Let’s kick things off with a chapter on the basics.
Specifically, in this chapter I’m going to cover why technical SEO is still SUPER important in 2020.
I’ll also show you what is (and isn’t) considered “technical SEO”.
Let’s dive in.
What Is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO is the process of ensuring that a website meets the technical requirements of modern search engines with the goal of improved organic rankings. Important elements of Technical SEO include crawling, indexing, rendering, and website architecture.
Why Is Technical SEO Important?
You can have the best site with the best content.
But if your technical SEO is messed up?
Then you’re not going to rank.
At the most basic level, Google and other search engines need to be able to find, crawl, render and index the pages on your website.
But that’s just scratching the surface. Even if Google DOES index all of your site’s content, that doesn’t mean your job is done.
That’s because, for your site to be fully optimized for technical SEO, your site’s pages need to be secure, mobile optimized, free of duplicate content, fast-loading… and a thousand other things that go into technical optimization.
That’s not to say that your technical SEO has to be perfect to rank. It doesn’t.
But the easier you make it for Google to access your content, the better chance you have to rank.
How Can You Improve Your Technical SEO?
Like I said, “Technical SEO” isn’t just crawling and indexing.
To improve your site’s technical optimization, you need to take into account:
Fortunately, I’m going to cover all of those things (and more) in the rest of this guide.
Chapter 2:Site Structure and Navigation
In my opinion, your site’s structure is “step #1” of any technical SEO campaign.
(Yes, even coming before crawling and indexing)
First off, many crawling and indexing issues happen because of poorly-designed site structure. So if you get this step right you don’t need to worry as much about Google indexing all of your site’s pages.
Second, your site structure influences everything else you do to optimize your site… from URLs to your sitemap to using robots.txt to block search engines from certain pages.
The bottom line here is this: a strong structure makes every other technical SEO task MUCH easier.
With that, let’s get into the steps.
Use a Flat, Organized Site Structure
Your site structure is how all of the pages on your website are organized.
In general, you want a structure that’s “flat”. In other words: your site’s pages should all be only a few links away from one another.
Why is this important?
A flat structure makes it easy for Google and other search engines to crawl 100% of your site’s pages.
This isn’t a big deal for a blog or local pizza shop website. But for an ecommerce site with 250k product pages? A flat architecture is a BIG deal.
You also want your structure to be super organized.
In other words, you don’t want a site architecture like this:
This messy structure usually creates “orphan pages” (pages without any internal links pointing to them).
It also makes it hard to ID and fix indexing issues.
You can use the Ahrefs “Site Audit” feature to get a bird’s eye view of your site structure.
This is helpful. But it’s not super visual.
To get a more visual look at how your pages are linked together, check out Visual Site Mapper.
It’s a free tool that gives you an interactive look at your site’s architecture.
Consistent URL Structure
There’s no need to overthink your URL structure. Especially if you run a small site (like a blog).
That said: you do want your URLs to follow a consistent, logical structure. This actually helps users understand “where” they are on your site.
It scans your site for duplicate content (or thin content). And lets you know which pages need to be updated.
The Ahrefs site audit tool also has a “Content Quality” section that shows you if your site has the same content on several different pages.
These tools focus on duplicate content on your own website.
“Duplicate content” also covers pages that copy content from other sites.
To double check that your site’s content is unique, I recommend Copyscape’s “Batch Search” feature.
Here’s where you upload a list of URLs and see where that content appears around the web.
If you find a snippet of text that shows up on another site, search for that text in quotes.
If Google shows your page first in the results, they consider you the original author of that page.
And you’re good to go.
Note: If other people copy your content and put it on their website, that’s their duplicate content problem. Not yours. You only need to worry about content on your site that’s copied (or super similar) to content from other websites.
Noindex Pages That Don’t Have Unique Content
Most sites are going to have pages with some duplicate content.
And that’s OK.
This becomes a problem when those duplicate content pages are indexed.
If you run a huge site, it’s hard to keep track of all of the pages in your sitemap.
In fact, many sitemaps that I look at have pages with 404 and 301 status codes. Considering that the main goal of your sitemap is to show search engines all of your live pages, you want 100% of the links in your sitemap to point to live pages.
And see if any of your links are broken or redirecting.
Noindex Tag and Category Pages
If your site runs on WordPress, I highly recommend noindexing category and tag pages.
(Unless, of course, those pages bring in lots of traffic).
These pages don’t usually add much value to users. And they can cause duplicate content issues.
If you use Yoast, you can easily noindex these pages with a single click.
Check for Mobile Usability Issues
It’s 2020. So I don’t need to tell you that your site should be mobile optimized.
Even sites that are super mobile-friendly can run into issues.
And unless users start emailing you complaints, these issues can be hard to spot.
That is, unless you use the Google Search Console’s Mobile Usability report.
If Google finds that a page on your site isn’t optimized for mobile users, they’ll let you know.
They even give you the specific things that are wrong with the page.
That way, you know exactly what to fix.
Bonus Chapter:Technical SEO Case Studies
Let’s cap off this guide with a set of brand new technical SEO case studies.
Specifically, you’ll see how four Backlinko readers increased their Google rankings with:
Website migration best practices
So without further ado, let’s get right into the case studies.
Case Study #1 How Felix Used Internal Linking to Boost Organic Traffic By 250%
When Felix Norton audited one of his clients’ websites (an event hiring marketplace) for technical SEO issues, one thing stood out:
They weren’t using any internal links! And the internal links the site DID have didn’t use keyword-rich anchor text.
At this point, this client had been with Felix’s agency for 3 months. Felix and his team had been publishing A TON of high-quality content on their client’s blog. But traffic and rankings were stagnant.
Well, during that audit, Felix realized that none of this awesome content was linked together. Even worse: the content didn’t link to important product and services pages.
That’s when Felix decided to add internal links to their high-priority content pieces.
And pieces of related content.
Which resulted in a 250% traffic boost within a week of adding these strategic internal links.
Case Study #2 How Salman Used Date Schema to Double His Page’s Google Traffic
Backlinko reader Salman Baig runs a tech review site called Voxel Reviews.
One of Salman’s most important keywords is “Best Gaming Laptops under 500”.