Put simply, SEO (search engine optimization) is the practice of creating or tweaking content to maximize the chance of a search engine treating it preferentially, placing it higher on its search results pages, and pulling in more visitors as a result. It’s a fine art, and an area with no shortage of guides, tutorials, tips, and tricks — unsurprising considering that SEO can make or break a website.
As there are many different techniques involved in SEO, it’s helpful to split them into two categories: on-page SEO and off-page SEO. Off-page SEO focuses on building your site’s authority through building links on other pages and using social media to attract more visitors organically. However, in this article, we’re going to examine an extremely effective set of on-page tactics — all of which can be classified as ‘technical SEO’.
Technical SEO in a nutshell
When SEO is mentioned, most people’s thoughts shoot straight to keyword research and content optimization. And while these techniques are important, they’re not the only way to boost your site’s DA (domain authority).
Search engines don’t just judge your site on how many backlinks it has, they also scrutinize your website’s technical characteristics. Everything from the speed your site loads to whether it uses responsive design and has a secure connection all counts, so it’s important to make sure your technical SEO is up to scratch! By following the steps below, you can ensure the security and structure of your site matches up with the high standards of search engine algorithms, resulting in higher results page placements.
Design your store with every device in mind
It might seem silly to design your store on non-desktop devices first, but hear us out here… Ensuring that your website looks pixel-perfect on any device it’s displayed on is what’s known as ‘responsive design’. This is your website’s ability to dynamically resize itself according to the size and shape of the screen it’s viewed on, and Google has been crystal clear that a page’s responsiveness matters a great deal when it comes to its ranking.
It can be time-consuming to retroactively optimize your website for mobile devices, so it’s always best to design them responsively from the start. Thankfully, services such as Simbla make designing beautiful, responsive websites relatively simple — their site offers over 100 responsive website templates for you to choose from, so you can be sure your pages look great on any device.
Aside from designing your website with a mobile-first approach, you may also want to consider enabling AMP. AMP is a Google-funded project which allows web pages to load extremely quickly on mobile devices. This is achieved by stripping away any unnecessary content and code, disabling scripts, forms and comments while leaving images and videos intact. It’s also worth checking out our troubleshooting guide on how to speed your site’s load times up on mobile.
By designing your site responsively you’ll ensure that your site is easier to navigate, loads faster, and is more accessible. Aside from the SEO advantages, a thoughtfully designed site should encourage visitors to stick around, and increase the chances of them returning in the future.
Maximize your site’s speed
The faster your site is, the better. Page speed is one of the most important factors Google’s algorithms take into account when deciding how your website will rank on its results page.
If your site is content-heavy, consider using a tool like Squoosh. Squoosh is capable of compressing bulky, high-resolution images, even allowing users to view a real-time preview of how the image will appear once compression is complete. You could always opt to use vector graphics, or minimize your use of images altogether. However, we think there’s an important balance to be struck between speed and aesthetics — it’s no use having a fast, high-ranking site if any visitors it does attract are put off by an ugly, uninspired design!
Consider investing in a web hosting package with enough bandwidth to prevent any slowdown — particularly if you’re running an ecommerce operation. If your website is hosted through an on-site, private host, you may want to consider migrating to a managed hosting service instead. The appeal of a managed cloud hosting provider like Cloudways vs a private host is that it’s comparably inexpensive to ramp up resource allocation in the event of a sudden rush to your website.
Managed hosting means there’s no need to manually upgrade server hardware, or consult a dedicated team of highly skilled (and highly paid!) IT specialists to do so — your site will benefit from industry grade speed no matter how much traffic it receives. For more tips on how to improve your website’s speed, head here.
Ensure your site is secure
Secure Sockets Layer (or SSL) is as essential for SEO purposes as it is for the overall security of your website. Google wants every website to use SSL as standard, and whether or not your site uses this technology will factor heavily into its search engine ranking. It’s pretty simple to spot a website that uses SSL — just check the website URL. It should start with ‘https://’ instead of ‘http://’.
You can obtain an SSL certificate for your website fairly simply — this guide does an excellent job of explaining the process. Doing so won’t just ensure that your site is looked upon favorably by Google (among other search engines), but it will also protect data transmission and prevent eavesdropping attacks. This is achieved by ‘binding’ visitors to your site’s server, defending against any malicious attempts to steal sensitive information.
Resolve duplicate content issues
If your website is packed with duplicated content, this is something you’ll want to fix. For example, you may have two separate pages which contain an identical product description.
Not only is this confusing for visitors to your site, but it’s also likely to baffle the search engine algorithms, too! Google states it themselves, here.
Sites with duplicated content can expect:
- Reduced organic traffic — search engines are less likely to rank pages containing copied content (even if the content is from your website)
- Penalties — In very rare cases, duplicated content can lead to a penalty, or worse still, your website could be deindexed altogether.
- Fewer indexed pages — Sometimes, a search engine may simply refuse to index a page if it detects duplicate content.
To avoid any risk of your site falling foul of a search engine’s algorithm, check your indexed pages. You can do this through Google’s search console. If the number of ‘valid’ pages aligns with the amount you manually created, you’re good to go. However, if this number seems off (think within the region of 10,000+ pages), you’ll know that for whatever reason, many pages are being automatically generated. For example, if your website has a search function, any results pages it returns may be indexed, resulting in thousands of duplicate pages. Or, if you’re running an ecommerce store, it could be that each variation of your product leads to its own separate page. In any case, it’s advisable to keep a close eye on the organization of your website.
We’ve explained the importance of technical SEO, and shown you how it affects your page ranking, but there’s plenty more to learn. Check out our infographic on the 25+ SEO mistakes that could be killing your website, or for a broader overview of SEO as a whole, head to our beginners’ SEO guide.