How to Use Technical SEO to Increase Your Organic Reach

If you have pushed technical SEO to the bottom of your search engine optimization to-do list, then you are far from alone. The mere mention of the word “technical” can send some people running for the hills, and technical SEO with all its complicated jargon can prove too much for marketers and business owners alike.

That said, if you want your website to rank highly on Google and be able to increase your organic reach, you need to embrace the technical side of SEO and all that goes with it. From optimizing page speed to maximizing your crawl budget, everything you need to be aware of to improve the technical aspects of your website will be covered below.

Feeling a little overwhelmed already?

Don’t worry, the great thing about technical SEO is that once you have carried out an audit of your website and fixed any problems, you won’t have to do it again!

Ready to get serious about technical SEO?

Once you have read the below post you will understand:

• What technical SEO is
• Why technical SEO is important for organic reach
• The best technical SEO practices and how you can apply them to your website

What is SEO?

Before starting to explore technical SEO in all its glory, it can be a good idea to have a quick recap about what SEO is. In its simplest form, SEO is the process involved in optimizing your website for search engines, namely Google.

There are many different ways that you can optimize your website for SEO including:

  • Making sure that search engines can easily access and index your website
  • Producing high-quality content that matches searcher intent
  • Helping search engine crawlers to understand the structure of your website
  • Helping search engine spiders understand the meaning of your content
  • Using target keywords
  • Giving search engine algorithms reasons to trust your site

SEO should be a crucial component of any digital marketing strategy as research shows that websites that show up on the first page of Google receive a whopping 95% of all clicks.

What are the different types of SEO?

There are three main pillars of SEO: On-page SEO, Off-page SEO and the elusive technical SEO.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO is the process involved in optimizing the different elements of your website that affect your search engine rankings. This type of SEO refers to the aspects of your site that you have direct control over such as content formatting, image optimizing, and internal linking practices.

Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO, also known as link building, is the process of getting mentions or links from other websites to increase trust during the ranking process. This can be achieved through media pitching and guest blogging on high authority sites.

Technical SEO

Finally, you have technical SEO. This is the type of SEO that most website owners fear the most. Technical SEO involves optimizing your website by improving aspects such as site security, page loading times, and site architecture (don’t worry, we will explore this in much more detail further into this guide).

What is the most important type of SEO?

There is no one type of SEO that is more important than the other and all three are needed to rise in the ranks of Google and increase your organic reach.

It can be a good idea to think of technical SEO as the foundations of your website. Without the right set up you cannot hope to create a long lasting and successful SEO campaign. It is generally advisable to focus firstly on both on-page SEO and technical SEO and then, once you are happy with these elements, to move on to off-page SEO.

That being said, a balance of all three elements is needed if you want to get on that much coveted first page of Google.

What is technical SEO?

Although you may have a rough idea of what technical SEO entails, the clue is in the name: do you really know exactly what is involved in successful technical SEO?

In the simplest terms, technical SEO refers to the practices involved in improving the technical aspects of your website to increase its ranking on search engines, and in turn, increase your organic reach.

Technical SEO came about due to three key search engine trends:

  • Google’s battle with backlink spam and overly active link building
  • The rapid progression of Google’s algorithm
  • The increased sophistication of the modern website

There are several different pillars within technical SEO (which will be explained in more detail later) but the main focus of technical SEO is to make your website faster, easier to crawl, and more easily understood by search engines.

Why is technical SEO so important?

As you are probably aware, Google and other popular search engines strive to provide their users with the best possible results for their question or query. They do this by using web crawlers to evaluate your website.

Crawlers look at many different aspects of your site including how fast a page loads and how a page is structured. If your website is technically on point, you will be rewarded with higher rankings. However, if your site is littered with technical errors, you will be penalized and you will see a dramatic decrease in your position on SERPs.

That being said, it is also important to remember that technical SEO is not just about impressing search engines. You also need to think about the experience of your site visitors. If your site is not technically up to scratch, they will not have an enjoyable online encounter with your brand.

So, now you know: technical SEO is vital for both search engines and for your users.

Now, are you ready to learn the fundamental aspects of technical SEO?

Of course you are!

What are the fundamental aspects of technical SEO?

Before you start to learn about what affects technical SEO, it is important that you first cover its fundamental aspects — basically, the baby steps of technical SEO. Without covering these crucial elements, you cannot move onto to the more complicated parts of technical SEO.

Auditing your preferred domain

Your website domain is the URL that users type to get to your site. Selecting a preferred domain is vital as it provides a consistent way for people to identify your site. You can choose to have:

http://www.website.com or http://website.com

However, often freshly deployed sites have both and this can be problematic for SEO. This is because Google will treat the two different versions as two different websites causing indexing issues.

