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Technical SEO does seem to get pushed aside when people want to focus everything on content. In 2017 it really is more essential than ever to ensure elements of your website are in line with guidance to ensure you get the maximum visibility possible for your website. In some respects this is understandable as with good quality content you can provide your audience with the information they are seeking. However if your Basic Technical SEO is not sound then you could be leaving huge volumes of traffic on the table. The reason for this is your fantastic content may be missing out on search visibility if there are factors preventing it from ranking as high as it could do for your intended search terms.
This post is designed to give you an understanding of the very basics of Technical SEO. Below the Table Of Contents Will Take You To The Different Sections.
Table Of Contents
- Introduction To Technical SEO
- Technical SEO Fundamentals
- The Importance Of Page Load Times
- Error Free Crawling
- Website Architecture
- Is Your Website Mobile Friendly
- AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages
- Structured Data
There are many different aspects you need to consider while trying to get rankings for your website. The main three are Technical SEO, Off-Page SEO and On-Page SEO. I will say now that the lines between on-page and technical SEO can be blurred. But, for the sake of this post I will leave On-page SEO as the optimization of the content within the page and Technical SEO as other factors on the website and server that are taken into account by Google when deciding on relevant rankings.
Off and On Page SEO are vast subjects in themselves and I will not cover them in this article. However before I move on with the Technical SEO, just in case you are unsure I will very broadly sum up the Off and On page SEO terms.
On-Page SEO is an element of search engine optimisation that concentrates on ensuring that your created content is “optimised” (focused on) your main target keywords. There are other factors which need to be taken into account such as overall user experience. These are just some of the factors we as SEOs take into account when we conduct On-Page SEO.
Off-Page SEO primarily involves inbound marketing with the primary objective of gaining quality links to your website. This is a very large subject of which I will be writing many more posts about later on but for now consider a link from a reputable source as a “recognition” of your work and Google treats them as such.
That is all I will cover on those two subjects for the moment as it is literally possible to write a series of books on each of those subjects. Now let’s get back down to helping you fully understand exactly what is meant when referring to Technical SEO.
Much has changed in the search marketing world over the last few years. Googles technology has come forward in leaps and bounds. They have over 200 ranking factors that they take into account of which many of these come under the “technical” umbrella. I won’t cover the entire list of 200 here as Brian Dean covered them in his Google Ranking Factors blog post. Someone said on Twitter the other day that Search Engine Optimisation should now be known as Search Experience Optimisation and I would actually tend to agree. Google wants to improve the web, as they get better at prioritising quality content they want to push us to up our game as well. Personally I like this approach and those that are stepping up to the plate are the first in line for the rewards.
I am hoping by the time you have finished reading this you will learn something that you did not already know. The intention is that you will then be able to take action and make sure that you stay ahead of the curve.
Fundamental Technical SEO Aspects
Technical SEO is a very deep subject and some of the issues I will cover later could be hard to spot to the untrained eye. However some points which I am about to mention should really be considered standard best practices on any webpage. However, when time is tight it can be easy to forget the small things while focusing too hard on the creative content.
- Make every effort to ensure that your page load speeds are kept to a minimum.
- Having your H1 Tag at the top of the page and preferably only one H1 Tag. You can have more according to Matt Cutts however he urges caution. They don’t say how many but as an educated guess Google will take into account the amount of content and the content subject matter. Best practice is however to stick to one and then utilise H2 / H3 tags and so forth.
- Ensuring all of your images on the website have Titles and Alt Tags. On one of your images make sure the Alt Tag is your Main Target Key Phrase.
