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Technical SEO

What does technical SEO mean?

Technical SEO is the process of optimising your website for efficient crawling and indexing. Search engines crawl your website, its pages and your code to understand the information that your website contains and which topics are relevant to your site. The process of crawling helps search engines add your website to the index for relevant queries.

Your website must be set up in a way that allows search engine crawlers (also known as spiders), like GoogleBot and BingBot, to efficiently crawl and index your website. If your website relies on organic traffic from search engines then setting it up to efficiently crawl and index your website pages is vital to the success of your business.

What is technical SEO?

Technical SEO can include a wide range of elements from internal links and the code your website is built from to crawling efficiency and index settings.

Here are a few ways to carry out technical optimisation on your website and what technical SEO includes;

  • implementing schema; like JSON-LD and Microdata to help search engines better understand your website content
  • editing your robots.txt file to fix or remove erroneous rules that could be keeping pages out of the index
  • adding noindex meta tags to pages that have been indexed by mistake
  • re-structuring your website to ensure that; your most important pages are found and crawled more frequently than less important pages
  • checking .xml sitemaps to ensure that search engines can easily discover your website pages
  • checking meta canonical tags; incorrectly configured canonical tags can cause crawl inefficiencies
  • JavaScript rendering blocking; websites built with JavaScript or React websites commonly experience SEO issues because the large investment in resources required to render JavaScript websites slows search engines from crawling and rendering so can lead to more infrequent crawls.

Many technical SEO strategies can be complex and can require a lot of experience to solve accurately.

Search engines are your digital customers

We have had experience optimising sites which have suffered from;

  • hierarchical & structural issues
  • on-page technical problems
  • duplicate content
  • slow page speed
  • canonical tag inaccuracies
  • crawl inefficiencies
  • lack of optimisation for mobile devices
  • noindexing issues
  • legacy redirect & 404 issues
  • low crawl frequency
  • unparseable JavaScript code

How technical issues can affect organic search performance

Technical issues with your website can affect your organic search performance because of a number of reasons. One of the most important steps for search engines for adding websites to the index and then ranking those websites is the crawling step.

Crawling, is the phrase used by SEO professionals to allude to the “discovery” phase of search engines and your website.

The crawling phase of search engine ranking process occurs when a search engine “spider” or “bot” enters your website via a URL, the sitemap.xml file or a external link which points to a page on your website.

The crawler will then “crawl” each URL, extracting data about your pages, critical content elements like, URL, title tags, meta description, meta robots rules and canonical tags so they can understand the indexability of your pages, what your page aims to do and the content on your page.

Once search engines like Google have this initial data, Google may add your page to the index.

The next step of indexing and ranking your webpages, after the crawling phase, ism the rendering phase. Where search engines “visualise” the content on your pages by rendering the code to help examine your pages in more detail.

Crawling issues that affect your crawl budget

Issues that prevent crawling can negatively impact the performance of your website because;

  • blocking crawling can completely prevent search engines from accessing your pages, making indexing and ranking extremely difficult.
  • incorrect meta robots rules can mean pages fail to get added to the index, even if you would prefer they were shown
  • A missing sitemap.xml file, or one that exceeds the 50MB or 50,000 URL limit can mean crawling of your website and pages is more inefficient for search engines, leading to slower URL discovery and slower indexing of new content
  • missing title tags and meta descriptions can affect targeting and search engine’s understanding of your content
  • incorrect canonical tags can affect whether pages are indexed and affect crawl budget if implemented incorrectly.
  • A high number of internal links via 301 redirects can slow a search engine spider’s progress through a website meaning fewer of your valuable URLs are likely to be discovered.

Other technical issues can affect websites by inhibiting a concept known as “crawl budget” based on the size, authority and value of your website, search engines like Google may assign a “budget” of time to crawl URLs on your website.

If your website has crawling issues, or a high number of low quality URLs then your crawl budget could be wasted on lower quality URLs rather than the high quality, indexable, valuable content pieces that you need indexed for your business.

Other technical issues can include;

  • render issues from the codebase of your website, common on react and javascript sites
  • slow page load and poor user experience, making it difficult for users to find information on your pages
  • spammy practices like link masking, gateway pages and aggressive advertisements
  • duplicate content not properly handled and managed

A detailed SEO audit can help surface issues with crawling and help you identify priority fixes to make to your website to help search engines efficiently discover your most important pages.

What is included in technical SEO package?

Some examples of the types of things a technical services package might include are the diagnosis and fix of the following issues;

