Most content marketers (and brands) know the importance of on-page SEO, especially as it pertains to choosing highly-searched topics and creating optimized content. However, in the excitement to execute on-page SEO tactics, some marketers may overlook, or even ignore, a crucial piece of content marketing strategy: technical SEO.
On the surface, technical SEO may seem intimidating. And as marketers know, establishing a baseline healthy site isn’t easy — it requires technical expertise and a lot of inter-team collaboration for effective execution. However, it’s essential to take technical SEO best practices into account when building a new site, and equally as important to audit pre-existing sites on an ongoing basis to identify errors and other site health issues.
But the first step is for content marketers to understand the fundamentals of technical SEO so that they can prioritize and incorporate it into their overarching strategy. Read on to learn more about technical SEO and get our downloadable checklist of what to look for when conducting a technical SEO audit.
What is technical SEO?
Technical SEO refers to back-end website and server best practices, which make it easy for search engines to crawl, index, and rank your site. It’s an umbrella term that encompasses many aspects of how a website is built and how it transmits information from servers to users. You can think of technical SEO as “under the hood” best practices – even though technical SEO isn’t visible on the surface of your site, it’s driving the overall direction. Virtually everything on the backend of your site impacts your technical SEO standing, all the way down to the coding language in which your site is built.
Here are a few of the most important technical SEO issues to mitigate:
- Absence of XML Sitemaps
- Robots.txt files
- Duplicate content
- Duplicate body copy
- Duplicate meta descriptions
- Duplicate browser titles
- Duplicate H1s
- Browser titles too long/short
- Meta descriptions too long/short
- Keyword cannibalization
- 404 errors
- Rel canonical errors
- Redirect chains
- HTTPS security/redirect issues
- Orphan pages
- URL parameters (causing duplicate content issues)
- Page load time
- Mobile friendliness
- Broken images
- SSL Certificate issues
- Hreflang issues
Check out the full Technical SEO Audit Checklist for a breakdown of what each issue means and how to solve for it.
How does technical SEO impact organic traffic?
If your website health is not in working order, the content you’re spending time, on-page SEO expertise, and resources on doesn’t stand a chance of attracting organic traffic. And given that organic traffic accounts for 35 to 51 percent of all website traffic, that is a pretty important piece of the pie that you may not be maximizing.
There are two main reasons why site health issues are bad for organic traffic:
- They impact crawlability. Most technical SEO violations negatively impact your rankings (and thus your traffic) because they make it difficult in some way for search engines to crawl, index, and rank your site. For instance, too many 404 errors mean that search engine crawlers will hit a dead end, which can prevent them from crawling all of your content. Or perhaps your XML sitemap doesn’t contain all of the URLs on your site, making crawlers less likely to find content that isn’t properly included in the sitemap. A healthy site should be as “crawlable” as possible to make it easy for bots to navigate and understand your content.
- They impact usability. Search engines like Google design their algorithms to cater to users. Over the years, they have evolved to favor content that has good user experience and devalue (or even penalize) content that results in poor user experience. Mobile friendliness is a great example of this principle in action. As more and more people have shifted to using mobile devices to consume content, Google wanted to ensure that they continued to have a good user experience. So in 2015, they made mobile friendliness a more important ranking factor (meaning that if your site wasn’t mobile-friendly, you would see rankings decline). Even aside from huge behavioral shifts like this, the fundamentals of usability are baked into the core of technical SEO. Slow page speed, security issues, and duplicate content are all factors that lead to a poor user experience, which is why Google dings content that suffers from these ailments.
How does technical SEO impact other traffic channels?
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or new to SEO, it’s helpful to learn how to run a technical SEO audit, interpret the results, and implement solutions. Here’s a basic overview of the steps to complete a technical audit:
Run a crawl to identify issues. Use a third-party SEO tool to crawl your website and identify key issues. There are plenty of third-party SEO tools out there with this capability, such as SEMrush, Screaming Frog, DeepCrawl, and Botify, to name a few. This checklist notes common technical SEO issues most crawl tools will scan for.
Prioritize and create a plan. Most crawl tools will prioritize these issues based on their severity. Start with the most impactful issues and set up a schedule for solution implementation. Depending on the results of the crawl, some of the issues may be easy and quick to address (404 errors, for example), but some may be massive in scale and require significant time and resources (such as page speed).
Work collaboratively with teams to implement fixes. Whether your organization has a dedicated SEO team or not, implementing large-scale technical changes will likely involve looping in your tech, development, UX, and even content marketing teams.
Rinse and repeat. Once the major technical fixes have been implemented, it’s a good idea to run a second crawl to ensure the issues are effectively mitigated. A comprehensive technical audit is recommended at least once per year to ensure a healthy site. However, it’s advised that you use a third-party SEO tool, like the ones listed above, to monitor your site health on an ongoing basis and to alert you if any major issues should arise.
Technical SEO is a critical piece of your content marketing success – it’s the foundation that high-quality content is built on. Ensuring your site health is in good working order can help your content thrive across channels.
What else can help your content succeed across channels? NewsCred’s leading Content Marketing Platform. Request a demo to learn more.