- Build clean urls and avoid dynamic characters such as %, &, ?, $, =, +, .cgi and cgi-bin
- Keep only your top level urls in your menus, link to inner pages from your top level pages
- Is Your Site Mobile Friendly
- Are you employing AMP
- Can Google crawl your website fluidly
The above steps really are simple fundamentals of Technical SEO and you would be surprised how many people forget more than one of them when producing content, myself included. Because of the importance of getting your Technical SEO aspects correct, especially the fundamentals I recommend that you use a check sheet to ensure that everything is in place before you publish your content. Remember it is far easier to get things right from the outset rather than have to readdress issues at a later point. I will approach each of the following from a beginners perspective so that you can easily follow the guide.
The Importance Of Page Load Times
Page load time is something that Google as taken into account in their ranking factors for some time. More importantly if your website is slow to load then your visitors will be fast to leave. User experience (UX) is extremely important to Google. Ensuring your website is fast enough might seem basic enough but the following stats taken from this Kissmetrics Blog Post show some concerning figures:
- 73% of mobile internet users say they have encountered websites that are too slow to load.
- 51% of mobile internet users say that they have encountered a site that has crashed, frozen or received an error.
- 38% of mobile internet users say they have encountered a website that ‘wasn’t available’.
- 47% of internet users expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or less. My personal opinion is that as internet speeds increase that 2 seconds will lower even further.
- 40% of internet users will abandon a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
- A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% loss in conversions.
Using those figures a 1 second loss in page load time on an eCommerce website taking £1000 per day, those losses can add up to £25550 per annum. Kind of puts the importance into perspective, right!
The main issue with slow page response times is that ‘result jump / pogo’ing effect’ comes into play. As an example, a user is searches Google for ‘Buy Trainers Online’ and got the results showing below and the first organic result was mandmdirect.com/01/trainers. However should the user click on the site and it failed to load within 2 seconds or less then there is a good chance they will jump to position 2 and so on as illustrated below. Please note these results are for illustration only and I am not saying the No1 result is too slow in reality.
There are inevitably times when page load speeds are somewhat out of your control due to unusual server loads. However, if the issues occur too often then they will undoubtedly lead to a rank drop. If your nearest competitors have consistently better load times then you could literally be giving away sales. With the top 3 organic results taking on average 62% of the traffic ensuring your page speed is fast enough is critical for your conversion rate.
There are some easy fixes that you can take to ensure that you at least stand the best chance of increasing your average page load times. If you are using WordPress (which over 25% of all websites do) then some things you can take note of are:
- Reduce Unnecessary WordPress Plugins
- Ensure you are using the best web host you can possibly afford. The figures above are proof that this is not an area you should skimp on.
- Utilise a CDN (content delivery network) for your static content.
- Utilise Google AMP
Optimise your images. This is easily done with WordPress as you can simply use a plugin such as EWWW Image Optimizer which will reduce image sizes using lossless technology.
Constantly test your website speed. The best place to start with this is to analyse your website with Google Page Speed Insights. It is always good to get a second opinion on this as well of which a great tool to use is GTMetrix. They will alert you to any issues that your website might currently be suffering from and offer advice on how you can fix them.
Select a good host in order to get the best possible speeds. If you are using WordPress I strongly recommend that you use a specialist WordPress host. For commercial sites I highly recommend WPEngine as the best in class. If you have more than one site and budget is tight then you can also consider SiteGround although I would highly recommend that you go for the top package (GoGeek) and also purchase a dedicated IP address for each of your sites.
If you are running other content management systems or websites using other web technologies then you should take a look at Heart Internet VPS services. I am recommending from personal experience in the UK but there are plenty of options out there.
Is Your Website Easily Crawled Without Errors
This is where I will start to cover issues that can seriously affect the performance of your website but you may require the use of some external tools in order to quickly identify issues.
To make sure that my website is setup correctly I want to scan my site to look for errors such as 40X errors, broken links, redirects, thin content, missing titles, missing meta descriptions and duplication issues.