  • hierarchical & structural issues; Your website should be well structured with internal links utilised effectively from your homepage down to important product pages and on to guide, blog and long copy content pages. The number of clicks that it takes users to navigate from your homepage to your sub-pages can be a good indicator of effective site structure and hierarchy, but there are many other elements to consider.
  • on-page technical problems; the content of your site must be crawled effectively by search engine spiders. Sometimes, content with low levels of HTML text, although very useful for users, can be difficult for search engine spiders to understand contextually and therefore difficult to index. Other issues like a heavy usage of JavaScript or content built with old or unsupported code can slow or even prevent search engine spiders from crawling. Targeting issues like missing title tags and meta content can also make accurate indexing more difficult.
  • duplicate content; multiple pages with the same or similar content can be inefficient to crawl and cause problems. Sometimes two pages targeting similar queries can switch in and out of search engine results pages (SERPs) and this can negatively impact organic traffic, user experience and conversion.
  • slow page speed; the slower your pages load the more lag time users and search engine crawlers face. Google likes fast websites that allow their computing resource to operate efficiently and allow users fast access to information hosted on your site even when accessing the site via a slow mobile connection over 3G.
  • canonical tag inaccuracies; canonical tags can cause technical issues if they’re incorrectly configured. Even a small issue like an additional space or a single character change in a self-referential canonical tag can lead to huge crawl inefficiencies.
  • crawl inefficiencies; most medium and large-sized websites have URLs they’ll never want to be indexed. If this is the case, blocking crawling of these pages rather than using a nonindex tag can be more efficient for search engines than using a page-level meta noindex directive.
  • lack of optimisation for mobile devices; Important for websites that rely on Google organic traffic. The majority of Google’s index is now “mobile-first”. If the mobile and desktop versions of your website are not consistent then you may find your traffic can drop. Common causes for this are differences between
  • noindexing issues can occur when pages that are not needed in the index are included. Common examples of this can include things like onsite search result pages or user profile pages. If search engine spiders are spending time crawling pages like this, they aren’t spending their time crawling the most important pages of your site.
  • legacy redirect & 404s; as you make changes to your site, like adding and removing pages, URLs can be switched off or changes which can mean internal links to 404 pages or through redirects exist. These types of broken internal links present issues for search engine crawlers which dislike wasting resources crawling dead pages or having to load redirects to resolve a 200 URL.
  • low crawl frequency; Although this cannot be directly controlled, there are ways to increase the crawl frequency by search engine spiders of the content on your highest priority pages. These methods aren’t hacks but a genuine mutual benefit to both website owners and search engines. The search engines gain a better understanding of your website content and therefore can index it accurately, in return your most important pages get crawled more frequently.
  • Cloaking where links hidden within code on sites to try to improves your SEO performance. This is a low quality tactic which needs to be fixed

All of the major search engines have advanced their ability to truly understand website content, code and hierarchy.

As a result, optimising your website for technical performance is also more complex than ever before.

Getting ahead in search engine rankings today is not about getting any one aspect of it right but is achieved by taking a holistic approach to your website, it’s technical set up and your content as well as continuous link acquisition.

Websites that offer a solid technical foundation and cover all three vital parts of SEO stand a much better chance of success.

Choose Search/Natural as your technical SEO consultant to get help resolving technical problems.

Where can I find technical issues?

Technical issues that can affect organic search performance can exist even anywhere on new or well-established websites. Many of these technical issues can be challenging to detect and even harder to fix.

Newly launched sites can be hit by technical issues missed by developers and SEOs when the site is launched.

However, very often, technical issues creep in as websites age and iterations and changes become commonplace.

Technical issues can exist on any page of your website, even those that perform very well in search rankings.

As these problems are deep, varied and can be hidden from direct view within the code of your website. The best way to be confident of finding and fixing these problems is to contact a professional SEO.

Fixing these issues can take time and very often rely on the current policies of the search engines you are optimising your website for.

There’s not always one clear but solution to these issues so the best SEOs will be able to critically asess the problem and offer multiple solutions, while talking you through the benefits and potential issues of each solution.

Once implemented they should also be able to help you understand the impacts and show you that the fixes have worked.

What’s the benefit of fixing technical SEO issues?

Unlike missed content opportunities, technical issues do not normally mean that you are missing out on a big slice of potential “pie” from a search query you are yet to target, but it can be considered more like a “limiting factor”.

The primary benefits of technical SEO fixes are;

  • more efficient crawling of your website – correcting technical issues can aid URL discovery on your site
  • better indexability for your site – you will find pages that you’ve struggled to index previously are easier to get indexed once technical fixes go live
  • faster indexing of new pages – correcting technical issues will also mean that new URLs can be indexed faster by search engines when added to your website
  • better rankings – more pages indexed and adding value to your site will help the overall rankings of your website improve

Technical issues are more likely to prevent you from reaching your maximum potential in existing search results.

A multitude of technical issues on a single site could be the reason for ranking issues, traffic drops and lower quality SEO traffic.

Ultimately, like the majority of jobs in SEO, the net result of technical issue fixes should be to grow the traffic to your website and effectively convert the traffic that you do get.

How Search/Natural can help you

We have extensive experience in optimising websites both on a technical level and have proven results that show how critical technical optimisation can be to the performance of websites in search.

We can take care of the technical set up of your website so you can focus on your human customers.

Normally, a full website audit is our main priority when working with new clients so that we can fully understand where issues may exist and ensure that we have planned our strategy around fixing these first.

Search/Natural’s Technical SEO Outline

Here’s how we can approach SEO technical diagnosis and fixes for your website.

technical SEO optimisation process

Once we have an idea of the size and work involved in the technical issues we can explain them to you. We can construct a strategy and organise a workflow so that we can prioritise the fixes that will make the biggest difference to your website and your business first.

If you are concerned about the technical SEO set up of your website or have seen traffic dropping recently but do not know why then please let us know.

We will be happy to take a look, set up a free call and help to diagnose the possible problems with your site.

Looking for something else related to technical SEO?

We’re technical SEO experts so we may already have the answer to your questions in our SEO news and blogs section or in one of our SEO tools.

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by Ben Ullmer

Ben Ullmer seo specialist

About Ben

SEO Director

Ben is the founder and SEO director of Search/Natural. He spent 8 years working in SEO at some of the biggest comparison sites in the UK before setting up his own business to work as an SEO specialist with clients around the world.

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