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Technical SEO is the basis of your search engine optimization strategies. Without it, your website will not be able to reach the top of the search results. So, learn now how to optimize your website with technical SEO and the main problems you should avoid.
SEO strategies cannot be sustained without a consistent foundation. Even if you create incredible content and build a qualified link network, Google will not keep your site on top if it takes too long to load or has too many pages with errors.
We are talking about structural problems with a website, which concern technical SEO. If you think of optimization as a pyramid, technical SEO is the foundation that supports the strategies content production, link building and authority building.
Therefore, technical problems need to be avoided and corrected – or your pyramid may collapse.
In this article, we will explain:
What is technical SEO
Technical SEO is the set of optimizations related to the internal structure of a website. The intention is that the pages become faster, more understandable, crawlable and indexable – which is basic for everything else in the SEO strategy to work.
Technical SEO is part of SEO on page, which represents the optimizations that are under your control, within your pages.
On-page SEO, however, is more comprehensive and involves content production strategies, for example, which are not part of technical SEO. In addition, there is also off-page SEO, which refers to the relationship of the site with other players with the intention of gaining authority in the market and building a relevant link network.
Technical SEO, in turn, deals with what’s behind the pages, site codes and architecture.
That’s what you need so that Google can find your links and place them in the ranking. Although technical SEO factors can influence ranking, the focus here is on crawling and indexing. Then, content and authority building strategies will be responsible for making your pages rise in the search engine ranking.
The importance of technical SEO
Technical SEO is the principle of any search engine optimization strategy. This is where you should start, as this part of the optimization ensures that your links are found and indexed in the Google directory.
You need to ensure, for example, that your pages are indexable by Google. However, some detail in the website’s HTML code can hinder the plans. Many website administrators are desperate because their website does not appear in the search engine, while a technical SEO audit could quickly identify this problem.
In addition, technical SEO can also help Google better understand your pages. We will see later that the structured data and the architecture of the site, for example, fulfill this function. With this, the search engine can read important information from your site and understand which paths to follow. Thus, Google is able to index the pages for the correct keywords.
But make no mistake: technical SEO should not only target Googlebot. Although techniques are essential to facilitate the work of the robot, they are also responsible for providing a better user experience. And that is the focus of Google.
The searcher’s intention is to offer the best results for what the user is looking for. And the best results are the pages that are aligned to the search term and that offer a good browsing experience.
When you simplify the codes of the site, for example, it not only becomes simpler and more understandable for the robot, but it also improves the browsing experience by speeding up the loading speed. Another example is when you make your pages mobile-friendly, and the visitor easily accesses the site on any device.
And, when Google realizes your effort to improve the user experience, you can gain ranking positions because of that.
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Main factors of technical SEO
Let’s understand now what are the main factors of technical SEO that you can optimize.
Realize that many factors can be identified and corrected by any professional, with the help of tools like Google Search Console or plugins like Yoast.
However, some optimizations are a little more complex and may require specialized professionals. Tinkering directly with codes is not a simple matter, and without specific knowledge, you can make a serious mistake. So, if technical SEO is beyond your knowledge, don’t hesitate to ask a developer for help.
Check out the main factors of technical SEO below.
If a page takes a few seconds to open, that time may already be a reason for the user to give up accessing it. Think With Google found that a load of up to 5 seconds increases the likelihood that the user will abandon the visit by 90%.
Improving the speed of pages is a task for technical SEO. After all, the loading time is linked to the internal structure of the website, such as the size of the images, the organization of the codes and the hosting server.
First, you need to identify how fast your pages are loading.
Google itself provides a tool for this: Page Speed Insights. This tool features a score for your loading speed and the factors that you can optimize to improve it.
Another well-known tool is GTmetrix, which shows loading speed (not just a score) and opportunities for improvement.
As you can see in the reports of these tools, there are a number of technical SEO actions that you can take to improve load times. These are some of them:
- compress the files sent by the server (Gzip);
- reduce the size of the page images;
- eliminate superfluous characters from HTML, CSS and Javascrip codes (minify);
- create Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs);
- take advantage of the browser cache.
If you want to better understand each of these actions, check out our article on how to improve page speed, which provides detailed explanations.
Google has long been concerned with the search experience of mobile users. Since the beginning of the use of smartphones and tablets, the seeker realized that the future of search was mobile. So it spared no effort to make mobile search more efficient.
In 2015, Google already announced the mobile-friendly update, which made responsiveness a ranking factor. One of his most recent attitudes was the adoption of the mobile-first index, which started to prioritize the indexing of the mobile version of the sites, since searches for mobile devices have already surpassed desktop searches.
In short: that mobile is important for SEO, you already know. Now, it is important to know what technical SEO actions you can take to improve the indexing and ranking of your pages.
