Technical SEO refers to optimizations you can perform on your website and server that help improve organic rankings. These optimizations make it easier for search engine spiders to crawl and index your site more effectively. Here is a look at the best practices that will help your website climb in rankings.
Mobile-first indexing means Google predominantly uses the smartphone Googlebot to crawl websites. As of this writing, about 70% of sites indexed on Google are mobile-friendly. Google will be making the switch over to all mobile-first indexing websites starting September 2020. Once Google makes this switch, they say they will continue to crawl with the Googlebot Desktop occasionally, but primarily the Googlebot Smartphone will be used.
You can check if your website is indexed for mobile-first by navigating to your search console settings page and checking if your indexing crawler says Googlebot Smartphone. If your site is not mobile-friendly, you will need to add a mobile-friendly version of your website. It’s best to make the site responsive, as Google wants to make sure you have identical content across different browsers. Links, images, text, videos, and metadata all have to be equal across all versions of your website.
Poor hosting, large images, and inefficient code are a few of the culprits that can slow down your website. Websites that take longer than a couple of seconds to load will suffer because of it. This brief time is the attention span of your online user, where two seconds can feel like an eternity. It is crucial to engage your customers in this short time frame, or they may head to your competitors.
A high-end service provider is vital for quick load time. Many of the cheaper hosting services, such as GoDaddy, like to pack as many sites as possible on a single server, which is why they can charge less. If you are hosting WordPress sites, it is essential to look for hosts that make the latest version of PHP available and does not blacklist caching plugins, so you have to use their built-in caching system.
Your web host can also install an SSL certificate, a protocol that improves security on the Internet. Having an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate installed on your website is critical to higher rankings in Google. If you navigate to an insecure web page, Google will have a warning screen up on that page, in return, losing points with user experience and therefore moving you down the rankings.
It’s also important to note that just like with hosting, there are faster and slower DNS providers out there. Typically, free DNS provided by domain registrars like GoDaddy and Namecheap is very slow. Your load time suffers when it comes time for your computer to fetch the location of your pages during the DNS lookup, as it will process that query slower than if you were using a faster DNS solution like Amazon, Cloudflare, or Dyn.
Large images can be one of the greatest offenders of using up bandwidth. Images that are too large can cause speed to slow and make your site less mobile-friendly. Broken images can hurt the user experience, therefore increasing page abandonment. Scaling images to the displayed size on the webpage is essential as well. If you upload a large version of an image that you view as thumbnail size on your site, this will hurt the page load time. You can optimize your images with tools like Photoshop, plugins that will reduce their size for you, or connecting to a CDN. CDNs are extra-fast servers which cache and serve your images to increase delivery speed.
Headings and filenames
Optimizing your filenames and titles can help Google determine the subject of your content. Organizing your content with appropriate headings helps Google bots understand what your website is about and relevancy. If you are trying to rank the so-called page for a specific keyword, then try optimizing your URL, image file names, alt tags, headings, and copy with your keywords.
404 error pages are a frustrating thing to come across when browsing a website. If you encounter these errors on your site, it is essential to stay up to date on fixing them as it will improve user experience and allow bots to crawl your website seamlessly.
One way to fix a 404 error is by implementing a 301 redirect, which is a permanent redirect to a new page. By using a 301 redirect, search engines give the new page the same “trust” and authority that the old page had. Using a 302 temporary redirect instead of a 301 can affect your readers and your search result rankings because bots will only see this as temporary. One thing you have to look out for is too many redirects, which can cause a redirect chain. Redirect chains can slow site performance, thereby harming your search engine rankings. If working on a smaller site, you may be better off manually changing the links to the new page rather than adding a redirect rule.
Broken links can pop up often on a website. It can be an external link to a website that is no longer active, or there may be developer error in the code. Because clicking on a link that no longer works can be frustrating to your user, it is best to find these links and fix them, improving user experience and rankings in return.
The two major problems with duplicate content are plagiarized content and having too much repetitive content throughout your website. Google bots can detect copied content and, if caught, may not index that page or de-rank it in SERPs. Repetitive content, often referred to as boilerplate content, can exist naturally on duplicate sections of your site, such as the header, footer, sidebar, and other areas. This type of duplicate content does not hurt your SEO since Google’s bots are smart enough to detect this intention is not malicious. However, if you have duplicate content outside of these sections, you could lose readers and therefore rankings due to user-experience.
Other forms of duplicate content that you should keep an eye out for are duplicate metadata like page titles and descriptions. Updating these so that each is different will help users and Google know each page is unique.
Checking inconsistent URL structures is also a good way to combat duplicate data. If you have URLs with both a trailing slash and without a trailing slash, bots will look at this as two separate pages, flagging these as duplicate pages. If you come across these inconsistent URL structures, it is best to fix this to one or the other.
Schema Markups and Structured Data
Schema markups define what information will appear on search engine results pages (SERP). Whether you want to display reviews, recipes, news articles or events, there is most likely a schema for that. You can use schema to your advantage by trying to get into Google’s featured snippets sections in some scenarios.
Technical SEO is an essential part of any SEO campaign, and also one of the most time-consuming and challenging. The technical SEO team at Altitude Agency thrives on a good challenge and is ready to help you reap the benefits of a technically-sound website built for SEO success.
To get started with technical SEO services, contact us today.