For business owners who wish to generate traffic to their websites, the prime method of doing so is search engine optimisation or SEO to give it its more commonly used name. SEO is an aspect of digital marketing about which many words have been written and spoken, and it is often the subject of much debate and occasional disagreement about what ranking factors should be prioritised, for example.
Two elements of SEO that are usually agreed upon are that it can seem complex and that it covers a broad spectrum of specifics. Those specifics can be grouped under several categories, such as on-page SEO, off-page SEO, user experience (UX) and the category of SEO, which we are going to focus on technical SEO.
Technical SEO refers to the optimisation of your website’s technical elements to improve its visibility in search engine rankings, especially Google. It includes a variety of factors, such as website load speed, website security, mobile optimisation, indexing and crawling, URL structure, canonicalisation, and structured data. Let us look at each of these in some more detail.
Website Load Speed
Website load speed is one of the most critical factors in technical SEO. If your website loads slowly, it can negatively impact its search engine rankings, not least because Google has several ways in which it identifies whether website pages are loading quickly or slowly.
Website security is crucial, not just for SEO purposes but for the protection of your website visitors and customers in areas such as data privacy. Unsecure websites are penalised by search engines, which can only result in one outcome, and that is poorer rankings.
Technical SEO, which enhances website security, includes the use of HTTPS encryption, strong passwords, and two-factor authentication. Tools that can assess your website for security issues include Intruder, Detectify, and Beagle. Alternatively, your local SEO agency can carry out a website security audit and make the necessary security optimisations for you.
It still amazes us when we come across websites that are still not mobile-optimised, and many still exist. The simple fact is that Google now prioritises the mobile version of a website in its search results over the desktop version. That means if your website is not mobile optimised, not only will its rankings suffer, but whenever anyone accesses your website from a mobile device, it will not display or function properly, which is hardly a great first impression to give a potential customer.
Indexing And Crawling
These elements of technical SEO are related but have different functions. Indexing is what occurs when Google and any other search engine identify your website as being in existence and then add it to their databases. Essential if your website is to appear in search engine results, indexing is usually a one-time event and is akin to a child’s birth certificate officially alerting the world that they exist.
Crawling is something that happens multiple times and is done by search engine bots or ‘spiders’ when they visit your website. What they do is check and identify the text and metadata that exists within your website’s coding and structure. They then use that data and information to identify what your website should rank for and in which ranking position based on relevance and how well it has been optimised.
To aid and optimise the indexing and crawling of your website, the best practice is to create a sitemap. You should also utilise Google Search Console to monitor your website’s indexing and crawling statuses.
URL structure is another important factor in technical SEO. To optimize your URL structure, use short, descriptive URLs that are easy to read and understand, and avoid using special characters in your URLs. The other benefit of this is that it helps the search engines more readily identify the relevance of each of your website’s pages. You will find numerous URL rewriting tools by searching on Google, many of which are free to use.
There can be several reasons why a website will have different versions of the same page. When it does, canonicalisation is how you let the search engines know which page version you wish to index and rank. This is done by using canonical tags, which will indicate the preferred version of each web page and also avoid the risk of being flagged for having duplicate content.
Structured data is a way of labelling and organising your website’s data to help search engines understand its content. To optimise for structured data, you should utilise schema markup to provide detailed information about your website content, including products, blog posts, and reviews. Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool can be used to help you assess your website’s structured data and identify areas that can be further optimised.