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Technical SEO: 8 Key Factors For Growing Organic Rankings

Picture of Connor Wilkins
Connor Wilkins

CMO, Direction.com

technical SEO guide

Eight great benefits of Technical SEO at a glance:

  1. Technical SEO helps make sure more people can find your content. It makes it easier for search engines to understand and list your content so it can be found.
  2. Technical SEO can make your website look better in search results. It might show pictures, videos, ratings, and other things to get people to click on it.
  3. Technical SEO can help your website show up at the top of Google search results in places such as the highly coveted “People also ask” and “Featured snippets” sections.
  4. Image optimization can help drive traffic to your website from image searches. It can also make your website show up better in search engine results, which can increase click-through rate because people now see an image with the search result.
  5. Staying on top of technical SEO helps with adherence to Google’s best practices for website optimization, ensuring your site’s pages are continually showing up in search results.
  6. Having a fast, user-friendly (easy to use and navigate), and mobile-friendly website accessible from any device makes users happy, growing your brand and having Google more than happy to show your site in the search results.
  7. The easier websites are to crawl and index, the faster, easier, and higher they rank.
  8. The higher your website ranks from the results of great technical SEO work, the more money you make.

This comprehensive guide is built to provide you with a better understanding of the importance of technical SEO and provide actionable strategies you can use TODAY to start driving organic traffic and more conversions from search engines.

Whether you’re a business owner looking to better understand technical SEO, a seasoned marketer, or just starting out in SEO, this technical guide will help unlock your website’s potential and get it performing at its best. So let’s get right into it.

Why is Technical SEO Important to organic search success?

Technical SEO, the process of optimizing your website’s technical elements so that search engines can crawl, index, and ultimately rank it, is the backbone of any successful website.

Google sifts through 30 trillion web pages 100 billion times each month. Not only do you need your website to stand out from the 1.7+ billion sites on the internet, but you need it to stand out in the first few results of search engine result pages.

Ensuring your site is mobile-friendly, responsive, and navigable, as well as improving its speed and other technical factors so that search engines can easily index it and users enjoy it, will significantly influence how successful your site will be in being discovered.

If search engines can’t crawl your website, your website won’t rank well in search engine results pages (SERPs). In short, technical SEO serves as the foundation for your website – without proper optimization, your website’s rankings, traffic, and overall success could significantly suffer.

How often should technical SEO audits be run?

Technical SEO audits should be done, at minimum, on a monthly basis. Here at Direction, our SEO team runs technical SEO scans using AHREFS, Screaming Frog, and SEMRUSH once each week for every single one of our clients.

That said, the frequency with which technical SEO should be addressed depends on various factors, including your website’s size, content update frequency, and the complexity of your site structure.

However, as a general rule of thumb, it is recommended that technical SEO be evaluated and updated at least once every month to ensure that your website is always operating at its best.

Staying on top of updates is essential since search engines continuously modify their algorithms, and plugins often get updated (sometimes hacked), which can affect different site areas in different ways. Websites that aren’t regularly updated can quickly fall behind. Taking a proactive approach to technical SEO will save you time, money, and lost business opportunities, so it’s essential to make it a priority in your website’s overall SEO strategy.

How to Conduct Technical SEO Audits (4 Great Tools)

To ensure that your website’s content is understood and indexed effectively by search engine crawlers, it is critical to have a technically sound website. Fortunately, several great tools can help you discover opportunities and pinpoint technical issues that may be holding your website back.

1. Google Search Console

It’s of dire importance for every website owner to regularly monitor their technical SEO performance through Google Search Console. This tool helps identify any issues that may be hindering your website’s visibility on Google’s search engine. This free tool provides insights into how Google crawls and indexes your website, informing you of any technical issues that need to be addressed. 

google search console core web vitals
Screenshot from Google Search Console

Getting Started Wtih Google Search Console

Start by logging into your Google Search Console account and clicking on the ‘Coverage’ report. This report will show you how many of your pages are indexed, how many are not, and the reasons for any errors. If you notice any pages showing ‘errors,’ it’s recommended that you look into the possible causes and fix them immediately. Common technical SEO issues that may arise include broken links, missing meta descriptions, and duplicate content.

