What is Technical SEO? The Complete Guide

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising your website to rank higher in search engine results for target keywords, thus improving the quality & quantity of traffic to your website.


And typically, it is loosely categorised into three types: on-page, off-page, and technical SEO.


If you’re familiar with SEO, you’ve likely heard of different on-page factors such as keyword research & metadata optimisation or off-page factors such as link building. Oftentimes however, technical SEO is overlooked because “it’s too complicated.” 


We’re here to make it easy. So let’s get to it.

What is Technical SEO?

As the name suggests, technical SEO involves optimising the technical components of your website such as site infrastructure, pagespeed, Core Web Vitals, and more.


More specifically, it involves making your website functional, user-friendly, lightning fast, mobile-friendly, and discoverable by search engines.

Why is Technical SEO Important?

The truth is, SEO is a three-pronged approach. Even with great on-page and off-page SEO, a website with poor technical optimisation will struggle to rank in SERPs. 


Think about it. Would you want to use a website that loads slowly, is hard to navigate, or isn’t mobile-friendly?


Absolutely not, right? So let’s dive a bit deeper and learn how to set your site up for technical SEO success.

10 Most Important Technical SEO Factors

1. Implement SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)

SSL is a security protocol that provides a secure channel between two devices operating over the internet. Often used interchangeably with Transport Layer Security (TLS), the newer version of SSL, it protects user data from hackers and serves as a vote of trust between users & search engines.


In fact, over 50% of first page results are protected with an SSL certificate.

How Do I Know If My Site Has a Valid SSL Certificate?

It’s pretty simple actually. 


If your website’s domain begins with “https://” rather than “http:, ” there’s nothing to worry about. Your site is secure!


Another quick way to check is to look at the URL bar or address field and see if there’s a padlock icon to the left of your domain name. If there is a lock icon present, it indicates that there is a secure channel between users and the website. Otherwise, you'll see "not secure" to the left of the domain, like the example below.

ssl icon

vs.

ssl bad example

This is one of the quickest technical SEO improvements you can make to your website, and should be at the top of your to-do list.


If your website was built by us, then no need to worry, we already took care of it! Your site is secure.

2. Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly

Over 80% of internet users are mobile users. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re missing out on A LOT of customers. 


In fact, Google’s “mobile first” approach to indexing means that Google is crawling your mobile site first, so it needs to be properly optimised. 


A responsive website design automatically detects which device is being used, and adjusts accordingly. 


At Activate Design, our websites are built for a beautiful desktop and mobile experience, and with technical SEO at the front of mind.

3. Use a Fast, Reliable Hosting Provider

Site speed is one of the most important technical SEO factors, and it all starts with fast, reliable web hosting. 


But what makes a hosting provider so good? Well, a few things…

Lightning Fast Speed

Website users value high-speed websites, preferably under 2 seconds. And trust us, users definitely take notice of slow websites.


As page load time increases from one second to 10 second, mobile bounce rate increases over 120%


With fast web hosting, you won't need to worry about missing out on traffic or losing conversions.

Location

Though everything through the internet appears to happen instantly, that’s not quite the case.


To provide your customers experience fast load times, your web hosting servers need to be as close to them as possible.


So if your customers are in New Zealand, make sure to use a New Zealand-based hosting provider.

99.9% Uptime

A fast website is useless if it’s never working.


Choose a reliable hosting provider with a high uptime rating, greater than 99%. Otherwise, you’ll have to explain to your customers why your site isn’t available.

4. Build a Simple Site Structure

As your business grows, your website will grow too. This means more pages and more to keep track of.


But with a well-defined structure and understanding of best technical SEO practices, it doesn’t have to be so overwhelming.

Flat Site Architecture

Whether it’s a service page, blog article, or contact page, every page on your website serves a purpose. Thus, you don’t want to hide any of these pages unless absolutely necessary (more on this later). 


As your homepage is generally the top landing page for users, all of the other pages on your site shouldn’t be more than 2-3 clicks away from the homepage. You want to make sure users can quickly navigate through the site.


This is what we call a flat site architecture.

Internal Linking

You can’t include every page on your website on the main menu. It wouldn’t look very good.


Instead, use internal links to connect sub-folders & sub-pages to develop a consistent hierarchy. 


As well, you should avoid creating any orphan pages, or those that don’t have any incoming internal links. 


Take a look at this site architecture.

flat site architecture

The pages highlighted in green are only 2-3 clicks from the home page and are easily navigable by search engines.


Now notice how the pages highlighted in red which are orphaned or 4+ clicks away from the home page are not crawled. This is poor technical SEO practice.

Consistent URL Structure

An often overlooked piece of technical SEO, consistent URL structure can make all the difference. 


Both users & search engines like simple URLs. They don’t want long, complex URLs with tons of folders and complex symbols. It needs to be easy to read.


Keep URLs short, sweet, and consistent. Let’s take a look at two examples for this page's URL below:

  • Bad Example - yourdomain.co.nz/blog/SEO/Technical/what-is-technical-seo-the-complete-guide/

Long and difficult to read right? Instead, opt for a simpler URL like the one we’ve chosen. 

