When creating an online presence, there are few things as important to your website or blog than content and search engine optimization (SEO). But while the importance of relevant site content has always been a concept most marketers can get behind, SEO principles and best practices haven’t been as widely accepted or understood.
Most of the confusion concerning effective SEO tactics has to do with the dynamic nature of online marketing and the technology that supports it. The last decade has seen significant changes in how companies can successfully maximize their visibility on search engines and there has been a refining of understanding in SEO priorities.
Today, technical SEO plays a key factor in a website’s ability to become indexed and ranked well on search engines. But what exactly does technical SEO comprise, and how can you execute it successfully? Below we’ll dive into the concept and how you can apply it to your online marketing efforts today.
What exactly is technical SEO?
The term “technical SEO” is a form of search engine optimization that looks at the infrastructure of a website in the same way a search engine crawler would. Rather than focusing strictly on content and keyword density, technical SEO ensures that your website is free from errors and that automated crawlers can easily locate, index, and rank your site in search engines.
Typically, the easier it is for search engine bots to find your website and the longer they stay on that site, the better the likelihood that your site will be ranked accurately. Technical SEO focuses on making this process as seamless as possible for these crawlers, eliminating potential roadblocks along the way. These roadblocks can be in the form of poor site navigation, broken or slow-loading web pages, improper link structure, and website coding inefficiencies.
The future of the internet and online search
The search industry has changed dramatically over the years. This is not only true of the way people search for goods and services online, but the way technology makes that process easier and more efficient. Back in 2012, Google drastically changed how it identified relevant web-content based on keyword search terms. Before then, it was easy for spammers and link bait artists to achieve high search engine rankings by keyword-stuffing their content and using other blackhat SEO methods. But since then, Google has released several search engine algorithm updates designed to bring relevancy back into search and focus on what really matters—the user experience.
Today, the internet and online search as a whole is a completely different landscape. AI-enabled search engine bots, machine learning, and voice-search capabilities have changed the way marketers format their content, and more importantly their websites, to cater to search engine giants like Google. New technology has now made it possible for machines to recognize cognitive search patterns, giving users a much more curated search experience. Google now uses more than 200 ranking factors to decide if the content is relevant or not, making keyword density percentages and strategically placed phrases less important for SERP ranking than they used to be.
What are the key elements to ranking your website?
So what do all of these changes in online search mean when it comes to ranking your website? They mean that more of your focus should be on the structure of your website, its functionality, and the overall user experience. Luckily, Google has made clear what it views as the most important elements of a website, especially in regard to technical elements. When it comes to technical SEO, here are some of the things you should ensure your site has.
Responsive web design
Over 52% of all web traffic now comes from mobile devices. With this statistic constantly on the rise, search engines like Google place high importance on websites using responsive designs to support mobile users. Responsive designs are proven to improve the usability of a site, making it easier for users to view text, videos, imagery, and web forms. When search engine bots come across websites that maintain this format, they prioritize them in search engine results over other sites that don’t.
Cybercrime is a growing issue, and Google recognizes this when directing users to websites it views as safer than others. Web hosting services now make it possible to host sites with SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates as an added layer of security for site users. SSL certificates add an extra layer of protection by encrypting all communications between a browser and the web server. In this case, many URLs now use “HTTPs” instead of “HTTP” to denote a secure application protocol. Google has stipulated that SSL certificates are something they take into consideration when ranking websites in their SERPs.
Robot.txt files are like tourist maps for web crawlers that have never visited your site before. These files tell SEO bots how they should crawl your site and provide an easy roadmap for navigation. The goal is to keep the crawlers on your site as long as possible, and these files help to avoid common roadblocks that can cause them to leave. Robot.txt files specify commands for each page of your site, telling crawlers to allow or disallow indexing, delay crawling activities on longer-loading pages, and giving them a snapshot of your website structure. When used correctly, robot.txt files are another technical SEO aspect that makes a difference with your website ranking.
Clean URL Structure
With user experience being such a large ranking factor for search engines, it’s vital that your website maintains a clean URL structure. Websites should be free of page error codes, duplicate content, and poorly formatted redirects. Ignoring these issues as a website grows will only hurt your abilities to rank your website effectively. Avoiding broken backlinks and overuse of subdomains on your site is another way to show Google that improving the user experience is important to you and will help to improve your rankings.
Having a better understanding of technical SEO gives you the ability to better analyze your site and make it more accessible to search engine crawlers. By following these guidelines, you’ll ensure your website or blog makes powerful strides in searchability as technology continues to change and the way customers search for their products and services.