To do this I use a tool called Screaming Frog SEO Spider. If you are an SEO yourself and you are not using it, then you should be. Seriously. If you are just looking at doing your own Technical SEO checks then you could could possibly get away with using the free version, but in my opinion the paid version is worth its weight in gold. If for no other reason that when you are doing your SEO Audit Checklist it will save you so much time. There are so many things which you can do with the SEO spider and Seer Interactive have made a guide for this.
The reason we look for these errors is that Googlebot needs to be able to flow smoothly through a website in order to find all the pages and help you get them indexed. By coming across error pages it is wasting time. You want the spider to be spending the time crawling the pages you want it to find rather than running into brick walls. It is fairly easy to ensure a correct setup with a new website. However, when you have a large website it is not uncommon for a websites architecture to go awry over time.
As I mentioned earlier it is best practice to only have your top level pages in you menus. From there you can link to the deep content from those pages. Think of it like a waterfall effect. Pour in the water at the top and it can only flow through the links. If the can make it through to your deep pages then you are on the right track.
By having a logical site architecture you are also taking into account user experience. For instance if I went to the Ameva Digital content marketing page, a logical progression from there would be to link from there to a sub category such as “content marketing strategy”.
A site structure should look something like this:
What we should always aim for is that no page on your website should be any more than 3 clicks away from your homepage. Obviously if you are setting up a website from scratch then achieving this is very simple. If you have an established website then re-organisation can be an epic task. Great care should be taken when completing this task but the end result is always well worth the time you spend on it.
Is Your Website Mobile Friendly
Since around April 2015 Google has given a boost to pages which are mobile friendly in its search results. Many referred to this update as ‘Mobilegeddon’ as there were still (and still are to this day) many sites which are not mobile friendly. With the search engine results being significantly affected on mobile devices and tablets people really cannot afford to ignore having a mobile friendly design.
The most common ways to have a mobile friendly design is to have either a specific mobile design that shows when being viewed through a mobile device. The other way is to have a mobile first responsive design. If you would like advice on any of this then get in contact with us and we can point you in the right direction.
If you are unsure whether or not your website is mobile friendly then you can use the Google Mobile Friendly Page Checker and it will tell you in a few seconds how Googlebot sees your website in mobile format. Hopefully you will see a result like this below.
Have You Enabled AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) For Your Web Pages
AMP is a Google backed project to help have mobile pages load quickly on mobile devices. Since February 2016 Google officially integrated AMP listings into its search results.
Honesty time here, at the time of writing this I have not implemented AMP on our website, as many of you will understand the customers come first and sometimes our own websites suffer because of it. Anyway, I will be doing this shortly and will make another post which I will link to from here about implementing it and how easy / complicated it is. More importantly I will be writing about if it has made a difference to our metrics.
When Google first went about prioritising mobile friendly websites they did originally have a tag on the mobile search that said ‘mobile friendly’ like the image below (Credit to Search Engine Land for the image). This ran from around April 2015 up until they removed the tag in 2016 in order to try and clean up the search page in August 2016.
In the advent of AMP however they have a small tag that appears against the search result. The point to note however is the fact that the AMP search results are at the top of the page. Google always strives for a clean, crisp and fast experience so how long the AMP tag actually stay remains to be seen.
While Google has yet to announce that AMP is a ranking factor many searches show that running AMP does indeed have an influence. News bases items certainly have an effect (see the image below). As Google wants to improve the overall user experience for mobile users and speed is a major factor then expect to see better visibility if using AMP on your site.
Structured Data – Your Content Is Good – Let It Be Found
While we all expect Google and the other search engines to be the all seeing eye and use their mind boggling algorithms to correctly work out your intentions through the on page content, it doesn’t always work out that way. While the search engines are getting better literally by the day it is good practice from ourselves to add in Schema Markup to point them in the right direction.
Many people mistaken schema markup as something that is used for Local SEO, more specifically NAP (Name, Address and phone number).
The majority of Schema Markups are done for the following items:
- Creative Work
With that said, Schema Markup really is far more than this. If you take a look at the full list of markups available then you will see what I mean.
