages. That is never appreciable in the perspectives of both SEO and user experience.
Most importantly, avoid redirect loops (chain of redirects for the same page) to the core since too many redirects will end up in an infinite loop.
For an instant, you redirected Page x to page y, a long time before and forgotten. Now, redirecting page y to page x is an awful error.
And, don’t redirect all your 404 pages to your home page. Deliver custom messages enabling users to take necessary action within the same page.
In case you are planning to migrate your big sites that have hundreds and thousands of pages, make sure to do a 302 temporarily redirect first. Make sure all the URL’s work properly. Check Google analytics for awkward outcomes (if any) then switch from 302 to 301 permanent.
If you are not so confident about all these technical kinds of stuff, hire a developer or technical SEO analyst to help you.
#15 Multi-lingual settings
When you are into running a business that targets a worldwide audience, then there are abundant technical aspects to optimize.
In general, experts define it as international SEO.
Similar to your typical SEO, you should promote your content and build backlinks. Besides, here are some of the areas to consider targeting multi-lingual audiences.
Google recommends dedicated URL’s that clearly highlights the specific language. Understand if your target audience prefers to surf on ccTLD sites, and then go for it.
If you have budget limitations, then go with gTLDs with sub-domains or sub-directories for different languages or countries.
Further, use language switchers so that users will find it easy to switch between the different versions and browse in what language they are comfortable with.
Again, content is always crucial.
How you display the translated content on your multiple versions of the site have a big impact on website performance.
Add Hreflang tags to your pages source code to let search engines know that you have multiple site versions with similar content but targeting different languages. That also helps spiders to understand the region for which the page is intended for.
Doing which, you can see the appropriate version of your site ranking for geo-specific or local search queries.
For example, if there is a search query from Australia, your Canada site version should not rank when you have a separate version for Australia.
Avoid using automated content translation.
Also, don’t ever think to auto-redirect your users to other versions of the site even you understand their preferred language through their browser cookies.
Finally, Let’s Wrap Up On Technical SEO Factors!
Have you ever wondered why SEO professionals are on high demand and charging hundreds of dollars per month for their services?
In this article, we have just touched the major aspects of technical SEO and brief about each. There are still more technical elements in real-time.
Technical SEO experts keep upgrading their skills on these hard elements of SEO (technical SEO factors). It might have taken their years of time to master these.
Hence, they are the most expensive and sought-after.
Still, you can learn things and master in SEO over time and experience. Just pick one or two factors, test and try optimizing your site. Check the results and fine-tune further. Keep extending your SEO efforts and bang the SERP results.
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