Getting the hang of SEO basics is just the start, but if you’re serious about beating the competition, you’ve got to take things up a notch, and that´s where technical SEO comes into play. From optimizing website performance to enhancing crawlability and indexability, technical SEO encompasses a wide range of strategies and best practices aimed at improving a website’s technical foundation.

For a page to even stand a chance at ranking, it must be both discoverable (ie: crawlable) and accessible (ie: indexable). However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Even if Google does index all the content on your site, your work isn’t finished. This is because achieving full technical SEO optimization requires more than just indexing. Your site’s pages must also be secure, optimized for mobile devices, devoid of duplicate content, quick to load, among numerous other technical considerations.

While perfect technical SEO isn’t necessary for ranking, the smoother you make it for Google to access your content, the greater your chances of success.

What is Technical SEO?

Technical SEO is the optimization of the website’s technical components to ensure search engines can effectively crawl, index, and display the webpages accurately. The core objectives of technical SEO are to facilitate easier crawling, and ensure greater understandability for search engines, ultimately leading to increased visibility and better performance on search engine platforms.

This involves a comprehensive approach spanning from refining hosting and site speed to implementing XML sitemaps and meta robots tags.

On-Page SEO Vs. Off-Page SEO Vs. Technical SEO

When it comes to SEO, it’s often broken down into 3 main categories: on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO.

On-page SEO refers to the content that tells search engines (and readers) what your page is about whereas off-page SEO tells search engines how popular and useful your page is through votes of confidence. As we mentioned above, technical SEO aims to enhance the site’s crawlability and overall technical health.

Let’s dive into each:

SEO CategoryMain GoalElements
On-Page SEOOptimize individual webpage content and elements to communicate page relevance and significance to search engines– Keyword research and usage
– Crafting compelling meta titles and descriptions
– Utilizing H1 tags effectively
– Structuring URLs for clarity
– Implementing internal linking strategies
Off-Page SEOEnhance the website’s reputation and authority through external signals and backlinks from reputable sources– Acquiring high-quality backlinks from authoritative websites
– Building external signals of credibility and relevance through mentions, shares, and social media engagement
Technical SEOImprove the technical health and crawlability of the website to ensure proper indexing and accessibility by search engines– Optimizing site structure and navigation
– Enhancing page speed and performance
– Ensuring mobile-friendliness and responsive design
– Implementing proper indexing directives and XML sitemaps
– Resolving technical errors and issues

Why Is Technical SEO Important?

Technical SEO is vital because it ensures that search engines can effectively crawl, index, and understand your website. If a website has issues hindering indexing, all other efforts become ineffective.

Your content may be of the highest quality, but unless a search engine can crawl it and index it, very few people will ever see it.

So if search engine crawlers can navigate through your content, index and render your webpages correctly, your chances of ranking in search results increases significantly, ultimately driving more traffic and potential conversions.

How Do Search Engines Work

Google and other search engines want to present their users with the best possible results for their queries, and quickly. So how do they do this?

Google undertakes three essential processes: crawling pages, indexing them, and subsequently ranking them.  Let´s dive deeper into each process.

Crawling

As stated by Google “The first stage is finding out what pages exist on the web. There isn’t a central registry of all web pages, so Google must constantly look for new and updated pages and add them to its list of known pages.”

To do this, Google along with other search engines use robots (also known as a crawler, bot, or spider) to crawl websites.  During this process, the robots grab content and gather information about your website. The robots then follow links to discover new or other content on your site.

A technically sound website with a great internal linking structure will allow search engine bots to easily navigate and crawl your website. For example, each time we publish new blog post, we add them to our main blog page. When a search engine like Google crawls our main blog page, it discovers the recently added links to the new blog posts. This is one of the ways Google finds and indexes our latest content.

Indexing

After a page is crawled, the search engine then attempts to understand what the page is about. According to Google, “Google analyzes the text, images, and video files on the page, and stores the information in the Google index, which is a large database.”

So in other words, the stage of indexing involves processing and analyzing the textual content, key content tags, and attributes. Google, and other search engines, then begin indexing pages based on their topic and relevance to that topic.

Once indexed, your page becomes eligible to rank on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Ranking

Ranking is done very programmatically. When a user enters a query, Google searches its index for matching pages and returns the results it believes are of the highest quality and most relevant. However, the relevance is determined by hundreds of factors, including the user’s location, language, and device.

For example, a search for “best coffee shops” would yield very different results for a user in New York compared to a user in Johannesburg.

Technical SEO Best Strategies

Technical SEO strategies involve a wide range of tasks and to execute these tasks effectively, a variety of technical tools are utilized. Tools like Google Search Console, Screaming Frog, SEMrush and WebCEO provide valuable insights and diagnostics that help identify and address technical issues. By leveraging these tools, webmasters can ensure that their websites are well-optimized for search engine crawling and indexing.