The most efficient way to do this is to have a responsive website. With this feature, your pages have the same HTML code and the same URL, regardless of the device. The CSS code, in turn, is used to render the pages according to the user’s screen size.
In order for Google’s algorithm to automatically recognize the responsiveness of your pages, you need to add the “viewport” tag to the HTML code header. This markup guides the browser on how to adjust the page’s dimensions and scale to the width of the device.
If this tag does not appear, the browser tries to adapt the page display in the best way (as in the image on the left, just below). However, this tends to provide a bad user experience. And so, Google may consider that its pages are not mobile-friendly.
In general, tools for creating websites, such as WordPress, Wix or Shopify (for e-commerce), already include optimization for mobile devices. So you don’t have to worry so much about coding.
But it is always worth testing whether your site is mobile friendly. This can be done with a tool that Google makes available for free: the mobile device compatibility test. Take the opportunity to evaluate your site and optimize the points that the tool report suggests as improvements.
Before thinking about improving your website’s position in the search results, there is a basic step for it to appear there: crawling. This is the robot’s first step in organizing web sites.
So you must know if your pages are being crawled by Google. The first step in this is to submit a sitemap, which tells Google all the pages it should crawl on your site.
However, even if you show the way to the robot, it is common for it to find errors on the pages and fail to do so.
To identify which issues are getting in the way of crawling and indexing, you can use the Index Coverage Status Report, available on Google Search Console. In this report, you can see which pages have been indexed and which have problems.
Pages may not be indexed for several reasons. These are some of them:
- server errors;
- redirection errors, such as a loop redirection;
- blocking the URL by the robots.txt file;
- URL blocking by the “noindex” tag in the page code;
- Non-existent URL (error 404).
Each URL must be analyzed to correct the error that is preventing its indexing. Remember that you may be losing valuable visitors to your business if your pages are not being indexed.
A good deal of technical SEO consists of making Google’s job of tracking easier. And one way to do that is show the robot the paths it should follow within your site, so that he understands the hierarchies between pages and the connections between internal links.
For that, you need to have a well thought out architecture, with a logic of hierarchy and categorization of pages. This becomes even more important on robust sites, with a large number of pages, which requires clear organization.
A good website architecture is reflected in factors that influence crawling and indexing, but also in the ranking of pages by Google. Are they:
- the formatting of the URLs, so that they are friendly (example.com/category/subcategory);
- the creation of sitemaps, which guide the robot in tracking the pages of the site;
- the internal link, which shows Google which pages have the most authority on the site.
With these actions, related to the architecture of the site, you help Google to understand its contents and to make the complete scan, and still make the structure more understandable for the user to navigate through it.
Images have power. They are not just “cute” on a website – they are able to charm and persuade visitors so that the pages meet business goals.
Behind them, however, there must be technical SEO work to ensure that they fulfill their role without impairing loading speed and user experience on the page.
When you view an image on the web, you may not imagine that it carries so much information important for technical SEO. This information has the function of identifying that image for Google which, despite the evolution of the algorithm, is able to understand only texts.
Now, let’s see the main elements of images that you can optimize, not only to improve the SEO of the pages, but also to increase the chances that they will appear well positioned in Google Images.
The first element of technical SEO for images is the name of the file. This is the text that you edit on your computer, before uploading.
It needs to be descriptive and friendly, so that Google understands what the image represents (eg, red-colored-pencil.png, instead of IMG586.png).
Another data that the image loads is the alt text. This is the alternative text, which is used to appear to the user when the image does not load or to be used in accessibility tools for users with special needs.
Alt text also plays a role in SEO, by informing Google of the content of that image and helping to index it.
The size of the images is decisive for the page loading speed. When you reduce the weight of files, you improve the ranking of the page as a whole (by speeding up loading) and the image itself, since Google prioritizes lighter files.
To do this, you can count on the help of tools that reduce the kilobytes of the images and eliminate superfluous information from the files, without losing quality. Optimus and Tinypng are good examples.
More advanced image formats – JPEG 2000, JPEG XR and WebP – have better compression compared to JPG and PNG, while maintaining quality. Prioritize these formats to speed up loading.
The ideal for technical SEO is to upload images in the exact dimensions in which they will be used. This prevents the site from resizing and the image from taking up unnecessary space, which can delay loading.
Images that are below the page fold (that is, that do not yet appear to the user) may have their loading delayed. For that, we use the lazy load feature, available in the Lazy Load plugin for WordPress, for example. Thus, the images are only loaded when the user reaches them.
Duplicate content is one of the most important topics in technical SEO, as it is very common to happen and can have a huge impact on optimization.
When we talk about duplicate content, we are referring to both texts and images copied from other sites, as well as content that is repeated within your own site, even without intention.
