What does technical SEO mean

Technical SEO - The Ultimate Guide 2020


Introduction to Technical SEO

Technical SEO is the foundation of the SEO process. No house can be built without a solid foundation. Even if everything else is the same in perfection. If it is crooked, no matter how beautiful the interior is, the way there involves many stumbling blocks that destroy the overall picture. Both for Google to crawl and visitors to click through your website. In other words, it ensures that the visitor can easily click through the website.

Flawless technical SEO work is the minimum for every website and therefore a must-have for search engine optimization.

It is therefore crucial that you understand what technical SEO is and how to do it properly.

The good news is that once you have a technical SEO audit of your website and fixing any issues, you don't have to bother with it.

In this post you will learn what technical SEO is, which best practices checklist you should follow and how you can carry out a technical SEO audit of your website with the help of our structured checklist for technical SEO and ultimately optimize your website guaranteed.

What is technical SEO?

Technical SEO refers to the process of optimizing your website for the crawling and indexing phase in order to increase the rankings. With technical search engine optimization you can help search engines to easily access, crawl, interpret and index your website.

It is called "technical" because it has nothing to do with the actual content of the website or with the website promotion. The main goal of technical search engine optimization is to optimize the foundation of a website. Of course, many of the technical SEO optimizations are also a significant ranking factor.

To understand what the real meaning of technical SEO is, let's start with some basic terms.

What is SEO (SEO definition)

AsSearch engine optimization orSEO (English for Search Engine Optimization) refers to all measures that are suitable for improving the placement of a website in the organic search results of search engines and thus increasing traffic.

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In other words, the work of search engine optimization means that your website is found first for certain keywords, which is anything but easy due to the massive competition. In addition, around 60% click on the first link, 16% on the second and 8% on the third. Basically you can say that approx. 99.1% of all clicks concern the first 10 pages. (Source: Johannes Beus) Based on the statistics, you can see that Google's ranking plays a decisive role and that your website needs to be optimized in this regard.

What SEO is in our opinion, my colleague Sam explains in this post:

Optimization in the SEO context means:

  • Make sure search engines can easily access and index your website
  • Create quality content that matches the seeker's intent
  • Giving search engine crawlers the right signals to understand the structure of your website
  • Help search engine crawlers understand the meaning (context) of your content.
  • Giving search engine algorithms reasons to trust your website and rate it higher than other websites.

If you do all of the above correctly, your website will be SEO friendly and a candidate to appear in the SERPS for many searches (related to your content).

What is SEO made of?

SEO basically consists of 4 parts: OnPage SEO, OffPage SEO, Local SEO and Technical SEO.

Now that the basic terms have been clarified, let's start with technical SEO.

Technical SEO related to WordPress

The time invested in technical SEO comes into its own when the website is designed using tools such as WordPress. WordPress is both a simple and popular tool to design a beautiful website without a lot of background knowledge and to achieve a lot with it. However, the simple design also has a downside.

Why?

Most of the editing takes place on the surface, but Google also crawls through the codes and structures. However, these tools make them very confused and disorganized. This has a negative effect on the ranking. Conversely, this means that you should resort to technical SEO so that you can generate a lot of attention and traffic with your beautiful surface thanks to the tools thanks to a high ranking on the part of Google.

Technical SEO Best Practices

Now that it is clear what technical search engine optimization is, let's see what are the best practices to follow. You can use the list below to run your own technical SEO audit. Carefully go through all of the optimization measures:

  • Specify preferred domain
  • Optimize robot.txt
  • Optimize your URL structure
  • Navigation and page structure
  • Breadcrumb menus
  • Implement structured data labeling
  • Canonical URLs
  • 404 page optimize
  • XML sitemap optimization
  • SSL and HTTPS
  • Website speed
  • Mobile friendliness
  • Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
  • Pagination and multilingual websites
  • Register your site with webmaster tools

Specify a preferred domain

When you set up your website or blog, you'll need to specify your preferred domain. This tells the search engines which variant of the domain you want to use for the entire life of your website.