At YBO, we use a combination of free tools alongside the advanced capabilities of WebCEO to enhance our SEO strategies for our clients. In the following sections, we’ll dive into some of the most important technical SEO strategies and the tools we use to execute them.

SEO Fundamentals

Before we explore the most effective technical strategies to enhance crawlability and indexing, it’s important to begin by covering the foundational elements of technical SEO.

This includes:

Audit Your Preferred Domain

Auditing your preferred domain involves ensuring that your website is consistently accessible through a single, URL format (eg www.example.com or example.com). This prevents issues with duplicate content and fragmented link equity, where search engines might index both the www and non-www versions of your site separately, leading to potential SEO problems. By specifying your preferred domain (with or without www) and redirecting all other variations to it using 301 redirects, you consolidate your site’s authority and prevent dilution of ranking signals across multiple versions.

Implement SSL

Implementing SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) involves encrypting data transmitted between a user’s browser and your website’s server. This encryption ensures that sensitive information, such as login credentials, payment details, and personal data, remains secure during transmission. Besides enhancing security and protecting user privacy, SSL certification signals trustworthiness to both users and search engines.

Websites with SSL certificates display a padlock icon in the browser’s address bar and use “https://” instead of “http://”. Search engines, like Google, consider SSL as a ranking factor and may prioritize secure sites in search results, making SSL implementation essential for maintaining a healthy website.

Use HTTPS

Using HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) extends SSL’s security benefits to website connections, providing data integrity and confidentiality. When you switch your website from HTTP to HTTPS, all data exchanged between the user’s browser and your server is encrypted, preventing unauthorized access and tampering. This encryption safeguards sensitive information from interception by malicious actors, reducing the risk of data breaches and enhancing user trust.

HTTPS adoption is now considered a standard best practice for website security and SEO. Search engines like Google prioritize secure websites in search results, potentially boosting the visibility and credibility of HTTPS-enabled sites. By using HTTPS, you not only protect your users’ data but also contribute to your website’s overall health and performance in search rankings.

You can use Google Search Console to conduct security reviews of your web pages.

Improve Crawlability

As previously discussed, crawling ensures that search engines can locate your webpages for indexing. If your webpages are not discovered, they will not be indexed or appear in search results.

There are several strategies to improve your site’s crawlability including:

Sitemaps

While Google doesn’t rely exclusively on sitemaps for crawling, it does give them priority. So, by using sitemaps, you can communicate to Google which pages are the most important on your site. Sitemaps are also an important tool in assisting Google in discovering and indexing new pages on your site.

Your sitemap is typically found at one of these two URLs:

  • yoursite.com/sitemap.xml
  • yoursite.com/sitemap_index.xml

Here is an example of YBO´s sitemap:

Once you’ve found your sitemap, submit it to Google using Google Search Console or if you’re using a tool like SEMrush, Ahrefs, Rankmath or WebCEO, you can also submit your sitemap directly through their platforms.

Pro-tip: remember to update your sitemap as you add and remove web pages.

Robots.txt

Robots.tx (Robot Exclusion Protocol), is a text file located in the root directory of a website that instructs search engine crawlers on how to crawl and index its pages. It serves as a communication tool between website owners and search engines, allowing owners to specify which areas of their site should be crawled and which should be ignored.

By including directives in the robots.txt file, such as allowing or disallowing certain user-agents (like Googlebot) access to specific pages or directories, website owners can exert control over how their content is indexed by search engines. For example, if there are bots causing trouble by scraping your content or spamming your forums, you might want to block them from crawling your site altogether. If you notice this behaviour, you can use the robots.txt file to keep them out.

To find the robots.txt file for a website, you can simply add “/robots.txt” to the end of the website’s URL. For example, to find the robots.txt file for “www.example.com”, you would enter “www.example.com/robots.txt” into your web browser’s address bar. This will display the contents of the robots.txt file, if it exists, allowing you to see the directives set for web crawlers.

Pro-tip: don’t use robots.txt as a method to prevent indexing, rather use the no-index tag.

Crawl Budget

A crawl budget refers to the number of pages on a website that a search engine bot, like Googlebot, will crawl and index within a given timeframe. Crawl budget is influenced by factors such as the website’s overall authority, server speed, and the frequency of content updates. Websites with larger crawl budgets tend to have more pages crawled and indexed, leading to better search engine visibility and rankings. Efficiently managing crawl budget is important for ensuring that search engines focus on crawling and indexing the most important pages of a website. You can do this by:

  • Addressing duplicate pages through removal or canonical tags.
  • Resolving broken links by fixing or redirecting them
  • Ensuring CSS and JavaScript files are crawlable
  • Regularly monitoring crawl stats for sudden changes
  • Verifying intentional blocking of disallowed bots or pages
  • Updating and submitting your sitemap to webmaster tools
  • Removing unnecessary or outdated content
  • Watching for dynamically generated URLs to prevent page inflation

Site Architecture

If your website has multiple pages, it is important to organize them in a way that allows search engines to easily find and crawl them. And that’s where your site structure comes in.

