Search engine optimization is about more than just content. Technical SEO covers everything else: site speed, internal linking, schema markup, and elements of your site such as the sitemap and domain structure.
It’s important to get your technical SEO right in order to optimize your organic visibility in search. Technical SEO should be the foundation to your entire SEO approach.
Ignoring technical SEO can frustrate your efforts to rank in search results. No matter how good your content and keyword strategy is, if your site is just too slow then Google won’t want to show it.
If your terrific content is not easily accessed by crawlers, it might as well not be there at all.
Ultimately, the practices of good technical SEO benefit the end user, so it’s worthwhile building strong technical SEO practices into your website to optimize the user experience on your site.
SEO is an ever-evolving game and it’s vital to keep on top of updates to maintain your visibility via search. If you fail to keep up with changes to best practice and the search engines’ algorithm updates, you risk falling behind your competitors in search terms.
Here’s what we think you need to be auditing in 2017 to stay ahead of the game.
Optimize your web speed
Web speed is one factor the search engines – and your users – care about. Some parts of the world, including China and India, already face particularly slow web speeds.
Offering a bloated site that slows loading down even further will just add to the frustrations of users already struggling with slow connections.
Optimize the speed at which your site loads in their devices and you’ll charm both your website visitors and the ranking factors. Simple good web housekeeping is one way to ensure you have the fastest possible page load times.
You can speed up your website’s loading time by following practices such as compressing images and reducing the number of redirects you offer. Services such as FileOptimizer will reduce file size without compromising quality.
Behind the scenes, keep your website as streamlined as possible by removing any code that isn’t absolutely essential, and cut any duplicate styling from your styles sheet.
This involves the removal of any redundant data while making sure the resource is still processed in the same way. It’ll include removing non-essential code, shortening names and labels, and removing code formatting.
Understand structured data and rich snippets
Google is now paying increased attention to structured data (also referred to as ‘semantic markup’). This type of data is added directly into your page’s HTML markup to help search engines make sense of it.
Essentially it’s data about data; telling search engines how to understand your site and its content. Structured data encompasses markups such as Microformats, Microdata, and RDFa.
It’s thought Microdata is the most significant of these, as far as Google is concerned.
Rich Snippets is a powerful tool that can help website owners influence how their content is displayed in search.
Add Rich Snippets into your existing HTML to enable search engines to better understand what information is contained on your site and present a richer search result listing for your property.
Ultimately, it helps the user find what they want faster and more easily.
Smart use of rich snippets has been linked to more click-throughs from the results pages, and fewer bounces, because visitors get more info about what the site contains before they click through from results.
Rich Snippets are now part of the mainstream search functionality, and it’s likely to develop further with increased integration of content elements such as reviews into search results thanks to Rich Snippets.
It’s well worth staying ahead of the game on this as it can help you leapfrog competitors from the results page.
Smarter use of Google Tag Manager
You may be familiar with Google Tag Manager (GTM) as a way to implement Google Analytics tracking, but there are SEO benefits associated with using this solution.
If you’re doing an audit into your technical SEO, consider how GTM can contribute some insights. You can also use GTM to add schema markup to your site, basically adding code snippets in more easily.
It’s particularly useful if you’re on an old-style CMS that doesn’t easily accommodate schema markup.
It’s basically a quicker way to implement structured data on your website, often without needing to bring in a dev. GTM can also offer insights into which content is performing best on your website. Try this handy way to classify your blog posts based on their performance:
There are a few other things that you can check during your audit. It’s worth reviewing your canonicalization, ie checking you aren’t accidentally diluting your link equity by badly configuring pages that can be loaded from multiple URLs.
This guide from Moz is a pretty handy one for checking you’ve got it right:
There are also several tools that can review your canonicalization, identify pages, and implement regular reporting on how you’re doing.
Getting the canonicalization right won’t be noticed by users but it can impact on your site’s ranking in a big way. Technical SEO is to be ignored only at your peril!