Technical SEO is a major component of any comprehensive SEO strategy. Search engine optimization focuses on actions that help search engines display your site’s pages in relevant search queries. Technical SEO focuses on improving the site foundation and architecture to help search engines crawl, index, and render your site. For those diving into the SEO space, search engines (like Google) use bots (computer programs) to constantly scan the internet (crawl) and create a master database of its findings (index). Then, when someone conducts a search, the search engine provides a list of pages from the index that attempt to provide the answer to the query. The pages provided are referred to as SERPs (search engine results page) and ideally show your site (rendered).
For example, technical SEO includes improving site speed. Google has repeatedly indicated that site speed is a ranking factor. After all, searchers don’t like waiting, so the faster your site loads, the less time visitors wait for your content. In fact, in 2020, Google released a core algorithm update that focused explicitly on site speed and rendering of content. As a result, if your company does not work with technical SEO experts, you are at risk of falling behind the competition because these activities are vital at ensuring your site shows up before them.
Why Technical SEO Matters
A complete SEO strategy includes on-page efforts, such as content marketing, and off-page efforts, such as link building. Technical SEO is part of on-page efforts because all of the activities reside on the site itself. The following outlines the major technical SEO actions:
- 301 Redirects
- 404 Pages
- Canonical Tags
- Duplicate Content
- Site Architecture
- Structured Data
- URL Structure
While undervalued by many, technical SEO matters because there are finite actions that are under your control. For example, content marketing is another on-page SEO action, but requires a portfolio approach for success. Comparatively, technical SEO identifies errors that generally have a definitive fix. If your site has a page that delivers a 404 error, then you can fix that by adding a page or including a 301 redirect.
SEO efforts target search engines. Therefore, technical SEO focuses on addressing items to ensure sites follow Google’s best practices. This means ensuring sites are fast and secure on mobile and desktop. For example, a 2016 study showed that 53% of mobile website visitors will leave if a webpage doesn’t open within three seconds. Does your site pass the blink test?
If not, start with a SEO audit to identify underlying page speed issues and work with a technical SEO expert to fix them. Additionally, other items that site audits highlight, such as duplicate or thin content, also fall under the technical SEO umbrella.
Improves UI for Search Engines
Search engines constantly crawl the internet looking to learn in order to offer the most relevant page for every search inquiry. Due to this consumption, SEO experts usually discuss improving SERPs. Technical SEO makes a big impact on improving SERPs because they address items that might be confusing to search engines. For example, a growing aspect of technical SEO is adding structured data, also known as schema markup, to websites. Structured data adds tags to content on various pages that helps search engines categorize (and therefore, understand) the purpose of the page.
Additionally, other relatively unknown aspects of technical SEO include an internal and external link review. For example, over time, both internal and/or external links may become dead links (i.e., they no longer render and display 404 errors). So, through technical SEO actions, these links are identified and fixed. Finally, ensuring the site has an accurate XML sitemap and robots.txt file help engines crawl your site, which allows search engines to learn and index more of your pages.
Common Misconceptions About Technical SEO
When people think about SEO, they generally think about keywords, blogs and backlinks. However, a lot of what resides at the core of SEO falls under the technical SEO umbrella. Unfortunately, this means most business owners have a few misconceptions about the importance of this work.
To start, many people believe that technical SEO (or any SEO) has the ability to guarantee rankings. No reputable SEO company would guarantee #1 rankings! There are too many variables, but over time, experienced SEO consultants will deploy a game plan that ensures your site has a solid foundation. Plus, with sufficient time, instilling SEO as part of the marketing process (and not an afterthought) will create the behaviors that achieve those page one SERPs.
Another common misconception is that technical SEO isn’t as important for their business. For some local companies, the only thing that matters is reviews. Reviews are great and a vital component of a local SEO strategy. However, search engines still need to crawl your site. Search engines still need to understand your service area, so technical SEO makes a big difference by adding structured data and creating town pages to your site.
Finally, because technical SEO includes the word technical a fair amount of people believe this requires developers. While there is some overlap with a development team, most of the technical SEO activities that drive the needle do not require any developers. Therefore, if proper access to the site is provided, your digital marketing team can implement the core action items without involvement of other parties.