Your Ultimate Guide to Technical SEO 2018 Part 2

Previously in our series, we covered the first of our three technical SEO principles: If Google can’t see your page, no one else willIn Part 2, we’ll cover our second principle: Technical SEOs serve two primary users: searchers and bots. Optimize for both. 

In this piece you’ll learn three specific tactics for optimizing your content for both searchers and bots.

Principle 2. Technical SEOs serve two primary users: searchers and bots. Optimize for both.

User experience (UX) strategists tends to focus on humans. Technical SEOs must keep in mind another non-human user: Googlebot.

Googlebot crawls your sites daily looking for updates to content, URLs, resources, etc. Your rankings will suffer if you fail to provide both the searcher and Googlebot with an optimal experience.

Tactic #1: Improve Page Speed

Google has announced an upcoming “speed update” to its mobile algorithm. This means a fast-loading website is no longer a “nice to have”—it’s a necessity.

How to Improve Page Speed

Along with the basics of improving page speed, such as compressing images or, if you’re using WordPress, installing a plugin like WP Fastest Cache, here are other ways you can move the needle with page speed.

Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
CDNs place your pages and resources in different locations so that the user can download your website from the server that’s closest to them, reducing their load times.

Leverage Browser Caching with Expires Headers
Expires headers let the web browser know whether to download a file from the webserver or from the browser’s cache. Utilizing expires headers will reduce the number of HTTP requests and reduce the need to download the same file more than once.

Enable GZIP Compression
GZIP compression works by compressing your files before sending them to the browser. The result is a reduction in the size of your pages by up to 70%, enabling faster load times.

Optimize Images
As you work to optimize images, keep the following rules in mind:

  • Resize and crop your images to the appropriate size. If the maximum width of your blog is 600px, don’t upload an image that’s 3000px. Resize and crop your images to the size of your page layout before uploading.
  • Compress images. Image compression involves selectively reducing the amount of data. The result is reduced file size without loss of quality. Use a tool like TinyPng.com or a WordPress plugin such as WP Smush It to compress images you upload to your site.
  • Stick to JPG and PNG file types. JPG and PNG image file types are standard, work with most browsers, and have acceptable performance. File types like WebP have shown promise for performance but lack consistent browser support.

Resources

Tactic #2: Optimize for Mobile

Google started the initial rollout of its mobile-first index in late 2017. Sites that either have responsive designs or dynamically serve mobile content shouldn’t have to do anything to prepare for Google’s mobile-first index. However, if you want to take things to the next level, here are some ways you can optimize your mobile site.

How to Optimize for Mobile

Optimize Your Site for Smartphone Googlebot
Along with having a site that’s mobile friendly (via either responsive design or dynamically served mobile content),Google has provided webmasters with additional steps they can take to optimize their site for Smartphone Googlebot.

  • Make sure the mobile version of the site also has the important, high-quality content. This includes text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos—in the usual crawlable and indexable formats.
  • Structured data is important for indexing and search features that users love: it should be on both the mobile and desktop versions of the site. Ensure URLs within the structured data are updated to the mobile version on the mobile pages.
  • Metadata should be present on both versions of the site. It provides hints about the content on a page for indexing and serving. For example, make sure that titles and meta descriptions are equivalent across both versions of all pages on the site.
  • No changes are necessary for interlinking with separate mobile URLs (m-dot sites). For sites using separate mobile URLs, keep the existing link rel=canonical and link rel=alternate elements between these versions.
  • Check hreflang links on separate mobile URLs. When using link rel=hreflang elements for internationalization, link between mobile and desktop URLs separately. Your mobile URLs’ hreflang should point to the other language/region versions on other mobile URLs, and similarly link desktop with other desktop URLs using hreflang link elements there.
  • Ensure the servers hosting the site have enough capacity to handle potentially increased crawl rate. This doesn’t affect sites that use responsive web design and dynamic serving, only sites where the mobile version is on a separate host, such as m.example.com.

Implement Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs)

Example of an AMP on Forbes.com Image source: screen capture

Overall, it appears that accelerated mobile pages have a positive effect on mobile user experience. With proper implementation, AMPs will provide users with a near-instant load experience, improving mobile user engagement metrics.

Turn Your Mobile Site into a Progressive Web App

AliExpress.com provides an app-like environment with its progressive web app Image source: screen capture

Progressive web apps (PWAs) are websites that function like native applications. This provides users with a fast, reliable, and app-like experience.

Over the last two years, multiple case studies have shown the effectiveness of progressive web apps. For example, a case study released by Google in 2016 showed that conversions from new users on AliExpress.com increased 104%. A follow-up case study in 2017 showed that mobile conversion on Alibaba.com increased 76%.

Keep in mind that progressive web apps require more developer resources than a traditional website. If you have the resources, however, PWAs can provide significant improvements in your mobile user experience.

Resources

Tactic #3: Secure Your Website

Google has been taking security seriously over the last few years. It started in 2014 when Google announced HTTPS as a ranking factor. The company also announced that it will be marking sites as secure and non-secure in Chrome, which may give visitors second thoughts about completing lead gen and e-commerce forms on your site.

Chrome “Not Secure” warning Image Source: screen capture

How to Secure Your Site

Move Your Site from HTTP to HTTPS
The immediate step you should take is moving your site from HTTP to HTTPS. Most web hosts make the process of obtaining an SSL certificate easy. However, there are some concerns you should be aware of. For example, when implementing HTTPS, use 301 redirects to move HTTP URLs to HTTPS. See Google’s recommended best practices for implementing HTTPS for more tips to keep in mind as you transition to HTTPS.

Eliminate Mixed Content
After migrating, you may have URLs or resources (images, CSS files, scripts, etc.) that still use HTTP. Having mixed content on your site will diminish the security on your site.

Prevent mixed content issues by crawling your site for URLs and resources that have not been moved to HTTPS. Link Assistant’s Website Auditor has a specific report for this issue.

Resources

What’s Next

In Part 3 of our technical SEO series, we’ll discuss how to create meaning and context for the bots that interpret your content.

 

Dwayne Hogan

Dwayne has been developing SEO strategies for local and national brands since 2008. As an SEO Manager at Clearlink, he is integral to the development of the SEO channel and provides oversight of ongoing SEO strategies across multiple web properties.

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