Another great report is the Mobile Usability report. This report will give you insights into any issues with your website’s mobile usability, which is crucial in today’s mobile-first world. Google prioritizes websites that are mobile-friendly, so ensuring that your website is optimized for mobile devices is essential.

Lastly, use the Core Web Vitals report measuring your website’s user experience (UX) metrics. This report measures your website’s loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability. Slow-loading pages, low levels of interactivity, and layout shifts can all negatively affect your website’s UX performance. By regularly checking the ‘Coverage,’ ‘Mobile Usability,’ and ‘Core Web Vitals’ reports, you can quickly identify potential issues and act on them to boost your website’s visibility on search engines.

screaming frog logo

2. Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog is one of the most popular tools for running technical site audits, as it provides valuable insights into your website’s technical performance. This tool crawls through all page and post types of your website, highlighting any technical issues such as broken links, duplicate content, metadata issues, and more.

To begin using Screaming Frog for technical SEO, simply enter your website’s URL and let the tool do its job by crawling through your website’s pages to identify issues. One of the key areas that Screaming Frog can help with is identifying broken links, which can negatively impact your website’s search engine rankings. The tool will flag any broken links, allowing you to quickly fix them and ensure that your website is easily crawlable by search engines.

Using Screaming Frog to identify potential technical SEO issues on your website effectively ensures that your website’s technical performance is up to par. By fixing any issues identified by the tool, you can improve your site’s search engine rankings, drive more traffic, and elevate your online presence.

2. Ahrefs SEO Site Audit Tool

AHREFS is another valuable tool for identifying technical SEO issues. With its comprehensive technical SEO auditing capabilities, you can easily identify underlying technical issues that negatively impact your site’s performance. The tool analyzes everything, from scanning for broken links to duplicate content issues and other crucial technical SEO factors. It also weeds out errors in your website’s HTTPS setup, web page structure, and many more factors.

ahrefs seo site audit tool

Utilizing the AHREFS SEO Site Audit Tool ensures that your site stays ahead of its online competition. With its stunning ability to provide actionable insights, this tool puts technical SEO experts in the driver’s seat when it comes to addressing technical SEO requirements and optimizing their sites for better rankings and online visibility.

3. Semrush Site Audit

Semrush is a comprehensive SEO tool that can help you identify potential issues with your website’s keyword targeting, on-page optimization, and overall visibility in the SERPs. By using these tools in combination with each other, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of your website’s technical SEO landscape and make targeted improvements to optimize your website’s performance for search engines.

semrush site audit tool

Remember that it’s not a big deal if your website doesn’t score 100% on AHREFS or SEMRUSH. Also, different tools measure different aspects of a website in different ways. So, you may see 95% on one tool and 90% on another. Any website with 100+ pages may almost never have a perfect score. The largest factor is what the website is built on (WordPress, Shopify, Wix, Squarespace, etc.) Some technical SEO factors matter more than others. As long as the most important ones are addressed on a consistent basis, it’s OK to have a 90% or higher on your website score.

8 Key Technical SEO Factors

Technical SEO might not be as glamorous as creating viral content, but it lays the critical infrastructure for search success. Without a technically sound website, your brilliant content can’t reach its full ranking potential.

Technical SEO removes friction and establishes a solid foundation upon which to build your optimization efforts.

So, what specific technical elements truly impact search performance?

While the list can be extensive, we’ve identified the 8 technical SEO factors that offer the biggest bang for your buck.

By focusing on these high-yield technical improvements first, you ensure your site has the core configuration dialed-in for SEO excellence. Think of them as the vital building blocks of a successful technical SEO strategy.

