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  • Rhen Weaver

What Technical SEO Refers To, Best Practices, and the Aspects Everyone Should Understand

Technical SEO is an important step within the SEO process. If there are problems with the technical SEO side, it's likely that other SEO efforts don't generate the results expected.

Therefore, it's crucial to understand what technical SEO is so that it can be done correctly.

The good news here is that after a technical SEO audit is completed of the website, it fixes any potential problems. With that, it's rare to have to deal with technical SEO again.

It's crucial to understand the best practices for technical SEO, how to do an audit of the website, and have a technical SEO checklist to follow. Let's get started:


What Is Technical SEO?

What Is Technical SEO?


Technical SEO is the process of optimizing a website for the indexing and crawling phases. With technical SEO, the search engines can access, crawl, and interpret the information on the site for indexing purposes.


It's called technical because it doesn't have anything to do with the content on the site or website promotion. The main goal for technical SEO is to optimize the website's infrastructure.


With that, it's crucial to focus on basic terminology to understand technical optimization.


What Is SEO?


First, it's important to understand what SEO is. The simplified definition of search engine optimization is that it's the process for optimizing the website for search engines.


Optimization within the SEO context means:

  • Giving search engine algorithms a reason to trust the website and rank it higher than others

  • Helping search engine spiders understand the context of the content

  • Giving search engines appropriate signals to understand the structure of the site

  • Having high-quality content to match search intent for the user

  • Ensuring that the search engines can access/index the website with no problems

With that, keyword research, content writing, and other things are crucial for SEO.

Once everything is done properly, the website is considered SEO-friendly and can appear in the SERPs.


How Does One Start SEO?

The first step that search engines take before answering a search query is to index and crawl websites. During that process, search engines want to find publicly available web pages that can be added to the index.


They discover, organize, and read the pages and put them in the database so that they can be accessed later by the algorithms to offer precise answers to the search queries entered by the users.


To get the entire picture of how search engines work, it's important to focus on all three SEO pillars, including off-page SEO, on-page SEO, and technical SEO.


On-page SEO focuses on content and how to make it relevant to what the user wants to search for. Off-page SEO is often called link-building, which is the process of getting links or mentions from other websites to boost trust within the ranking process.


There aren't any clear boundaries between these three options. They must all work together to have a fully optimized site.


Why Optimize the Site Technically for Search Engines?


Google and other search engines need to present their users with the best results possible for the query. Therefore, the robots crawl the web pages and evaluate them based on many factors. Some of them focus on the user's experience, such as how quickly the page loads. Others help search engine robots understand what the pages are about. That's what structured data is all about. When the technical aspects are improved, search engines crawl and understand the site. If this is done effectively, it's possible to get rich snippets and higher rankings.


It also works the other way. Therefore, if there are serious technical mistakes on the website, it can cost the owner. Many people accidentally block search engines completely from crawling their sites by adding trailing slashes in the wrong places of the robots.txt file.

However, it's a misconception that technical details only appease search engines. Websites must work well by being easy to use, clear, and fast for the users. Fortunately, when creating a stronger technical foundation, this means a better user experience.


Characteristics for a Technically Optimized Website


Having a technically sound website means that the site is fast for users, and other search engines can crawl it with their robots. A proper setup ensures that search engines understand what the site is all about to prevent confusion caused by things like duplicate content.


With that, it doesn't send search engines or visitors into dead-end streets with non-working or broken links. Here are some of the more important characteristics of having a technically optimized site.


It's Faster

With the way things are now, web pages must load quickly. People are highly impatient and don't wait for the page to open. Research has shown that 53 percent of all mobile website visitors leave a site if it doesn't have a page speed of three seconds.


Therefore, if the website is slow, people get quickly frustrated and move to another website. The owner of the first, slower site misses out on that traffic.


Google understands that slow websites offer a poor experience. Therefore, it prefers pages that have a high page speed. A slow web page ends up lower in the search results than a faster equivalent, so that slow site gets less traffic.


With that, Page Experience is a newer thing that recently came out. This refers to how fast people feel that a web page is, so it's definitely going to continue being a ranking factor. Now is the time to prepare for this.


There are various tools available to test site speed. Some of them even offer pointers on how to improve it. Check the Core Web vitals from Google to help with page experience, as well.


