There are two big parts to search engine optimization (SEO): content SEO and technical SEO. Content creators spend the bulk of their time—if not all of their time—thinking about content. That is what a writer sees. That is what the user sees. They say content is the most important factor and the content is always right in front of us. Web managers also need to consider how technical metrics can affect SEO.
What is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO is the process of optimizing the technical aspects of a website to improve its search engine rankings. It involves making changes to a website's architecture, coding, and other technical elements to make it easier for search engines to crawl and index the site's pages. Think of the measurable metrics which affect search engine optimization and search engine rankings that web developers, programmers, and infrastructure managers can influence.
Technical SEO is valuable because it helps search engines understand and index your website more effectively, which can lead to higher search engine rankings, increased website traffic, and ultimately, more conversions and revenue.
One important example is page speed. The faster a page loads, the better the experience is for the user. Search engines, such as Google, factor in your page load times when determining how to rank your webpages because search engines know that faster loading webpages provide a better experience to visitors.
There are many technical factors that can affect page speed, user experience, and website authority—all of which factor into search engine rankings. Several of these key technical factors include:
- caching / minify / text compression
- creating and submitting sitemaps
- critical CSS
- first paint experience / time to interactive
- fixing broken links
- HTTPS security
- HTTP request total
- image compression
- image lazy load / mirage
- image sizing (proper)
- JS execution speed
- media types (use modern ones: WebP, WebM, etc)
- optimizing website metadata
- page redirects
- render-blocking images
- request preconnect
- responsive design
- robots.txt configuration
- third-party code/services
- website accessibility
Your website’s frontend and backend developers and programmers—along with the people in charge of managing your servers and infrastructure—can make significant improvements to your page speed loading times and overall user experience by researching, prioritizing, and implementing improvements related to these topics. All of these factors will improve your technical search engine optimization.
Why is Technical SEO Important?
The spotlight has been shining brighter on the technical side of search engine optimization ever since Google came out with Core Web Vitals (CWV). Core web vitals measure the technical health of the user experience of any given webpage. These core web vitals are measurable and trackable and they push web developers to create a better user experience. Google factors in core web vitals and other measures of webpage performance when converting a site index into search engine rankings.
What are Core Web Vitals?
Google introduced Core Web Vitals in May 2020 as a set of website performance metrics that it considers critical to providing a good user experience. Core Web Vitals are a set of three specific website performance metrics that Google considers essential to a good user experience. These metrics measure how fast a website loads, how quickly it becomes interactive, and how stable it is as it loads. The Core Web Vitals are broken down into three categories:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): LCP focuses on your webpage’s loading performance by measuring how quickly the largest visible element on a page loads. Ideally, it should be loaded within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts to load. You want the user to see meaningful web content as fast as possible. The slower your initial content loads, the more likely your webpage visitor will become impatient and leave your website. This is especially important on mobile devices that may not be connected to fast WiFi internet service.
- First Input Delay (FID): FID focuses on webpage interactivity by measuring how long the user has to wait to actually use your website by performing an action such as clicking a link or button. Ideally, you want to keep the first input delay under 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): CLS focuses on the visual stability of your webpages. We all hate when we are looking at a webpage and we go to click on something—only to have the webpage content shift and move on us. Shifts occur when some additional element, such as an ad, image, or alert bar, appears after content above or below it has already appeared. Content shifts are frustrating, so keep your CLS to 0.1 or less.
While Core Web Vitals has evolved over the past three years, Google has consistently emphasized the importance of providing a good user experience. Google has indicated that website owners and developers should continue prioritizing improving website speed, interactivity, and stability to provide a better user experience and improve search engine rankings.
In May 2021, Google rolled out Page Experience, which included the use of Core Web Vitals as a ranking factor. This update also included other signals related to website user experience, such as mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS security, and usability to determine how enjoyable and easy it is for users to interact with a website.
By prioritizing Page Experience, website owners and developers can improve the user experience of their websites, attract and retain more visitors, and potentially improve their search engine rankings.
How Else Can I Improve SEO?
In addition to focusing on technical search engine optimization, your content creators should also work on content search engine optimization. Writers, bloggers, copyeditors, and others who create and input content into your website can learn key SEO skills:
- Writing for the Web: you may already be a skilled writer, but do you know how to optimize your writing skills for websites?
- Five Ways to Improve your Site’s Ranking (SEO): follow these suggestions to improve your search engine optimization (SEO) and watch your website rise the ranks to the top of search-engine results.
- What is SEO? (Search Engine Optimization): excited to learn more about search engine optimization? Take a deeper dive into what SEO and optimization means.
- SEO Marketing: create an SEO marketing strategy and see your impressions, rankings, and clicks grow!
- Characters to Avoid in Filenames and Directories: did you know that the name of files and folders affects SEO? Use best practices when naming your files and folders.