As you’re no doubt well aware, having a strong rank on Google’s search engine results page is a wonderful way to drive traffic to your site. Today it’s common to stress that great content is the key to strong rankings. You’ve invested a lot in providing the finest content you can. So why is your site performing worse than the competition? Several problems could be afflicting your site.
Your page-level SEO might be faulty, you might have a shortage of backlinks, or you might simply be competing for the wrong keywords. Another possibility you should address is that your site’s technical SEO might be weak.
Curious about the definition of technical SEO? It encompasses all the “behind the scenes” factors that influence the way your page is indexed and ranked by the search engines.
Building a robust technical SEO base into your site is important if you want to exercise a measure of control over how search engines treat your site and your content. It also has a noticeable positive impact on your visitors’ experience. Since user experience and website performance have started to weigh heavily on Google’s judgment when ranking websites, you can see that making improvements here has many benefits.
To bolster your site’s technical SEO position, try using these techniques:
1) Make Sure Your Hosting Is Reliable And Secure
Robust, secure servers are a necessity if you want to maximize your technical SEO performance. If you neglect this essential principle, any other optimization efforts you make can be wiped out by circumstances beyond your control. Here’s an example in the form of a personal anecdote: Last year I cut some corners with my hosting and had my website hacked. Besides suffering through the unauthorized access, I also lost a lot of valuable data because the hosting service had weak procedures for backups and auto recovery.
These kinds of failures don’t escape Google’s notice. Long stretches of downtime are going to hurt your rankings. If your site winds up getting hacked and becomes a vector for malware, you may find yourself blacklisted – instantly cut out of the running for any placement on the search engine result pages.
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2) Page Loading Speed And TTFB Matter
It’s worth remembering the mantra that Google operates by. They want things to be as straightforward and clear as possible to users who rely on it for internet searches. Slow websites end up ranking poorly no matter how good their content is. Page load speed has officially been a ranking factor for over five years now.
Moz asserts that a site’s Time to First Byte, or TTFB, is another influential metric. TTFB measures the average length of time it takes for the first data from your site to arrive at a user’s computer when they request it. Google calculates TTFB each time it indexes a site; it’s also one of the pieces of data you can find through Google’s Page Speed Tool.
Suggestions for better loading speed:
- Get better performance all around by using a content delivery network (CDN).
- Optimize bandwidth-heavy content (images, infographics, etc.) with compression utilities like the smush.it plugin for WordPress.
- Purge your servers of any files and WordPress plugins that are nonessential.
3) Build A Responsive Website
One of the most important search statistics to come out in recent years is that mobile searches now constitute a (very slender) majority of all search activity. This makes it a bad idea to operate a site that’s unfriendly to mobile devices. Learn the difference between mobile-accessible sites and truly mobile-friendly ones. You can use responsive design tools (including plug-and-play responsive themes) to ensure that your site works well on a range of different devices.
Learn more – and test your current site – with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
4) Use Site Architecture That’s Friendly To Search Engine Crawlers
How deep is your site’s content? How many links does a visitor have to follow to get to it? Any content buried under more than four clicks is going to present a problem for Google’s indexing spiders. Spiders operate by following internal links throughout your site; make sure yours is structured so that every page of meaningful content is three or four clicks from your homepage.
Creating organizational sub levels to group your content by subject is an excellent way to get this done. Content categorization can even be handled automatically by certain plugins. Tagging can be employed in a similar fashion to “rescue” content that’s hidden too far from your homepage. Clustering your content in this manner is technically referred to as “silo architecture,” and it delivers the speediest indexing experience to Google.
5) Eliminate Duplicate Content Wherever Possible
Be aware that in the eyes of search engines, duplication and plagiarism/copying are entirely different issues. Stealing content wholesale is, of course, going to attract Google’s wrath in a big way. You can also end up getting penalized due to internal duplication, though. For example, hosting two pages with the same meta description will count against you as duplication. Fortunately, this is relatively easy to fix.
You can utilize Google’s Webmaster Tools to find duplicate meta descriptions automatically. The option is in the “Search Appearance HTML Improvements” category on your Search Console.
This takes care of finding the problem. The easiest solution to it is to start establishing canonical URLs. Tagging a page as a canonical URL tells Google to ignore any duplicate pages it finds. This would free you from penalties for duplicate content if you had the same page available at all of these URLs:
Adding canonical tags can be automated by using plugins like the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress.
Canonical tags also help you with the backlinking portion of your SEO efforts. Whether you prefer to sponsor blog posts, guest blog or use any other link-building tactic, setting canonical URLs ensures that any variation in the format of links that point to your site will end up pointing towards a single, preferred URL.
6) Cut Down On Crawler Errors
As previously noted, technical SEO is aimed at making your site easier to digest for the Google spiders that crawl and index it. Any crawl errors caused by your site’s structure or content should be eliminated so that Google gets a good look at every scrap of content that you want to be indexed.
This is another area where Google Webmaster Tools are invaluable; you’ll find a complete summary of crawl errors associated with your site in your Search Console.
The crawl error you’ll see the most is “not found;” this happens when links are broken or formatted incorrectly. This is far from the only type of crawl error you may need to fix. Multiple online resources will show you how to do this; Moz offers a particularly useful one. Crawl errors are problems that can creep up on you over time; make a habit of running a quick monthly check through your Search Console just to make sure you haven’t picked any up.
If you want to keep your website’s audience growing and pull in more traffic over time, it’s important to address the technical side of SEO as well as the visitor-minded aspects of the job. Following the suggestions provided here will be an excellent start, but they’re far from comprehensive. If you want to push your technical SEO performance to the maximum, contact a professional for assistance and information.