Does your company’s website shine in the search results? When it comes to search engine optimization, the content of a site often gets emphasized. Content strategies for SEO include:
- Choosing the appropriate keywords and using them with optimal frequency.
- Sharing clear, compelling text.
- Displaying images that have a professional quality and meaningful descriptions in their alt text.
But there’s more to SEO than the text and images that website visitors interact with. There are critical changes you can make to the site itself. With an understanding of technical SEO, you’ll know how to change your site to boost its rankings in the search results.
Why You Need Technical SEO
Technical SEO is one part of your overall onsite SEO strategy. It deals with how you build or modify your website to make it rank higher. It’s about the way the site is structured and how it performs. Technical SEO affects how people experience the content of your site. But its focus isn’t on the substance of your content. What technical SEO covers are issues like how quickly your site loads and whether it’s readable on a smartphone.
To succeed online and profit from your site, you need every advantage you can get. To understand how important it is for your site to do well in search, let’s consider some of the statistics from this authoritative list:
- Over half of trackable website traffic comes from organic searches, meaning search results that aren’t produced by paid advertising.
- In the U.S. alone, Google handles between 40 and 60 billion searches every month.
- On the first page of the search results, Google shows an average of only 8.5 organic results on mobile devices and 8.7 on desktop.
- Roughly a third of searches on mobile devices involve location. Residential and commercial contractors and other businesses operating in specific locations must push to come out on top in searches associated with their local area.
Improving your site’s search performance can yield tremendous rewards. It’s especially important to consider what works well for Google, which claims roughly 92 percent of the worldwide search engine market.
Technical SEO Basics: How to Make Your Site Competitive
Although the following won’t be a list of every possible thing you can do to improve your SEO, you’ll still receive invaluable advice about the basics. When designing and building your site, keep the following in mind…
Responsive and Mobile-Friendly Design
In the U.S., the share of web traffic from desktop devices is roughly 50 percent, while mobile devices and tablets are at 46 percent and 4 percent respectively.
Many people switch between devices at different times and for different purposes. For example, an increasing number of people use mobile devices for shopping around and performing web searches. But, on the whole, they’re more likely to make purchases on a desktop. Of course, this depends on what they’re buying.
If they’re looking for local contractors who offer construction services, they can carry out that search on any device. You need to make sure your site performs well on devices with different screen sizes. When people struggle to interact with your site on their smartphone, they’re much more likely to drop you and turn to your competitors. Furthermore, responsive design and mobile friendliness affect your site’s performance in the search results.
Google has shifted to mobile-first indexing. This means that your site primarily gets visited by Googlebot Smartphone, a type of web crawler that simulates a mobile user’s experience. For indexing and ranking in search results, the content of the mobile version of your site takes precedence over the desktop version.
If your site has a responsive design, it will adapt much better to these changes in Google’s priorities. The site’s content and markup will be the same for screens of different sizes and will accommodate the emphasis on mobile crawlers.
However, even if you adopt a responsive design, you should still check that your site looks good and functions flawlessly on mobile. Potential issues include:
- Images that aren’t optimized for smaller screen sizes.
- Links and buttons that are too small or too close together, which means they’re harder to tap on a smartphone screen.
- Text that’s too small.
Through Google Search Console, you can receive feedback on your site. The Search Console tools can uncover various issues, including problems with your site’s appearance on mobile devices and whether Google’s mobile crawlers are getting blocked from finding your content.
Quick Page Loading
When your site loads quickly, website visitors are less likely to hit the back button and give you dismayingly high bounce rates. Because visitors are more likely to stick around, your site gets the chance to impress them and convince them to contact you. Your conversion rate increases, and you make more sales.
Along with the benefits to user experience and conversion rates, quick page loading gives you a powerful edge in search results. In 2018, Google announced that page speed is one of the direct factors influencing search rankings.