1. Architecture and Navigation

Optimizing your website architecture and navigation is crucial for improving user experience and ultimately driving more traffic to your site. A well-organized architecture allows search engines to easily crawl and index your pages, leading to better ranking and visibility.

Furthermore, a clear and intuitive navigation system helps visitors find what they are looking for quickly and easily, reducing bounce rates and increasing engagement. A study by Adobe revealed that 38% of visitors will stop using a website if the layout is unattractive, and 88% of visitors are less likely to return after a bad user experience. This highlights the obvious need for a well-structured website.

When it comes to URL structures, shorter is cleaner. Rather than saying something like, “the-best-shoes-for-women-2016-item-34,” you might want to change it to “best-shoes-for-women.” Having this shorter and more concise URL is not only easier for people to type in and search but for users to navigate (and Google to index). If possible, try to incorporate your keywords into the URL itself. Avoid having the date, year, or any ‘stop’ words such as “and,” “for,” or “the.”

Optimizing your website architecture and navigation enhances the user experience, improves SEO, and increases the chances of conversion. So, optimizing URLs and navigation is not just a smart move, it is a necessity for the success of your website.

2. 404 Errors & Redirects (updating broken and/or changed links)

If any links on your site aren’t working, it can derail your rankings. Not only do broken links make for a lousy user experience, but they devalue SEO efforts. Broken links also restrict the flow throughout your site, negatively impacting rankings. To efficiently fix 404 errors and redirects, it’s crucial to scan your website for broken links and fix them.

The first step is to identify the broken or changed links using one or more of the four site audit tools mentioned above. Once you find the problems, whether they are broken links or redirects, internal or external, update the links to the correct destination or implement proper redirects to the new page. We like to use a WordPress plugin called Rankmath for this.

It’s important to note that failing to fix 404 errors and redirects can impact user experience, reduce website traffic, and lead to significant revenue loss. Regularly monitoring and fixing broken links on your site will significantly improve your website’s performance and user experience. By fixing these issues, you can ensure your online presence remains strong, reliable, and user-friendly for both existing and potential customers.

3. Page Speed

Simply put, page speed is how long it takes for your website or a page to load once someone clicks on it. In more technical terms, it’s actually the speed taken from a sample of page views on your website. You might also see it displayed as something like “page load time” or “time to first byte.” 

The former measures how long a page takes to load, while the latter is for how long it takes to get the first byte of information up on the page. Both are important! This is how search engines determine how fast your pages load, which is why ensuring every user has a great, fast experience every time they visit your pages is important.

If you’re totally new to this kind of technical jargon, then it’s important to understand that you can’t optimize an entire page with one click. You’ll have to optimize it part by part and attack or improve various factors.

google pagespeed insights tool
Google PageSpeed Insights (https://pagespeed.web.dev/)

Page Speed Optimization Basics

If you’ve hired an SEO team to handle all edits and updates to your website, then they’ll likely know how to optimize it for speed utilizing plugins such as WP Rocket. If they’re not implementing these changes, look for a new team. If you’re going at it all alone, then it’s nice to at least understand what to look for so you know where to start.

You can utilize the following three tools to measure page speed:

  1. Google PageSpeed Insights
  2. Pingdom
  3. GT Metrix

File compression, redirects, caching, and server response time are some of the four biggest issues most businesses see when they have slow loading speeds. If your website has a lot of large files on it, such as images or videos, then make sure you’re compressing them in order to save space. Use a tool such as squoosh.app. A large photo file, 1MB, for example, is going to slow down the loading speed a lot. If you compress your files, the server doesn’t have to work so hard to retrieve the information.

Page redirects are another factor that can cause your site to load slowly. If a user is navigating your website and clicks on a button, then the site will redirect them to another page. Making the redirect pattern as simple as possible means that the server doesn’t have to waste time loading each step. This helps a lot with a page’s loading speed.

