Sydney graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of Houston. She discovered her passion for SEO through various UH courses and personal projects. She enjoys the creative thinking involved in SEO. Outside of work, you'll find Sydney reading, baking, trying new coffee shops, and exploring Houston!
Of the three aspects of SEO (On-page, Off-page, and Technical SEO), Technical SEO plays a crucial role in ensuring your page not only ranks well but can be discovered by search engines. Whether you are starting a new website or looking to refresh your current site structure, follow this guide to make sure your web pages are technically optimized to improve your rankings.
Is Your Website Being Crawled and Indexed?
Search engines crawl websites and index them to present on the search engine results page (SERP) for users search queries. Here are a few ways to ensure search engine bots can find and rank your pages.
Robots.txt & Meta-Robots Tags
Robot.txt files block search engines from crawling and indexing pages or sections within a website. This typically includes webpages with sensitive information such as passwords or credit card information. It is important to set up your robots.txt file correctly to avoid blocking search engines from pages you want to be crawled and indexed.
It is commonly mistaken that pages blocked by robots.txt will prevent search engines from finding them at all. However, if a page blocked by robots.txt is linked to from another site, search engine bots will still be able to index the pages from there. Robots.txt should not be used to keep search engines out of a webpage.
Meta robots tags include tags such as noindex and nofollow, sending signals to search engines about which pages to index, and which links to follow within the page. Keep in mind that your meta robots tags and robots.txt file should not contradict one another.
This is a basic technical SEO practice that can go a long way in improving crawlability of your site, especially large sites with thousands of webpages.
XML Sitemaps allow search engine bots to find the content on your website. It gives them a look at the structure of your site and how your pages are linked together and how you would like the pages crawled.
Bonus tip: HTML Sitemaps, while not as necessary, still provide a positive user experience and can therefore benefit your site’s performance. HTML sitemaps are set up as a way for users to easily access all your pages. It will also increase transparency across your website.
There are various ways to create sitemaps for your site. Most content management systems (CMS), like WordPress or Modx, have plugins available for this. You can also use tools such as Screaming Frog or create the sitemap manually.
Implement Schema Markup
Schema markup, also known as structured data, is a way for search engines to better understand the content published on your web pages. Additionally, using schema markup across your site can increase the chances of receiving featured snippets on the SERP.
While schema markup does not have a direct correlation to better rankings, it does improve click-through rates (CTR) when your page has valuable information that shows as a featured snippet on the first page of the search results.
Ensure Your Domain is Secure
Users across the web can be exposed to unsecure domains without realizing. This can lead to spam or malware infecting the devices of your customers, readers, or subscribers. As a result, in 2014, Google announced their focus on a safer user experience and began advocating for HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), rather than HTTP – making it a ranking factor.
Google now rewards secure, HTTPS sites. As a technical SEO best practice, if you still have HTTP on your site, consider redirecting these to more secure URLs. This will not only protect your users but improve your SEO performance.
Tackle Duplicate Content
Duplicate content can appear in many forms, and search engines can spot when webpages have been duplicated on a site if they’re not optimized correctly. Duplicate content occurs when the same content appears on two different URLs.
If the URLs are different in the slightest way, but contain similar or exact content, they are considered two separate pages to crawlers. This makes crawling your site more difficult, and you run the risk of wasting crawl budget if these URLs aren’t optimized correctly.
One of the most common ways to optimize these pages is to canonicalize your duplicate content. Canonicalizing your pages tells search engines which webpage is the root page of the content. This gives link equity to the main page of content for a section on the site, rather than crediting pages with duplicate or similar content.
Test Your Page Speed
Now more than ever, users want to find information quickly and easily. If you are experiencing a high bounce rate for your ranking webpages, it may be due to a slow page speed.
There are many factors that impact the speed of your webpages. One being images and videos that are not optimized correctly. Fortunately, there are many tools across the web to help diagnose page speed issues.
Decreasing the speed of your webpages provides a better user experience and can improve the performance of your site.
Redirect Your Users
Searching for information on a site only to be led to a 404 error can be frustrating for all users. As a best practice, try to avoid placing 404 redirects on your webpages. If a 404 is the best option for your webpage, be sure to create a custom 404 error that will let users know the page doesn’t exist and provide them with links to other areas of the site.
When possible, implement redirects to improve user experience and ease of crawlability. 301 Redirects are permanent redirects that will automatically direct the user to an updated version of a webpage. These are always recommended to provide the most accurate information to users and improve site structure.
Ultimately, the goal is to provide the best user experience possible. Analyze your webpages to see where redirects should be placed.
The importance of proper technical SEO practices cannot be stressed enough. With this guide, you should have a great starting point to setting up technical SEO for success on your website. Forthea’s SEO Specialists are here to assist you with these efforts. Contact us to learn more about our services!