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    A Guide To Technical SEO

    Climb Online
    A Guide To Technical SEO

    Technical SEO refers to a website’s underlying or background optimisations that aren’t always clearly visible on the site itself. Technical optimisations allow search engines to better crawl and index your web pages in search results to enhance performance.

    Technical SEO is one of the three pillars of SEO, working alongside On-Page (content-focused) and Off-Page (authority building) as part of the overall SEO strategy. All three of these pillars should be integrated, working together to achieve a strong website performance.

    Why is Technical SEO important?

    Technical SEO helps a site be easily understandable and accessible by search engines, making forsolid visibility and performance, and resulting in higher traffic and conversions for your site.

    To enhance the impact of technical SEO, it is important to refer to the Technical SEO pyramid framework. Here we have outlined the main aspects from this model to achieve optimum results:

    Crawlability

    Crawlability assesses the ability of a search engine to find a webpage and crawl its content. Google crawls sites by following links within content as well as reading sitemaps. Using robots.txt to block specific locations on the site from being crawled is key to reduce crawl budget and signpost less important pages such as style files. Please note this does not prevent visibility in the SERPs; a noindex tag should be applied to achieve this.

    Indexability

    Indexability refers to allowing search engines to show your pages in the SERPs. Index or noindex meta tags should be configured to state whether you want search engines to display pages or not (respectively).

    Accessibility

    Accessibility considers the ease of both Google and users in viewing a page. Factors influencing accessibility include (but are not limited to) page speed, orphan pages, and site architecture.

    Rankability

    Rankability considers content quality, including keyword density, keyword stuffing and low word count, which influence keyword rankings in the SERPs.

    Clickability

    Clickability refers to the influences impacting CTR. The more your results stand out in the SERPs, the more likely users are to click. Key ways to do this include optimising meta data, adding structured data and targeting featured snippets.

    When is it essential to review Technical SEO?

    Technical SEO should be monitored with regular audits, accounting for new problems or recurring issues. Period-on-period comparisons such as this can simplify attributing performance to implementation performed on the site.

    The type of audit required will also depend on the time and budget available to you or your client plus the severity of known issues relating to a site.

    For a new client or a poorly performing site, a full technical audit should be completed to measure against a comprehensive range of factors. Following this, a priority order should be given which considers time to fix and the overall estimated impact on the site.

    For existing clients or sites, it can be assumed that there will be known issues which have been previously identified. In this instance, conducting a lighter touch audit would be more efficient to determine if any old problems have been resolved or any new examples picked up. A specific tailored analysis, such as a Core Web Vitals Audit or Page Speed Audit could also be considered here.

    Five key areas to assess Technical SEO

    Page Speed

    What is Page Speed?

    Page speed refers to the time between the browsers’ request for a page until it is fully processed and visible. It is crucial to consider Core Web Vitals – a set of metrics that measure user experience for loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability of a page. We recommend that site owners achieve good Core Web Vitals for a positive user experience. These metrics are designed to evolve however, the main three currently in place are:

    • Largest Contentful Paint measures the loading performance of the largest visible image or text block and should occur within the first 2.5 seconds.
    • First Input Delay measures interactivity of when a user can first interact with a page and should occur within the first 100ms.
    • Cumulative Layout Shift measures visual stability on a page. It refers to any time an element that is visible within the viewport changes its start position. A good CLS score to aim for is 0.1.

    Why is Page Speed important?

    Studies show better Core Web Vitals scores improve user engagement and business metrics. Slower page load times can be a frustrating experience for users, increasing bounce rate and reducing traffic reaching the site. Slow-loading pages also mean that search engine bots cannot find and index pages as quickly as those on other sites.

    How to check Page Speed?

    • Google’s Page Speed Insights and Lighthouse tools help measure the quality of web pages and should be key to your analysis.
    • Conduct a CWV Audit to better understand your site’s page speed (Be sure to benchmark against up to 3 competitors to understand industry standards).
    • Use the Page Speed Insights API to do this for multiple pages and run a crawl of the site using Screaming Frog.
    • Results will show specific savings regarding actionable fixes and the size of issues, which are more measurable.

    XML Sitemaps

    What is an XML Sitemap?

    An XML Sitemap is a file which lists a website’s essential pages. The sitemap informs Google of your site’s structure and hierarchy to improve crawlability and indexability. XML sitemaps should only index pages with a 200 OK status code, which is indexable, canonical and unique.

    Your sitemap should be added in the robots.txt file to tell search engine bots where to find the sitemap and how to use it to crawl and index your site.

    Why are XML Sitemaps Important?

    Including pages containing error status codes or redirects provides inaccurate information to Google and will make the sitemap less fit for purpose.

    Having a good XML sitemap is an integral part of technical SEO as it points the search engines to all your website’s essential pages, helping speed up content discovery.

    How to check XML Sitemaps?

    • Check an XML sitemap exists and is present in robots.txt
    • Run a crawl of the site using Screaming Frog, being sure to specify a crawl of the XML sitemap file is included.
    • The Sitemap section in Screaming Frog will state any non-indexable URLs in the sitemap which shouldn’t be included, as well as any indexable URLs not in the sitemap which should be included.
    • Update your XML Sitemap file and submit to Google Search Console.