Let's see why you have to do this.

By default, a website is accessible with www and without www in front of a domain name.

For example, if your domain is example.com, your website can be reached from both http://www.example.com and http://example.com (i.e. without the www).

While this is fine for users, it is confusing for search engines because they view these as two different websites.

This means that there can be indexing problems, problems with duplicate content and loss of page rank.

To solve this problem, you need to set your preferred domain and inform the search engines of your choice.

WWW or no WWW?

One of the questions a lot of people ask is whether to use the www before their domain or choose the non-www version.

There is no SEO benefit to choosing one format over the other, it is a matter of personal preference.

I prefer to have www in front of my domains because it seems more natural to me, but there is nothing wrong with going for the http version.

The important thing is to let the search engines know of your decision and to be consistent throughout the life of your website.

In case you change your mind, you can use 301 redirections to switch between the different formats, but this is not recommended as there is always a risk with domain migrations.

How to set your preferred domain

In the past, the setting to specify your preferred domain was available in the Google search console, but Google decided to remove that option and rely on canonical URLs.

Optimize your Robots.txt

When you're done setting your preferred domain, the next step is to review and optimize your robots.txt file.

What is the robots.txt file?

Robots.txt is a text file located in the main directory of your website that tells the search engines which pages of your website to crawl and include in their index.

The format of this file is very simple and in most cases you won't need to make any changes to it.

However, it's important to double-check and make sure that there aren't any false blocks preventing search engine crawlers from indexing your website.

Optimize your URL structure

The next item on your technical SEO audit list is revising your website's URL structure. By URL structure, we mean the format of your URLs.

Best SEO practices dictate the following about URLs:

  • Use lowercase letters
  • Use - to separate words in the URL
  • Make it short and descriptive
  • Avoid unnecessary characters or words
  • Use your target keywords in the URL without keyword stuffing

In general, once you've determined the format of your permanent link structure, all you need to do is tweak your URLs as you post new content.

If you are using WordPress as your CMS, you will find that when you create a new post, WordPress takes the title of your post and creates the URL.

For example, if your post title is “10 Technical Search Engine Optimization Best Practices for Beginners”, the WordPress generated URL will be http://www.example.com/10-technische-seo-best-practices-fuer-anfeanger.

That's not bad, but you can also make it shorter, like this one at http://www.example.com/technisches-seo, which is more targeted and easier to remember.

As in the case of the preferred domain, you can change your permanent link structure using 301 redirects.

While changing the URLs of existing items is not recommended, it makes little sense to do so, but you can follow best practices for your new posts.

Navigation and structure of the website

The structure of a website is a very important SEO factor for many reasons.

Users are more likely to stay longer on a website and find out what they want faster, and search engines can more easily understand and index a website. You can influence this significantly.

A big mistake that many webmasters make is that in their endeavor to optimize their web pages for conversions, they forget about the navigation and structure of the page and in the end damage or even neglect their technical SEO efforts.

A typical example is to hide your archive pages from users and have all of the content under a single category.

In the past it was thought that archive pages or pages with multiple categories could hurt your SEO, but this is bad and outdated SEO practice.

Google takes the overall structure of a website into account when evaluating a given page and this is something that shouldn't be overlooked.

Of course, your category pages should be optimized if you want to have any use.

In addition, a well-defined structure as indicated by Google (see screenshot below from Google Guidelines) helps the webmasters to locate the important content of a website on Google, which helps a lot in keeping the pages that are really important in to place higher in the rankings.

Add breadcrumb menus

A breadcrumb menu is a series of links at the top or bottom of a page that can be used to navigate to a previous page (usually the category page) or to the home page of a website.

A breadcrumb menu serves two main purposes: it helps users easily navigate through a website without having to press the back button of their browser, and it gives search engines another clue about the structure of a website.

Breadcrumbs are mentioned as an SEO element in various SEO guides as they are highly recommended by Google.

