How to do technical SEO
Technical SEO may sound a little boring but how about increasing conversions by 12% just by speeding up your website by one second? Not so dull. Read on for some techy tips - in plain language!
Here's what we will cover...
- SEO: it’s not all about keywords
- SSL everywhere
- Onboarding with Google’s ‘mobile first’ drive
- Slow and steady loses the race
- Double vision
- Markup magic
SEO: it’s not all about keywords
When people talk about search engine optimisation (SEO), they often focus on the keywords in their content or off-page factors such as links from other websites.
However, technical SEO is just as important in ensuring your website ranks well on Google. As Marieke from Yoast explains: “On-page factors include technical set-up – the quality of your code – textual and visual content and user-friendliness of your site.”
Although technical SEO sounds daunting, it becomes more manageable if you break it down into chunks. This article looks at five areas where you or the people looking after your website should focus their attention:
- Mobile usability
- Duplicate content
- Search page presentation
Before we get started, we would like to draw your attention to our upcoming SEO Training Course which will cover the below in more depth along with plenty of other juicy SEO topics. You will be a guru in no time!
If you want your website to rank well with Google you have to play by their rules. One of those commandments is that they want to see ‘SSL everywhere.’
SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is a fancy name for the technology used to protect the data passing from a web user’s browser and the server on which that server lives. In less techy language, Google wants to see padlock icons in the browser bars of web users.
If, when you’re visiting your website, the browser bar displays a padlock and a website address beginning with https://, you can smugly move on to the next section. If not, you will need to get hold of an SSL certificate. If you are managing your own website, we advise speaking to your web host as they will often be able to supply a certificate and help you to activate it.
If you are having your website developed or managed for you, you just need to instruct your developer that you want an SSL certificate. If Vu Online is developing your website you will have to…do nothing (we automatically set up SSL on all our customers’ websites).
Onboarding with Google’s ‘mobile-first’ drive
Since 2015, Google has been on a mission to prioritise the experience of its mobile device users. It has even developed a crawler called ‘Smartphone Googlebot’ for this purpose. In 2018, Google completed the switch to ‘mobile-first indexing.’
What this means is that Google will crawl the mobile version of your website first and will rank it based on the signals it finds there. If you are now panicking that you haven’t got a mobile version of your website, don’t worry. Most modern websites are built using responsive, mobile-first principles.
To check, fire up your phone or iPad and visit your website. Is it laid out differently to how it would appear on your laptop. Has the menu collapsed? Can you read the content easily? Are the images correctly aligned and sized. Then you’re good.
You will know immediately if your website is not responsive. Either content will be chopped off or the whole page will be squeezed into your little screen and need enlarging to read.
If you’re still not 100% sure, Google’s classic online Mobile-Friendly Test tool is still available.
Slow and steady loses the race
If you have a secure site that is optimised for mobile you are doing well already. But how fast do your web pages load?
Here is where Google Search Console can come into its own. Once you have set up your website on GSC you should see data regarding your website’s load speed in the main panel. Clicking the ‘Speed’ menu item will bring more insight.
This was an experimental feature at the time of writing but you can get similar information from the Google PageSpeed Insights tool if you experience problems on GSC.
How can you speed up your website? Here are some pointers:
- Use a good quality web host and domain name provider.
- Reduce the bells and whistles. If your website is jam-packed full of calendars, calculators, sliders and other features you rarely use, consider stripping some of them out. They all contain scripts which ‘call’ other websites. Some third-party services will force your website to stop loading until their resources have loaded.
- CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) affect the appearance of your website. Replacing in-line CSS and multiple CSS stylesheets with one master CSS stylesheet will speed up your website (yes, this is technical and will need someone who can work with markup code).
- Upload the smallest images you can get away with to your media library.
- Use a web page compressor like GNU GZip to reduce the file size of your pages.
Duplicate page content is the bane of many website owners’ lives and not because they deliberately copy content across pages.
There are technical reasons why websites often generate multiple versions of the same page. For example, whenever you ask an e-commerce store to sort products by price or popularity, it will go off and create a new page with a string of extra characters on the end. These ‘dynamic’ pages are treated as duplicates by Google, reducing the ranking potential of the main page.
It is possible to use Google Search Console to instruct Google to ignore these parameterised web addresses but it is easy to accidentally render your entire site invisible so it is probably best to get an expert to do this for you.
For simpler cases of content duplication, an instruction known as a ‘canonical element’ can be added to the less important pages which tells Google crawlers to ignore them and go to the main page. This is not 100% reliable but it can help with ranking issues.
While the four tips so far focus on helping your website into the top pages of search engine results, this final tip is about how your results are displayed when they load.
You may have noticed that some search results stand out from the others. Maybe they include pricing info or a star rating. Perhaps they include a site-specific search box or sub-pages beneath the main heading.
This is all achieved through a special type of code known as ‘schema markup’ or ‘structured data.’ An experienced web developer can help you to incorporate schema markup code that is relevant to your business. This can make your entry stand out and attract more clicks.