SEO (search engine optimisation) can be a minefield but, a little knowledge can go a long way help you to put a solid foundation in place when optimising your site for search.
SEO is in it’s essence, the process of optimising your website to rank in a higher position on google and other search engines when users are searching for specific keywords. Most businesses are aware that they need quality content that is valuable to users, contextual and keyword rich. This is incredibly important, but what most people don’t realise is that there is another side to SEO.
What is technical SEO
Technical SEO is essentially all of the stuff that you are your users tend not to see when they visit your website. Although your users don’t see this information, search engines certainly do and they use this information to help inform how they rank your pages.
You may spend hours creating quality content but, if your site isn’t right from a technical point of view then you are making the battle to rank number 1 on google that little bit harder.
Here are 6 things you should start looking at to make sure you are moving up the ranks on Google.
1 – Visibility Issues
When we talk about visibility in terms of technical SEO we don’t just mean your users ability to see content. We also mean the ability of a search engine to crawl your pages. There are a couple of things you need to check:
Robots.txt file: This is a small files that sits on your server and informs search engines which pages it should crawl and which pages it should ignore. This is important because you don’t want restricted admin pages to be crawled. In some cases, you might accidentally be telling search engines not to crawl pages that you want them to. Check you have a robots.txt file and make sure you are not blocking any content you don’t want to
Redirects: Redirects are useful if you are moving content from one place to another, changing its URL or moving domains. Search engines recommend using 301 redirects if you are permanently moving content. If you have multiple or unnecessary redirects on your site, this could affect your ranking so double check everything is as it should be.
Page errors: This could indicate a problem with your hosting provider or the way your page has been coded that prevent a search engine bot from accessing your page. If your page takes an excessive amount of time to load, times out or fails completely it will be unlikely to be indexed at all.
Malware: Sites with security issues will eventually get hacked. Having malware on your site will cause major problems with your users and if a search engine detects malware on your site then it will penalise you heavily unless you fix the issue.
2 – Meta Issues
The metadata on your site summarises the information on each page for search engines. As well as being a key aspect of how search engines understand the content of your page, sites like google also show these meta titles and descriptions to users in search results. So as well as effecting your ranking, it can also affect how likely someone is to click through to your site when they do find you.
Ideally, a meta title and meta description should be just the right length (not too long, not too short) and differentiate itself from the content while still summarising the page. It should also be engaging for the user and encourage them to click through to the page without being stuffed full of keywords and coming across spammy. Finally, try to make the meta title and description for each page unique. Duplicate content is frowned upon at best so taking the time to make sure it is original is worth it.
3 – Content Issues
Of course content is in here. Even the content on your site needs to sit within the a search engines illusive parameters. I mentioned above that it’s important to make your content engaging, contextual and keyword rich. One of the most important things with your content is that it’s valuable to your users. There are a couple of other things to consider too.
Firstly make sure the content on each page isn’t too short. Lots of people will recommend 300 words minimum when it comes to content pages. There are obviously exceptions to the rule but, if you are creating a page that has content on it, more quality content is generally better than less.
The second thing to think about it if you are duplicating content on your site. That means duplicating it from another site or your own. Not only does having the same content repeated over and over again on your site offer a bad user experience it also gets you penalised by search engines. Start by consolidating your content and then begin to add unique content to your site.
4 – Link Issues
Links offer users a way to navigate through your site or get further information from other sites. This represents the two types of links you have available. Internal (linking to another area of your own site) and external (linking to a 3rd party website). It’s good to have a good mix of both of these throughout your site and on each page where applicable. There is extra information that your links should have to help search engines understand the context of the page you are linking to. This is called anchor text. Make sure it’s descriptive and accurate.
The other issue that is often present is that internal and external links are broken. Again this offers a bad user experience and causes problems for search engines. If you don’t want a search engine to follow a link or can’t vouch for the source you are linking to, you can add a “no follow” attribute to it.
5 – Image Issues
It’s rare that a website exists now without images everywhere. Search engines still struggle to understand what the image represents so it is your job to provide sites like google with this information. Every image you have on your site should contain an “alt” and “title” tag that describes what the image represents. Be as descriptive as possible for each image because, as well as search engines using this information, screen readers also look for this information to describe an image to people with visual impairments.
6 – Semantic Issues
This part of your optimisation can be a little more difficult if you don’t have some technical knowledge but it’s worth figuring it out and getting these things sorted. There are a couple of things to look at.
Schema microdata: This is a way of formatting content in HTML. It helps search engines better understand page content. For example, you can use structured data to correctly communicate the details of a product review or a recipe. Search engines may also use structured data to enhance the appearance of your search results. These are known as rich snippets.
Page headings: Your content pages should work as a hierarchy and the code you use to structure these pages should reflect that. A page heading is viewed by the search engine as being at the top of the hierarchy. This is usually contained in a “h1” tag. Make sure the title of your article is descriptive and within an “h1” tag. You can also use “h2, h3, h4” tags for sub headings that you want to highlight but sit below the main title within the hierarchy. Every page should have one “h1” tag and it should appear at the top of the page.
Conclusion on technical SEO optimisations
Some of the above can be a little tricky if you haven’t done it before and for larger sites, just establishing what issues you have and where they are can be a challenge. Ultimately, if you don’t have the above right, some of your best content may not be ranked as highly as it should be. If you are looking for some help, get your site verified on Google Webmaster tools or take a trial with something like SEM Rush or Raven to get a technical SEO report