Geeky Behind-the-Scenes Bits

aka The Technical Things That Matter for Search Engines

There are many things about your website that search engines read that may not be obvious up front. Some of them can have an enormous, direct impact on your SEO.

We love to get geeky about this technical stuff. If any of it is overwhelming to you we would love to help.

Keywords

How does this affect SEO?
Direct
Indirect

On-Page
Off-Page
UX
Difficulty level?
Medium
What do I need?
Keyword research tools and access to edit your website content.

What someone types into Google search is known as a keyword.

What do you want to be found for? “World’s biggest ball of twine”? “Best place to stay in California”?
Figure out what you’d like, see if anyone’s actually searching those terms, and then start weaving that phrase naturally into your website pages.

Don’t overdo it though, otherwise you’ll slip into Keyword Stuffing. (See SEO Mistakes.)
Sometimes blogs or articles are the best solution to talk about a specific keyword and get found.

Fun Fact

“Keywords” are often phrases rather than single words. Confusing? Yes, we know.

Tip

How do you find out if people are searching for the terms you think you should rank for? Use Google’s keyword tool or other free tools to do keyword research.

Often, what you think your prospects are searching for is not as common, or is too broad. You want to find keywords that directly match your offering in order to compete.

Server Speed

How does this affect SEO?
Direct
Indirect

On-Page
Off-Page
UX
Difficulty level?
Medium
What do I need?
Access to talk to your hosting company

The quicker your website, the better your SEO.
Google doesn’t like slow websites as they tend to irritate visitors, which results in a poor experience. The quicker your server (often decided by your hosting company), the quicker your website.

Sitemap

How does this affect SEO?
Direct
Indirect

On-Page
Off-Page
UX
Difficulty level?
Hard
What do I need?
Sitemap creation tool & Google Search Console. You might need a developer to help with this one.

Creating a sitemap and submitting it to Google gives the bots a map to follow.

(Did we say “bots”? Yes, Google sends fact-finding tiny bots to “crawl” and read all the web pages on the internet.)

Your sitemap will tell them which pages of your website to crawl, how often you want them crawled, and the order of importance. It’ll make life easier for the bots, and they’re more likely to be your friend.

Robots.txt

How does this affect SEO?
Direct
Indirect


On-Page
Off-Page
UX

Difficulty level?
Hard
What do I need?
Access to the deep code of your website or an SEO plugin. We suggest working with a developer for this as it is sensitive.

Got any pages you don’t want Google to see yet?

If you don’t want Google’s bots to crawl a page, it’ll need to be added to the Robots.txt file. Think of it as a “Do Not Disturb” sign.

Page Speed

How does this affect SEO?
Direct
Indirect

On-Page
Off-Page
UX
Difficulty level?
Medium
What do I need?
Ability to make changes to your website, and tools to test your speed

How long would you wait for a slow website to load?
30 seconds? 10 seconds?
If you sit and do nothing, counting 5 seconds, you can imagine how even that is too long to wait for a website to load.
We are long past the days of dial-up internet, and people expect everything in an instant. They will “bounce” (or leave immediately) from your website and go somewhere else if their experience is even a little bit slow.
Tip

Check out Google’s page speed tool to see how quick your website is.

Bonus Tip

If the Google tool mentions “Optimize images,” then check out our help guides on how to fix this using Photoshop or using a free alternative called GIMP.

Search Engine Friendly URLs

How does this affect SEO?
Direct
Indirect

On-Page
Off-Page
UX
Difficulty level?
Medium
What do I need?
Access to edit your website

Website visitors are human, so make sure your URLs are geared towards human eyes.
What can you tell from a webpage address like: www.YourCompanyName.com/36576f876gjhksnvmn?
It doesn’t tell you much, right?

How about www.YourCompanyName.com/things-we-sell?
A bit better.

This is what SEF (Search Engine Friendly) URLs are all about. Subtle details like this can make a big difference in your trust factor and the experience people have with you on the web.
The words in your URL show up in search engine results.
Tip

Don’t just change URLs willy-nilly. See below for how to do it without hurting your SEO in the process.

Redirecting Old Website Pages

How does this affect SEO?
Direct
Indirect

On-Page
Off-Page
UX
Difficulty level?
Medium
What do I need?
Access to do redirections in your website platform. Sometimes a plugin is needed for this.

Neither website visitors nor Google enjoy “404 Page Not Found” errors.
So you read the above about SEF URLs and updated your website pages to be search engine friendly? Fantastic!

But hang on, changing your URL leaves an old one hanging out there in the web-verse with no page attached, causing “404 Page Not Found” errors. Those old URLs were already crawled by Google and were getting visitors. They need redirected to keep their momentum.
In the same vein, any time you retire a page that was once live, you need to redirect the URL. If there’s new content replacing it, then redirect it to the matching content. But if not, redirect it to your home page.
Tip
Try to view your website with fresh eyes – or better yet, get an honest friend to look at it and point out all the things they would change. This may be sometimes hard to hear, but priceless for the health of your website. Put on a brave face and write down all the little irritations your visitors have when navigating around your website. Prioritise the biggest gripes and work your way through the list. You won’t be able to please everybody, but listening to feedback is a very good start.

Meta Tags

How does this affect SEO?
Direct
Indirect

On-Page
Off-Page
UX
Difficulty level?
Medium
What do I need?
Access to edit your website — you will most likely need a plugin to edit your meta tags.

Meta Titles and Descriptions (collectively, Meta Tags) are what shows up in a search result for your web page.
This information is customisable.
Optimising these is a crucial part of getting ranked in the search engines. They’re also a prime place for keywords.
Tip

Make sure to keep within the character limit so that your whole title or description fits in the search result. You can test the length of your title here.

Now we’ve covered the technical things that matter for the search engines.
Continue on to learn the big bad SEO mistakes to avoid.

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