Content is King… sort of.
So you’ve launched a new site, you’re crushing the content side of SEO with a weekly blog chock full of authoritative high-quality content and growing your site on a regular basis with conversion-driven landing pages. The pages are fully optimized and strategic calls-to-action incorporated. You’ve got your on-page SEO ducks in a row and completed basic post-launch initiatives. Some time has gone by so you dive into Google Analytics to see all your hard work come to fruition, but you’re quickly disappointed. Organic traffic is dismal and bounce rate is high on key pages, and to top it off, those attractive CTA’s you painstakingly created resulted in minimal conversions. You do some damage control and confirm your goals are functioning correctly and the site is getting indexed, so you decide to dig a little deeper by visiting your site as a typical user would.
That’s when it happens...
It takes over 10 seconds for your homepage to load. And for each of those seconds it takes you’ve lost visits and increased your bounce rate. Alas, all of the unique content you created and optimized wasn’t enough and didn’t save you from the perils of slow site speed. This is just one example of why technical SEO is increasingly critical to a website’s success. If your site isn’t functioning properly, you’re losing precious traffic, revenue, rankings, online credibility and more. Without the technical framework nothing else matters, even content.
Key Aspects of Technical SEO
Below I’ve discussed some key aspects of technical SEO and why you don’t need to have a Ph.D. in computer science to ensure critical areas have been addressed. While not a comprehensive list, tackling these key areas should set you up for the results you’d expect from an effective SEO campaign. This assumes the site is built on a responsive platform and basic SEO best practices have been followed with regard to robots.txt, sitemap usage, canonicalization, etc.
The ever-increasing options for useful and free audit tools make monitoring these key technical areas a breeze. For a current list of some of the best check out GOOGLE'S TOP 5 SEO TOOLS from Search Engine Journal.
Site Speed: Site speed is critical on all devices. Test and improve page speed regularly. Sites are now penalized for slow speed and ranked accordingly. Google has defined a load time of 1.4 seconds as the threshold between a fast page and a slow page. In other words, every page on your site should load in 1.4 seconds or less to reap the maximum benefit given to quick loading pages. Studies also confirm that page loading time is a key factor in consumer loyalty to an eCommerce site.
Code Compliance: W3C has stated, “Validation is one of the simplest ways to check whether a page is built in accordance with web standards, and provides one of the most reliable guarantees that future web platforms will handle it as designed.” Due to the sheer quantity of programming languages and variety of ways to accomplish any one thing, search engines use certain guidelines in which they read the content of a site. Having code that adheres to these guidelines helps to minimize errors when parsing or separating the code from the content of any given page. Search engines like Google have explicitly stated that W3C standards are what they recommend when making the code easy to interpret.
Crawl Errors: Never ignore crawl errors as they impact your rankings. Many times these issues could be related to server issues at the time that may no longer exists, but could also indicate issues with a sitemap, poor code, blocked resources, etc.
Internal Links/Site Structure: Audit internal links to ensure a shallow but logical site structure. Ideally, a flatter site architecture that leverages both vertical and horizontal linking opportunities is ideal. It’s all about providing great UX by serving up the most relevant content to users and minimizing the number of times they have to click to find what they need. The same can be said for search engines as well, by flattening a site’s architecture it provides more opportunity to make potential gains in indexation (number of pages generating traffic and being indexed).
*Regularly monitor the Index Coverage report and Crawl Stats in the new Google Search Console so you can easily identify/resolve indexation and crawl errors.
A few years ago there was much speculation as to the true value of technical SEO, it was all about unique content. Fast forward a few years and the tables have turned. While search engines are getting better and better at crawling, indexing and parsing information, they aren’t perfect. It’s on us as webmasters and SEOs to collaborate to ensure these pages are accessible and provide an optimal user experience.
In order to make technical SEO effective, SEO professionals, developers, and designers need to be on the same page. SEOs should know how to speak "developer" and have a good understanding of coding best practices and site architecture. With that said, developers should learn how to speak "SEO" and figure out how their code affects areas like conversions and user experience. Lastly, designers should have a solid understanding of UX because a gorgeous website is meaningless without it, and good content doesn’t mean anything if nobody can find it.
“If we refer to technical SEO as the ‘practices implemented on the website and server that are intended to maximize site usability,
search engine crawling, and indexing,’ then (we hope) everyone can agree that technical SEO is the necessary foundation of top
search engine rankings.” - SEO PowerSuite