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Sunday, October 25, 2020

A Beginner’s Guide To Technical SEO

Technical SEO is something that you should absolutely know about if you are in content marketing or own a domain for your business. It is the term used for certain processes that helps your website grow organically and get a higher ranking in today’s search engines. 

We will tell you all there is to know about technical SEOs. And, by the time you are done reading this article, your website will have much higher chances of getting organic traffic. So, let’s begin!

The Fundamentals Of Technical SEO

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There are various aspects of technical SEO. Some of the most important ones are indexing, crawling, website architecture, and rendering. 

The reason why a technical SEO strategy is so important is that it determines your website’s reach. You might have awesome content on your website, but if people are not aware of your website, what’s the point in it? A good and healthy technical SEO will ensure that people get to see it through Google’s algorithm management. 

Technical SEO

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There are a number of things that need to be done in order for your technical SEO to be at its optimum level. You need to secure your web pages, optimize your website for all kinds of electronic devices, free any duplicate content, get your website to load fast, and many other things. 

This sounds like a lot of work, but you just need to get familiar with it and learn to do all this in an organized manner. There are several software tools that can help you with your technical SEO as well. 

And we are here to help you throughout the process with this simple and comprehensive guide to technical SEO. 

What Can You Do To Improve Your Website’s Technical SEO?

As mentioned before, technical SEO includes much more than just indexing and crawling. You need to keep in mind the URL structure, site architecture, XML sitemaps, JavaScript, structured data, Hreflang, Thin content, Duplicate content, 301 redirects, 404 pages, canonical tags and such. Does this sound a lot? Don’t worry, we will elaborate on these topics as the article progresses. There are other aspects of technical SEO as well that we will include below. 

Website Navigation And Site Structure

Many people might think of indexing and crawling first when they think about technical SEO. But, we are here to tell you that the most important aspect of technical SEO is site structure. 

And, if you think about it, the indexing problems and crawl errors one faces are mostly because a site structure is but built properly. So, when you get this first step of site structure right, you won’t have to worry about your website’s pages getting indexed by Google. 

Besides, everything on your website is dependent on your site structure. Be it block search engines, site map, or even URLs, your website’s structure is what influences it all. The rule of thumb while dealing with technical SEO is to build a strong site structure. 

Organize Your Site Structure In A “Flat” Manner

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Site structure refers to the organization of your webpages. Having a flat site structure means that all your web pages are connected to each other in a systematic way. So, one page should lead to another, and so on. 

This is important because having a flat site structure will ensure that Google and the rest of the search engines achieve a 100 percent crawl on all of your website’s pages. 

This might not be a big issue for small or independent digital businesses, but for someone that has thousands of products on their website, a flat structure will benefit them the most. Another thing to keep in mind while maintaining a healthy technical SEO is the clean organization of your website. 

What we mean by this is that your web pages should link to one another in an organized manner. There should be any “orphan page” without any link. This also leads to indexing problems. Furthermore, you will have difficulty even identifying bugs on your website if it’s not organized properly. 

Ahrefs is an excellent technical SEO specialist to get a broader picture of your website’s structure. Another software you can check out for the same purpose is Visual Site Mapper. It’s completely free, and it will give you an excellent view of your site’s architecture. 

Make Your URL structure Consistent

Technical SEO

Although this might not seem that important, it’s actually a great user-friendly feature that will help your customers locate themselves on your website. And in the process enriching your visitor’s customer experience. 

If you own a small independent website or a blog then there’s not much to think about URLs because you won’t have as much content as other big agencies. However, if you are thinking of kickstarting your e-commerce business then you should definitely invest in consistent and logical URLs. 

Make sure that your URLs follow a logical and consistent structure. By this, we mean that your URL should reflect a particular page’s location and sub-location. For example, if the category is about technical SEO issues, then the first bit of the URL should mention technical SEO, and each sub page under that category should have its own unique URL. Moreover, when you categorize your web pages, Google finds further context about every single page in a particular category of your website. This will further improve your technical SEO and search engine rank

Breadcrumbs Navigation

Breadcrumbs navigation is extremely technical SEO friendly and it boosts your visibility on any search engine. The purpose of breadcrumbs navigation is that it automatically inserts internal links to your website’s sub pages and categories. This further strengthens your site architecture and technical SEO performance. 

To drive the point further, Google has even turned all its URLs in the breadcrumbs navigation style in SERPs. So, we highly recommend that you use breadcrumbs navigation to get solidify your technical SEO and boost your SEO ranking.

