Guide to technical SEO and the interventions of site optimization
Not only content creation or attention to link building strategies: to really have a chance of competing for organic visibility and outperforming the competition, our site must be discoverable by search engine crawlers, without errors that affect its crawling and indexing. Therefore, the time has come for an overview of the basics of technical SEO, trying to clearly outline the areas of intervention and some concrete actions of this activity, which covers dozens of aspects related to crawlability, possibility of proper indexing of pages, and performance optimization (including for users).
What is technical SEO
Technical SEO refers to the optimization of the technical elements of a Web site to ensure that search engines can crawl, index, and render pages correctly, an activity that precedes the ranking phase.
In other words, technical SEO is about making sure that our pages can actually be seen by crawlers, without errors that jeopardize Index inclusion or even discovery, and at the same time that users can navigate efficiently through performance optimization.
Basically, then, technical SEO helps us work on sites that search engines can scan, read and understand and on which users can perceive a good experience.
This activity is just one piece of the whole SEO puzzle, and according to classic categorizations it is part of on-page SEO, which focuses on improving internal website elements to achieve higher rankings, as opposed to off-page SEO, which instead consists of generating visibility for a website through other channels outside our pages.
What does technical SEO optimization mean and which areas it covers
And so, elaborating on the previous definition, technical SEO refers to all site SEO optimization operations that do not directly relate to content, and is in short the set of interventions and arrangements (precisely technical) that are used to make a site perform well, offer the best possible user experience to visitors, and give content a structure that maximizes the likelihood of ranking on Google.
Technical SEO is therefore essential because it helps us build a website that search engines can easily understand, sending them an initial signal of quality: if a search engine is able to properly crawl, index, and render our Web pages, this may in fact increase our chances of ranking in search results.
Technical SEO and Google: the directions of the guidelines
Even in the recent reorganization of Google’s guidelines, now renamed Search Essentials, there is a reference to the so-called technical requirements, which cover the bare minimum necessary for Google Search to show a web page in search results.
In reality, the guide reassures us, there are very few technical tasks that need to be performed for a web page, and most sites meet the technical requirements without even realizing it. What we need to look out for are three minimum technical requirements, which allow each page to be eligible for eventual indexing:
- Do not block Googlebot.
- Return an HTTP 200 (success) status code, a sign that the page is working.
- Hosting indexable content on the page.
As we know, Google Search is based on three activities: page crawling, indexing, and subsequent ranking: complying with the requirements outlined by Google and implementing the right optimization practices of SEO techniques ensures that all three steps are performed accurately, remembering that we cannot rank high without being crawled and indexed well.
Another element that should not be overlooked is the fact that Google is increasingly considering the performance and technical aspects of pages among the ranking factors that its algorithms evaluate to generate SERPs, and one need only mention the Page Experience or the constant attention to Core Web Vitals to understand how crucial these issues are for those who want to stand out in Search.
Understanding how crawlers work and how they view the site
Focusing on the technical aspects of SEO means trying to understand how search engine crawlers work, starting with Googlebot, how they crawl the site and how they index content. The “how” needs to be interpreted both in a modal sense (how they perform it) and in a qualitative sense: starting from this data, we can then work on improving the most critical aspects that may be blocking the online project, while also using the right tools to check the various elements (one above all, our SEO spider!).
Technical SEO: the main areas of intervention on the site
Three elements are crucial for good technical SEO:
i.e., page crawlability and ease of crawling, which is embodied in SEO techniques such as:
- Crawl budget management
- Presence of inbound and outbound links
- Setting up a good site structure
- Setting up a good URL structure
- Checking for redirects
- Paying attention to the server and any overloading errors.
which means ensuring that the site provides the best performance through interventions on:
- Site speed
- Troubleshooting code bloat and unnecessary code
- Optimizing Core Web Vitals
- Setting up a responsive design.
Focusing on elements that can also provide quality signals to Googlebot:
- Internal link management
- Sitemap control
- Resolving duplicate content
- Checking log files .
Refining technical SEO implementations was also the focus of a Search Engine Watch article that highlights what are currently the priority areas of the site toward which to focus technical optimization work:
- Make the site navigable and scannable
- Improve the crawl budget
- Refine the structure of the site
- Take care of page speed
- Make sure the site is mobile friendly
- Use structured data.
Ensure that the site is indexable and crawlable
Before ranking, we said it, there are the indexing and crawling activities performed by search engine bots.Therefore, the first aspect is to make sure that the site is actually ready for indexing and crawler scans, that there are no pages blocked in the robots.txt file, and that there are no rendering or link problems.