By selecting a preferred domain, you are telling Google which version you want to be displayed in the search engine results, eliminating any dispersion in SEO value.

Implementing SSL

SSL, Secure Sockets Layer, is what makes your website secure. For example, if you want your customers to be able share their contact information with you without the risk of being hacked, you need SSL to protect them.

You can tell if your site is protected by a lock symbol in the URL bar and by having a domain that starts with https://.

Implementing SSL

Google and other search engines will always prioritize secure sites over non secure ones, so you need to ensure that you set the SSL variant of your homepage as your preferred domain.

Improving your loading time

Think about when you visit a website. If a page takes more than a few seconds to load, do you wait or leave the page in search of a quicker result? Optimizing your page speed is not only crucial for an improved user experience, but it also affects your site’s overall ranking.

If you are unsure about whether or not your page loading time is fast enough, the below guide should help you.

If your site loads in 5 seconds, you are faster than approximately 25% of the web.

If your site loads in 2.9 seconds, you are faster than approximately 50% of the web.

If your site loads in 1.7%, you are faster than 75% of the web.

If your site loads in 0.8%, you are faster than 94% of the web.

If you think that your page loading time could do with some improving, there are several ways you can achieve this:

  • Compress your files. Focus on compressing your images and videos as these will be the main elements that are slowing down your loading time.
  • Reduce redirects. Each time a page redirects to another one, users face additional time waiting for the HTTP request-response cycle to be completed.
  • Use plug-ins sparingly. As much as 80% of your pages’ loading time could be spent downloading things such as scripts and style sheets.
  • Clean up your code. Minimize and combine JavaScript, HTML and CSS files and eliminate unnecessary code such as line breaks.
  • Consider a CDN. A content distribution network (CDN) are used to help distribute the load of delivering content.
  • Use cache plugins. Cache plugins can help WordPress work more efficiently, resulting in faster loading times, and in turn, more satisfied users.
  • Use async loading. Allowing your website to download multiple elements at any one given time can dramatically improve your page loading time.
  • Don’t use heavy pre-made themes. These often use a lot of code. You are better off investing in a custom made theme for your site.
  • Update WordPress. As well as all your chosen plugins to the latest versions.
  • Upgrade your server. A 64-bit operating system should do the trick.

What other elements contribute to technical SEO?

Once you have mastered the basics, you can now look into all the other elements that contribute to technical SEO. It is worth noting that this is not a quick process and there are a lot of different aspects that you need to cover to ensure you are able to increase your organic reach with technical SEO.

That being said, once you know exactly what you need to look into and improve when it comes to technical SEO, you will have the ability to make a significant difference in your website’s ranking on Google. Plus, your users will love you for it.

To make the process of technical SEO more manageable, it can be a good idea to break it up into different categories. Then you can check each one off your list as you go.

In order to be able to successfully cover each category you need to be able to answer the below questions:

Can search engine bots crawl your page?

Can search engine bots index your page?

Can search engine bots understand the content on your page?

Are you sending search engine bots the right signals to be able to rank your page?

Is the page in question worthy of ranking?

Don’t worry if you can’t answer all, or any of the above, just yet. Below you will learn exactly what each key category entails, plus, how you can optimize your page accordingly.

Becoming more crawlable

If you want to improve your site ranking, making sure your site is crawlable is crucial. Bots and spiders needs to be able to easily and thoroughly crawl your site so that they can be indexed properly by search engines.

There are several ways you can make your site more crawlable:

Optimize the Google crawl budget

The Google crawl budget refers to the number of pages that Google visits on your site during a single connection. If you have an increased crawl budget it means that Google is interested in knowing more about your site, which will improve your SERPs.

You can check Google crawl rate by logging into the Webmasters search console and clicking on “crawl stats”.

Optimize the Google crawl budget

Ways you can optimize the Google crawl budget include:

  • Increasing the speed of your site
  • Regularly checking the crawl error report
  • Utilizing proper AMP pages on your site
  • Optimizing images
  • Making your site mobile-friendly
  • Reducing the page load time for dynamic page requests

Update your site map

A sitemap is a file where you list the web pages of your site to inform Google and other search engines about the organization of your site content.

Ways you can ensure your sitemaps are more crawlable include:

  • Updating your XML sitemap each time you add a new page
  • Removing duplicate pages and improper redirects
  • Using consistent URLs
  • Checking for sitemap errors
  • Having an optimized mobile sitemap
  • Not including session ids
  • Eliminating outdated content

Improve your site architecture

The structure of your site refers to the organization of your website’s content. If your site is structured well, your users can navigate it more easily and Google can index your URLs better.

