Technical SEO Tricks for the Non-Techie
Poor technical SEO can make or break a site. But what do you do if you aren’t a techie or a web developer? Luckily for you - as a fellow non-techie - I have plenty of technical SEO tricks up my sleeve that you can implement to give your site that all-important boost. We’ll also be explaining why technical SEO is so important and what tools you can use to help you with your quest for site perfection.
What is Technical SEO and Why is it Important?
Technical SEO is about making your site search engine friendly. It gives your site strong foundations to build your site and ensures that everything you add to it has the very best possible chance of being seen and digested by your audience.
When developing or managing a site it is important to remember Google’s aim: to serve top quality, high performing sites to its users. Google is so keen to separate the wheat from the chaff that most of their updates over the last decade have been designed for this sole purpose. Consequently, site owners have been encouraged (or forced) to embrace technical SEO - even penalizing those that don’t.
Technical SEO is important for ensuring that:
Pages that load quickly
Sites have a good user experience
Low bounce rate (not officially a ranking signal), but is a measure of relevance and experience)
Sites are secure(HTTPS)
Sites are crawlable with minimal downtime
However, technical SEO isn’t just about satisfying search engines. Get technical SEO right and you’ll see an improved user experience too., and let’s not underestimate the power of this. If you’ve got a good site you’ll attract and retain users. The more users you attract the more likely your site will be shared and linked to. If you nail this you’ll see your SEO continue to improve and site traffic will grow organically with minimal effort.
Technical SEO Tricks for the Non-Techie
1. Get yourself a good auditing tool.
Whether you plan on fixing your own technical issues or not, it’s always a good idea to have some knowledge of the elements that need fixing. Without this information, it will be hard to brief, monitor, manage and evaluate the work that’s being done. A good auditing tool will also help you to measure the impact of SEO.
Number of indexed pages
Use the crawl feature to get an even deeper understanding of what’s happening behind the scenes.
Although some of these will require web developer knowledge, we’ll be concentrating on the things that you can implement yourself to get ahead.
2. Get friendly with Google Search Console
Google Search Console is the free portal for web developers allowing you to check various technical aspects from indexing status to site speed.
If you haven’t already, you will need to verify your site with GSC:
Click on the ‘Add Property’ button in the top right-hand corner.
Type the URL of your site.
Follow the instructions for including code on your site. Although Google recommends uploading the HTML verification file that can be downloaded from GSC, there are other ways this can be done.
Click on the Alternate methods tab to see other options.
This gives you the option to include a meta tag on your site’s home page, or through your domain host provider. Step by step instructions for verifying your site can be found here.
Bonus Technical SEO Trick
If you have a WordPress site, verifying your site with GSC is simple. You will need to have the Yoast plugin installed and activated for this. (If you’re serious about SEO then you should already have this plugin.) If you don’t — get Yoast SEO.
Go to your Yoast dashboard and click on the Webmaster tab.
In GSC click on the ‘alternate methods’ tabs > HTML meta tag option and highlight the code that appears within the quotations marks as shown.
Go back to Yoast and enter the code into the Google Search Console field and click ‘Save Changes’. Now when you click ‘Verify’ in GSC you’ll find that the property (website) has been added. Follow the same process to verify your site with Bing webmaster tools.
3. Submit your Sitemap and Robots.txt file
Now that you’ve verified your site you should test and submit your robots.txt file and sitemap. Both are vital to ensuring that search engines know how and what to crawl and index in their search results. Both of these files can be accessed by typing
yoursite.com/sitemap.xml (Yoast generates a sitemap index for WordPress sites which can be found by typing in /sitemap_index.xml)
If either are missing, contact your web developer and get them to rectify the problem.
From the GSC dashboard click Crawl > robots.txt Tester to upload your file. You will be asked to supply just the location of your file which should be /robots.txt
The process for submitting your sitemap is very much the same with the exception that you can test the sitemap before submitting it. Once submitted you will be able to see the number of pages submitted versus the number of pages that are being indexed.
It’s not unusual for some pages not be indexed. Check to see whether these pages have been excluded in your sitemap.
4. Structured Data
Every site owner dreams of being able to add embellishments to their search results to make them more distinctive and attract more click throughs, right? Well you can with Structured Data.
Structured Data is used to generate rich snippets like the one below.
Check to see if you have structured data markup on your site with a WooRank review.
While structured data markup tells search engines what your site says, annotating your site with Schema.org will tell search engines what your content means, giving them a better understanding. Schema.org is the industry standard and was created by the search giants: Google and Yahoo and Bing; we recommend using it.