Technical SEO interventions on pagination, rendering, and orphan pages
Improving the crawl budget management
We have talked about crawl budget frequently from our blog pages, so we should be clear about what we mean by the time Google devotes to the site and how important it is for SEO to measure this parameter, thanks also to SEOZoom tools.
So, let’s add just a few concrete action items to add to the list of checks to do to optimize the technical SEO of the site and make sure that the crawl budget is going to the most relevant pages:
- Verify that relevant pages are actually crawlable;
- Avoid long chains of redirects;
- fix broken pages
- clean up the sitemap of all incorrect or no longer existing pages, unnecessary redirects, non-canonical or blocked pages;
- effectively manage internal linking;
- respect URL parameters and report any dynamic Urls to Google via Search Console.
An effective sitemap and lightweight structure for SEO
Continuing the efficiency work, it is crucial to provide search engines with an up-to-date, concise and clean sitemap that allows them to find the site, read its structure and discover both the most important and new content. This is one of the decisive aspects of having a functional and functioning SEO structure, which also allows you to ensure that users can easily navigate between pages and find what they are looking for without problems.
Site speed and technical SEO
Another theme that returns frequently in SEO discourse is that of speed of loading and serving pages, which also has very real implications in relation to conversions, as an excellent paper by Lina Hansson revealed to us. In fact, even Google has been pushing this issue for a few years now, first by including speed as a ranking factor with the speed update that rewarded sites that offered faster and smoother loading experiences to users, and then by channeling the whole big performance front within the Page Experience system.
Speed, accessibility, and usability are cornerstones for the search engine, as Martin Splitt, one of the public voices of the search engine, also said some time ago.It is no coincidence that the search engine is working hard on perfecting tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights or Lighthouse, or, looking back to the recent past, has passionately embraced the AMP project, which, however, has had less than fortunate outcomes and is now outdated in fact by technological evolutions.
Interventions to reduce site slowness
In practical terms, there are at least six elements to focus technical SEO optimization work toward, because they can negatively impact site and page loading speed:
- Uncompressed resources. Remove unnecessary resources before compression, compress those that can be compressed, use different compression techniques for different resources.
- Resources not minimized.
- Long server response times. Analyze site performance data to discover causes of slowdown.
- Lack of caching policies.
- Heavy images. SEO optimization of images is key: use responsive images, vector formats, web fonts instead of coding text in an image, remove metadata.
Attention to mobile-friendliness and mobile users.
For years now, Google’s mobile first index has become the default for new sites and is the priority way Googlebot scans the pages it encounters: the web is increasingly moving to wearable devices, and Big G is driving this transition. For those who manage sites or take care of their SEO, this implies and imposes greater attention to responsiveness and mobile friendly aspects, always trying to think about the user experience.
Among the main enemies and obstacles we find intrusive interstitial ads, against which Google applies rather restrictive rules, while it is possible to use (with the right caution) elements such as hamburger menus, tabs and expandable boxes.
The growing use of structured data in Google
We have also talked frequently about structured data, as its importance is also becoming increasingly evident due to the rise of Google Search features that rely precisely on the information presented in this way.Not taking advantage of schema.org markup means giving up interesting visibility opportunities, especially if we think about the growth of zero-click searches and, therefore, of users who only dwell on the SERP page and rich snippets to satisfy their search.
Technical SEO to push the ranking of quality content
We have tried to explain in a quick and concise manner what technical SEO is and what are the main areas to focus on to get the maximum feedback for site ranking on Google as well: loading speed, crawlability troubleshooting, effective site structure, mobile friendliness are just some of the areas of focus, to which we obviously add factors such as HTTPS protocol, filename optimization, precise URL management, and all the other elements that combine to make a site perform well and give its quality content the right boost on search engines.
It is clear that this is not a subject we can master in a day or two, because technical SEO requires a lot of study, care, and even trial and error.
What we need to understand is the approach to the subject: working on technical SEO is crucial because Google and other search engines want to present their users with the best possible results for their queries, and on the other hand, the same human users demand to land on a website that works well, that is, one that is at least fast, clear, and easy to use.
And so, the techniques suggested (and all the in-depth articles linked!) allow us to work on the technical details of a website to please the search engines, while allowing us to create a solid foundation that usually coincides with a better experience for both users and the crawlers themselves.
The results, in terms of performance, can be surprising: by improving technical aspects, we help Google scan and understand the site, and we may thus earn in reward higher rankings or even higher conversions. But perhaps it is mostly the flip side of the coin that should prompt us to pay more attention to technical SEO: the presence of serious errors on the site means enormous damage, and all it takes is a simple final slash accidentally put in the wrong position in the robots.txt file to completely prevent search engines from crawling the site – effectively making all pages untraceable by Google!