While Schema Markup is not (as far as we know) a direct ranking factor it is certainly best practice to use Schema Markup where relevant to help the search engines along the way. Search Engines can use the Schema Markup to correctly categorise and create Rich Snippets for the web page. I strongly urge that businesses and people use Schema Markups every time it is possible to do so.
For instance, if I do a search for “Steak And Ale Pie Recipe” on Google then I get the following results.
The Schema markup in these cases have been used to provide:
- The Images
- The Star Rating
- Cooking Time
This information is helpful to Google to decide on relevance of your page and also very helpful to their users. The more information that a user can obtain before choosing a result will help the user know they are finding the right recipe before they have even clicked. Therefore it is essential that as marketers we help our clients ensure they are using Schema Markup wherever possible. One main advantage of using Markups are that it definitely helps you to increase your click through rate.
I hope that you have found something useful within this post. This post was made to help those with no real understanding of Technical SEO have somewhere to start from. It is by no means overly technical but more the very basics of Technical SEO. If you want to delve deeper into the world of the Technical SEO then Mike King (Aka iPullRank, a MUST follow on Twitter by the way) wrote a great post on The Technical SEO Renaissance which takes things to a far more advanced level. In my opinion if you are an SEO it is your duty to understand technical SEO to the deepest levels as it is integral to our jobs. If you employ an agency for your SEO then take it to them and ask for the results of their full technical analysis. If they cant give you one, then look for a different agency because they are not doing everything they can be for you, period.
Content marketing is a huge part of an overall digital marketing strategy. It is a very large part of driving consumer engagement and being able to attract the attention of your potential audience. The downside to this is that now there are a lot of other companies jumping on the bandwagon. Because of this we need to work harder to stand out among the crowd. What marketers need to remember is that they should not be creating content just for the sake of content. Your content needs to be better than good because you need to aim to be leaders in your field rather than just following the flock.
Top Tips For Content Marketers
There is of course a difference between B2C and B2B marketing but I’m pretty sure that the incident tips below you will find useful in either scenario.
Remember that the best kind of marketing is when the customer doesn’t actually feel like they’re being sold too.Your content needs to hold value to the potential audience. You want to make sure that you’re gently guiding your customers in the direction of a sale rather than ‘telling them’ to buy.
- Do not create thin content. You want to aim for your work to be in the thousand plus words category. However it is quite important to remember that you should never be waffling. By this I mean do not push for the thousand words just for the sake of it. If you can get your message across clearly and efficiently in 600 words then so be it.
- It is essential to create buyer personas before you build your content. Building personas is the only way that your research will truly be properly targeted. It will give you the best idea of what your target market is really looking for. The content you create can then be truly tailor-made to your audience requirements.
- Marketers need to be empathetic. Marketers really need to think carefully about who your target market is. For instance if you’re target market is for over 50s life insurance then consider that your target market are going to all be over 50. Because of this consider perhaps making the font slightly bigger on the website as some of these people may be visually impaired. Think what will make your audience life easier.
- Make sure you blog frequently. Constantly putting valuable content up on your website will help you build your audience and gain a loyal following.I don’t personally believe that there is a magic number however set yourself a schedule and stick to it. Whether that be daily, every three days or weekly just make sure that you are able to commit to that. Personally I would recommend that you never go below fortnightly blog posts.
- Share your own content to your followers. Make sure that your website is using some sort plug-in that enables you to have easily visible social sharing buttons. Sharing your content on social media is extremely important. Sharing increases the chances of your content being re-shared by industry influencers. Hence the tip before about ensuring the content is always of a market leading quality.
- Utilise ads on the social media networks to seriously amplify the audience for your content. With the correct targeting £10-£15 can go a very long way for brand building. Never underestimate the power of brand building through Social Media channels.
- Use content syndication where possible. Your content is then pushed to a brand-new audience that may never have heard of you before. This can also help drive referral traffic to your website.
