As web designers, we have lost count of the amount of website launches we have seen that focus on content, social media and blogging.
‘What’s wrong with that?’ you ask.
‘Alot’ is my simple reply after a quick look at the sites technical SEO.
If you are a business owner with a website, or are in the first stages of starting an SEO campaign for a new business and searching potential web designers or design agencies to create your website, you will have read, or been told, that:
- You must have a blog
- You have to create fresh content
- You must have social media presence
- Content is King
All of these are true.
But if your website takes 4 seconds to load you need to find out about technical SEO.
There’s more to SEO than just creating content
Writing unique content, building a presence through social media and creating links to your websites ‘pages’ are essential for your ranking – on one hand…
…Google ranks web-pages, not websites remember.
On the other hand, what is often missing are some worryingly basic aspects to the technical foundations of a website.
Without the technical SEO being in place, you can do all of the above, and you can ruin the chances of your website’s pages search performance instantly.
You rankings WILL suffer.
The best time to address this is during the build stage.
Revisiting the technical side of an existing website could require a lot of analysis and research, which equates to additional fees that could have been avoided.
Identifying technical issues and fixing those issues quickly can really boost your site’s ranking overnight.
What follows is a technical SEO checklist, some essential tips to start climbing those rankings, without writing a word.
What is technical SEO?
Neil Patel and the team at Quicksprout put it best:
“Technical SEO just refers to any SEO work that is done aside from the content. Essentially, it’s laying a strong foundation to give your content the best chance it can have to rank for relevant keywords and phrases”
Source: Neil Patel – Quicksprout
What this means is taking care of issues such as:
- HTTPS or HTTP
- Website Speed
- Mobile Visitors
- Site Architecture – Make it easy for Search Engines
- Site Crawling
- H1 – H6 tags
- Headlines and descriptions
We’ll take a look at these technical SEO issues and what each of these mean here.
HTTP or HTPPS?
Don’t let your online presence suffer.
It has been documented that nearly 50% of page one ranking web-pages use HTTPS. This is expected to rise to nearly 70% by the end of 2017.
Google has been sending out notices to website owners, reminding them their site will be marked ‘NOT SECURE’ from October 1st 2017 if they haven’t migrated from HTTP to HTTPS.
They’re not holding back on this and have made it quite clear what will happen to your site if you don’t.
What is HTTPS? It’s a secure encryption. If your website does not have an SSL certificate, visitors to your website will see this in their browser – not the sort of first impression you want to make.
With Google now notifying website owners, it’s time to take action, and sooner rather than later.
HTTPS offers other benefits to site owners:
- browser user privacy
- positive trust indicators
- search engine optimisation
Google have said that those websites with HTTPS, as opposed to HTTP, do get a ranking boost.Source: Google
They are making it quite clear that in the near future they want ALL websites to gain the secure encryption that HTTPS offers.
Therefore this step should be seen as mandatory whether you have a brochure site or e-commerce platform.
Take note of this date – On October 1st 2017 you have not moved over to HTTPS, when your website is viewed on Chrome a browser used my 40% of internet users, your website visitors will see this >
Gaining authority and trust online is hard enough, without one of the most used browsers flagging up a lack of security.
How your website speed affects your rankings
If your site loads in less than 3 seconds, you’re rankings are suffering
Ignore your website speed at your peril.
It doesn’t matter how good your content is, if your website is slow, you will rank lower, get less exposure and take a hit on how Google sees your site.
So what makes a website slow?
When we hand over a new website that has the ability to add blogs, new pages and images we always brief the client on the best practice when loading up images.
Images have the potential to cripple the load speeds of any web page if they are not optimised.
Did you know if you choose to load up an image directly from your phone, that image is likely to exceed 2mb? It should be more like 50 – 100k.
If you are on WordPress, use a tool like WPSmush to keep that image to its smallest size. This compresses the image making it load faster. Not only will it speed up the desktop version of your site, mobile visitors will thank you.
Here’s your most likely culprit.
Google recommends keeping server response time to under 200 milliseconds.
If you are running your business website on a £3 per month hosting deal, the chances of you getting response times that fast are slim to zero.
This is due to you sharing a server with many, possibly hundreds, of other businesses. If traffic increases for all of them, you will suffer in your response times.
Upgrade your server and reap the rewards of a website that loads, and performs, quickly. We use a Virtual Dedicated Server, and see load times of under a second for our website, but you can choose a variety of options from cloud to dedicated servers.
As long as it’s an upgrade on the basic shared server packages most people buy, you will see in increase in speed.
Ask your developer, or hosting company, what packages they recommend – They will have had experience on many servers, and will have a knowledge of which one would be most suitable for your website.
