Google has a type. To fit that type, your technical SEO has to be on fleek. So, what is technical SEO, and how can you improve yours to rank on Google’s first page?
Google decides who sees you. And Google only gives you action if you’re its type. It looks for three traits in a website, one of them being potent technology.
Technical SEO means improving the technical quality of your website to make Google rank it higher. SEO means search engine optimization—improving your website to rank higher on search engines. Mostly for Google because nobody cares about Bing with its 2% market share. Add technical to it, and it becomes focused on a website’s technology.
Which 5 technical SEO factors matter most in 2021?
Google doesn’t tell us exactly what it looks for in a website. It only gives hints. Based on those hints, my experience, and the tools I use, I compiled this list. Here are, in no particular order, the five most relevant technical SEO factors in 2021.
Technical SEO factor #1: Security.
That little lock shows that the connection to my website is secured via SSL. What that exactly is doesn’t matter, you just have to have it.
If you host your website with a website builder like Wix or Squarespace, you’re good. They include an SSL certificate with all their hostings.
If you self-host your website, you need to manually add this SSL certificate. But chances are, if you’re self-hosting, you already know this.
Technical SEO factor #2: Loading speed.
If your website content loads in less than 3 seconds, you’re good. Anything slower than that, and people will abandon you before they even read the title.
Google will register that people don’t stick around because your page loads too slowly.
Technical SEO factor #3: URL structure and XML sitemap.
You have to treat your website like a library. If a librarian tosses all the books on a pile and wishes you good luck, you wouldn’t like it. That’s how Google feels when your URL structure sucks.
If your post’s link is “yoursite.com/2021/blog/how%does%catfood%taste/,” Google won’t like it. A clean link structure looks like this:
To make indexing all your pages easy for Google, you give it a map to your website. That’s an XML sitemap. It’s a file that lists all your URLs, and Google loves it.
Technical SEO factor #4: Site structure.
The language browsers understand, and websites are written in is HTML. Here’s how a blog post of mine looks in HTML.
You don’t have to learn to code (although it helps) to rank on Google. The only thing you have to know right now is title tags. Those are h1, h2, h3, h4, etc. H1 is your main title. H2 is your subtitles. H3 is another level smaller, and so on.
“Technical SEO factor #4: Site structure” is the h3. “Which 5 technical SEO factors matter most in 2021” is the h2. And the main title of this blog post, “What is technical SEO? Make Google fall in love with your website,” is the h1. That’s how my table of content looks:
Got it? Awesome.
Structure your titles in a way that makes sense for Google. A mistake I often see is the use of regular text (<p> in HTML) in bold to make a title. That’s how you confuse Google.
Always use title tags to form a comprehensive structure.
Technical SEO factor #5: Metadata.
The metadata is what you want Google to display in its search results. If someone searches for Copyneat, they get this:
The meta title is what’s violet (usually blue). The short description below is the meta description.
If you don’t specify those in your HTML code, Google just takes something from your website, usually the first sentences.
Meta title and meta description don’t affect your ranking directly. But they are what make people click or scroll past, so better make it good. If too many people scroll past, Google won’t think your website is relevant.
What is a technical SEO audit?
Technical SEO is the most straightforward aspect of search engine optimization and your first step to readying your website for Google’s crawlers.
And everything starts with the technical SEO audit.
A technical SEO audit is a report that shows your website’s technological performance weaknesses. The good audits also show how to improve those weaknesses.
Google has one duty: show its users the best result for their search.
Imagine you’re searching for a banana bread recipe. Google shows you a website that claims to have the banana bread recipe because their great-great-grandfather passed it down to them.
Sounds hella promising. After all, that guy must have been around when bananas still looked like this:
So you’re clicking that link, and the bar is loading. And loading. And loading.
You click the back button and leave the page forever. And you’re not the only one! Every banana bread enthusiast who saw that website clicked away before the recipe even loaded.
Google figures that it showed the wrong result. The website ends up in the graveyard of Google’s second page and never gets a click again.
And the holy grail of banana bread is lost forever.
If the banana bread recipe writer would fix the loading time—it might just take ten minutes to do—he would stay at the top of Google and become famous for his recipe.
But he never will because he is unaware of the problem.
To find out if your website isn’t on par with Google’s standards, you have to audit it.
I can give you a checklist with all the technical factors Google cares about. You can check them one by one and compare your website to benchmark data OR you can just use the best SEO tool on the market.
What is the best SEO audit tool?
I have never audited a website manually. I let my favorite SEO tool do the heavy lifting: SEMrush.
(Yes, this is a referral link. Yes, I’m getting money if you click it and then decide to buy. Yes, they pay well. No, I’m not recommending them because they pay well. I’m recommending them because I’ve worked with SEMrush for the past years and couldn’t be happier with it.)
It’s free to test. Give it a try.
How to do a technical SEO audit.
SEMrush doesn’t come cheap.
If you just want to give your website a makeover once, let the trial run out, and that’s it.
If you want to stay on top of the SEO game in every criterion of every trait, use SEMrush extensively. It’s one of the best investments in your website you can make.
How to do a technical SEO audit for free with Lighthouse.
There is a free alternative to do your technical SEO audit. It’s made by Google and integrated with every Chrome browser by default. Pretty awesome, right?
Here’s how you do it.
Step 1: Open your website in chrome.
Step 2: Open developer tools.
Step 3: Choose Lighthouse and tick the boxes.
You can choose what you want Lighthouse to audit. Check all the categories and do a check for desktop and one for mobile.
Step 4: Run the report.
Click “Generate Report” and let Lighthouse work its magic.
Step 5: Read the EXTENDED report and get to work.
You can extend the report with this toggle. If you click the “Learn more” link, you go to web.dev where you find a detailed explanation of what the metric means and how you can improve it.
That was just the beginning of your SEO journey.
This was your first step to optimizing your website for Google. I’m proud of you for taking it.
That’s it. I’m out.