  • Good Example - yourdomain.co.nz/blog/technical-seo-guide/

Typically the shorter the better, and be sure to include keywords in the URL as well!

5. Create an XML Sitemap

XML sitemaps are files that help search engines to better understand and crawl your website. In a way, it’s like a roadmap to your website, and an important component of technical SEO.


And within the roadmap, you can tell search engines information like which URLs are present on your site (and which are most important to crawl), when a page was last modified, and more.


And remember when we said that you might need to hide certain pages from users and search engines? Here’s what we meant.


Mark Pages As Noindex

If you have any pages that require an opt-in or a form to be submitted before viewing, you don’t want search engines suggesting those pages in search results. If they’re present, users may navigate to them without completing the opt-in or the form, rendering their page visit useless. 

The same applies to a “Cart” page if you own an eCommerce site. Obviously you don’t want users navigating to the cart page from search results without adding any products. 


Use a tag on pages that you don’t want search engines to crawl. 


As well, don’t include any pages in your sitemap, as that will confuse search engines, possibly leading to unintended URLs getting indexed. . 


Again, if you build your website with us at Activate Design, we’ll take care of your XML sitemap so that search engines may properly crawl your site.

6. Avoid Duplicate Content with Canonical Tags

One of the worst things you can do for your website is have duplicate content. If crawlers identify two identical pages on your website, they may mark the incorrect URL as , hiding it from users.


Adding canonical tags is a quick & easy technical SEO fix to avoid any situations like these.


Canonical tags (rel=”canonical”) are used in the head section of a page’s HTML to prevent duplicate content issues, indicating that only one of the duplicate pages should be indexed.


To do so, add a tag in the header to the duplicate page(s) and point it towards the canonical page, or the page that you want search engines to index.

7. Identify 404 Errors and Implement 301 Redirects

404 errors are bad for user experience.


In simple terms, a 404 error occurs when a link, whether internal or external, points to a URL on your website that is broken or no longer exists. These pages have no content on them and display “404,” along with a warning message on screen. 


If a user clicks on a broken link and it leads to a 404 page, odds are they’ll just leave your website. It looks unprofessional and you’re missing out on potential customers. 


Fortunately, these errors are super easy to fix. Once you’ve identified the error, simply set up a 301 redirect to the proper URL. You can use a free tool like ScreamingFrog to identify these errors.


Now, when users click on the broken link, they’ll be redirected to the proper destination. Problem solved. 


These are a super easy technical SEO fix and take little technical know-how to implement.

8. Reduce Load Time

Faster sites provide a better user experience, and a better user experience equals better rankings


It’s that simple.


Here’s a few things you can do to reduce load time and improve page speed:

  • Enable compression to reduce the size of CSS, HTML, and JavaScript files
  • Minify CSS, JavaScript, and HTML by removing spaces, commas, comments, formatting, and any unnecessary characters in your code
  • Use a Content Distribution Network (CDN) to distribute the load of content delivery across multiple servers
  • Reduce the length of redirect chains (every time a URL is redirected a HTTP request must be completed again)
  • Optimise images to reduce file size

If you’re interested in a beautiful, lightning fast website, contact us!

9. Fix Core Web Vitals

Google’s long awaited Core Web Vitals updated focuses on user experience, benefitting sites that load quickly and are easy to use. Core Web Vitals are broken down three primary metrics:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP is a load performance metric that measures when the largest content element on the screen becomes fully visible.


To provide a “good” user experience, your website’s LCP should be below 2.s. Between 2.5s and 4.0s “needs improvement,” and greater than 4.0s is considered “poor.”

First Input Delay (FID)

FID measures a website’s interactivity. Or essentially, how quickly users can interact with the website as it loads. 


To provide a “good” user experience, a web pages FID should be less than 100ms. Any time between 100ms and 300ms “needs improvement” while anything greater than 300ms is considered “poor.”

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

CLS is a visual stability metric that measures how much a page shifts when loading. If a page is loading and you click on an element, but the site shifts as you do, that’s a poor CLS indicator. 


Unlike LCP & FID, it is not measured in time, but a good CLS is less than 0.1, while any shift between 0.1 and 0.25 “needs improvement,” and anything greater than 0.25 is considered “poor.”


If this seems overwhelming, don’t worry. Our experienced web developers will build your site to meet the “good” Core Web Vitals standards.

10. Connect Your Site to Google Search Console & Bing Webmaster

If you’ve made all these changes, congratulations!


But you’re not done yet.


As your website changes and search engines evolve, you’ll need to monitor your site for any ongoing technical SEO issues.


Fortunately, search engines provide tools such as Google Search Console & Bing Webmaster Tools to monitor any technical or performance changes to your site.


If you’re working with our SEO team, we’ll monitor these tools so you don’t have to worry. 


And if you’re worried about your website’s technical SEO,  contact our SEO team to speak about sorting you out. 

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