A simple cure is to use a caching plugin if you are using WordPress. This enables your site to load faster every time they visit your website by creating temporary files.
Every WordPress site should use one of these.
Google flag this up as an essential fix to gaining the load speeds to increase your SEO.
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Using a CDN such as Cloudflare or MaxCDN can drastically increase the load speed of your website.
Marry this with a fast server, caching, compression and minimal images and you are guaranteed a faster, slicker experience for your visitors. Google will also reward you with a ranking boost.
Are you looking after your mobile visitors?
If your website is not responsive, your rankings will suffer.
Given how many various screen sizes and devices there are on the market, you have to cater for all. The way to achieve this is by having a responsive website.
With Google favouring these websites there is no argument tow keeping an un-responsive design.
It has become standard, and any web design company wishing to charge you extra for this should be avoided.
Responsive design not only helps your website rank, it also ensures that every visitor to your website has the best possible experience when viewing it.
Without it, Google will not show your website in its search results to potential clients searching from a mobile device. Mobile usage is now more popular than desktop, and shows no sign of stopping there.
If that doesn’t prove that you need to update, nothing will.
Make it easy for Google and Visitors to discover your whole website.
Structuring your website well is the key to getting Google to crawl every page quickly, and for your visitors to reach any given page in the least amount of clicks.
For the search engines, submitting XML or HTML sitemaps guarantees easy indexing. If Google can easily access every page of your website, it can then decide how those pages rank.
The same is applied for your visitors.
Easy navigation and a clear URL structure help both.
Give Google the right access to your website.
Your sitemap and robots.txt can seriously affect your site’s crawlability.
If you are on the WordPress platform your best bet would be to use the Yoast SEO plugin. This gives you easy access to edit these files.
The sitemap tells Google what pages are on your website and is usually down with a .xml file.
The robots.txt has the power to block pages from Googles index.
You can also edit them manually, and upload them using FTP software, but do check that you are doing it right. One slip and everything can fall down.
Without this you could be competing with yourself
Many business website owners believe that creating a website such as ‘mywebsite.com’ is job done.
Search engines have a different view.
All of these are variations of your website address, and you need to tell the search engines which one you want to be the original.
Failure to do so could result in search engines not knowing which one to rank. It’s possible they all exist, which then creates an issue of ‘duplicate content’ – This is the same content appearing on many domain names. Google could either penalise, or fail to rank, that website.
There is a simple fix – But it is surprising how many new websites are launched without this being implemented.
Log into your Google Webmasters Account, set the preferred domain, and away you go. No more problem.
H1 – H6 Tags
Why should your web designer include header tags?
These six heading elements provide a clear hierarchy of information for both your website visitors, and for search engines.
They provide an important on-page technical SEO element as they tell search engines what your website, and business is about. I prefer to just use the first three, from H1 to H3, as they carry the most weight for SEO.
An H1 tag is the title for the page often big and bold at the top – it contains my primary service, my reason to be, and what that page should rank for. There is only one of these, so make it count.
<h1> Website Design Company in Manchester </h1>
In explaining what that title means, I can then use H2 tags for further services, or keywords that back up the H1.
<h2> Small Business Web Design Specialists </h2>
Each H2 could then have a paragraph, a more in-depth block of text. If it gets too large, separate them with sub-headings. These would be the H3’s, containing further keywords that you know are being searched for. These all back up the main header tag.
<h3> Affordable eCommerce Web Design </h3>
You’ve managed to punch lots of keywords through your website, that also create a clear structure and an easy to read page.
Headlines and Descriptions
What Google shows in its search results can make all the difference in getting clicks.
Creating a headline is an entirely different job to creating the page title.
The page title is the URL address, coupled with the H1 tag. Both of these will ideally contain the keyword. This tells the search engine what your page is about.
The headline, and description, tells the reader what that page is about – and this can make all the difference in getting that valuable click.
Look at the two differences here, one has been considered, measured, and tested to be sure that it generates results.
The other is what a search engine will use if you do not tell it to use a headline, and a description.
You do have control over this, but you need to ensure your web designer takes this in hand.
A headline and description both have character limits. Google can only show a certain amount for each result so make each character count.
For the description you are limited to 160 characters. Bear in mind these do not have a bearing on your SEO, but they do on your visitor. This is your chance to tell them what this page offers, or can do for them.
The title should be around 55 characters – I say around because it can show 50 to 60. Keeping your title to this number suggests you can expect about 90% of your titles to display properly.
So what’s the bottom line?
Knowing what is required for the technical aspect of SEO is equally important to any content-based SEO.
Both are equally important, and one without the other leaves you at a disadvantage to your competitors. Perform due dilligence, ask questions, do research and ensure that your businesses website performs to it’s maximum capabilities.