Essentially, a thoughtfully crafted site architecture could take the form of a hierarchical structure. At its core, top-level pages such as About, Products and/or Services, News, etc., take precedence. These primary category pages act as entry points to specific subpages, creating a coherent and structured hierarchy.

For example:

This not only provides a clear organization, but it also reduces the number of orphan pages on your site. Orphan pages are pages without any internal links, making it particularly challenging for crawlers, and even readers, to find them.

URL Structure

URL structure is all about how you arrange your web addresses, often based on how your site is set up. URLs can have subdirectories, like blog.example.com, or subfolders, like example.com/blog, that show where they lead.

For example, a yoga studio may offer classes but also sells yoga products like mats and leggings. Their URL structure could reflect this dual aspect of their business. For instance, a page advertising “Vinyasa Yoga Classes” might be found under a “Classes” section, resulting in a URL like www.yogastudio.com/classes/vinyasa-yoga. Meanwhile, a page showcasing “Yoga Mats” could be under a “Shop” section, with a URL such as www.yogastudio.com/shop/yoga-mats.

Breadcrumbs are a navigational aid that helps users trace their path back to the homepage or any previous section they visited. These are not just beneficial for visitors but also for search engines.

Breadcrumbs should be:

  1. Visible to users: this allows users to navigate through your site easily without using the back button.
  2. Structured with markup language: this ensures search engines understand the context and relationship of the pages on your site.

Here is an example of an online toy store who has organized the toys by category:

Pagination

Pagination refers to the practice of dividing a long list of content into multiple pages, often seen in e-commerce websites, blogs, or any site with a large number of items or articles. This technique helps improve the user experience by preventing overwhelming users with too much content at once and enabling them to navigate through content more easily.

From an SEO perspective, handling pagination correctly is crucial to ensure that search engines can crawl and index all content efficiently without causing issues like duplicate content or poor crawl depth.

Improve Indexing

As we have outlined above, indexing involves ensuring that search engines can efficiently and effectively store your website’s content after it has been crawled.

If you webpages are not indexed, they will not appear in search results. There are numerous strategies to improve your webpages indexability including:

Fix Indexing Issues

Google Search Console plays an important role in managing indexing processes. As you can see in the example below, this particular website needs some work. They currently only have 13 out of 39 pages indexed. However, Google Search Console does offer insights  and provides the reasons why certain pages were not indexed and how to fix them.

The URL Inspection Tool in Google Search Console is also quite valuable as it allows you to inspect individual URLs, verifying their indexing status and requesting re-indexing if necessary.

Pro-tip: WebCEO is handy for highlighting urgent issues and prioritizing fixes.

Address Critical Technical  SEO Issues First

Unblock Search Bots

Sometimes, website owners inadvertently block search engine bots from accessing certain pages by using robots.txt directives or meta robots tags. This can happen due to mis-configurations or intentional restrictions. If search bots are blocked from accessing important pages, those pages won’t be indexed, leading to decreased visibility in search results. It’s crucial to ensure that your robots.txt file and meta tags allow search engine bots to crawl and index all relevant pages of your website.

Remove Duplicate Content

Duplicate content refers to identical or very similar content that appears on multiple URLs within a website or across different websites. Search engines strive to provide unique and relevant results to users, so they may choose to index only one version of the duplicate content or, in some cases, penalize websites with substantial duplicate content.  Removing duplicate content helps search engines understand which version of the content to index, improving the overall indexing and ranking of your website.

Canonical Tags

You can also use canonical tags to avoid duplicate content. By using canonical tags, website owners can consolidate duplicate content under a single canonical URL, indicating to search engines the primary version to index.

Audit Your redirects

Redirects are instructions that inform browsers and search engine crawlers to forward users and bots from one URL to another. While redirects are often necessary for website maintenance, rebranding, or URL restructuring, improper implementation or excessive redirects can cause indexing issues. For instance, if a redirect chain is too long or if redirected URLs return errors (e.g., 404 Not Found), search engines may struggle to index the intended content. Regularly auditing redirects ensures that they are correctly implemented, leading to smoother indexing and better user experience.

Ensure Mobile-Responsiveness

Mobile-friendliness is a significant factor in Google’s indexing and ranking algorithms.

With the increasing prevalence of mobile devices for internet browsing, Google prioritizes mobile-friendly websites in its search results. In fact, mobile-friendliness is a significant factor in Google’s indexing and ranking algorithms.