How Speed Affects User Experience (UX)

User experience is another technical SEO factor that search engines take into account when deciding how to rank your website. 

When a user searches for “SEO companies in Austin,” the search engine wants to provide them with the best and most accurate page. Once they reach the page, they want them to have a good experience. What’s that mean? It means that the page loads fast, that all of the images on the page load, that the site is easy to navigate, and that the information on-page is highly relevant to what they’re looking for.

Pages with longer loading times usually have higher bounce rates. In fact, users nowadays are so impatient that they’ll only wait two seconds before leaving your site if it doesn’t load. One study also reported that longer loading times can negatively affect the conversions on your page. Users simply don’t want to navigate a website that’s slow to load or hard to navigate.

And, once somebody clicks off your site due to a poor experience, they’re not likely to return. This means that you’ve just lost out on important traffic that you need to build your brand and increase conversions.

The simple solution? Improving your page speed. 

4. Structured Data Markup (Schema.org)

Structured data markup, also known as Schema, has become an indispensable tool for website owners to enhance their online visibility and search engine rankings. Schema.org vocabulary, specifically, provides a standardized way to define the content on webpages, thereby providing a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of website content to search engines like Google.

By facilitating improved communication between websites and search engines, structured data markup bolsters the relevance and usefulness of search engine results to users. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of drawing high-quality organic traffic to websites, thereby enhancing online exposure and, ultimately, driving overall business success. Investing time into implementing structured data markup should be a vital component of every website owner’s SEO strategy.

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are a powerful tool in guiding both search engines and users through your website’s hierarchy. By providing a clear and structured path to follow, breadcrumbs not only help users easily navigate through your site but also allow search engines to understand the context of your content. This, in turn, can improve search visibility and increase click-through rates. In addition, implementing breadcrumb Schema can enhance the semantic richness of your website, allowing search engines to better understand the relationships between pages and their respective categories. We use Rankmath for breadcrumbs on WordPress websites.

FAQ Schema

By incorporating FAQ Schema into a website, search engines are able to index and display frequently asked questions (FAQs) prominently in their search results. This makes it easier for users to find the information they’re looking for and can significantly increase a website’s visibility and traffic. Additionally, with the rise of voice search, FAQ Schema is becoming increasingly important. Websites can better optimize their content for natural language search queries by providing concise, clearly defined answers to common queries. In short, by implementing FAQ Schema, websites can leverage the power of structured data to improve their SEO efforts and drive more relevant traffic to their site.

5. Website Security & Indexability

Search engines are placing more emphasis on secure websites that are easily crawlable and indexable. Ensuring that your website is secured with an SSL certificate, implementing proper authentication mechanisms, and protecting against malware attacks are just a few of the crucial security measures that can greatly impact your rankings. Furthermore, optimizing your website for indexability by creating a comprehensive sitemap, submitting it to Google, and removing any crawl errors can improve your website’s visibility in search engine results.

Sitemaps

Sitemaps list all the pages of your site, allowing search engines to crawl your website more intelligently. It’s important to investigate & ensure that your pages are in the sitemap so that they get picked up by search engines and, thus, are found by users. We always recommend using the Rankmath WordPress plugin for this and keeping a link to your sitemap in the footer of your website.

6. Mobile Optimization

Mobile optimization is considered a technical SEO technique because it focuses on the behind-the-scenes technical performance of a website rather than on-page content and optimization.

This is extremely important for SEO because:

  • Google favors mobile-friendly sites in rankings, so non-responsive design hurts visibility.
  • Over 50% of search traffic now comes from mobile devices. If your site doesn’t adapt, you’ll lose those potential visitors.
  • A poor mobile experience leads to high bounce rates which signal low-quality pages to Google.

Having a responsive design and mobile-friendly pages means your website dynamically adapts its layout and content to look great on all devices – desktops, tablets, and smartphones.

