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Technical SEO: What is it?

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Checklist: Small Business SEO

Technical SEO is an important piece of the puzzle for search engine optimization. Marketing professionals often misunderstand the components of technical SEO. This article separates the myths from the facts, and provides a general guide for small businesses to begin technical SEO.

First, we’ll define technical SEO. Then, we’ll explore how it’s important. Next, we’ll share a checklist for small businesses. This post will be long and technical. Let’s go!

Technical SEO is the science of making a site search-engine-friendly. It involves determining why a site isn't performing well, and then figuring out how to fix it.

Technical SEO is composed of many different parts, including…

  • Indexability
  • On-page SEO
  • Site speed performance
  • Images
  • Internal pages
  • Links
  • Redirects
  • Duplicate content
  • JavaScript
  • CSS
  • External pages
  • Other

Indexability

Indexing is the primary goal of technical SEO. You want search engines to discover and index your content. However, a couple of common indexing problems can prevent that objective from being achieved: canonicals and no indexes.

Canonical tags

The canonical tag is an extremely important tag for search engines to process. It's especially important for similar or duplicate pages because it tells the search engine which page to show in search results.

If you don’t provide a canonical tag, Google will choose what it thinks is the best page to include in search results. It might not be the right page. Sometimes webmasters include a tag pointing to a non-existent page or one with a redirect. These tags should only be used for pages that return the right 200 (OK) status code when Google looks at them.

Noindex page

Using the “noindex” tag prevents search engines from indexing a page. It can be useful for pages you don’t want to appear in search results, such as an “Archives” page. However, if you want a page to appear in search results, remove the “noindex” tag.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO is a component of effective SEO. When it comes to search engine optimization, every page needs to be optimized in different ways. On-page SEO consists of three elements: title tags, meta descriptions and H1 tags. These are the crucial elements that a webmaster should review when optimizing a web page.

Title tags

The title of a blog post or web page is the most important part of metadata. A good title tag should be no longer than 60 characters, but shouldn't be any shorter. The main goal of a good title is to briefly and clearly describe the content on the page so that someone searching for that topic will see it in their search results.

Meta descriptions

A meta description is the snippet that appears on a search engine result page. It can heavily influence whether a searcher clicks on a result or not. Meta descriptions have similar issues as to title tags: they’re often too long, too short, or even empty.

H1 tags

H1 tags are the main titles of a page, but they’re not as important as a page title tag. They’re an opportunity to improve your on-page SEO. Site visitors and search engines will immediately get the gist of what the topic of a page is.

Site speed performance

Site speed matters. It impacts your customer experience and search engine rankings. There are many elements that impact site speed, including the HTML code of your website, the server you use, and images. To get a deeper understanding of your website performance, run a site speed test on Google to create a custom report on issues impacting your performance.

Images

Search engines, such as Google, have released guidelines for webmasters on how to optimize images on their sites.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then you should make sure your images are really well-crafted. Many businesses have issues with the presentation of their images. Here are five common mistakes to avoid: broken images, large file sizes, image redirects (from HTTP to HTTPS), missing ALT text, and HTTPS pages with HTTP images.

Internal pages

When you click on a link to an internal page, it may produce an error. The most common internal page error is a 5XX error, which occurs when the site is temporarily down or experiencing problems. However, there are other kinds of errors you might encounter as well, such as 4XX errors. These occur when the site returns an HTTP code such as “404” or “403.” If you encounter such a page, try refreshing the page and seeing if that fixes the issue. HTTPS/

Links

Links have been important to Google since its inception. They still matter a lot today. But how exactly do they matter? In technical SEO, links matter differently. Rather than focusing on getting links, technical SEO focuses on analyzing internal links. A solid internal link structure helps crawlers discover your content and navigate your site.

When it comes to links and technical SEO, there are a few areas to evaluate:  Pages that don't have any links, pages that have internal links to non-linked pages, pages with no internal links at all, redirected pages, and pages that have internal links to broken pages.

Redirects

Redirects are an inherent part of keeping a website healthy. But, if you use them carelessly, they can become a major issue for users and search engines alike.

To prevent broken redirects and redirect loops, avoid 3XX redirects. Redirect loops are a major problem on the web: infinite redirect chains that can't be broken. Broken redirects lead to a 4XX or 5XX error message. If a URL is redirected to one of these pages, it will be a broken redirect. It's best to have far fewer redirects, with each one directly linking to a relevant page.

