In this article, we look at the first of the four SEO building blocks – technical SEO.
In order for the search engines to show your web pages in the search results, they first need to find, crawl, and index them. This is made possible through technical SEO.
What is technical SEO?
Search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing use spiders to crawl the internet and collect information about the web pages they find. Technical SEO is the process of ensuring your web pages contain the necessary code to enable them to be crawled and indexed.
Within each web page, are files and ‘meta directives’ (snippets of code) that give search engine spiders a set of instructions for how they would like to be crawled and indexed.
The individual elements of technical SEO
- Robots.txt file – A robots.txt file tells the search engines where not to go. Most of the time, you want to allow the search engines to crawl all of your web content. Sometimes, you’ll use the robots.txt file to keep the crawlers out of sections of your website which may have duplicate, thin, or private content you don’t want appearing in search results. For now, all you need to know is that the robots.txt file tells spiders “No, don’t go there. Don’t index these webpages.”
- XML sitemap – An XML sitemap is the opposite of the robots.txt file. It provides the search engines with a list of all of the pages on your website that you do want to be crawled, indexed, and shown in search results. Think of it as your website’s resume. It contains the high-level information that is needed to get the conversation started such as when a web page was last updated and its relative priority compared to other pages.
- Meta directives – There are meta directives in the form of code snippets that live in the header of each webpage. These directives aren’t visible to website visitors. Instead, they provide search engines bots page by page instructions as to how to index the content on the page.
- Mobile Responsiveness and page speed – Also included in technical SEO are responsiveness (mobile-friendly) and speed. These key technical factors impact usability.
- Security – It should come as no surprise that the search engines like websites that are served via secure HTTPS connections.
- Site structure – The last element of technical SEO is site structure. Search engines need to understand the relative priority of pages on your website and how your site fits together. You can think of structure as being a pyramid with your homepage on the top and your main navigation in the layer below. Each layer below those top two is an increasingly less important collection of webpages. Our goal is an equilateral pyramid. We don’t want our website to be too wide or too tall.
Technical SEO can seem overwhelming at first. However, if you break it down into these component parts and understand the why behind each one, then, it becomes digestible. And, it becomes much easier to carry out the tactics that will improve it.