It's Crawlable

Search engines often use robots to spider or crawl a website. These robots follow all the links to find content on the site. Therefore, it's crucial to have internal links and a great structure to ensure that they understand what content is available and what's the best.


However, there are ways to guide the robots. For example, it's possible to block them from certain content when they shouldn't be there. With that, site owners can let them crawl pages but tell them not to show it in the search results or prevent them from following links on the page.


Robots.txt File

It is possible to tell the robots what to do and give them directions for the site with a robots.txt file. This is a powerful tool and should be used carefully. As mentioned earlier, one mistake could prevent the robots from crawling the most important parts of the site.


Sometimes, people accidentally block the JS and CSS files within the robot.txt file. They contain code to tell the browsers what the site should look like and how it should work. If they get blocked, the search engines can't find out if the site runs correctly.


Meta Robots Tag

To let the search engine robots crawl a page without it being in the search results, tell it with a robots meta tag. With this tag, it's easy to instruct Google to crawl the page without following the links therein.


Typically, pages that have this tag are author pages when only one person is writing for the blog. Duplicate content can easily be found here, so use the tag to prevent the spider from crawling the links.


Some custom posts can be prevented from getting indexed, such as plugins. With that, thank you pages, admin/login pages, and internal search results don't usually have to be indexed.


Fewer Dead Links

Slower websites are frustrating for the users. However, landing on a page that isn't there is even more annoying. If a link goes to a non-existing page on the site, people see a 404 error. That ruins the user experience.


With that, search engines don't like these error pages, either. They tend to find more dead links than the visitors because they follow every single link they see, even if it's hidden.

Unfortunately, many sites have a few dead links because websites are a work in progress. People make things that ultimately break. However, there are various tools to retrieve dead links from the site.


To prevent them from unnecessarily happening, it's best to redirect page URLs when they are moved or deleted. Ideally, it's best to redirect it to the page that replaces the old one.


Doesn't Confuse Search Engines with More Duplicate Content

Having the same content on various pages of the site or other sites is confusing to search engines. That's because these pages show the same content, and the search engine doesn't know which one to rank higher. Therefore, it might rank every page with a lower content score.


Unfortunately, it's easy to get a duplicate content issue without knowing about it. Because of various technical reasons, different URLs might show the same content. For a visitor, that makes no difference. However, it does to a search engine because it sees the same content on different URLs.


Luckily, there is a technical solution to the problem. With the canonical link element, it's easy to indicate the original page or the page to rank for within the search engines. Overall, this helps to prevent duplicate content issues that may be unknown to the site owner.


More Secure Web Pages

When a website is technically optimized, it is also secure. Making the site safe for users ensures their privacy, and this is a basic requirement in today's world. Many things can help make the website secure, and one of them is to implement HTTPS.


This ensures that no one can take the data sent between the site and the browser. For example, if people log into a site, their credentials are always safe. It's important to have an SSL certificate to use HTTPS on the site.


Google understands the importance of security and made HTTPS a ranking signal. Therefore, secure sites rank higher than those deemed unsafe.


It's easy to check to see if the website is HTTPS by visiting it in any browser. On the left side of the browser's search bar, there should be a closed padlock if it's safe. Those sites with "not secure" in the search bar must be fixed quickly to avoid technical SEO issues.


Features Structured Data

Structured data ensures that search engines can understand the website, content, and business better. With this, it's easier to tell search engines what product is sold or what recipes are on the site. Plus, it gives everyone an opportunity to provide various details about the information.


Since there is a fixed format on how to provide the information, search engines can easily understand and find it. With that, it helps them place the content in a bigger picture.

Implementing structured data brings more than a better understanding from the search results. It also makes the content eligible for rich results, which helps it stand apart from the crowd in search results.


XML Sitemap

The XML sitemap is the list of all pages on the site. It is like a roadmap for the search engine. With that, it's easier for search engines to find important content through internal links. The sitemap is often categorized in pages, posts, tags, and other custom options, and it includes how many images are there and the last date for each page that was modified.

Ideally, the website doesn't require a sitemap. If it offers internal links through an appropriate linking structure, this connects the content quite well. Robots don't need anything else. However, most sites don't have a great structure, so an XML sitemap doesn't hurt.