If you haven't already enabled breadcrumbs, make sure they are enabled on your website and that they are in the correct scheme.

Structured data markup and SEO

Structured data has become more and more important in recent years, as it is heavily used by Google in search results.

What is structured data?

In simple terms, structured data is code that you can add to your web pages that is visible to search engine crawlers and helps them understand the context of your content. It's a way of describing your data to search engines in a language they can understand.

How is structured data related to technical SEO?

Although structured data has to do with the content of a webpage, it is part of technical SEO because you need to add code to your webpage in order to design it properly. Typically, you add the structured data definition once and then you don't have to do anything about it.

In the case of breadcumbs, for example, you have to configure the structured data once and no further action is required.

The same goes for articles. As soon as you enter the correct structure data definition in your CMS, it is automatically applied to new content.

What is the benefit of using structured data?

It can help you to improve the display of your entries in the SERPS, either through feature snippets, knowledge graph entries, etc. and to increase your CTR.

What are the uses of structured data?

There are many ways you can use structured data to describe your content. The most popular are: articles, recipes, events, job ads, local stores, and more.

Check your canonical urls

Every single page on your website should have a canonical URL. This is defined by adding the tag in the

of your posts and pages.

What is a canonical url?

It's an easy way to let Google know which version of a page to consider when indexing your site. The concept is similar to the preferred domain, where a single page is accessible through different URLs.

You can use the rel = “canonical” when you have pages with similar content, for pagination purposes and to avoid duplicate content problems when adding content from other websites to your website.

As a general rule, you should provide a canonical URL for all pages on your website.

The easiest way to check that your website has a canonical URL is to visit one of your pages, right-click anywhere on the page and select VIEW SOURCE. Find rel = canonical and examine its value.

If you can't find a reference to canonical, you can either use a plugin to add this automatically (if you're on WordPress you can use Yoast SEO or Rank Math) or hire a developer to make the necessary changes to your code.

As with other technical SEO elements, once you've set up your website to display the canonical URL correctly, you don't need to do anything.

Optimize your 404 page

A 404 page is shown to users if the URL they are visiting does not exist on your website. Maybe the page was deleted, the url was changed, or they typed the url incorrectly in their browsers.

Most modern WordPress themes have 404 pages optimized by default, if not, you can easily make your 404 page more SEO-friendly with a plugin or by editing your theme templates.

What is a 404 Optimized Page?

An optimized 404 page should include:

  • Have the same structure and navigation menus as your website
  • In friendly language, tell visitors that the page they are looking for is no longer available
  • Give them alternatives (suggest other related sites)
  • Make it easy to return to the previous page, your homepage, or other important pages

How do I check my 404 pages?

Testing what your 404 page looks like is very easy: just open a new browser window and enter a URL on your website that doesn't exist. What is shown in the browser is your 404 page.

Don't spend too much time tweaking your 404 pages, just make sure that if a page isn't found, it is displaying a custom 404 page.

Optimize your XML sitemap

One of the most important elements of technical SEO is XML sitemap optimization.

An XML sitemap is an XML file that lists all of the pages / posts available on your website. In addition to its title, it also includes the date of publication and the date of the last update.

Search engines can use the XML sitemap as a guide when crawling a website.

How do you optimize your XML sitemap?

XML sitemap optimization is simple: only include the pages in your sitemap that are important to your website. In most cases, these are your pages, posts, and categories.

Do not include tag pages, author pages, or other pages in your sitemap that do not have their own content.

Make sure your sitemap is automatically updated whenever a new page is published or when a page is updated.

Use Bing's Google Search Console and Webmaster Tools to submit your sitemap to Google and Bing and check its status.

Add SSL to make your website use HTTPS

The latest trend on the Internet is security - according to GDPR at the latest.HTTPS is a well-known ranking signal and an additional way to build trust with your users.

If you install an SSL certificate on your server, your website can be accessed via https and not via http. This means that all information that is transferred between your website and your server (such as usernames, passwords, personal information, etc.) is encrypted.