- Make sure you have a content strategy in place from the outset. By having a documented strategy in place you can remain a lot more focused on your targets.
- Try and include your influencers in your content. Reference their previous work by linking back to them. Once you have posted your content reach out to them via social media or email. Eventually your influences will get a feel for the type of person you are and will take you and your content more seriously. Warning: Do not be too intense, keep it respectful and at a distance or they will soon get annoyed by it.
- Make sure you employ the basics rules of Conversion Rate Optimisation. Take into account everything from visuals, well thought out headings and the well placed call to action.
- Do not just write about trending topics. You want your content to have longevity, make sure it is going to provide value for some time to come. Of course write about trending topics where it is relevant, but don’t focus all your content just on trends.
I have found that by sticking to these tips has helped many clients get a good foothold in front of their target audiences. The top priority I would say above everything else is rule 1. Don’t actively sell using your content but provide great value. Stick with that and you won’t go far wrong.
As this is the first SEO related post here at Ameva Digital then I thought I would write something that I am extremely passionate about, and have been for some years. As a premise I will tell you that RCS is all about doing real things for the real world rather than just to satisfy and in some respects manipulate the search engines.
So What Exactly Is RCS?
RCS is a phrase that was penned by the great Wil Reynolds of Seer Interactive from Philadelphia (and San Diego). I first heard Wil give a presentation about RCS in the 2012 MozCon. It simply stands for Real Company Sh*t. Ok there will always be some that get offended by that but its how I first heard it and it has stuck in my head ever since. I could change the wording to ‘Stuff’ but I am ex-forces and have a mouth like a sailor so I am afraid I will refer to it in all its original glory.
So lets get down to business and enlighten you to what RCS is, and how using it will change the way you think about digital marketing. It is exactly how we do business here and I believe that every digital marketing agency worth their salt should be doing RCS and after you have finished reading this then I think you will agree.
Lets Start At The Beginning
Back in the late nineties and well into the noughties digital marketing was, in the grand scheme of things in its infancy. Smaller companies were starting to venture out and take an online presence. However, real world marketing, such as adverts in newspapers, magazines, yellow pages, radio adverts and for the larger companies that could afford it TV advertising were the mainstay of marketing.
Back then search engine algorithms were easy to work out and by making a few changes to a website and employing certain link building techniques could in the grand scheme of things get you to the top of the results pages with relative ease.
This was a good and bad thing for SEO companies around the world. The good side of it was that companies were jumping on the digital bandwagon and SEO companies were doing very well helping customers get to the top of the search pages. The bad news was these methods were Fake Company Sh*t, which means they were done with the sole intention of manipulating the search engines, whether or not their website was really the best match for the search query.
Fast Forward To Today (2016)
Over the past years Google have been working to improve their algorithm to show far more relevant results than they would of done a decade ago. At the same time their webspam team have been working on detecting spammy methods and after the release of several big hitting algorithm updates (mainly Penguin & Panda) ultimately spammy methods of ranking websites either no longer work or hold no longevity at all.
This was the bad news for those SEO agencies that used those methods. Their clients sites simply got dropped from the Google index, this created a lot of bad press for SEO in the business world and sadly it also meant those of us who did things right still got tarred with the same brush. Link removal was an industry buzz word for a few years while many companies fought hard to repair their bad back link profiles.
Where We Are Now
What we fight for is to get people to understand that SEO is not about simply getting you to the No1 position but actually about getting you quantified traffic and help the company get a real financial ROI. Of course getting high rankings for well searched for keywords and phrases does bring in valuable traffic. However, what needs to be remembered is that ensuring websites have the correct title tags, keyword density inbound / outbound links is Fake Company Sh*t. Doing theses things will not bring you ROI.
As digital marketers we need to do RCS to add actual value to a brand.
