These days, much of the SEO and online marketing discussion tends to focus on content marketing, social media, user engagement, and other more human elements of the online marketing mix. However, marketers and small business owners should be aware that a fair amount of technical precision is still needed to operate an effective SEO campaign.
For those who aren’t professional SEOs or developers, sometimes tech-speak all sounds like super complex gibberish that isn’t accessible to non-geeks. However, in reality many technical SEO concepts are pretty easy to understand if you make the effort. While you don’t necessarily need to know the exact details of how to actually implement technical SEO strategies, understanding the language and the logic behind them will help you make better marketing decisions.
In this post, we’ll recap a few of the most common technical SEO issues, and provide a general guide to understanding these items and using them within your SEO strategy. While some of these terms might seem initially complex, expanding your digital vocabulary is key to leading your company’s online marketing efforts.
- The Canonical Redirect. This is a very common mistake that small business websites make. Basically, in most web hosting environments, the average website will be available under both “www” versions and “non-www” versions. In other words, your website is accessible as https://www.mybusiness.com as well as just https://mybusiness.com. While that might seem like a non-issue for you and your users, this duplication confuses Google. For Google, www and non-www are actually entirely different websites, and Google will see them both as being duplicative of each other. To resolve this, SEOs will suggest implementing what’s called a canonical redirect. This means choosing either the www or nonwww version of your website as the official or “canonical” version, and redirecting the other non-canonical version to the official version.
- XML Sitemaps. Most people don’t know exactly how a search engine works on a technical level. Business owners might assume that they’ll get on Google instantly. However, the reality is that Google only lists web pages that it is actually aware of. To find webpages, Google “crawls” the web, using hugely powerful software called crawlers or robots to basically download the entire internet. The thing is, not everything online actually gets found by Google’s crawlers. Webmasters and SEOs take steps to ensure that Google does find their content, and the XML sitemap is one of those steps. An XML sitemap is basically a list of all the URLs on your website, formatted in a specific machine-readable language called XML. Your website should have an accurate XML sitemap that is submitted to Google through Webmaster Tools, to help Google find and crawl all of your URLs.
- Robots.txt. We just discussed the concept of Google crawlers that search the web for content. This tends to happen automatically and at Google’s discretion. However, Google and other search engines do allow webmasters to control how their content gets crawled, with a system called robots.txt. Robots.txt is basically a text file that you put on your server, that gives instructions to search engines about what content on your website should and should not be crawled. It can be very useful if you have some information on your site that you’d rather not get found by Google. However, robots.txt can also cause severe SEO issues if it is configured incorrectly. A bad robots file could stop Google from seeing your entire website, effectively making it invisible in search engines. If you’re ever in a situation where your website isn’t in Google and you don’t know why, robots.txt misconfigurations could be the issue.
These are just a few of the more common technical SEO points that might come up in a discussion about SEO strategy. if you’re considering hiring an SEO firm, or just want to review your own website, knowing about these items could be very helpful in making informed decisions. If you’d like to learn more about technical SEO, or if you’re having a complex SEO issue, the Tech-Critic team would love to help. Please contact us today for a free SEO consultation.