What constitutes a quick time for page loading? Ideally, the quicker you can get each page to load, the better off you’ll be for SEO and user experience. You should aim for the load time to not exceed three seconds; conversion rates tend to be highest with pages under two seconds. Strategies for speeding up your site include:
Streamlining your code
The process of minification makes your code more lean and your file sizes smaller, speeding up your site’s performance. This guide from the U.S. government discusses minifying page resources and recommends specific tools you can use for your site. There are also a variety of plugins designed to speed up your site through minification and other techniques.
Another issue is a reliance on too many files, such as an excessive number of style sheets. You may not need all the files you’re using, and it may be possible to combine some of them.
Reducing the amount of content loaded
When someone lands on one of your site’s pages, you don’t need everything on the page to load simultaneously. For example, images located towards the bottom of the page don’t need to load at the same time as images at the top. The bottom images can show up only when someone scrolls down to them.
Asynchronous or lazy loading means that you’re only loading the content or resources on your page when they’re necessary. There are different ways to implement lazy loading. One of them, infinite scrolling, is a feature that’s prevalent on social media. However, infinite scrolling may undermine your SEO by causing Google crawlers to miss content on your site. Other ways of implementing lazy loading can work better for SEO.
Other problems come up when your site is too cluttered or busy. The excessive use of videos, graphics, and photos may be significantly slowing you down. Unnecessary scripts may also be playing in the background whenever a page loads.
Optimizing visual content
You’ve taken beautiful photos of your work, showcasing your skill with construction and renovations. But how many potential customers will see these gorgeous photos if your site is too slow and your search rankings drop?
Similar issues come up with illustrations, graphics, and videos. You want to maintain a certain level of quality without undermining your efforts to reach quick load times.
Along with being highly selective of the visual content you display, you can use multiple techniques to optimize images. These include choosing the best formats, file sizes, and methods of compression.
Caching refers to a copy of your site getting saved so that it doesn’t need to entirely reload each time someone visits it. As a result, your site loads more quickly. As discussed in this guide for WordPress sites, there are multiple ways to implement caching, including plugins, caching systems enabled by your web host, and writing certain code.
Checking your web host’s resources
Your site gets hosted on someone else’s servers. Depending on the services you’ve purchased from them, hosting companies commit to providing your site with a certain amount of storage, bandwidth, and other resources.
To speed up your site, you may need to make changes to the hosting package you purchased. Another possibility is that your hosting company isn’t providing you with the quality and consistency of service that they promised.
Performing a site test
Even if you think your site loads quickly, shaving off another second or two can substantially improve your search rankings and your site’s conversion rate.
There are various tools for testing your site’s speed and receiving an analysis of what’s slowing it down. Two of the most popular ones are the Pingdom Website Speed Test and Google’s own PageSpeed Insights.
Be sure to run a test more than once. Also, you don’t have to rush to fix all of the potential problems. Focus on the elements of your site that have the strongest negative impact on speed. This is especially important if your load times are exceeding two or three seconds.
Coherent Site Structure
Search engines need to successfully crawl your site and discover its substantive content. If your site has a coherent organization and internal linking, Google and other search engines will read it better.
There isn’t one correct way to structure your site, but let’s consider a typical organization for a contractor site:
- A home or main page at the top of the site’s hierarchy.
- On the second level of the hierarchy, you find landing pages for the company’s main services. There may also be a portfolio, a page about the company, and a page that presents contact details.
- Some of the main topics may have subcategories. For example, you may have a landing page for residential services. Under the umbrella of the residential category, there may be additional pages focusing on kitchen renovations or home repairs.
- If there’s a blog, specific posts may be tagged or categorized in different ways.
For website visitors, the site’s organization usually becomes apparent through a navigation bar or menu. Google and other search engines also use the organization of your site to determine which pages are the most important ones and how different pages relate to each other.
