Technical Optimisation

A correctly configured website is essential for SEO success

Technical SEO is the foundation on which we can build a successful campaign.

Correct technical configuration is vital if you want traffic from Google, and there are several aspects to consider.

In this stage we focus on making the website easy for search engines to crawl and index, quick to load for visitors, secure, and mobile friendly.

Most of my clients see immediate results in terms of increased organic traffic and rankings after I implement technical fixes.

Technical-SEO

Website Speed

Keeping your website's loading time as low as possible is paramount in getting users to stay on your website once they've clicked through from a search result.

There are loads of stats and correlations I could cite, but not many people will argue that having a slow website is a good thing.

But what can we do about it?

There are three main areas in which I usually make speed improvements:

  • Less overall data (compression of images or minifying code, for example),
  • Fewer requests (removing any unnecessary elements, or only running essential scripts during parsing)
  • Optimised delivery (CDN, caching, and server configuration).
Website speed

Security

Providing your visitors with a secure website is about more than just SEO - it's simple courtesy, you wouldn't stay in a hotel that doesn't have locks on the rooms, so why would you let your customers use a non-secure website?

Setting up SSL on your website is quick and easy, and can be done for free. I use and recommend Cloudflare as it's free, it works, and has plenty of configuration options such as minifying code and hotlink protection.

Once the SSL certificate is installed and the DNS is correctly set up, we can 'force' HTTPS, meaning the non-secured version of the site is no longer accessible.

Now, aside from the obvious security benefits and trust signals, whether or not a site uses SSL is a Google ranking signal (source), so not setting it up is just plain foolish.

An issue I frequently come across when auditing websites in non-secure content on secure pages. This is most commonly caused by images with the http:// URL instead of HTTPS, resulting in the page losing the green 'secure' badge in the address bar, and users potentially receiving a warning tha the page is potentially dangerous.

Once the SSL certificate is installed and the DNS is correctly set up, we can 'force' HTTPS, meaning the non-secured version of the site is no longer accessible.

Now, aside from the obvious security benefits and trust signals, whether or not a site uses SSL is a Google ranking signal (source), so not setting it up is just plain foolish.

An issue I frequently come across when auditing websites in non-secure content on secure pages. This is most commonly caused by images with the http:// URL instead of HTTPS, and is usually quick and easy to fix.

Website security

Mobile friendliness

Mobile accounts for a huge amount of internet traffic. Again, I won't put an exact figure on that as it's likely to go out of date. Google uses the mobile version of a webpage in search results on a mobile device (source).

So what does this mean?

It means that if you want to get mobile visitors to your website, you need to have a site that work well on mobile - simple.

If you're using WordPress or another mainstream CMS, chances are your site is already responsive, and if not, you seriously need to upgrade.

But mobile friendly doesn't stop at responsiveness.

We need to ensure that pages load quickly and efficiently, and remember that mobile users will often be on data plans that aren't as quick as your office broadband, so what seems fine to you, might not be ok on a mobile.

It also means checking every page on the website to ensure there are no rogue tables or images breaking the site's responsiveness.

mobile responsiveness

Architecture

Website architecture is how internal pages link to one another. If think of a site such as Wikipedia, you'll know how easy it is to spend hours reading about some obscure topics whilst clicking interesting links, this is an example of excellent website architecture as it encourages users to stay on the website longer and view lots of different pages.

Now, most websites don't have quite as much content as Wikipedia, but we can still learn from this example, that related content should be interlinked.

Not only does this encourage your users to visit more of your pages, but it actually helps your SEO efforts as Google can see which pages are important within your content topics, and how they are connected.

Most basic blog structures are really bad. I had a meeting with a blogger who couldn't work out why their older content wasn't being read. from a quick scan of the website's architecture, the answer was clear.

The only way users could get to most of the pages was by clicking through loads of archive pages.

This was signalling to Google that the pages weren't important, and were therefore not being ranked.

One of my favourite frameworks for site architecture is the Silo Structure.

The content silo structure works so well because it gives your users a logical way to browse the site whilst having option of either going to more detailed topics, or broader ones.

The structure is broken into four types of pages, which are linked in a specific manner to maximise SEO value:

  • Homepage
  • Major guides that target high volume, high competition keywords
  • Supporting content targeting high volume, but slightly less competition keywords
  • Granular content targeting long-tail, lower competition keywords

So if, for example, you were running a website selling aquarium supplies for fishkeepers, you might have a major guide about aquarium filters, supporting content about filter media, and granular content about the best types of filter media.

Not only is this great from a user experience perspective, it also sends signals to Google that you have a well structured site, and that people searching for information about aquarium filters will find the answers they're looking for on your website.

Silos are a great structure for SEO, and when combined with awesome content and solid linkbuilding, are extremely powerful.

Crawlability

The final part of the technical SEO puzzle is crawlability.

We have to make sure that search engines can easily find, crawl, and index all the parts of the website we want to appear in search results, whilst ignoring parts we want to keep private. The main areas I optimise are:

  • .htaccess
  • robots.txt
  • sitemap.xml
  • structured data
  • Redirects
  • 404 pages
Crawability

If these areas are incorrectly configured, it could prevent search engines from indexing your site, or even being able to see it at all.

What's next?

So that's the main technical areas in which I can improve your SEO. There will always be exceptions, but getting those fully set up will give us a great starting point on which to build a powerful SEO campaign.

Next you'll see how I make sure we're getting all the data we need to ensure we can properly track everything we need to know about the SEO campaign, and how I report it.

Next:

Analysis and Reporting