    Structured Data

    What is Structured data?

    Structured data is a standardised format for providing information about a page and classifying page content. It ultimately helps Google to understand a piece of content, enabling them to better match this to the search intent of users. This then allows Google to show that content in a richer appearance in search results, which is called a rich result.

    Google currently understands just over 30 different types of schema, including Product Markup, Breadcrumb Markup and Logo Markup to name a few. Examples of how Google uses these schema types are included below:

    • Product Markup is used to pull information such as price, availability, and review ratings directly onto the results page.
    • Breadcrumb Markup is used to indicate a pages position in the site hierarchy.
    • Logo Markup is used to show the correct logo in the knowledge panel when a user searches for a business.

    Why is Structured Data Important?

    Structured data helps in making content easier to access and analyse, leading to deeper insights. It enables information and web pages to become more discoverable, increasing the likelihood of content pieces being pulled onto the SERPs, helping your site to stand out.

    How to Check Structured Data?

    • Conduct a Structured data audit to understand the options currently implemented on a page. A good way to do this would be to use Google’s Rich Results Test or the Schema Markup Validator.
    • Look for new opportunities using examples within Schema.org: https://schema.org/docs/schemas.html.

    Mobile Friendliness

    What is Mobile Friendliness?

    Mobile-friendliness refers to optimising a website for a mobile device in addition to desktop. For indexing and ranking, Google predominantly uses the mobile version of a site’s content, crawled with the smartphone agent. This is called mobile-first indexing.

    Google recommends using Responsive Web Design because it’s the most straightforward design pattern to implement and maintain. This format displays content differently based on the screen size, so is very adaptive.

    Why is Mobile Friendliness Important?

    According to recent data from 2023 (https://explodingtopics.com/blog/mobile-internet-traffic), over 55% of website traffic globally comes from mobile devices. While this shows that mobile takes the largest market share, it also demonstrates the need to optimise for desktop, too.

    Additionally, making one responsive website takes less time than making a stand-alone mobile application and reduces any risk of duplicate content.

    How to Check Mobile Friendliness?

    • You can test the mobile-friendliness of your website with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly.
    • Be sure to itemise any failing pages along with their issues and work these into the roadmap to fix.

    Meta Data

    What is Meta Data?

    Meta tags provide information about a webpage in the HTML of a document and can be read by search engine crawlers. Google uses meta data such as page titles, meta descriptions and H1’s to understand content displayed on a page. This is so they can present the user with the most appropriate content relevant to their search.

    Meta data should be unique, concise and relevant, containing valuable keywords which best describe a page.

    Why is Meta Data Important?

    Unoptimised meta data can lead to lower ranking positions for a page, a reduction in CTR, and an increase in bounce rate.

    Page titles or meta descriptions which are too short or missing are not being used to their full potential, presenting an opportunity to extend and include more valuable keywords for search engines to read and rank your pages. Those which are deemed too long are at risk of being truncated, meaning that only part of the message is displayed to users.

    Duplicate meta data can also mean cannibalisation may become an issue. If multiple pages share the same meta data or similar keywords, this causes confusion for Google in understanding which is the best to show to the user. There is also the risk that SEO equity is shared between pages rather than being attributed to a single page. A resolution to this could be the introduction of canonical tags, which signal to Google the main page to reference in case multiple single pages are required.

    How to Check Meta Data?

    • Perform a crawl of your site using Screaming Frog to pick out offending pages.
    • Itemise any issues and prioritise in batches based on page performance.

    Post-Analysis

    The hard work continues beyond providing recommendations. It is vital to implement and track the recommendations by using effective communication and collaboration with site owners and developers.

    Implementation

    Importance of implementation

    The key part of the entire process is arguably the implementation stage. Recommendations are only effective in improving a website’s performance with the collaboration of developers to make them a reality.

    Management of Implementation

    • Recommendations should be clear and concise to speed up the process and reduce the risk of delays.
    • Be sure to include an explanation of each issue, the number of URLs impacted, plus a priority rating based on the impact on site performance/ effort to fix.
    • Assigning team members to any tasks (whether SEO or developers) makes people accountable and keeps tasks moving.
    • Regular check-ins should be implemented to allow team members to raise any blockers that may delay progress.
    • It should also be noted that the implementation of technical SEO recommendations can differ by CMS platform. Site owners should consider the nuances of their CMS platform when making amendments as there may be some limitations in the features they offer.

    Reporting

    Importance of Reporting

    Immediately following any implementation, monitoring page performance to showcase results from your hard work is essential.

    Performance improvements can push further technical SEO work through the pipeline.

    Declines in performance suggest issues with implementation, so they should be investigated and resolved immediately. Declines could also mean a lack of implementation, emphasising the need to get recommendations live on the site.

    Management of Reporting

    • Analytics tools such as Google Analytics / Adobe Analytics are a great way to assess the impact of implementations (or lack of) by viewing traffic and conversion figures. These can then be attributed accordingly to show the effects of Technical SEO recommendations.
    • Google Search Console should also be used similarly to measure clicks and impressions to see traffic coming from the SERPs.

    To find out how Climb Online can help you implement a Technical SEO strategy, please visit our dedicated page.

    For more information on our wider SEO services, please visit SEO Agency page.