Crawling, Rendering And Indexing

After you’ve structured your site properly, this is the most important element in Technical SEO. In this section, you’ll know how to spot and mend crawl errors and how to transmit search engine spiders to index deep pages on your website. Crawling is nothing but making it effortless for search engines to spot and index your website. Now, let’s dig into the specifics.

Spotting Indexing Issues

Your first concern is to find pages on your website that search engine spiders might have trouble crawling. Basically, this helps in indexing all your web pages smoothly. It’s the first step and here are 3 ways to spot potential pages that’ll lead to indexing issues.

1.Coverage Report

Go to Google Search Console and look for “Coverage Report.” This is where you go first with any indexing issues. The Coverage Report, as the name suggests, hands you a report telling you if Google has been able to index your website entirely. It will also render those web pages that the search engine was unable to index and render pages on your website that you would like to be indexed.

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2.Screaming Frog

You must have heard of this crawler because it’s really popular and efficient. So, once you’re done with the issues indicated by Coverage Report, you go to Screaming Frog to run a complete crawl on your website. Now, we go on to the next step.

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3.Ahrefs Site Audit

To spot indexing issues, you can go for any SEO site audit tool. We recommend Ahrefs because it’s pretty trustworthy. Once you go to Ahrefs Site Audit, you get a technical SEO health score card for your website.

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The site audit gives you information regarding your website’s page loading speed and also points out issues, if any, that crop up with your website’s HTML tags.

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You can use any of these 3above-mentioned steps for crawling and indexing. But if it’s not too much, you can use all three in combination to get the best of your technical SEO.

Internal Link Building To “Deep” Pages

The problem is not on the surface but in the deeper parts of your website. What do I mean by that? Indexing issues generally don’t crop up with your website’s homepage. It’s the “deep” pages that cause issues.

What exactly are these “deep” pages? As the name suggests, these are web pages that are multiple links away from the homepage. It’s a page within your site but it takes four or more clicks to access it from the homepage. These pages tends to lower the quality of your website.

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One way to avoid having too many “deep” pages is to have a flat architecture for your website. Now, if you want to index certain deep pages on your site, there is nothing better than the old-fashioned system of internal linking to that particular page. An important tip here is that it’s better to link to a deep page from a page that already has a lot of weight and authority or a page that gets crawled numerous times.

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Apply An XML Sitemap

Your first question might be why use an XML sitemap in the age of AMP and mobile-first indexing. There are other methods to find your website’s URLs. But according to the latest statement, Google declared XML sitemaps to be the “second most important source” for searching URLs.

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If you want to check on your site’s technical SEO sitemap is functioning properly, go to Google Search Console and look for the Sitemaps feature. Click on that to know the sitemap that Google sees for your site.

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GSC “Inspect”

If a particular URL on your website facing difficulty getting indexed? You can go to GSC’s Inspect feature to investigate the matter. This feature will inspect the cause of the problem and tell you why it’s not getting indexed.

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It will also go an extra mile to tell you how Google renders the pages on your website that are already indexed. That helps you to be sure if Google has crawled and indexed your entire website.

Thin And Duplicate Content

Your technical SEO health depends a lot on thin and duplicate content. But if you go for original and unique concepts for content-writing on your web pages you won’t need to bother about this section at all.

However, most often, even with unique and creative content, technical issues related to duplicate content tend to crop up especially if you have several versions of the same web page on different URL addresses. These technical issues mostly happen because of the CMS (Content Management System).

The same is true for thin content. This is not a technical issue per say. However, your SEO rankings may suffer because of this. Therefore, it’s not worth overlooking these small concerns to keep your rankings stable.

In this section, we’ll get into how to fix these issues on your website.

Use An SEO Audit Tool To Look For Duplicate Content

You can use an SEO tool of your choice. In this article we tell you about 2 tools that perform the task smoothly and efficiently. These are:

1.The Ravens Tools Site Auditor

The Ravens Tools is a great tool you can use to search for duplicate content on your website. Firstly, it scans your entire website for any trace of duplicate or thin content. And then gives you a summary of the issues that have cropped up. You need to update your website accordingly.

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2.The Ahrefs Site Auditor

We have already talked about the Ahrefs Site Auditor. This tool is also of great help when it comes to finding low-quality content that may hamper your technical SEO. To detect if your website has the same level of content on various pages, go to the “Content Quality” section of the Ahrefs site auditor. You’ll get a detailed report as shown in the picture below.

So, you can go for either of these SEO tools to get an idea of the amount of duplicate or thin content that needs to be updated on your website.

