If you run an online business in a competitive market, Technical SEO can help your business compete. We’ve prepared this article to show you the big picture and explain key concepts. Reading this will help you understand why business owners invest good money to ensure their website scores well in Technical SEO health checks.
Google indexing refers to the process by which Google’s search engine bots, also known as crawlers or spiders, discover, collect, and store information from websites in its vast database, the Google Index. Only pages in the index will show up in Google’s search results.
Technical SEO (Tech SEO or SEO Health) resolves technical issues that can prevent your website from showing up as it should in Google searches. Only indexed pages show up in Google’s search results and Google might not index a web page (and send visitors to the page) if errors stand in the way.
Too many website errors can lead to a loss of page authority, which can affect your website rankings by signalling to Google that a website is poorly maintained. These issues may influence whether Google will index and display your web pages in the search results.
Some of the issues visible to a Google bot are also noticed by your website visitors. For example, if your photos load slowly or your website links no longer work, your customers are inconvenienced. Other issues are only picked up when Google scans your website. These are the errors and issues we find using tools like Google Search Console and Ahrefs.
“Rank organically” refers to the process of achieving higher search engine results, without paid promotions or artificial means, based on the relevance and quality of the content.
It can be challenging for a small business to rank organically in Google searches. There is a lot of competition out there.
Two positive steps you can take are fixing errors using Tech SEO and developing rich website content. You need both. Creating excellent content for your customers and presenting it on a website riddled with errors will affect how likely Google will display your website. And vice versa. A technically sound website with inferior content will perform poorly too. If your competitors are ticking all the boxes, they are more likely to attract all the visitors.
Google rankings favour websites that are well-maintained and updated frequently. You may have good attention to detail on your site; however, some factors are not in your control.
The errors that matter to Google are not always easy to see. For example, a link from your website to another site can ‘break’ when the other business closes or changes its web page.
Google regards the resulting broken link on your site as a bad user experience, and it’s one factor Google considers when deciding to show your website or a competitor’s website.
When Google’s bots crawl your website, they may not check every page every time, so existing issues may not be reported immediately by Google. Occasionally, Google also changes the measures and standards that create a good customer experience. New errors can appear even when you have changed nothing on your website. Monthly checks keep you on top of issues and help you offer a good customer experience.
For many businesses, customers will look at the website using a mobile phone rather than a computer. Is your website easy to use on a small screen? If so, it is regarded as a mobile-friendly website. Mobile-friendliness is central to achieving good search results because it offers visitors a positive user experience.
A “website theme” is a pre-designed template or layout that determines a website’s overall appearance, style, and structure, providing a consistent visual and functional framework.
Most modern website themes and designs are mobile responsive, meaning the design adapts and is easy to use on a desktop computer, a tablet or a mobile phone. Older websites can benefit from a theme update that demonstrates mobile-friendliness to Google.
Pop-ups often cause problems on mobile phones. Notice how much screen space a pop-up takes. Can a visitor see the full content of the pop-up without having to scroll? Is it easy and obvious how to close the pop-up? It’s generally better practice to avoid pop-ups on mobile.
Check how your menu looks on different screen sizes. Menus on a mobile device are usually presented as a smaller ‘hamburger’ menu, which is an icon that you click on to reveal a reduced dropdown menu of only the essential pages.
How do your web forms appear? Are they readable and usable on a small screen? Test them yourself and adjust them as needed.
Do you use ‘hero’ images on your pages? A large colourful photo that looks great on a laptop screen may need to be trimmed for a mobile phone. You may need an adjustment so the image doesn’t fill your mobile screen, excluding all else.
Check how each page on your website presents on various screen sizes. See what things you want to change to create a seamless experience for your web visitors, including Google.
Quality website hosting can have a significant impact on how a website performs. Google regards speed as an essential element in user experience. Business-grade hosting prioritises a fast website loading time.
Many quality web hosts include a Content Delivery Network (CDN) with their hosting. A CDN makes your website available from web servers around the world. That means a website visitor in France is served your website from a nearby server. The website will load much faster and create a better user experience.
When your website is slow, Google’s bots can also have trouble crawling it. When the bots can’t crawl your website, they can’t index your pages. Pages that can’t be indexed won’t appear in Google search results. When you don’t appear in search results, it’s hard for customers to find you.
Website security is essential for businesses of any size. Your site needs to offer protection for you and your customers. Customer payment and personal information must be secure, and your website needs protection from hacking and cyber breaches.
Google will be less inclined to send traffic to an insecure website. Websites that provide a secure experience get priority. There are things that you can do to increase the security of your website.
