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What is Technical SEO and How it Works in 2020

What is technical SEO? How does is it different from on-page or off-page SEO? What do site errors mean? How can you improve page load speeds and why do they even matter? Why is a site map important? Is redirecting a page on your site important?


These are just a few of the questions you may have.


Don’t worry, it will be explained!


In this guide, I’m going to walk you through some of the most common technical SEO terms and issues.


These resources should also help you to feel more confident about discussing technical SEO if you’re working with a web designer or you decide to bring an SEO specialist on board.


What is Technical SEO?


Technical SEO covers all the ways in which you can make it easier for search engines to crawl, index, and render your web pages.

In other words, it’s about making sure that your content is readable by search engines as well as humans.


It is also a significant part of creating a great user experience (UX) as people want to visit web pages that load properly and quickly and are easy to navigate.


How important is technical SEO?


In 2012, Google officially launched the Penguin ‘webspam algorithm update’, which specifically targeted link spam and manipulative link building practices.


In many ways, this algorithm was a turning point for SEO as it took down many well-known sites that were exposed to exploiting black-hat methods of gaining rank. It also allowed certain sites to climb the rankings that adapted the new practices fast.


Websites became more complex and interactive, presenting a challenge in terms of page speed, crawling, indexing, and rendering all of the elements.


Technical SEO came into its own as a direct response to this and allowed for a better way to approach SEO as a whole. We even have an SEO case study that shows how important technical SEO strategies work and grew keyword ranking by 961%.


Mobile-friendly design


Roughly 52% of global internet searches are made on mobile devices but this percentage varies from country to country. For example, 65% of searches are made on mobile devices in Asia according to SproutSocial.


For this reason, it’s certainly crucial that your website is mobile-friendly and that it performs properly on any device or screen size. This is known as ‘responsive’ web design.


Many companies these days adopt a ‘mobile-first’ design strategy where they design a website for the smallest mobile screens first and then scale the experience up to work on laptops, tablets, and desktops.



The important thing is that all visitors should have a similar experience of visiting your website, whatever device they use to view it:


  • The text should be readable and all content easy to absorb

  • Navigation should be clear and easy to use

  • Call to action buttons should be big enough to read and press

  • Forms should be short

  • Images and text should display properly

  • A search bar or plug-in helps visitors access content


Page load speeds


People never want to waste time on the information they are searching for so they want websites that they can access quickly and easily.


Every second a web page takes to load means more lost visitors and higher bounce rates. According to research by Think with Google, if page load time goes from one second to 10 seconds, the probability of bounce (i.e. someone leaving your site from the page they land on without visiting any other pages) increases by 123%!


Google agrees and has confirmed that page speed is a ranking factor, including for mobile searches. It tells us, “People want to be able to find answers to their questions as fast as possible”.



If your website is packed with high quality, unique content then it’s unlikely that it would be penalized by Google for slow page speeds alone. However, a high bounce rate with low dwell time caused by frustrated visitors leaving your site is likely to have a damaging effect on your rankings long-term.



HTTP error messages and how to fix them


Sometimes things go wrong when a person tries to visit a web page. When this happens, the visitor will see an HTTP message from the web server showing the problem.


Each message or code means a different problem. According to Google, the most common HTTP error codes are:

  1. HTTP Error 500 (Internal Server Error): The most common HTTP error of all, this is a general-purpose message for when a web server encounters some form of an internal server error.

  2. HTTP Error 403 (Forbidden): A 403 Error occurs when someone tries to access a forbidden directory on your website. In this case, there will never have been the option to log in. The directory may be hidden to public view.

  3. HTTP Error 404 (Not found): This error appears when a URL no longer exists, often because the content has been deleted or moved.

  4. HTTP Error 400 (Bad request): This message comes from the web server to tell visitors that the application they’re using (e.g. the web browser) accessed the URL incorrectly or that the request was somehow corrupted on the way.

  5. HTTP Error 401 (Unauthorised): This occurs when the visitor tries to view a page that they’re not authorized to view.


A 404 error occurs when someone tries to visit a URL on your website that doesn’t exist. They will see a ‘Page Not Found’ message.


Most often, this error is the result of a page that’s been deleted or moved or a misspelled URL.



While Google says that 404 errors are ‘a perfectly normal part of the web’, they can still damage the UX and, thereby indirectly, impact your rankings.


If you do have 404 errors on your site, it’s worth examining them further and doing what you can to fix them.


The easiest way to identify 404 errors is via Google Search Console. Open the Coverage Report for a list of any errors on your site. Click on each error listed to see which pages are affected. When you get this information, all you need to do is adjust those web pages by either changing the URL or redirecting it.


Duplicate content affects SEO


Duplicate content is content that appears on the Internet in more than one place, and on more than one web address.


There are certain reasons for duplicate content to appear, such as:

  • Common details shared by multiple products or services on a site, or sell the same product but in different colors or sizes.

  • Many different sellers using the manufacturer’s product description on their e-commerce sites, leading to duplicate content across many unrelated sites.

  • Syndicated content that was published on your site originally but you have subsequently published on other sites.

Duplicate content often comes about by accident too. This could be due to multiple URL variations, often generated by session IDs or printer-friendly versions of content.


If you have ‘www.example.com’ and ‘example.com’ versions of your site, this can also lead to entire sites being duplicated. However, duplicate content can also come about because of plagiarism.


Duplicate content also presents a problem from an SEO perspective for three main reasons:

  1. Search engines don’t know which version they should index.

  2. It’s impossible for search engines to know how to direct the links.

  3. Search engines don’t know which version to rank in search queries.

This is even more important when it comes to local SEO practices since these issues will potentially result in your pages underperforming in searches because of lower rankings and other related factors.


Site security (HTTPS/SSL) & SEO


Did you know many people including myself will rarely go on a site that says it is not secured? Google highlighted that it would be prioritizing a secure search to protect the privacy of web users against malicious attacks or viruses.


It also confirmed that HTTPS would be a ranking signal, however, it may be a ‘lightweight’ one.


Since 2018, the search engine has warned searchers any time they may be about to visit a non-secure website.


Non-secure sites may experience higher bounce rates or traffic below their potential, simply because visitors are discouraged from entering the site. You can easily tell if a website is secure because it will have HTTPS instead of HTTP at the beginning of the web address and/or a padlock icon.


This shows that the site uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to secure traffic between browsers and web servers.


SSL Certificates can be obtained and activated for free and will make your website secure. If your website is hosted by a third party, they may be able to obtain and activate the certificate on your behalf.


If your website still isn’t using SSL, it would be advisable to change this very soon. It may not have a huge impact on your rankings but it is an important signal to your potential customers that your website and even you can be trusted.


So now you have the essentials on technical SEO, you will be able to better understand SEO as a whole and watch your website climb the rankings! If you need SEO help on ranking for any keyword, we specialize in just that and have helped rank over 4,000 keywords to date and counting!

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