Duplicate Content also refers to pages on your site that copy content from other websites. Thus, to check on the uniqueness of your content, you can also go to the “Batch Search” tool in Copyscape. You just have to upload a number of URLs and it’ll show you where that particular content appears on the web.

TECHNICAL SEO

Now, look for the part that matches with another website and search that particular portion in Google. If your page is shown first in the SERP, you’re alright.

Tip: if others copy content from your site, it’s not your cause of concern. It’s up to them to sort their duplicate content problem.

Noindex Pages Without Unique Content

It’s okay to have some amount of duplicate content on your site. But it’s not okay when those web pages are indexed. Now, if you’re using other technical SEO tools, you might get all your pages indexed, but what to do to prevent these duplicate pages from getting indexed?

You can add a “noindex” tag to such pages. This tag instructs your search engine not to index a particular page.

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Next, you can go to Google Search Console and check if your noindex tag is in place by inserting your URL in the URL inspection section in GSC.

Once your noindex tag is correctly placed, you’ll notice an “excluded by ‘noindex’ tag” pop-up message by Google. Now, depending on the number of pages Googlebot has to re-crawl and index (also called the crawl budget), your time-frame will vary.

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To be sure that the noindexed pages are removed as per instruction, you can check into your Coverage Report’s “Excluded” tab.

Tip: you can prevent your search engine from crawling and indexing pages altogether using robots.txt feature.

Using Canonical URLs

According to the previous section, the only two ways to go about duplicate content is by replacing the duplicate with original content or by adding a noindex tag to those pages. However, there’s a third mystery option to deal duplicate content on your website, namely, canonical URLs.

If your content matches with another website’s content, Google will choose either one as the canonical version and the others will be tagged as duplicate versions. However, Google makes this choice by itself when you don’t explicitly inform Google which URL is canonical. If you separately use a canonical URL for your duplicate content pages, Google might consider both versions (yours and other websites with the same content) with equal weight.

This is almost like a getaway option but this technical SEO feature is most useful for e-commerce sites with a product page linked to it. Say, for example, you’re selling a bag. Now, for every color of the same bag, you might end up having different URLs. To avoid this, you can inform Google that the red colored bag is the ‘canonical’ one and the others are duplicates.

Page Speed

This is one such technical SEO element that can have a direct impact on your website’s rankings. That doesn’t mean that a faster page-speed will take you to the top of Google’s search engine result page. To reach there, you need backlinks to back you up. But working on improving your page loading speed can bring in a lot of organic traffic and give your technical SEO an immense boost.

In this section, we’ll talk about 3 ways to improve your page-speed which can be a significant turning point for your website.

Reduce Web Page Size

You might have heard about CDN (Content Delivery Network) which is a highly distributed platform of servers that aids in minimizing delays in web page loading by reducing the physical distance between the server and the user.

This is a commonly approached method when you’re trying to increase your page-speed. But all such techniques including Cache cleaning, minifying CSS, or lazy loading, work only halfway to boost up your page-speed.

There’s another important factor that holds back your page-speed, namely, your web page size. Study reports show that a web page’s size is indirectly proportional with page-speed more than any other factors.

You can compress your cache and images all you want but if your pages are large, they are going to take a considerable amount of time to load.

Some websites which have high-resolution images might have slower loading pages than others. But you can always choose where to compromise. If you see that your content suffers while maintaining page-speed, you can decide which side to go with. But if your site rankings matter the most for you, now you know what to do to slim down your web page and reduce its total size to improve rankings.

Test Load Times With And Without Using CDN

It has been found that CDNs are associated with worse page-loading times. This generally happens when CDNs are incorrectly set up. Therefore, if your website uses CDN to boost page-speed, you can test your site speed with and without CDN to check if it’s working efficiently. You can get your testing done on webpagetest.org.

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Eliminate Third-Party Scripts

Did you know that each 3rd party script in a page adds approximately 34 minutes to the load time? While you might need some of these 3rd party scripts, such as Google Analytics but others are only there to slow your page-speed.

So, you might want to go over your website’s 3rd party scripts to check if there’s anything you can do away with to improve your technical SEO health.

Additional Technical SEO Tips

We’ve already covered the most important sections in technical SEO. Now, it’s time to dig into some quick and effective technical SEO tips to improve overall SEO performance.

Apply Hreflang For International Websites

Does your website have multiple versions of a web page for different languages and countries? If yes, you will find the hreflang tag of immense help.

However, the only con in case of the hreflang tag is that it’s difficult to set up. And the instructions put out by Google aren’t clear enough to help us in the setting-up process.

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The solution is to go for the hreflang tags generator tool by Aleyda Solis. This SEO tool makes it comparatively easier to understand the method of setting up hreflang tags for different regions, languages and countries.