Ways you can optimize your site architecture include:

  • Evaluating and optimizing your categories
  • Improving your internal linking structure
  • Fixing dead ends

Setting a URL structure

URLs are the first thing that both Google and users see when it comes to your website so you need to make sure they are structured properly. When creating your website, you can choose whatever URLs you want; however, you need to ensure that the structure remains consistent.

Ways you can create an SEO friendly URL structure include

  • Using your keywords
  • Minimizing dynamic URL strings
  • Making them short and to the point
  • Avoiding unnecessary words or characters

Using canonical tags

Use robots.txt.

When a web robot crawls your site, it will first check the /robot.txt. Robot.txt tells search engine crawlers which pages or files the crawler can or can’t request from your site.

Robot.txt can be used to block certain bots from crawling your site, namely ones that have malicious intent. It can also be used to exclude pages that you don’t think will help the search bots to understand your website.

Use breadcrumbs

Google loves breadcrumbs. A breadcrumb trail is used to show the current page a user is on back to the homepage of your site. Breadcrumbs are vital for SEO as they make navigation easier and they encourage users to visit more pages of your site, therefore reducing your bounce rate.

Breadcrumbs are also vital for giving accurate context to the search bots that are crawling your site.

Being indexable

The next stage in your technical SEO audit is to make sure that your site is indexable. If Google does not index your site, you are basically invisible, and no one will be able to find your content organically. If your site is brand new, it can take Google a while to index your pages. There is not much that you can do about this, although you may want to focus on building backlinks while you wait to earn some much-needed Google credibility.

There are several ways in which you can ensure your site is indexable:

Remove duplicate content

Although often overlooked when carrying out SEO, duplicate content can confuse search bots and make the indexing process a lot more difficult for them. You can utilize a duplicate content checker for this step that will ensure you do not miss any less obvious errors.

If you do detect any duplicate content, get rid of it pronto. You can do this by either removing the duplicate content entirely or by rephrasing it. Although the latter can be more time consuming, it is sometimes a better option as you get to keep rather than lose valuable content that you spent time creating.

Alternatively, you can add the canonical URL to the pages with duplicated content as this allows Google to see the source of the published content.

Audit your redirects

If you do audit your redirects regularly as a redirect chain or loop, it will negatively affect your site’s usability, crawlability, and ability to be properly indexed.

Have a responsive site

Your site needs to be mobile friendly as Google currently prioritizes the mobile experience over a desktop one. You can check to see if your website is responsive by visiting the Google mobile friendly test page. This tool will complete a scan of your website to confirm if it is sufficiently mobile friendly.

All you need to do is enter your URL and Google will do the rest of the work for you:

mobile friendly

Keys ways you can ensure your mobile website is up to scratch and will be ranked highly by Google include:

  • Ensuring that it has the exact same content as your desktop site
  • Ensuring that it loads in less than six seconds
  • Ensuring that your mobile site is optimized (although it is worth knowing that mobile tends to have lower conversion rates than desktop)
  • Avoiding using pop ups

It is worth noting that an AMP website does not replace the need for a fast mobile site.

AMP website

Fix any HTTP errors

There are several different HTTP errors that you may encounter when auditing your site. These include:

  • 301 permanent redirects
  • 302 temporary redirects
  • 403 forbidden messages
  • 404 error pages
  • 405 method not allowed
  • 500 internal server error
  • 502 bad gateway error
  • 503 service unavailable
  • 504 gateway timeout

The most common error is the 404 error. This error type can harm both your user experience and your site’s crawlability as neither will be happy with being hit with a roadblock when trying to browse.

Fortunately, there are ways in which you can make a 404 error less frustrating for users. As you can see from the example below:

404 error

Airbnb have provided several useful links on their 404 error page, which will redirect users to another page on their site, therefore, reducing the likelihood of users bouncing to another site.

If any of your pages link to a now-deleted page or a misspelled URL, you need to go in and either remove the broken links or direct them elsewhere.

All HTTP errors that you encounter need to be fixed or you will struggle to improve your ranking in SERPs.

Enhancing your accessibility

SEO accessibility, or rendering, is crucial if you want to increase your organic reach. This process relates to how effectively Google can take your web pages, run the page code and assess the content so that it can fully understand the structure of your site.

There are several ways you can improve the accessibility of your site:

Check your server performance

If your server is experiencing issues such as timeouts or errors, search engines may choose to remove your web page due to poor user experience.

