The 9 factors of technical SEO success
It’s no secret that search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most effective tools for boosting online visibility. SEO has the power to make websites rank higher, funnel more traffic, and reach a wider audience.
When it comes to SEO, most marketers generally only think of on-page and off-page SEO tactics such as content optimization and building backlinks. What many marketers aren’t aware of is that there’s a whole other dimension to SEO that’s often underutilized: technical SEO.
Back to basics: the different types of SEO
Increasing your online visibility is one of the best ways to attract customers and get more eyes on your brand. SEO is the process of improving your website to increase its visibility and drive high quality traffic to it. It’s an umbrella term that is commonly divided into three categories: on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO.
- On-page SEO: refers to SEO techniques that are used to optimize your website’s content. Examples of on-page SEO include using relevant keywords, adding meta information, and optimizing your visual assets.
- Off-page SEO: includes SEO tactics centered on optimizing website aspects beyond content. Building backlinks is one of the most commonly practiced off-page SEO techniques. That being said, there’s much more to off-page SEO, like social media marketing, influencer outreach, and good old PR.
- Technical SEO: this category refers to work done on your website’s back end to make your site more accessible for search engines to crawl and index. Examples of technical SEO include reducing page loading speed, mobile optimization, and correcting redirects.
The power of technical SEO
There’s no denying that on-page and off-page SEO are valuable techniques for driving website traffic. But without a strong technical foundation, they won’t be as effective. That’s why technical SEO is essential for a successful website.
With an estimated two billion websites on the internet right now, search engines have their work cut out indexing and ranking them all. By optimizing the back end of your website, technical SEO lays the foundation for a healthy and functional website. It helps search engines find, crawl, and index your site more easily.
This is important as it means you’ll not only rank higher in search results, but you’ll also stand out when compared to others. On top of this, your site visitors will have a more enjoyable customer experience (CX), which can lead to more engagement, higher conversion rates, and ultimately more sales.
9 steps to building the right technical foundation
Relying on on-page and off-page SEO alone can leave you behind in an ever-growing and crowded online world. Far from being just a ‘useful addition’ to your strategy, technical SEO is crucial to improving your website ranking and driving organic traffic. It’s also vital for a great CX. With these nine steps you’ll lay a strong technical foundation for your website:
1. Optimize your website’s structure
Having a tidy and logical website structure is one of the most important building blocks to a successful SEO strategy. If your content is organized well, search engines and site visitors will understand your website better, leading to a higher ranking position and a smooth user experience (UX).
To create a simple yet effective site structure, use a ‘flat hierarchy’ of webpages. This means that all webpages should be no more than three clicks away from your homepage. Your website should be easy to navigate. Just remember though, that as your site grows, you’ll need to update your structure too.
2. Keep your URLs simple
Improving your URL structure can lead to big results – both for your rankings and overall UX. By making clear and concise URLs with relevant keywords, you make it easier for search engines and customers to find you.
It’s important to keep in mind that URLs can have many variations. This makes it difficult for search engines to determine a webpage’s primary URL. Luckily, using canonical URLs can help. In short, canonical URLs are URLs that search engines identify as the preferred or main URL of a webpage. They help search engines crawl and index your website, while also preventing issues with duplicate webpages or content.
3. Make an XML sitemap
An XML sitemap is a list of all your website’s URLs that you submit to search engines. This allows search engines to find and understand your website. It’s basically a roadmap of your website that makes it easier to discover your website content.
Thankfully, tools like WordPress and Screaming Frog make XML sitemap creation easy. Once you have your sitemap ready, you can submit it to search engines. Tools like Google Search Console can help with that.
4. Include breadcrumb menus
A breadcrumb menu is a trail of navigation links that shows the path to a specific webpage. It’s usually placed at the top or the bottom of webpages as a navigational aid. This helps both search engines and site visitors understand your site’s structure.
While there are different types of breadcrumbs, the following three are the most common:
- Hierarchy-based breadcrumbs: these are breadcrumbs that show where a visitor is in your site’s structure and how they got there. An example of a hierarchy-based breadcrumb could be Home > Insights > Stories > Brand & Advertising.
- Attribute-based breadcrumbs: these breadcrumbs are often used on e-commerce sites. They’re based on attributes of a given product a visitor might be searching for, for example: Home > Webshop > Accessories > Women’s belts > Blue.
- History-based breadcrumbs: as you probably guessed from the name, history-based breadcrumbs show the trail of a visitor’s browsing history on your site. This means the breadcrumb will display the visited pages.
5. Use a responsive design
More and more visitors are browsing online from portable devices, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. That’s why it’s important to have a responsive website design that caters to different screen sizes.
Earlier this year, Google added page experience as a ranking factor. After the update, websites offering a great experience are favored in search results over those that don’t. By implementing a responsive design, you ensure that you deliver a seamless CX and secure a better ranking position.
6. Improve your loading speed
Did you know that your website’s loading speed is a ranking factor for Google? Your webpages’ load speed has a direct impact on your SEO performance. More than 50% of visitors abandon sites if a page takes longer than three seconds to load. With that in mind, make sure your webpages load within one to two seconds.
7. Integrate internal linking
To assist search engines in finding and indexing your webpages, it’s important to include internal links throughout your site. Internal links are links directing visitors from one page on your website to another. They’re key to helping both site visitors and search engines find relevant content.
Internal links also give search engines a better idea of your site’s structure. They help determine how content on your site relates. The more internal links a webpage has, the more valuable search engines think they are.
8. Use schema markup
Schema markup is code that can be added to your website to help search engines better understand your content and offer relevant results in search. It basically tells search engines what your content is about.
By using schema markup, you give search engines the information they need to understand and rank your content. It goes without saying that websites using schema markup will often rank higher than those that don’t. To get started, you can use tools like Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
9. Regularly audit your redirects
Redirects are used to move content from a deleted URL to a new one. They ensure that search engines and site visitors are directed to a webpage even if its URL has changed. One of the most common types of redirects is the ‘301 redirect’ which is used for permanent redirecting to a new URL.
As your website and its structure will undoubtedly evolve over time, you’ll have to develop your redirects accordingly. It’s important to avoid overusing 301 redirects. Too many will not only increase your loading speed, but also create the added risk of redirect loops. These loops occur when one URL redirects to another – and then leads back to the original URL again, creating an unending cycle of redirects. Make sure to check your redirects regularly to maintain a functional and healthy website.
Though often glossed over, technical SEO is key to a strong SEO strategy and website success. Technical SEO plays a vital role in increasing your online visibility and driving website traffic. That being said, a solid SEO strategy combines all three SEO types – on-page, off-page, and technical SEO - bringing together the elements needed for digital success.