To make your site more hospitable for crawlers, you need to provide a map of it in extensible markup language. XML sitemaps are especially useful for sites that haven’t been online for long, because they make it easier for crawlers to initially find all the pages. Afterwards, they continue to be helpful, highlighting the organization of the site and enabling crawlers to quickly discover updated content.
How you write and structure your links is also important. Internal links, which connect different pages within your site, influence web crawlers and help give search engines a robust picture of your site’s content and structure. The following are some points to keep in mind:
- Make sure to remove broken links or dead links leading to pages that no longer exist.
- Your internal links should make sense in terms of page content and site organization.
- Among all of your internal links, there may be some that are invisible to search engines. This guide, which provides updated information for 2021, offers examples of links that search engines don’t notice.
The Right Meta Information
Your website contains data that visitors don’t usually interact with or don’t even see at all. When crafted properly, this information can help you strengthen your search rankings.
Search engines pick up meta information and use it when determining your relevance for various searches. Also, certain types of meta information, such as the title and description for each page, increase the chances that people will click on your site when it pops up in search results. A higher click-through rate shows a search engine that you’re valuable and relevant. As a result, you enjoy higher rankings.
Whenever a page of your site loads, the title appears at the top of the browser tab. You give a page its title by inserting HTML title tags into your page’s underlying code.
The title is also what shows up in search results as the headline that potential customers will hopefully click on. Along with being visible to people, it delivers important information to search engines, such as keywords for a given page.
Choosing the right title for each page takes careful thought. About one minute into a video on title tags and SEO traffic, Neil Patel describes SEO by saying, “It’s a lot of little things that really add up.” He then says that title tags are one of those little things, and their impact is significant.
Patel, who is a phenomenal digital marketer, offers worthwhile advice on creating informative and clickable titles. Titles also become more effective when paired with other forms of meta information, such as your site’s meta description.
If you look at the Google search results for a given page on your site, there’s text under the page’s title. Sometimes, this text is a snippet that Google automatically culls from the page. Other times, Google uses the meta description you’ve provided in the page’s code.
A meta description is basically a summary of a page’s content. When your website visitors are on the page itself, they can’t see it. They may only be able to see it in the search results. It’s crucial to make your meta description compelling for humans and for search engines.
Simply stuffing the meta description with keywords isn’t helpful. The description needs to be concise, coherent, and compelling. Depending on the page content, it can include information about your location, the powerful solutions you’re offering, and the benefits you provide to customers.
Along with a page’s title, the meta description can truly encourage a higher click-through rate, giving you more favorable rankings in search results.
Providing people with a secure experience on your site is one way to convince them that they can trust your company. Basic site security also improves your performance in search results.
Several years ago, Google announced that a Secure Sockets Layer certificate will give sites an advantage in search rankings. SSL is a standard encryption protocol for website activity.
You also need to make sure you’re protecting your site against security breaches, such as brute force attacks. Your site’s administrator should implement extra protections for blocking unauthorized access to your site and its data. Cyber attacks can lead to extended downtime for your site, which can cause a significant loss in sales and a drop in search rankings.
Another issue to deal with is spam. Spam comments are often a vehicle for malicious links. Beyond that, they can lower the quality of your site and weaken your search performance. If you’re allowing comments on pages or posts, be sure to use a reliable spam filter.
Are You Ready to Improve Your Technical SEO?
Maybe you’re building a new site or want to completely redo the one you currently have. Or maybe you’re mostly fine with your current site, but you want to tweak it for SEO purposes.
Any improvements in technical SEO will benefit your business in multiple ways. Along with enabling them to find you more easily in search results, you’ll be giving potential customers a better experience on your site. The best SEO practices make you more popular with search engines and with people.
Feel free to turn to us for advice specific to your site and business. We can help you strengthen your site, significantly improve its search performance, and attract more customers to your business.
Entrepreneur with 18 years experience launching and managing successful tech companies. As seen in New York Times, Inc.com, Smashing Magazine, Home Advisor and other various mainstream media.
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