There’s been a ton of buzz in the SEO world lately about search algorithm changes and technical SEO issues. Most of this can be really confusing so we’ve boiled it down what really matters. Everything from page loading speed to mobile friendliness to crawlability are becoming cornerstones in search engine optimization. Let’s take a look at what technical SEO is, why it’s so important, and how you can ensure your website is optimized for users and search engines.
What is Technical SEO?
Traditionally, technical SEO has involved optimizations related to the indexability and crawlability of your site, which is pretty broad in itself, but we feel it’s much bigger than that. In our opinion, technical SEO relates to all the details of your site development and architecture, including site performance, functionality, rendering, and indexability. Despite being a form of search engine optimization, technical SEO actually has quite a bit more to do with web development and programming than it does traditional SEO efforts like content development or link building.
Why is Technical SEO Important?
Search Engines rank you poorly if you have technical SEO issues. You could have amazing content and tons of backlinks, but you’re not going to rank well if your site has errors and loads slowly. And if you have crawlability or indexability issues, you aren’t going to rank period.
Search engines like Google have complicated algorithms, and technical SEO factors are becoming higher and higher priorities. Just look at Google’s recent Page Experience Update focusing on Core Web Vitals (Core Web Vitals are three new ranking factors all related to page speed; check out #8 on our Top 10 SEO Strategies post for more info).
Plus, there’s a compounding effect when it comes to technical SEO: Search Engines Rank you based on technical factors, but they also rank you based on user behavior. So, if you have a slow loading site, not only are you going to take a hit from Google, but your visitors are also going to start bouncing. The reduced engagement is going to further detriment your organic ranking. On the other hand, a fast-loading, highly functional website tends to get better engagement and positively heightens your SEO success.
How to Optimize for Site Performance and Technical SEO
In order to optimize for technical SEO, you need to have a technical skill set. This is challenging because it requires blending SEO knowledge with web developer expertise. Your SEO experts can help decide what to look for (e.g. analyze your site or run SEO audits), but your developers and programmers will be required to dig deeper and ultimately resolve technical issues and opportunities.
Technical SEO Audits
Your first step in optimizing for technical SEO should be an audit to identify technical issues and opportunities. Here’s a checklist of what to look for in a technical SEO audit:
- Set up Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and any other pertinent tracking (for example we set up custom event tracking and keyword monitoring for our SEO clients)
- Make sure your site content is visible, indexed, and crawlable
- This includes submitting an xml sitemap to search engines; Google Search Console makes it easy to submit your sitemap to Google
- Check for Manual Actions and Page experience signals within Google Search Console to include:
- Core Web Vitals issues
- Mobile usability issues (Google’s Mobile Friendly Test is another great way to make sure your site is mobile friendly)
- Security and HTTPS issues
- Crawl your site for 400 level issues and unnecessary or troublesome redirects
- Crawl your site for broken links and images
- Audit for desktop and mobile speed performance issues and opportunities (Google’s Page Speed Insights can do this for you)
- Audit your site for excessive image sizes
- Audit meta info across your site, including:
- Title tags and meta descriptions either missing, too long, or too short
- Duplicate page titles, meta descriptions, or other duplicate content
- Images missing alt text
- Missing heading tags
- Audit for missing Schema microdata or Schema opportunities
Here’s a quick look at a portion of a technical SEO audit we recently ran for a new client:
Fixing Technical Issues
Once you’ve completed a thorough technical SEO audit of your website, you’ll likely have a very large to-do list. Now comes the part of fixing issues with a strategic approach. This is harder than it looks for many reasons – to name a few:
- Technical issues often require experienced web developers with a solid understanding of SEO and your website’s opportunities and limitations
- Sometimes SEO best practices can contradict something that’s been programmed for specific functionality (or sometimes two items on your technical SEO to-do list can contradict each other)
- More often than not, there are going to be so many issues and opportunities that it’s unrealistic to fix them all
The law of diminishing returns undoubtedly applies to chasing technical SEO perfection, so it helps to work with a partner that can put things in perspective and help you prioritize your efforts.
Do Web Developers Use SEO?
Skilled programming and web design efforts don’t always imply you are accomplishing SEO best practices. For example, programmers are often hired to build or make edits to a website – things like title tags, schema micro data, image alt text, and relevant anchor link text tend to be roadblocks in the web development process. It’s completely possible that programmers would skip these critical SEO elements for the sake of efficiency. Plus, you shouldn’t expect that programmers know all the latest SEO best practices because it’s not necessarily their job, just like SEOs don’t always have a depth of programming skills.
SEO Friendly Web Design
Fortunately, Element has been built as an integrated marketing agency that brings several marketing and advertising skill sets together under one roof. This means our SEO strategists are constantly learning from and collaborating with our web developers and vice versa (the same could be said about all our departments and marketing services).
So, what does this mean for you? When you’re growing your business, you want someone that focuses on every detail with the same appreciation as you. Being able to weigh all possibilities to determine the most effective path is extremely important. Whether you’re looking at a web design project, SEO work, or technical SEO (a blend of both), it’s important to take an integrated, strategic marketing approach.
Do You Need Programming Skills for SEO?
Yes! SEO is becoming less about tricking search engines with keyword integration and more about providing the best possible experience. That experience includes things like publishing quality content that answers the questions customers are searching for, earning backlinks (to prove you are authoritative on that content), and providing a flawless interaction with your site. That website interaction portion relies heavily on web design.
Ultimately, web development and SEO need to be integrated to achieve technical SEO success. Both skills are required if you want to make optimizations that impress your target customers and search engines. If you are looking for SEO services, want help with a technical SEO audit, or are interested in launching an integrated marketing strategy, contact us today.