Technical SEO

Technical SEO: 15 Critical Areas That Impact Performance

The technical aspects of search engine optimization can seem mysterious, especially for content marketers. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The 15 areas below cover the major areas.

15 Technical SEO Areas

Page templates and modules. Templates merge content management and technical architecture. Templates typically require developers to modify. But templates allow non-technical users to manage the content. Make sure that heading hierarchies are being followed optimally so that there’s only one H1 heading, and that lesser headings are used appropriately. Also, each template should have the ability to include descriptive text. You might not use it on every page right away, but the ability needs to be baked into the templates and modules that make up your site.

Templates merge content management and technical architecture.

Marketing access to optimization. When content can only be updated by a development team, you’ll have a bottleneck as to how quickly it can be optimized. Ensure that marketing and other non-technical personnel can alter title tags, meta descriptions, H1 headings, canonical tags, and URLs.

Crawlability. Search engine crawlers need to access the text on all pages that drive natural search traffic. The navigation and store finder are two good places to look. Are all of the links coded with an anchor tag bound to anchor text? If the site serves multiple languages and countries, is country and language preference handled optimally for SEO with unique URLs, or is it done by cookie or persistent geolocation? Lastly, make sure that the robots.txt file and meta robots tags block only crawling and indexing where needed.

Prerendering. When content is rendered on the client-side, as with AJAX or Angular, make sure you have a pre-rendering service in place to serve completely loaded pages to the search engines. If your site still uses the hash-bang paradigm — which shows up as #! symbols in URLs — work out a transition to prerendering or another technology with your development team.

Indexation size. The goal is to right-size your site’s indexation in the search engines. Look at the ratio of performing vs. nonperforming pages and determine where the dead weight is that’s not driving traffic or revenue to your site. Do those need to be optimized, or do they need to be removed from the index? Make sure you have a clean XML sitemap to demonstrate which content you want to have indexed. Look for pockets of old content and old subdomains in Google’s and Bing’s indexes.

Duplicate content. Are basic duplication instances like protocol, subdomain, case, and trailing slash controlled with 301 redirects? Are accurate canonical tags installed across the site, especially on duplicate product SKU URLs and the sorting function URLs on your browse grid pages? In addition, pagination indexation on blogs should be controlled with rel=prev and rel=next tags, and language- and location-specific duplicate content should be controlled with hreflang and meta language tags.

HTTPS. Google, in particular, considers secure hosting as a ranking signal. Switch to HTTPS if your site is not there already. And 301 redirect the HTTP URLs to their HTTPS variations.

Structured data helps search engines understand the relevance of the content on your site. Make sure to use structured data for products, organizations, social, breadcrumbs, and locations (where applicable) on your ecommerce site. Also, frequently-asked-questions pages can also be marked up with structured data to trigger potential placement in answer boxes in Google’s search results.

Structured data helps search engines understand the relevance of the content on your site.

Breadcrumbs are good for cross-linking and creating contextual relevance networks across your site. Make sure that the breadcrumbs link to the canonical URLs for each page, though, or their value can quickly turn to liability.

URLs should be short, lower case, and keyword rich. They shouldn’t contain special characters, and they should be able to be translated into the local language for each country represented on your site.

Mobile. Ideally, for SEO, every site would be responsive. If yours isn’t, make certain that the proper canonical and relative tags are in place to confirm their relationship for the search engines. Otherwise, they could be duplicate content. Also be sure to test your most valuable pages with Google and Bing’s mobile-friendly tests to assess whether there are any barriers to indexation and ranking.

Verified in webmaster tools. Every domain, subdomain, ccTLD (.de, .ca), and protocol (HTTP/HTTPS) create a new version of a site to search engines. Verify ownership for each variation with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Specify one owner with admin rights on the SEO team and another on the development team so that both have access, including the ability to grant access to others users. Also, link Google Search Console to Google Analytics and Google Ads. That will ensure the highest level of analysis within the three tools.

Server errors. Once verified, webmaster tools will generate information about the errors they encounter on your site that contribute to a perception of low quality. Check the trends for 400 and 500 level server errors. Ensure that none of the pages that 404 are using a “soft 404,” which is a 302 redirect that looks like a 404 error but actually tells the search engines to keep the bad page indexed. Look for URLs that 302 redirect (or meta refresh or JavaScript redirect) instead of 301 redirecting. And for extra SEO precaution, set up your site so that when a page’s URL changes, it automatically 301 redirects to the new URL.

…for extra SEO precaution, set up your site so that when a page’s URL changes, it automatically 301 redirects to the new URL.

Page speed. How does the site perform compared to competitors? Measure page speed regularly. Become a student of page speed and talk to your development team about caching, image and code compression, minification, and accelerated mobile pages. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights for the primary ways that your site could load more quickly, thereby ranking higher, converting higher, and driving more revenue.

Release cycles. This last one speaks to process. Is SEO taken into account during new releases, such as new products, services, and site upgrades? Ideally, SEO should be involved from the start — when releases are planned, requirements are being written, quality assurance testing, and in any scheduled release meetings. The first step toward any level of SEO performance is getting crawled and indexed. If SEO doesn’t have a seat at the new-release table, make it a priority.

Jill Kocher Brown
Jill Kocher Brown
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