Welcome to Chapter 5 of our Definitive Guide to SEO. In this chapter, we’ll discuss the geeky side of search engine optimization: Technical SEO. You’ll learn how it works and how it fits into the bigger picture that is onsite search engine optimization. We will also cover some of the most common Technical SEO strategies, along with some examples.
You don’t need to be an expert in these principles, but it’s essential to grasp how technical SEO works so that you can talk about it appropriately and delegate it effectively to your developers.
On that note, it’s critical to speak your developers’ language since they’re likely to be involved in some of your optimization efforts. They won’t prioritize your requests if they don’t understand what you’re asking for or why it’s important.
So if you want to guarantee that your web pages are optimized for both humans and search crawlers, you’ll need Technical SEO optimization. We’ll cover three parts in particular:
- How websites work
- How search engines understand websites
- How users interact with websites
Let’s get started!
How Websites Work
We’ve already talked about how websites work in Chapter 4, but let’s briefly recap here.
A webpage is a set of files that are served from a server to a client’s browser. When somebody types an address into their browser’s address bar, the browser makes a request to the webserver behind the scenes and then shows you what it finds.
That sounds simple enough until we add another layer: dynamic pages that change every time they’ve visited. These sorts of pages contain content that is created on-demand with some kind of programming script (e.g., PHP, Ruby on Rails).
These types of websites introduce all sorts of complications for search engine optimization because crawlers can’t see them the same way that users do.
How To Set Up A Website
Buy a domain name: First, you need to find a name for your website and purchase it. This usually involves picking a top-level domain(TLD) and then finding an available address that matches that TLD.
Find a web host: Once you’ve got a domain, you need somewhere to put the files associated with it. This is where web hosting comes in. Generally, bigger websites use dedicated servers while smaller sites share resources amongst multiple users on virtual private servers or even shared physical hosts; these options are arranged by provider or reseller.
Develop site: On your hosting server, you can develop HTML pages, upload content via FTP, create databases, install scripts, etc.
How Website Appears In Your Browser
When you type a URL into your browser, it uses DNS to find the IP address of the server where the page resides.
The browser then establishes a TCP connection with that server and negotiates a port for further communication. It does this by sending a GET request, utilizing HTTP or similar protocol.
The web server replies to these requests with headers first (containing meta-information about the page) followed by the actual content in many formats, including HTML, XML, text, images). The browser then parses all this information and displays it on your screen.
What A Website Is Made Of
HTML: HyperText Markup Language is the language in which web pages are written. It’s a markup language for structuring and presenting content on the World Wide Web.
CSS: Cascading Style Sheets is used to style HTML elements by defining how HTML should be presented on screen, paper, or other media.
How Search Engines Understand Websites
The “how” of search engine optimization is fairly simple. Search crawlers (also known as spiders) will try to find the following items on your web server:
- A text file called “robots.txt”. This contains information about whether you permit crawling of your entire site, specific directories or files within your site, and how frequently you want search engines to update their current index of pages on your site.
Suppose more than one website points to the same location—like a homepage. In that case, it becomes more difficult for search engines to definitively know which version is definitive without asking the originating site owner directly.
- An HTML sitemap that tells crawlers where all the content on your pages is so they can look them up in the same index if needed.
- A set of searchable HTML pages that web-farmers can read to see what is on your site (this also happens when you request a page with specific technical signals like “no-follow” or other more idiosyncratic meta tags).
- Any resources necessary for crawlers to understand/infer/translate your content in ways they might need (for example, French versions of English language pages for French speakers searching in English)
- When crawlers ‘visit’ your website, it’s actually more accurate to say they fetch a copy of all the above and store it somewhere. This temporary location where these files are is referred to as a cache.
- Crawlers will also look for information about the page owner and other metadata like how frequently pages on your site change or the site’s current domain authority (DA).
Search engines rank websites based on their own web crawler algorithm, which is a set of rules that computers can unambiguously follow to determine the value of any particular website.
This complex automation allows them to develop an algorithmic order in which they present results for specific queries. They work primarily off of technical elements such as meta tags and code-level factors such as link structure.
Schema is a method for labeling or structuring your material so that search engines can better comprehend what components on your web pages are. This code provides structure to your data.
This helps search engines understand what type of content do you have on your page. For example, is it a recipe, news, how-tos, or product page?
What Are The Benefits Of Using Schema Markup?
- It can increase click-through rates (CTR)
- Rich snippets can show more information in the search listings, which may reduce your bounce rate
- People who use Google+ tend to search more, so having structured data on your site will help you appear better in social media results for users with a Google + account activated on their browsers or devices
- You can get direct access to Google’s new Structured Data Testing Tool that provides real-time feedback about how your site appears to Google when it indexes your content
- The Structured Data report is available right inside Google Search Console, making it easy to see what types of markup you have on your site and where there may be errors or improvements needed.
What Schema Markup Languages Exist?
Schema languages vary depending on the type of content they are marking up, for example:
- Businesses/Organizations (Bios, Offices, Jobs)
- Products (Guides & Specifications)
- Recipes (Ingredients, Directions)
- Articles (Author, Publication Date)
- Movies/TV Shows (Actors, Reviews)
- Events (Date, Location)
- Music Tracks (Albums & Artists)
How Users Interact With Websites
In any given SERP, not all results are equal in terms of their appearance. For instance, some sites may rank above others because they have been deemed more relevant to the searcher’s query and provided a more positive experience.
How To Give Your User A Positive Experience?
- Responsive Design: A website that is cross-platform (i.e., they look good on any device).
- Speed: How fast your site loads will determine if your user stays or leaves the website. Google has stated that page speed ranks as one of their criteria for high-quality search results.
- Navigation: Easy to understand design and find what you’re looking for helps build trust with users.
- Mobile-friendliness: As mobile continues to grow, it’s important that your site appears properly on mobile devices.
How to Improve page speed?
- Combine external CSS sheets into one by using @import directives in your code instead of importing them separately.
- Use asynchronous loading for slow web fonts since they block rendering until they are fully loaded
- Reduce images size without any loss of quality (Start with JPEGs) and use WebP where you can as it has a better compression rate than JPEG or PNG formats, which will save on load times and reduce data usage
- Implement browser caching for all static resources to reduce the number of requests that need to be made when a page is first accessed
- Enable gzip compression – see this website to test how much it would affect your page speed: https://www.webpagetest.org/
- Reduce DNS lookups – if you have resources hosted on different subdomains, it will increase the number of round-trips required to load your page due to domain name resolution. You can reduce this by implementing subdomains for all external sites you are linking to or simply moving some of your content onto sub-directories on your primary domain name.
Technical SEO is used to help your website rank higher in search engine result pages because it helps Google determine what your content is about and how well it matches the searcher’s query.
Some technical aspects to consider are utilizing proper markup, fast page speeds, making sure your site is mobile-friendly, user interaction/behavior on websites, and using relevant keywords throughout your content.
Technical SEO can make or break any website. If you get it right, you will reap many benefits, including increased CTR/CTR rate and high rankings, which directly affect organic traffic. Visit DBWebs for more information on how Technical SEO can work for you!