Install an SSL certificate for your website. A quality web host usually provides this. The certificate is generally free, and once installed, it puts the ‘s’ in ‘https’ of your website’s URL. Google likely won’t send you traffic if your website is ‘http’ (no ‘s’).
If you’re linking to websites in your articles or pages, ensure you only connect to those starting with ‘https’.
If you have a WordPress website, you must ensure that your plugins, web theme and WordPress version are up to date. Either use an automated updating service or manually update your website monthly. Updates can be the most effective way to keep your website stable and secure.
Your team must use strong passwords to log in to your website. Encourage the use of a password manager (like 1Password). A password manager can encourage more complex passwords and less repetition of passwords.
Many computer systems encourage two-factor authentication. That means using a strong password and adding a second step of providing a random code. The code can be text generated or from an authorised code generator. This level of security may take some adjustment, but it reduces the likelihood of hacking and disruption to your business.
You can install security plugins to eliminate other security issues and provide extra layers of security, such as protection from brute force attacks, hiding login pages, malware scanning, and malicious traffic blocking.
A good web host will provide a backup service for your website. If backups are not included, ensure you have other ways regularly (daily) to copy your website and store the copy off-site.
The structure of your website helps or hinders how well Google search bots identify the products and services you offer. It is the same for your website visitors. Can Google and your customers find what they need quickly in one place? You may have started with simple logical website navigation and, over time, lost that simplicity as the business expanded. There can be enormous benefits from a spring clean and fresh navigation that’s easier for customers to use and Google to understand.
A “redirect” is a technique that automatically sends users from one URL (website address) to another. It is often used for content consolidation, website reorganisation, or handling outdated links.
Have you ever clicked on a page link and seen a 404 error? It happens when a web page is deleted or renamed. If you need to change the URL (web address) of one of your pages, the best practice is to create a page redirection from the old page address to a replacement page. When you do this, you save frustration for your web visitors and Google. Google rewards you by transferring any SEO goodwill from the old page to the new one.
Broken links go hand in hand with broken pages. If your website links to a page or a website that has been deleted or moved, your site now has a broken link. Your web visitors don’t appreciate broken links, and Google will see this as bad for the user experience.
Duplicate content is generally seen as bad for SEO. Any web page content that is a close copy of another page (either on your website or somebody else’s website) will eventually be penalised by Google. If duplicating content on your website is unavoidable, take extra steps to point the duplicate content to the original source, by way of a canonical link. There are SEO plugins that can help you set up these canonical links.
Any time you complete an organic search on Google, you see a snippet of information for each of the pages Google lists. This snippet includes a page title and a meta description. If you don’t provide these, Google will choose them for you. It is best practice for SEO to have customised page titles and meta descriptions for each page you want to be indexed.
There are plugins/tools that allow you to set the page title and meta description content for each page on your website.
Alt text is another snippet of information that describes each image used on your website. Descriptive alt text improves accessibility for anyone using a website reader. It also can help improve your website’s SEO.
A high-resolution image is essential for a printed brochure. However, it offers no extra value on a website. Instead, it can slow the website’s performance. An example would be taking a photo with your mobile phone (maybe a 10MB image) and using it on a web page where the photos generally need to be less than 500KB. There are many free online tools to ‘optimise’ your photos to look great and keep your website working fast.
Most websites have pages that don’t need to appear in Google searches. These are often ‘administrative’ pages that are not for public display. SEO tools can signal that a particular page is not for inclusion in search results, by adding a ‘noindex’ tag into the code of the page. Adding a noindex tag on pages that don’t need to be found in Google search makes it easier for your primary pages to rank higher and keeps your public presentation more professional.
Google Search Console is the free tool Google provides, which can tell you:
Ensure you have a Google Search Console account and are on top of fixing any crawl errors that appear there.
Search engines already use AI and machine learning. There is likely to be more reliance on AI to update their search algorithms and improve their ability to match users with the website content they seek. These improvements will come from AI understanding the intent behind a user’s request rather than the keywords themselves. Business owners must ensure their website content matches the user’s intent to meet that need.
Business owners will also need to focus more on their SEO health as time passes. Search engines are getting better at detecting issues and penalising websites in breach. They continually refine their algorithm to seek the best customer experience, so websites are getting harder to rank without attention to SEO health.
The trend towards mobile usage, away from desktops, will continue, making it more critical than ever to focus on optimising for the best mobile experience.
Let’s go back to our original question. The next time Google scans your website what will it find? A good customer experience from a well-designed and well-maintained website or errors and customer frustration? The health of your website will directly influence where your business appears in search results. This translates to the number of potential customers who get to see your offer. For this reason, Technical SEO belongs in the budget for a business operating in a competitive market. If you have any questions, please reach out to us.