Ensuring a fast loading, seamless responsive design and streamlined mobile pages accommodates modern multi-device search behavior. Visitors coming from mobile Google searches will have a flawless experience navigating and engaging with your pages.

By making your website technically ready for mobile users, you open up higher search rankings and referral traffic as mobile commands a growing share of searches.

So while this optimization occurs directly on a site, it qualifies as technical SEO because it involves behind-the-scenes enhancements to improve technical performance for mobile users, not visible on-page content improvements.

7. Indexability

The robots.txt file gives instructions to search engine crawlers about what pages or sections of a website should be indexed or avoided. Properly structuring this file allows you to maximize the pages you want included by search engines. For example, you can block non-public pages like user account or admin areas.

XML sitemaps act as a roadmap to help search bots efficiently crawl all the pages you want indexed. This improves the chances of new and updated content being discovered in a timely manner. The sitemap outlines every URL on your site and provides additional details like last modified dates and priority.

Together, thoughtful configuration of robots.txt and XML sitemaps improves overall website indexability as part of technical SEO. They allow you to point search engines towards your most important pages while avoiding indexing issues like crawler traps, duplicate content, non-public pages, and more. Improved crawl efficiency leads to faster indexing and better search visibility.

8. Conversion Optimization

We’ve saved the best, most important technical SEO factor for last. As we all know, ranking higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) is the ultimate goal. However, many fail to consider that driving traffic to your website is only half the battle won. Once visitors land on your page, you need to ensure they convert into customers. This is where conversion optimization comes into play. 

By constantly testing and tweaking your website to improve user experience and increase engagement, you boost your conversion rates, significantly enhance your SEO efforts, and build revenue. When visitors stay longer on your site and engage with your content, search engines view it as a sign of high-quality and relevant content, which can ultimately lead to higher rankings. Therefore, a successful SEO strategy absolutely MUST ENTAIL optimizing your website’s conversion rates regularly to achieve maximum results.

Try working on different call-to-actions, changing the colors of buttons, placement of buttons, adding popups on exit attempts, having chat features on your site that a/b tests welcome messages, and so much more.

Staying Current With The Latest Industry Updates & Best Practices in Technical SEO

In today’s ever-changing technological landscape, staying current with the latest SEO industry updates and best practices is more critical than ever before, especially as AI becomes more and more advanced.

Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms. By investing time in keeping up with the latest industry updates, your site can stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive in its respective industry.

Failing to do so can lead to lost opportunities and decreased visibility, significantly denting profitability. By staying current with the latest technical SEO practices, you are continually able to improve website performance, user experience, and overall search engine visibility.

Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal are my two favorite sites to stay current on industry trends and best practices.

Technical SEO: The Foundation of Success

Technical SEO best practices are about more than just title tags, meta descriptions, and keywords. It focuses on what’s the best in terms of searches and gives consumers (and the Google algorithm) what it wants.

Ignoring these basic SEO principles means you have been missing a huge opportunity for organic traffic. A great title tag and descriptions indicate a higher click-through rate and a better chance at winning rankings for more keywords. Go through your whole site and make sure to address every title and description. No duplicates and no missing. Does that overwhelm you? We’ve got you covered.

Let our professional team of SEO experts handle the dirty work. We will make sure you put your best foot forward on that Google results page.

If you’re not focused on reaching the people and what they’re searching for—all your best optimization efforts will fail. Starting from the ground up is essential. And that means finding what your potential customers are searching for and gearing your efforts around that. Then, once you have a strong base of SEO built on your page, it’s easier to maintain and grow with the current trends.

It’s also important to remember that building SEO, especially on-page SEO, is a process. It’s not something that will be ‘fixed’ or implemented overnight. Be patient with your process, especially if you recently did a site overhaul. Seeing the changes and rankings will take time. And you might not see any return for several weeks, if not months. Don’t be frustrated, though! Working on this aspect of your business and website is essential—if not necessary for your business’ future.

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