International Websites Feature Hreflang

If the website targets multiple countries that speak the same language, search engines require help to understand which language or countries the site is trying to reach. When the owner helps them, the search engine shows people the appropriate website for their area within the search results.


Hreflang tags can assist. Just define the page for the country and language it's meant for. This also solves the potential issue of duplicate content. Even if the UK and US sites show similar content on each web page, Google knows that they are written for a different location.


Optimizing international websites is almost a specialty, but it's crucial to find the right professional to assist.


Technical SEO Best Practices


Now that everyone knows what technical SEO is, it's crucial to learn about the best practices and technical SEO strategies that are available. Some sites only need a few of them, while others must focus on all of them because no technical SEO was completed before now.


Site audits are much easier when these things listed below are used. With that, the technical aspects are taken care of, which prevents broken links, promotes link-building, and gets rid of multiple versions of the same site. Is technical SEO important? Yes, and here's what to do:


Specify the Preferred Domain

When setting up a blog or website, it's crucial to specify the preferred domain. Doing so allows the site owner to tell search engines which variation of the domain to use throughout the lifetime of the website.


Why must this be done?


A website, by default, has to be accessible with/without the "www" in front of the domain name. For example, if the name is example.com, the website should be accessed by typing in http://example.com and http://www.example.com.


While this works well for users, it can get confusing for search engines, as they consider them to be two different websites. Overall, there could be indexing issues, page rank loss, and duplicate content problems because the search engine believes that there are multiple versions of the same page or site.


To solve the problem, it's important to set a preferred domain and tell search engines about that choice.


WWW or Not

One of the biggest questions people have is whether or not to use the "www" in front of the domain or go with the newer non-www version. There's no SEO advantage for choosing one option over the other, so it's primarily personal preference that reigns supreme here.


Most companies do like using the "www" in front of their domains. It feels more natural because that's what was always done in the past. There's nothing wrong with switching to the HTTP-only version, though.


What is crucial here is to tell search engines about the decision and make sure that there is consistency throughout the lifetime of the site.


It's possible to change it up and mix and match. To do that effectively, 301 redirections are used to switch between the formats. However, this isn't recommended because there's a risk with making domain migrations, and it could mess with the other technical aspects of the site.


How to Set a Preferred Domain

Earlier, the setting to specify a preferred domain was found in Google Search Console. However, it chose to remove that option and rely solely on canonical URLs. This is talked about later in more detail.


Optimize the Robots.txt

Once the preferred domain has been set up, the next step is to optimize or check the robots.txt file. Before doing this, it's crucial to know what it is and why it matters.


What Is It?

Robots.txt is the text file that resides in the root directory of the website. It tells search engine crawlers which pages of the site they can crawl and which ones should be added to the index.


The format for this file is quite simple. In most cases, no changes must be made to it. Here are a few commands that are popular:

  • To block an entire site - Disallow: /

  • To block a directory and the contents - Disallow: /sample-directory/

  • To block a web page - Disallow: /private_file.html

  • To block a particular image from Google Images - User-agent: Googlebot-Image Disallow: /images/dogs.jpg

  • To block all images on the site - User-agent: Googlebot-Image Disallow: /

  • To block specific file types - User-agent: Googlebot Disallow: /*.gif$

Primarily, what is important is to ensure that there aren't any false blockings that discourage the crawlers from indexing the website. Overall, it might be wise to hire someone to handle this, as many business owners with websites aren't sure what to do.


Optimize URL Structure

The next item in the technical SEO audit is to review the URL structure of the website. This means the formatting of the URLs.


Best practices for SEO dictate these points about URLs:

  • Use target keywords in the URL with no keyword stuffing

  • Avoid unnecessary words and characters

  • Make them shorter and more descriptive

  • Use the "-" to separate words within the URL

  • Use lowercase characters

In general, when the format of the permanent link structure is defined, the only thing left to do is optimize the URLs when new content is published.


For those who use WordPress as their CMS, they might notice that WordPress takes the post title and uses it to create the URL when a new post is created. For example, if the post title is "Best SEO Practices for Beginners," WordPress generates a URL to look like http://www.example.com/best-seo-practices-for-beginners. That's not a bad thing, but it could be made shorter sometimes, such as http://www.example.com/beginner-SEO. That way, it's easier to remember and more targeted.