Duplicate content

Duplicate content is not always bad. Sometimes it is a side effect of well-intentioned attempts to provide consumers with the information they want. For example, if two pieces of content are on the same topic but are not quite identical, that is duplicate content. Sometimes a site will have duplicate content because a page has been updated and the new page has chosen to repeat some of the original page's content.

JavaScript

When a website loads, JavaScript is used to load key content or elements like calls to action and confirmation boxes. Sometimes these elements are broken, or there are JavaScript redirects on a page. When you test your website in a Google PageSpeed test or a test on GTMetrix.com, you can often see if there are any issues with broken JavaScript or JavaScript redirects.

CSS

When you set up a website, you need to include a lot of CSS styling. CSS styling is important for displaying content on different devices. CSS styling can also cause problems. For example, if a CSS file is not working or is too large, the website will not display properly.

External pages

External links can reflect your brand’s reputation. Technical SEO ensures the links you point to are reputable. It also checks whether these external links result in any errors, such as 301, 302, 400 or 500.

An SEO expert can evaluate the external links your website points to. This evaluation is important because it can affect your site's reputation and content. Technical SEO evaluates whether these external links are reputable as well as whether they cause any errors.

Other

There are some technical SEO issues that fall outside the general technical SEO categories.

The issues that cause poor rankings are mostly due to site architecture problems such as Page with a 3XX, 4XX, or 5XX status code in the sitemap organic traffic going to a 3XX or Noindex page Double slash in URL

Small business technical SEO checklist

Here are 10 essential items to include on a technical SEO checklist:

  1. Get Google Search Console
  2. Install an SSL certificate
  3. Test Robots.txt file
  4. Build and submit a sitemap
  5. Resize images
  6. Fix 404 errors
  7. Select a web hosting plan
  8. Optimize home page title tag
  9. Implement website security
  10. Leverage browser caching

Get Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free tool that allows small businesses to optimize their Google Search presence. It offers a number of powerful features, including the ability to check indexing status, fixes issues, and measure website performance. Therefore, Google Search Console is the closest you can get to have a direct line of communication with Google.

Install an SSL certificate

Google wants you to use SSL certificates. In 2014, Google announced that HTTPS would be used as a ranking signal to encourage more websites to install SSL certificates and adopt HTTPS to help customers stay secure.

If you want to be trusted online, use your own SSL certificate. An SSL certificate is a padlock icon that appears next to your website address in the URL bar of a web browser. It shows search engines and customers that you are trustworthy. Without an SSL certificate, you may get a security warning from web browsers like Safari and Chrome.

Test robots.txt file

A robots.txt file can tell search engine crawlers which pages on your site are off-limits. The main purpose of a robots.txt file is to reduce load requests from crawlers. However, sometimes a misconfigured robots.txt file will prevent your entire site from showing up in search results.

Build and submit a sitemap

Web owners need to be aware of the importance of sitemaps. These are the files that search engines use to discover new content on your site. If you have not submitted your sitemap yet to Google, you should do it right now. This will enable the discovery and indexing of all important content on your website in Google Search.

Resize images

To optimize your website for mobile devices, you need to make sure that the images on your page are properly sized and formatted.

Fix all 404 errors

When users click on a link and get a message that the page no longer exists, it’s really frustrating. The same goes for search engines. This is called a 404 error. It happens when the link you are clicking on doesn’t take you to another page. Luckily, there is a way to manage these 404 errors through the Google Search Console.

Select a web hosting plan

Do you know what is the most common thread behind downtime and slow website speed? Your website hosting. Select the right hosting plan for your site that accounts for traffic and size, and you can ensure that you have a fast site that never goes down.

Optimize home page title tag

Small businesses have a huge opportunity to improve their search engine optimization by inserting a descriptive page title tag on their homepage. Instead of leaving it as “Home – Website Name,” small businesses can add a key phrase that describes the business.

Implement website security

Search engines monitor whether your website contains malware or unwanted software that hurts the user experience. To avoid security issues, you should be proactive and try to find vulnerabilities that may exist on your website. They are common because of website plugins or weak passwords.

Browser Caching

When people visit your website, they want everything to load as quickly as possible. The problem is that a lot of the content on your pages is created dynamically by your scripts. Caching gives visitors the option of retrieving previously stored versions of your web page content when they visit again.

Technical SEO is something you can do yourself. It's not that complicated to understand, and it will take a while before you get the hang of it. You might want to bookmark this article or print it out so that you can reference it as you work on your website.

The most difficult aspect of technical SEO is not knowing what it is. Hopefully, this guide has given you a better understanding of the functionality and how to apply it to your business.

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