You can assess your website’s mobile-friendliness using Google’s mobile-friendly test or you opt for tools like WebCEO or SEMrush. For example, for one of our clients, the WebCEO tool indicates that while there are currently no mobile usability issues, it does highlight the need to improve site speed.

Fix HTTP errors

HTTP errors, such as 404 Not Found or 5xx Server Errors, indicate issues with accessing or loading web pages. These errors can prevent search engine crawlers from properly indexing your content. For example, if a page returns a 404 error, search engines may remove it from their index or lower its ranking in search results. Regularly monitoring and fixing HTTP errors ensures that search engine bots can access and index your content without interruptions, improving the overall indexing and visibility of your website.

Improve Your Ranking

When it comes to ranking, there are hundreds of factors to consider, especially within the three main categories of SEO: on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO. Below, we will focus on technical SEO strategies to improve your rankings.

Load Time And Page Size

Load time and page size directly impact user experience and search engine crawling efficiency. Slower-loading pages and large page sizes can frustrate users and lead to higher bounce rates, negatively affecting rankings. Optimizing images, minifying CSS and JavaScript, and leveraging caching techniques can help reduce load times and page sizes, improving both user experience and search engine visibility.

You can use this free tool: https://pagespeed.web.dev/ to check your page speed, as demonstrated in the example below of one of our clients.

And if you scroll further down after your results, you will see the diagnostic highlighting areas for improvement to increase your page speed.

JavaScript Rendering

JavaScript-rendered content may not be accessible to search engine crawlers by default. Ensuring proper JavaScript rendering is crucial for allowing search engines to access and index dynamically generated content. Techniques such as server-side rendering (SSR), pre-rendering, or implementing dynamic rendering solutions can help make JavaScript-heavy websites more crawlable and indexable.

Orphan Pages

Orphan pages are pages on a website that lack internal links, making them inaccessible to both users and search engine crawlers. Identifying and linking orphan pages to relevant sections of the website ensures comprehensive crawling and indexing. Incorporating internal links strategically throughout the website improves navigation, user experience, and search engine visibility.

Page Depth

Page depth refers to the number of clicks required to reach a particular page from the homepage. Shallow page depth, where important content is easily accessible within a few clicks, facilitates easier navigation for users and search engine crawlers. Ensuring a balanced site structure with logical navigation and proper internal linking can reduce page depth and improve indexing efficiency.

Redirect Chains

Redirect chains occur when a series of redirects are implemented one after another, leading to multiple HTTP requests and longer page load times. This can negatively impact user experience and crawl efficiency. Removing or minimizing redirect chains through direct redirects or consolidating redirects to a single hop helps improve page load times, crawl budget allocation, and overall website health.

Internal Linking

Internal linking is an important SEO strategy for both on-page SEO and technical SEO. Internal linking involves linking pages within the same website. In terms of technical SEO, effective internal linking enhances website navigation, distributes link equity, and improves crawlability and indexing of website content.

WebCEO is very helpful, articularly in the area of internal linking. It identifies the structure of internal links on your site, highlighting any broken or non-functioning links that need fixing. In the example below, we can see an overview of the website’s link analysis, allowing us to identify and address any issues that need fixing.

WebCEO also examines the anchor text used in internal links to ensure it’s relevant and keyword-optimized, helping search engines understand the context and importance of linked pages.

Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals are a set of user-focused performance metrics that measure aspects of web page experience, including loading, interactivity, and visual stability. Optimizing for Core Web Vitals, as outlined by metrics such as Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), enhances user experience and positively influences search engine rankings. Techniques such as optimizing server response times, reducing render-blocking resources, and prioritizing content loading contribute to improving Core Web Vitals and overall technical SEO.

Google Search Console offers a dedicated Core Web Vitals report, dentifies URLs that need improvement and provides performance data over time.

Hreflang For International Websites

Hreflang annotations are HTML attributes used to specify the language and geographical targeting of content for international audiences. Implementing hreflang tags correctly helps search engines serve the most relevant content to users based on their language and location preferences, improving indexing and visibility for international versions of a website. Incorrect or missing hreflang annotations can lead to confusion among search engines and may result in improper indexing or ranking of international content. Regularly auditing and updating hreflang annotations ensures accurate language and region targeting, enhancing the overall technical health of international websites.

Ready To Take Your Technical SEO To The Next Level?

Mastering technical SEO is so important for optimizing website performance and ensuring visibility in search engine results. By implementing the right strategies, businesses can significantly enhance their online presence and attract more organic traffic.

However, navigating the complexities of technical SEO can be daunting. That’s where YBO comes in. With our expertise and proven track record, we can help you navigate the intricacies of technical SEO and unlock the full potential of your website. Don’t let technical hurdles hold back your online success. Contact YBO today to take your SEO efforts to the next level and achieve lasting results.