Technical SEO: Creating a Site Your Users (And Google) Will Love

March 15, 2013

Technical SEO 404s don’t just harm your rankings but your user experience, too!

If you’ve been paying close attention to the SEO blogs, you’ve probably realized that there’s a lot of discussion of the growing importance of what’s known as “Technical SEO.”

There are many interpretations, but we like to think of Technical SEO as the process of optimizing all of the little technical components that make the nontechnical experience of the user flawless and fluid, and in the end improve your search engine rankings.

In this blog post we’re going to explain why we think Technical SEO is so crucial to your online success in 2013, and why it requires a shift in the way you approach SEO and online marketing, in general.

Panda and Penguin continue to evolve, which has made the Google crawlers more sophisticated and better able to discern between reputable brands and over-optimized websites. Meanwhile, organic search is maturing as a marketing channel and SEO is more complex and competitive than ever before.

Which is to say, it’s much more difficult to achieve top rankings for your money keywords, let alone to driving rankings with spammy meta content and obvious backlinking schemes? These were the cornerstones of a cost-effective SEO strategy for a long time; you could implement superficial meta content and onsite content and do some basic directory linking and see your rankings climb. But that doesn’t work anymore.

So where does that leave SEO in a post-Panda and post-Penguin world? To understand SEO in 2013, it’s helpful to take a step back and try to understand what Google is trying to achieve.

Thinking Like Google

So let’s forget about rankings for a moment and try to think like Google.

Google’s stated mission is to organize the world’s information. This is no small feat. Google does this by creating and maintaining the world’s best search engine results. At this point, we take for granted the Google Search is the most trusted source of information in the world. But it’s not a given. Google releases thousands of algorithm updates every year to ensure that it provides its users with the best search results possible.

Google is insanely focused on user experience. Google wants to make sure that whenever anyone in the world to searches something (s)he will be delivered the 10 best webpages for that specific search. That means out of the billions of possibilities, the user will be given the most valuable websites that will provide the user with an amazing experience.

Google does all this by creating an algorithm that simulates how a user interacts with your brand, and your website, online. So the crawlers can evaluate your site like a real human would; they can tell if your site is well built, if relevant and useful content has and if it’s celebrated amongst its peers.

Your User Experience Impacts Your Rankings

To achieve top rankings on Google, the fundamental purpose of your website is that it has a sound user experience. Since there are so many technical components of a great website, you need to have a technically optimized site in order to rank.

Just consider what would happen if your site has many broken links that guide the user to a dead-end, or if your pages load too slowly, or if there are duplicate content issues or other problems that would force users to leave your site. You’ll never achieve great SEO success because Google doesn’t want to rank sites that will thoroughly disappoint users when they’re looking for the best results in the world.

To drive rankings and valuable traffic from Google, your website has to be clean, well-structured, intuitive and helpful.

SEO in 2013

You may be asking, “hasn’t this always been an important part of SEO?” Well, yes and no. Technically, yes it has. You want the best possible website that complies completely with Google’s guidelines.

But before recent algorithm changes, you could mainly focus on meta content, a little website content and some backlinking to get rankings. A year or two ago, you didn’t really need to get into the nooks and crannies of the technical problems of your site in order to get to the top of the results. From a business standpoint, it made little sense in completely optimizing the technical structure of your site for SEO. It was more cost-effective to fix the easiest (and cheapest) stuff if you were going to get the same bottom-line results for leads and sales.

But now, SEO is more complex and competitive than ever, and those technical elements that don’t always appear at first glance—problems like canonical issues, duplicate content and broken links—are the difference between being ranked on the first page and the third page for your top keywords. And the difference between the first and third page is ultimately the difference between getting your business found or not.

Preparing Your Site for Offsite Promotion

So, how does impact Technical SEO? Think of your SEO campaign like a sailing expedition. Just as you need to build a perfect ship before you take it out to sea, you need to optimize your website before you focus on promotional outreach and aggressive link building.

Now, that’s describing an ideal world. The truth, it’s costly to rebuild your entire site. It’s more cost-effective to optimize the technical problems hindering your performance while building out your meta content and onsite content for specific landing pages and doing a bit of link building. Once your site is fully optimized, it’s time to get more aggressive with offsite SEO and link building.

Implementing Technical SEO On Your Website

While many web designers and developers can build a nice-looking website, few have both the SEO expertise and the technical skills to ensure that your site will get ranked on the first page of Google. This is why you have so many technical problems harming your rankings in the first place.

You need to work with developers who specialize in SEO and know where too look to find the biggest issues and how to make these changes as quickly (and cheaply) as possible.

You may be tempted to take a passive role in your Technical SEO because you aren’t that technical. But that’s the wrong approach. You should be involved, ask questions and learn as much as possible. That way you can prevent any problems from happening again in the future.

There isn’t just one problem to fix, there are hundreds of issues. Here’s a list of the top technical problems that are most likely hurting your rankings and traffic: Broken links, canonical issues, server errors, timeout errors, empty titles, duplicate titles, duplicate pages, duplicate content, http & https errors, www & non-www errors, no text content, over-optimized meta descriptions and over-optimized URLs.

If you start implementing fixes to these problems—and we highly recommend you do it. Like today!—it’s important to focus on creating a seamless and clean experience in the eyes of users and the search engine crawlers. This focus will ultimately build a foundation for your online business. You’ll not only be rewarded with better rankings and more traffic, but you’ll create a quality brand and improve your conversion rates.

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