Building Digital Assets
Digital Assets are what it’s all about. Think of them as the building blocks to a healthy digital presence. With digital assets you can showcase your business in a fantastic light. When you have these assets then you become admired by your peers and remembered by your potential customers.
But What Are Digital Assets
Digital Assets are something your brand owns that provides value to its audience. An asset can take the shape of almost anything. Whether it be the written word, a video, an infographic or even an interactive JQuery website.
As a search marketing company one would think that we would be wanting to build “link bait” which would be designed solely with the intention of getting backlinks to a website. While backlinks are still a major ranking factor they are not “Real”. By this, I mean we cannot gauge an ROI of a link. Being helpful to a visitor, giving them the answer they are looking for, fascinating them and impressing your brand on their mind is RCS with a digital flavour.
When we build an asset it is built with the audience in mind. If it gives the information that the viewer is looking for, in a memorable manner then that is what it is built for. Indeed backlinks do come from these which help the overall SEO strategy, however we don’t build things unless they are going to be of value to an audience and we certainly don’t build them with the sole intention of obtaining backlinks.
There are some fantastic examples of digital assets available. I will use Seers’ example which has been built as a proof of concept. The thought process behind it was to show people exactly how some of the worlds best known Tech startups make (or lose) money. You can view the RCS Example by following the link.
Now the just look at the impact that it has had. Below is a quick snapshot of some link metrics to the website.
There was a fault calling in Twitter and Google +1 metrics, however I would expect they are extremely high much like the Facebook shares. It is not nessasarily the amount of links, but it is who has picked up on it and referred to it in their publications. For instance just a quick glance and you can see the likes of Mashable, Wired and Lifehacker have all written about, embedded and linked back to Seer.
What this is proof of is that you can build something amazing (and actually the programming that goes into making something like that is quite incredible), people found it extremely useful (the whole idea) and at the same time Seer has had its brand name appear throughout some of the biggest online publications in the world and gained high authority backlinks back to their website.
As mentioned before, building links does not have to be the reason for building digital assets. What should be seen as important is helping out the target audience. What happens with links and mentions is simply a nice byproduct. But conversely, if it does not answer the question or is a terrible user experience then you can spend a lot of money and achieve very little. The gold is in the detail and fine tuning.
It is my belief that doing RCS is the future of digital marketing. While traditional methods work still, the potency of such methods is waning and Google will give credit to those building digital assets that provide answers and value to the audience will see a much higher ROI than those that don’t.
If you want to find out how we can help your business get a powerful foothold on the digital landscape then get in touch and we can have a chat over a coffee.
Thanks for stopping by. I am going to use this post to let you all know what you can expect from us here at Ameva Digital. First of all I will explain that we are big believers of changing the way that SEO is perceived and executed. For too long companies have been focusing solely on gaining rankings rather than actually help the clients gain more business. We will be sharing our knowledge with you through frequent blog posts and coming very shortly via video. Of course we would love for you to come onboard with us but we fully understand that you may just be wanting to top up your knowledge base. Well hopefully we can help with that.
We will soon be starting to run events locally in and around the Hampshire area, these are great for picking up great ideas, networking and simply having a bit of fun with other business people. If you would like to speak at one of these events then by all means Contact Us with a pitch and we will see if we can work you into a schedule. Locations will vary but generally they will be in Portsmouth, Fareham, Southampton and from Spring 2017 we will start holding some events in London.
If you are looking to hire an SEO agency then we would be glad to hear from you. We will be bringing only the highest quality services to the table. We have a strong belief that every business should be making the most out of the internet to enhance there trade. We think of our services in a much larger light that just getting a few links here and there with the hope of getting a few rankings, we look at ways that we can get people talking about your brand, engage with them and then keep your brand in their minds thereafter. All it takes is a little creative thinking.
Well that was just a quick introduction to us here at Ameva Digital, I hope that we get to meet many of you over the coming months and years. Don’t forget to enter your email address to get notified when we make a new blog post.