SSL used to be important to eCommerce websites, but now every website on the internet should have SSL installed.

If you don't have SSL installed, the first thing you need to do is contact your hosting provider and ask them to enable SSL on your account. After that, you'll need to go through a migration procedure to enable SSL on your website without losing your rankings. Here the http version of your website is permanently forwarded to the https version, via 301 redirects.

Adding an SSL certificate is similar to migrating to a new domain, so you have to carry out the procedure with care and then everything will work with the indexing.

Website Speed ​​- Faster is Better

Another popular ranking signal is website speed. Google mentions the importance of speed in all of their SEO recommendations, and studies confirm that faster websites do better than slower ones.

Website speed is a technical issue and it requires changes to your website and infrastructure to get good results.

Your starting point is to check your speed using three tools: Google PageSpeed ​​Insights, Pingdom tools, and google mobile speed tool.

The tools above give you some recommendations on what to change to improve your speed, but as I mentioned earlier, it's a technical problem and you may need to hire a developer to help you.

In general, here are some things to keep in mind to help your website load faster:

  • Upgrade your server to a 64-bit operating system
  • Upgrade to PHP 7.2 -> this gives you enormous speed improvements compared to PHP 5.2.
  • Optimize the size of your images. There are tools out there to help you do this without any loss of quality.
  • Minimize the use of plugins
  • You should compress any images before uploading them
  • Update WordPress and all plugins to the latest versions
  • Don't use heavy pre-made themes. You add a ton of code that is not needed, better invest in a bespoke theme.
  • Optimize and compress your CSS and JS files
  • Use a caching plugin to serve cached pages to users
  • Avoid too many redirects
  • Avoid adding too many scripts in the of your website.
  • Use asynchronous loading of Javascript

If you're on WordPress, you can also check out my previous article: How to Increase WordPress Site Speed ​​for More Useful Tips.

Mobile friendliness

Having a mobile friendly website is not optional. Most of your users are likely to be mobile, and with the introduction of Google's "mobile-first" index, your rankings will suffer if you don't have a fast, mobile-friendly website.

Cell phone friendliness is a part of technical SEO because once you have a cell phone friendly theme that is properly configured, you don't need to worry about it anymore.

It is also a task that requires technical knowledge, so it often makes sense to seek help from professionals here.

The first thing you need to do is check the mobile friendliness of your website using this tool from Google.

If your website fails the test, you have a lot of work to do and that should be your first priority.

Even if it passes the test, there are a number of things you need to know about mobile and SEO.

  • Your mobile website should have the same content as your desktop website. With the introduction of the "mobile-first" index, Google will try to rate mobile websites based on their mobile content, so that all the content you have on the desktop should also be available on the mobile phone (including any internal links or otherwise Items available on your desktop website).
  • Your mobile website should load in less than 6 seconds (if tested on 3G).
  • It's normal to have a lower conversion rate on mobile (compared to desktop), but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to optimize your mobile website as much as possible.
  • Avoid pop-ups on the phone
  • An AMP website does not replace the need to have a fast mobile website. Even if you have Accelerated Mobile Pages activated on your website, you need a friendly and fast mobile website. The mobile-first index does not consider AMP pages as a substitute for mobile-friendly pages.

If you already have a responsive website then you probably don't have to worry about the mobile-first index, but if you have a separate mobile website on a subdomain or in a folder then make sure it has the same content as your desktop website has.

Use Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Accelerated Mobile Pages is a relatively new concept introduced by Google to make the mobile web faster.

Put simply: With AMP you provide a version of your website with AMP-HTML, which is a stripped-down version of normal HTML.

As soon as you create AMP pages for your website, these are saved and made available to users via a special Google cache that loads faster (almost instantly) than mobile-friendly pages.

AMP pages are only accessible through the Google Mobile results or through other AMP providers such as Twitter.

