Technical SEO is incredibly important for search engines because those that are technically sound typically tend to be the best websites for users to visit. Plus, websites that are good on a technical level help search engines to provide the best and most relevant results.
But, to truly understand how technical SEO affects your users, let’s recap on what technical SEO really means.
Technical SEO relates to how well search engines can crawl and index your website. Crawling and indexing your website is very important for your users because it ensures search engines can provide them with the most useful pages they can.
If SEO was like baking a cake, then technical SEO is all about beginning with quality ingredients. You must have a solid foundation so that when you’ve done all the baking and decorating, the cake tastes good. Without good ingredients to begin with, your cake will taste bad and no one will want to eat it. Or rather, potential customers will not want to visit it and search engines will not want to rank it.
So, if you’re not too busy thinking about how much you now want cake, here are some of the most important technical aspects of SEO that can affect your users and ultimately hurt your rankings.
SEMrush reports that as many as 50% of websites face duplicate content issues. These issues arise when significant amounts of content across the web, are exactly the same or are very similar. This applies to similar content across different websites, and across the same website. It makes it difficult for search engines to know where the content is originally from and what is the best version to provide in search results. If content is used multiple times, it isn’t providing relevant and unique information for users, which search engines don’t like.
Duplicate content can cause huge issues when there are multiple versions of the same page across one website. When this happens, you can end up with pages that contain the same content but are duplicated across numerous URLs, like this:
This can result in a decrease in rankings due to duplicate content. To solve this, you must eliminate the possibility of this happening by removing duplicate pages that are generated.
Site speed is an important part of optimising your website because websites with a low page load speed aren’t going to be popular with users. Think about it, when you click on a website on your mobile or desktop and it takes ages to load, you’re going to click off. The result of this is high bounce rates, which tells search engines that users don’t like your website.
Fortunately, there is an easy way to keep an eye on your site speed using Google’s PageSpeed Insights. There are many things that affect how quickly a website loads, but once you get them fixed you’re good to go. Here are some of the most common things that cause slow page load speeds.
Images that are too large can cause websites to load slowly. So, if your website has a low page load speed and you’re not sure why, take a look at the file size of your images. While you’re at it, you can optimise images by adding alt text. Adding descriptions to your images will help visitors who cannot see images in their browsers know what is on them. Optimising alt text with appropriate keywords (without overdoing it) will also help search engines read images on your website, which helps them determine relevance.
Has your sat nav ever directed you to a closed car park and you’ve had to go find another one?
Well, that’s how inappropriate redirects affect your page load speed. Redirects that are unnecessary are a waste of time and cause your pages to load slower. This is unhelpful for your users, so make sure your redirects are up to date, in the right places, and aren’t excessive.
Also, if you use the wrong type of redirect, search engines may still crawl and index a page you’re not using anymore, which can cause link equity to get left behind on the old page. For example, if you used a 302 redirect instead of a 301, the link value is left behind, which will result in the new page not ranking and potential users not finding it.
The general rule of thumb is that if a site doesn’t load fast enough, users will click off. So, sites that take ages to load aren’t very user-friendly.
Making sure your information architecture is easy to use is important for helping visitors find what they need. Also, having well-organised architecture will help search engines crawl your website, which helps them find the most relevant and important pages to present in the search results.
But what is website architecture? Basically, it’s the makeup of a website; how the pages are linked together, how the navigation is structured, etc. Common issues are an architecture that has no structure or organised path and orphaned pages (pages that aren’t linked to anywhere). Here are some others:
When you’re using a site, trying to get information, or buy a product, navigation is extremely important. If a user is having a hard time getting what they want because of poor navigation, you can end up with lower engagement on your site, high bounce rates, and low traffic. When these signals are picked up by search engines, they may give the website a low authority score, causing lower rankings. Fixing your navigation by making it easier for users to operate will help you to avoid this problem.
Search engines read URL structures to help determine what pages are about. Issues arise when URLs are generated automatically and include messy or nonsense words. This might hurt your SEO efforts because search engines cannot determine relevance as easily and can’t provide the best search results. You can fix this by cleaning up your URLs and adding relevant keywords.
Internal Linking Structure
Your internal linking structure above all helps your visitors find content on your website. If done poorly, your users may lose out on seeing the most relevant or important content that you have to offer. Plus, if search engine spiders cannot crawl and index your website using internal linking, they cannot serve up the best content for people who haven’t reached your website yet.
You should link deep into your website to valuable content that you want your users to see. Use anchor text naturally and be careful not to overdo it. Also, look out for any broken internal links on your site and get them fixed as soon as you can because broken links that result in 404s can be frustrating for your users, causing high bounce rates and a decline in traffic.
Now that we’ve covered the big technical issues, how they affect your users, and how you can fix them, here are some other areas that you should look out for:
If your sitemap is outdated or you’re not using XML sitemaps at all, your users will be affected. Outdated sitemaps may send search engines to old or broken URLs that are unhelpful to searchers. So, make sure that if your website updates, so does your sitemap.
Additionally, XML sitemaps help search engines understand which pages to crawl and index, which in turn helps users get access to the most relevant content from your site and the right landing page. As well as this, HTML sitemaps help your users to navigate your site.
Low Text to HTML Ratio
Having a low text to HTML ratio on your site won’t send a negative signal to search engines, but it can indicate that there is not enough information on a page for your users and for search engines to determine relevance. If your page has a lot of HTML code compared to text, you should revisit pages affected by this and consider adding some more useful content.
Plus, lots of HTML code can affect page load speed and user experience. Solve this by removing any unnecessary code.
Incorrect Robots.txt & Noindex
The robots.txt file is often overlooked in SEO, but if this file is incorrect, it can ruin your website’s relationship with search engines and thus, your users. This file exists only to tell search engines not to crawl certain pages on your website, which of course results in them not being indexed. This is useful when you don’t want searchers landing on a particular page, but if a page is misplaced in the robots.txt file, it won’t be found. Make sure you keep your robots.txt file up to date and nothing is out of place.
Similarly, not removing unnecessary noindex code from your website’s pages will threaten your SEO, because these pages will not be indexed. Not indexing pages by accident means that users might not be able to find the correct and most useful pages in the search results.
Technical issues can be difficult to spot and are often referred to as the behind-the-scenes SEO killer. But, one way to find and fix technical SEO issues is to focus on your users. When it comes down to it, users don’t care about search engines and whether they click on an organic result. They only care about their own intent. So, when tackling technical SEO, ask yourself, will this benefit my customers? If the answer is yes, it will, in turn, please search engines.
If you need any more information or advice about technical SEO, get in touch with Colewood today, to see how we can help you.