Check for HTTP errors

HTTP errors are critical system errors that should be repaired immediately to avoid further corruption of your website. You can utilize a web crawler such as Screaming Frog to locate common HTTP errors.

Decrease your page load time

Slow page load times not only affect the user experience, they can also result in server errors that will block search bots from your page.

JavaScript rendering

JavaScript causes issues for browser rendering because it has the ability to modify the page. This means rendering has to be paused each time a new script is found. Therefore, Google recommends that you use pre-rendered content to enhance the accessibility of your site. By making your JavaScript powered web applications findable by Google you can find new users and re-engage with existing users as they search for content.

Eliminate orphan pages

If you have any pages on your site that do not link to at least one other page on your site, these are called orphan pages. Search bots struggle to index these pages as they do not understand what they are there for. Always make sure to add at least one, preferably more, internal links for every page on your site.

Limit page depth

The depth of a page refers to how many clicks it is away from the homepage. Of course, you want your site to have depth but your most important pages such as your products and your contact pages should never be more than 3 clicks away from your homepage.

Minimize redirects

Although redirects are necessary, they can have a negative impact on your site. Redirects have the ability to:

  • Reduce page load time
  • Slow down crawling
  • Make your site less accessible

Therefore, it is advisable to keep them to a minimum.

Increasing your ability to rank

Although you are probably already familiar with ways in which you can use SEO to improve your website’s ranking, within this section you will discover how to specifically use technical SEO to create an SEO friendly site that will rank highly on Google and other popular search engines.

Linking

Both internal and external links are crucial if you want search bots to be able to crawl, index and rank your website effectively, allowing them to be able to further understand the context of your content.

Backlink quality

Links that you receive from other sites to your own have the ability to create trust and confidence in your site. The more high-quality backlinks you receive, the more search bots will sit up and take notice of your site.

That said, it is important to know that low-quality backlinks can have the exact opposite effect on your site’s credibility, causing search bots to rank your site lower.

Content clusters

If you are looking for an exciting way to grow your organic reach, then content clusters are the answer. By linking related content on your website, content clusters make every aspect of the job of a search crawler easier. Plus, they have the ability to make you appear more of an authoritative source, which in turn, will make them more likely to rank you higher on Google.

Becoming more clickable

Increasing your click through rate is often seen as one of the top indicators that you are generating more leads, and in turn, increasing your sales. CTR is impacted by several elements of on-page SEO such as the use of keywords in meta descriptions and page titles. However, it can also be affected by technical SEO.

Focus on structured data

Did you know that structured data can help increase your click through rate by a whopping 30%?

Not sure exactly what it is?

Well, structured data is any set of data on a webpage that is organized and structured in a particular way. When applied to SEO techniques, structured data is the organization of specific groups of text that helps search engines to better understand the context of that information. This means that they can supply better search results to their users.

Win Google’s featured snippet

A featured snippet is Google’s attempt to directly answer a user’s query on the search results page. With Google’s increased ability to identify user search intent, Google are able to immediately answer a query without the need to search for actual results.

Featured snippets can be found above the top ranking spot on Google, typically appearing above the fold.

Here is an example of a featured snippet:

featured snippet

To win a featured snippet, you have to ensure you have the best answer to a searcher’s query. Well, that is what Google says anyway. However, there are other ways in which you can win this coveted spot:

  • Providing simple and consistent HTML code
  • Using clean formatting of headers
  • Keeping content short and sweet

Utilize Google Discover

If you pride yourself on using the latest available tools to improve your Google ranking and increase your organic reach, you will love Google Discover. In a nutshell, this tool shows users content that is related to their specific interests based on their web and app activity. Instead of helping users find an answer to their searched queries, Discover provides specific content based on what Google’s automated systems believe to be a good match with their interests.

Ways you can appeal to Google Discover include:

  • Avoiding click bait headlines
  • Avoiding misleading content in titles, snippets, and images
  • Having timely content
  • Having content that is unique
  • Including high-quality images
  • Being transparent with details about the author, publisher or publication to increase trust

Understanding technical SEO is not a simple process, especially for those that are not overtly confident in the technical aspects of a website. That being said, it is a crucial element of SEO and one that needs to be understood and mastered if you want to get on that elusive first page of Google, and who doesn’t?

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, try and remember that once you get technical SEO right, you won’t have to deal with the whole process again. The only thing you will have to do is carry out sporadic technical SEO audits.

Aim to tackle one element of technical SEO at a time and only move on when you feel ready. Plus, don’t forget, you can always ask for help if needed.