There's been a long debate in the SEO community about whether or not you should adopt AMP Pages, there are both advantages and disadvantages to using this approach.

The main advantages and disadvantages of AMP are:

AMP benefits

  • Make your cellphone pages faster
  • Can potentially increase your CTR (from cellphone users)

AMP cons

  • Not easy to implement. Even with WordPress it is not enough to activate the AMP plugin
  • You cannot use the AMP Pages for email marketing purposes.
  • You need to hire a developer to help you build a decent AMP website.
  • Your analytics and reports get confusing as you have to maintain and consider reports from two different websites (your regular website and your AMP website).

Currently, Google states that there is no SEO benefit from adopting AMP (other than speed), but that may change in the future.

Advanced SEO topics (pagination and multilingual websites)

The last two items on your technical SEO checklist are pagination and multilingual websites.

Both of these are very technical tasks that you only need to deal with if they apply to your website.

Pagination

Pagination is used when you want to split a long page into several shorter pages and when you enable scrolling in your category pages.

To avoid duplicate content and to consolidate links and page rank to your main page, you can use rel = “next” and rel = “prev” links to tell search engines that the following pages are a continuation of the main page.

If Google finds the rel = "next" and rel = "prev" links in the code, it will understand which is the main page and use this for indexing purposes.

If you've enabled pagination on your website, read these instructions from Google.

Multilingual websites

If you have content on your website in more than one language then you need to use the hreflang attribute to give Google more information about the structure and content of your website.

This will help you serve the right content to users (e.g. show Swedish content in Swedish) and it will also help you optimize your SEO by avoiding duplicate content and indexing problems.

For more information on working with multilingual websites, please read this guide.

Webmaster Tools

To do the most important technical SEO tasks, you need the help of webmaster tools. Webmaster tools are provided by search engines and can be used to optimize a website for technical SEO.

The most complete set of tools is the Google search console provided by Google.

You can use the Google search console to test your robots.txt file, submit a sitemap to Google, and find and fix crawl errors.

It is highly recommended that you register your site with Google and Bing's Webmaster Tools and configure basic settings. The following guide can help you get started.

Recommended Guide: How to Use the Webmaster Tools

Technical SEO checklist

When you get to this point, you probably have a very good idea by now of what technical SEO is and why it needs to be treated separately from on-page SEO and off-page SEO.

Even if you've done this before, it's always a good idea to do a technical SEO audit of your website, here is your technical SEO checklist.

  • Specify a preferred domain
  • Check and optimize your robots.txt
  • Check and optimize your URL structure
  • Revise your navigation and website structure
  • Add breadcrumb menus to your posts and pages
  • Add scheme overlay for breadcrumbs
  • Add structured data to your homepage
  • Add structured data to your posts
  • Add structured data to other pages (based on their type)
  • Check your canonical urls
  • Optimize your 404 page
  • Optimize and send your XML sitemap to Google and Bing
  • Enable HTTPS
  • Check your loading speed and try to make your website faster.
  • Check the mobile friendliness of your website
  • Is considering adopting Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
  • Check your settings for pagination and multilingualism
  • Register your website with the Google search console
  • Register your website with Bing Webmaster Tools

To further check the level of optimization of your website, you can perform a general SEO audit, which includes many more checks that go beyond technical SEO.

The technical SEO audit is also covered as part of our SEO audit service.

Conclusion

Technical SEO is a series of checks and settings that you need to tweak so that search engines can easily crawl and index your website.

In most cases, once you've got your technical SEO right, you don't have to go back to it other than regular SEO audits.

The word "technical" implies that you need to have some technical knowledge to perform some of the tasks (such as optimizing page speed, adding structured data, etc.), but it is necessary to do this otherwise you will your website is not reaching its full potential. In other words, with this guide you will be able to set up a perfect technical SEO for your website.

If you still have questions about technical SEO or you want to be certain that your best keywords are ranked number 1, the SEO Agency Hamburg is the right place for you and you will get a special kind of expertise.