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Check Your Site For Dead Links

It’s better to remove dead or broken links from your website. You don’t want many 404 error codes to pop up when a visitor is visiting your website. If you have a few links which are broken, you can easily remove them from your site because repairing broken links is an ongoing process. So, you need to decide how much effort you’re willing to put in the process of mending broken links.

Google states that broken links are not SEO issues. You can easily get rid of them without hampering your site’s rankings.

However, problems arise when you have broken internal links. Such links can make it difficult for Googlebot to crawl your website.

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To minimize this issue, you can go for a quarterly technical SEO audit which will inform you about all the broken links that need fixing. For this purpose, you can use any SEO audit tool that you prefer. You can also check on multiple audit sites like Ahrefs, Screaming Frog and so on.

Set up Structured Data

Structured data is the data that is organized in a standardized format for relaying information regarding a website, classifying its content. It’s generally stored in well-defined schemas. But is setting up a Schema for your website helpful in terms of SEO?

The answer is no. In fact, studies show that SEO rankings barely have any correlation with Schema.

However, there’s an indirect yet bonus advantage to using Schema. When you go for Schema you can set rich snippets for your web pages. If these descriptions stand out as unique, you can improve your position in SERPs. Rich snippets can also indirectly boost your CTR (Click through Rate) organically.

Validate XML Sitemaps

For your sitemaps to function properly, you need to run your XML sitemap through the XML Sitemap Validator by the Map Broker.

Why do you need this? Say, for example, you have a huge website. In such a case, it becomes difficult for your Sitemap to monitor all the web pages in your site. The main aim of your sitemap is to allow search engines to see all your live pages. If your Sitemap is broken and shows 404 or 301 error code, it might hamper your technical SEO.  Therefore, it’s best to keep validating your XML sitemap with the help of the aforementioned tool.

In the Sitemap validator, enter the sitemap from your website and check if any of the links are redirecting or broken.

Category Pages And Noindex Tags

The noindex tag is recommended for web pages that don’t bring in a lot of traffic. If you have a WordPress website, you can easily get a noindex tag using Yoast SEO specialist. These pages generally don’t add much real value to your website and increase duplicate content issues.

Check Mobile Usability

In the age of mobiles, a lot of your SEO success depends on your website being mobile optimized. So, making your website mobile-friendly is a priority. But even mobile-friendly websites can face issues. Being totally unaware of these issues is not a good way to go. So, to keep a check on such issues, go to Google Search Console and search for Mobile Usability. You’ll find a detailed report on the mobile usability of your website. If a website is not properly optimized for mobile-users, you’ll find that on the report as well. This will help you to fix what needs to be fixed.

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Case Studies Of Technical SEO

Let’s sum up the importance of technical SEO by looking at a few case studies.

Case study 1

This case study is about the importance of internal linking to improve SEO rankings.

Felix Norton was hired to solve the technical SEO issues of an event management website. Besides other issues one crucial thing that the website was missing was internal links. Moreover, for the pages that did apply internal links lacked a keyword-optimized anchor text.

To sum up, these are kind of the two most crucial elements in technical SEO. Thus, the client’s website rankings and traffic remained stagnant for months end with internal links and keywords.

Another crucial element that Felix realized while auditing was that none of the unique content was linked to the service and products page.

After Felix worked on these issues, the website received 250% more traffic, that too, within a week.

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Case Study 2

Salman Baig runs a website on tech review, namely, Voxel Reviews. The most important keyword used by him in most of his web pages is “best gaming laptops under 500.” You might wonder that this is a long tail keyword, but Salman learnt how to use this to his benefit by using Data Schema.

He did a quick market survey and found out that most pages used dates with their content but they don’t update it to the current month or year. So if you search with the date range you can see the actual date of that article saved by Google. This is when Salman started updating his articles to the latest date. This helped him to get chosen for a featured snippet and later boost his organic traffic by more than 200%.

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Case study 3

The SEO agency of Neil Sheth undertook a client whose rankings had tanked immensely.

After a study done by the technical SEO agency, they pointed out that the problem was arising because they recently shifted their website. from 30,000 new visitors per month they went down to an alarming rate of 3000 new visitors over 2 months.

After a complete site audit, Neil Sheth found a host of issues like pages lacking internal links, redirecting pages, redirect chains, broken links and ill-optimized meta tags.

After working on these technical SEO issues, the traffic boosted about 228% over a year.

That’s all you need to know regarding technical SEO. Apply these amazing features in your SEO strategy and let us know if you found these helpful.

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