Although it sounds complicated it’s actually rather easy if you use Google’s Highlighter to simply highlight and tag key components on your site and then publish it. There’s also a brilliant introductory video is you need further help which can be found by going to Search Appearance > Data Highlighter in GSC.
Take a look at how to get rich snippets for your own site
5. Site Speed
Page loading speed is important. If your visitors abandon your site because they’re getting fed up with waiting for your site to load, your bounce rate will increase your conversion rate will suffer.
Users leaving your page, returning to the SERP and choosing another result (known as pogosticking) is a huge red flag to Google.
Page load speed is also a ranking signal in mobile search so you need to address any potential issues. Here are our tips for a non-techies which can make a huge difference to your site speed.
Images: Resize your images using a photo/image editor tool. Event the most basic programmes allow you to do. Unless you’re using an image for a banner, keep images to 1000px wide. Images in their original format will take an age to load.
Compress image size using a tool like Tiny PNG. By removing any unnecessary data, images are reduced in size without compromising on quality.
Remove any non-essentials: Get rid of any plugins, adverts, pop-ups and tracking code that isn’t essential. All of these can lead to a slow down and is a problem that it is easy to remedy. Check that you don’t have too many redirects as these too will result in a slow down.
Caching: A cache stores data locally so that future requests for that data can be made quicker. Use a tool like Yslow (Chrome extension) to find out when your cache expiry is set to. If you’re not regularly making drastic changes to your site, it’s worth changing the setting to a year or two. For Wordpress users, install a caching plugin as this can improve site speed by up to 5 times.
6. Site Crawl
WooRank’s Site Crawl feature crawls your site just like a search engine would by following the links from page the page. It inspects all of your URLs for content, accessibility and technical issues. Fortunately, most of the issues (if any) that it detects are simple fixes.
Issues are categorized as follows:
On-page: Identifies on page elements that may be too long, too short, missing or duplicated. On page elements are further split into the following categories
Title tags that are too long, too short or missing or duplicated
Body content issues
If you find the next 3 categories too daunting to tackle yourself, get familiar with what they mean and create a report for your web developer and put them to work.
HTTP Status: WooRank’s site crawl will inspected your site for any
5xx errors: These occur when the page requested times out or takes too long to load and means that search engines were unable to crawl your page.
4xx errors: Most commonly these occur if the requested page does not exist. If these are caused by internal links the source url linking to 404 page will be identified. Check all of page links by using Check My Links (chrome extension) and rectify any broken or non existent links.
3xx errors: Shows the 3xx redirects contained on your site. While some are necessary it is important to ensure that the redirect chain is kept to a maximum of 3. (a redirect pointing to a redirect, pointing to a redirect.)
HTTP within HTTPS: Identifies any HTTP assets such as images, contained on your site that are hosted on HTTPS URLS.
Indexing: Here you can view the pages that Google can’t index. These aren’t necessarily errors, since you may have made this request, it’s a good idea to check which pages aren’t being indexed and the reasons why.
Canonical: Here you’ll see any canonical issues detected on your site which will appear because of conflicting canonicals, sitemap mismatches where the canonical URL does not match the URL in your sitemap, and Open Graph mismatches where the canonical URL does not match the Open Graph URL.
In each section critical issues are shown in red and informational tags are shown in blue.
7. Preferred domain
The final technical SEO trick we’re going to give you is to set your prefered domain in Google Search Console. Don’t underestimate the importance of this: sites that appear both with and without the www prefix or with and without the HTTP or HTTPS prefix will be indexed separately by search engines.
This means that each version will be viewed as copied pages and link juice will be shared between all of them.
To rectify this, add every version of your site using the ‘Add Property’ button on GSC. You will need to verify every version but once you’ve done one, the rest will be detected as being verified once you ask GSC to check them.
Set your preferred domain by specifying whether you want your site to appear with or without ‘www’.
Now, whenever one of your pages shows up in search results, Google will display your preferred URL. It will also automatically assign the link juice it finds out on the web to your preferred version.
If you’re a non-techie like me, technical SEO can be daunting. However, if you follow the technical SEO tricks above you’ll soon have your site performing better and ranking highly in search engine result pages (SERPs).
These tricks will also help to enhance the user experience. If you’re able to improve your site speed, reduce the number of on page errors or broken links, write compelling meta descriptions and increase your page content then you should also notice a decrease in bounce rate and increase in click-throughs and conversions.
Good luck and let us know how you get on.