The first case is easy to avoid: just focus on creating original content for your audience. Plagiarizing texts and images from other sites is not only unethical, it can also result in copyright crimes.
The second case is more complex and requires some technical SEO actions. You can have duplicate content on the site, for example, when you update a page and create a new URL for it, without disabling the old one.
Another example is when the same content can be accessed by different URLs, for example: http://www.example.com/page/ and https://www.example.com/page.
When Google realizes that there is duplicate content on the site, it tends to prioritize the ranking of the original content. However, this is not always clear to the robot, and the result can be a penalty for both pages.
So, to resolve the problem of duplicate content on your site, you first need to identify which pages are experiencing this error. Siteliner is a specific tool for this and shows how many and which pages have duplicates in the content.
After checking which pages have duplicate content, you can show Google which is the preferred page that should be indexed and ranked. This is done with the canonical tag, applied to the code on the main page.
Another solution is to use Redirect 301, to direct both users and robots to the main page, which you want to gain authority. This is a way to prevent your pages from competing with each other in ranking, giving priority to only one of them.
By now, you may have noticed that Google likes organized sites, right? The organization facilitates the work of the robot, which can understand the pages and know where to follow its scan.
Structured data then helps with this task. Its function is make markings within the code of the pages that guide the searcher about certain aspects of your content. Basically, they help to describe your site to search engines.
These tags can be used not only for crawling and indexing, but also for displaying search results.
One of the main uses of structured data in technical SEO is rich snippets. If you’ve ever searched for a recipe on Google, you’ve come across them.
See this example:
That information about evaluations, comments and preparation time is marked with structured data. This type of markup can also appear in other types of content, such as movies, local businesses and products.
In addition to helping Google understand your content, they also transmit richer information to users, which have more basis to decide which link to click on in the search results.
But structured data is not just about rich snippets. Another widely used example is breadcrumbs, which show the path the user took (categories and subcategories) to reach that page. This information can also be used in the search results.
You can also use them simply to help Google understand that a certain area of the page is about a certain subject.
For example: you can enter contact details on the page, and this will already be clear to your visitor. However, the robot will have to strive to understand that that section is about contact.
To make his life easier, then, you can create an appointment stating this. In the code, this markup would look something like this:
To make these markings, you may need a little more coding knowledge. But some WordPress plugins facilitate this task, such as Schema App Structured Data.
Google also wants to help developers create efficient structured data (and prevent them from practicing black hat with this feature). For this reason, it has created a structured data markup wizard, which also helps to insert them on your website.
You can also use the Structured Data Testing Tool to test whether your markings went well. The report shows how Google is reading its pages and whether there is a problem reading the data.
In the topic about website architecture, we talked about creating sitemaps, as a way to guide Google within its link structure. Now, let’s go into more detail about this feature, which is essential in technical SEO strategies.
A sitemap is a file (usually in XML format) that contains all the pages and documents on a website, as well as the connections between them. When you present this file to Googlebot, it identifies which pages to crawl and which are the most important.
The sitemap is even more important for sites that are very large or have isolated pages. Like this, the file ensures that all of them are crawled and indexed by the robot.
There are different ways to send the sitemap file to Google. The simplest way is via Google Search Console, which has a specific sitemap reporting tool.
But, with some more advanced knowledge, you can specify the file path within the robots.txt or use the “ping” function to request crawling of the sitemap. In this link, Google explains how you can do all of this.
There is nothing more frustrating than doing a search on Google, finding exactly the result you wanted, but encountering an Error 404 that prevents you from viewing the content.
You must have been there and you know how it feels. Google also knows that this is a problem for the user experience and often penalizes pages that experience this error frequently.
Error 404 is a website response to a user request. When it appears, it means that the user requested an address, the website was able to communicate with the server, but did not find the address that was requested on it.
This can happen, for example, when a page has its URL changed, and the user tries to access the old URL. To prevent it from encountering an Error 404, websites can redirect visitors to the correct URL when applying Redirect 301.
Anyway, these errors can happen even if all the URLs are correct. When the URL has a typo, for example, Error 404 may appear. In this case, to prevent the user from leaving the site, you can create a custom error page, which suggests other paths to the visitor.
There are also SEO tools that identify pages with errors that you can correct. Dead Link Checker, Screaming Frog and Google Search Console itself can help with this task.
Another common mistake – and frustrating for users – is the unavailability of the site. In this case, the visitor is not faced with an error page. He just can’t find the site!
Worse still, when that happens, Google also can’t read the site. Thus, the pages cannot be indexed. When this happens frequently, the search engine understands that your website no longer exists. That way, your website can disappear from searches.
If you don’t want that to happen, you need to take care of your website’s availability. This is usually related to the