Technical SEO: Site Configuration

Technical SEO refers to the behind-the-scenes set-up of your website, which can improve (or at least not hinder) your SEO performance.  This document discusses technical SEO factors related to your site’s configuration.

Use HTTPS

HTTPS is a secure version of HTTP. It helps protect sensitive user information like passwords and credit card details. Implementing HTTPS on a site is one of Google’s many ranking factors.

You can check whether a site uses HTTPS by visiting it and looking for the lock icon in the address bar.

Mobile-Friendly, Responsive Design

As over half of all web traffic originates from mobile devices, it is important that your website should be accessible and easy to navigate for mobile visitors. In April 2015, Google rolled out an update to its algorithm that promoted mobile-friendly pages over non-mobile-friendly pages.

In 2018, Google implemented mobile-first indexing. With mobile-first indexing, Google crawls and indexes the mobile version of your web pages first. Making your website compatible to mobile screens is good for users and your performance in search, but mobile-first indexing happens independently of mobile-friendliness.

Although there are three main ways to configure your website for mobile, Google recommends responsive web design.

Responsive websites are designed to fit the screen of whatever type of device your visitors are using. CSS (Cascading Style Sheets ) makes the web page respond to the device size. This prevents visitors from having to double-tap or pinch-and-zoom to view the content on your pages.

If you are unsure if your site is mobile friendly, use Google’s mobile friendly test:

https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly

Use only one version of your site

Users and crawlers should only be able to access one of these two versions of your site:

i.e. https://yourwebsite.com or https://www.yourwebsite.com but not both.

Having both versions accessible creates duplicate content issues and can negatively affect your performance in Google. It also reduces the effectiveness of your backlink profile as some websites may link to the www version, while others link to the non-www version.

Page speed

Page speed is a ranking factor both on mobile and desktop and so it is important that your site loads as fast as possible. You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to check your website’s current speed.

https://pagespeed.web.dev/

This gives you a performance score from 0 to 100. The higher the number, the better.

Google wants to serve content that loads lightning-fast for searchers. We’ve come to expect fast-loading results, and when we don’t get them, we’ll quickly bounce back to the SERP in search of a better, faster page. This is why page speed is a crucial aspect of on-site SEO.

Within Google Search Console is a set of performance measures called Core web vitals. Core Web Vitals aim to measure real-world user experience for the page’s loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability. Google recommends that site owners achieve good Core Web Vitals for success with Search and to generally ensure a great user experience.

Here are some suggestions for improving page speed

Compress your images

Images are usually the biggest files on a webpage. Compressing them with image optimization tools like Shortpixel will reduce their file size so they take as little time to load as possible.

Use a CDN (Content Distribution Network)

CDN stores copies of your webpages on servers around the globe. It then connects visitors to the nearest server, so there’s less distance for the requested files to travel.

Minify HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files

Minification removes unnecessary characters and whitespace from code to reduce file sizes. Which improves page load time.

Compress all of your files. Compression reduces the size of your images, as well as CSS, HTML, and JavaScript files, so they take up less space and load faster.

Remove unused or resource heavy plugins

Outdated plugins often have security vulnerabilities that make your website susceptible to malicious hackers who can harm your website’s rankings. Make sure you’re always using the latest versions of plugins and minimize your use to the most essential. In the same vein, consider using custom-made themes, as pre-made website themes often come with a lot of unnecessary code.

Use a Cache Plugins

Cache plugins store a static version of your site to send to returning users, thereby decreasing the time to load the site during repeat visits.

Use asynchronous (async) loading.

Scripts are instructions that servers need to read before they can process the HTML, or body, of your webpage, i.e. the things visitors want to see on your site. Typically, scripts are placed in the <head> of a website (think: your Google Tag Manager script), where they are prioritized over the content on the rest of the page. Using async code means the server can process the HTML and script simultaneously, decreasing the delay and increasing page load time.

Structured Data

Structured data helps Google better understand the content of a page. Furthermore, by adding the right structured data markup code, your pages can win rich snippets. Rich snippets are more appealing search results with additional information appearing under the title and description.

Example:

The benefit of rich snippets is that they make your pages stand out from others, which can improve your CTR (click-through rate).

Google supports dozens of structured data markups, so choose one that best fits the nature of the pages you want to add structured data to.

For example, if you run an e-commerce store, adding product structured data to your product pages makes sense.

Your CMS (e.g. Shopify or wordpress) may offer native support for structured data, or you may require a plugin to implement it.  You can test the structured data by using this tool:

https://search.google.com/test/rich-results

Find & Fix Broken Pages

Having broken pages on your website negatively affects user experience and reduces your search engine performance.

To fix broken pages, you have two options:

  • Reinstate pages that were accidentally deleted
  • Redirect older posts with backlinks to other relevant pages on your site

Check your Google console for a report on 404 pages

Use Hreflang for Content in Multiple Languages

If your site has content in multiple languages, you need to use hreflang tags. Hreflang is an HTML attribute specifying a webpage’s language and geographical targeting. It helps Google serve your pages’ language and country-specific versions to users.

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