This email about technical SEO popped into my inbox this morning from an entrepreneur on my email list, and after I replied, I wanted to share it here too, in case you were also curious.

“I get unsolicited emails regarding my website and how these companies claim they can help me boost my SEO, at a reasonable cost. They often point out all the issues in their pitch email, many I agree with and can fix myself, and some I don’t know how to fix. Some of their suggestions I have no idea what they are even talking about.
I guess what I’m asking, doing what I can change (alt text, headers) will help some. Should I be worried about utilizing schema markup, having robots.txt file, and a sitemap?”

You know what’s crazy? I get these emails too. Apparently the spammers who are trying to make a quick buck don’t even skim the content on the site to figure out whether or not to pitch!

Here’s the thing: Those cold emails probably have some good information in there about ways to improve your site performance … but they’re also
leaving out essential information for making an educated decision because they’re trying to make a quick buck.

Essentially what this question boils down to is: 

How important is technical SEO? 

Technical SEO (things like schema markup, robots.txt, sitemap, etc) is a really important piece of the SEO puzzle. If your site isn't mobile friendly, or if it takes forever to load, or if it has a lot of broken links, Google won't want to recommend it to its searchers -- even if you have all the best content in the world.

Quick definition: “Technical SEO” is the process of optimizing the infrastructure of a website from the start to enable the search engines to crawl and index it properly.

Here’s my $0.02:

Technical SEO (things like schema markup, robots.txt, sitemap, etc) is a really important piece of the SEO puzzle. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, or if it takes forever to load, or if it has a lot of broken links, Google won’t want to recommend it to its searchers — even if you have all the best content in the world.

On the other hand, your site can be technically perfect — every content tag in the right place, loading at a lightning speed — but if nobody is interested in what you’re talking about? Or if your writing is so boring that it puts people to sleep? Or if Google doesn’t think your website is credible? The technical stuff doesn’t really matter. Google won’t recommend content that isn’t engaging and doesn’t answer the questions people are asking.

There are 3 essential parts of SEO:

  1. Technical SEO – your website has to be easy for the Google crawler bots to read
  2. On-page SEO – create intentional content on your website that people actually want to consume (read blog posts, view portfolio, watch videos, listen to audio, etc)
  3. Off-page SEO – use promotional strategy to acquire backlinks, which will boost your site’s credibility and authority

And the sites that rank best on Google have ALL THREE of these pieces working together collaboratively.

So when it comes to technical SEO, what are the most important things you should do to make sure your site’s in good shape?

  1. Submit your sitemap to Google Search Console. This is essentially like saying to Google, “YES I’m open for business, come check it out!” 
  2. Get an SSL certificate on your site — which is a security measure, both to make your site less hack-able and to keep your users’ data safer.
    • If your site URL starts with “httpS://” then you already have an SSL installed. If it starts with “http://”, you should add an SSL.
    • For WordPress sites, the easiest way to do this is to ask your host to install one for you and move your site from http to https. (I use Siteground for my hosting and it’s included in my monthly fee.)
  3. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. It’s easy to check here.  
  4. Make sure your site loads quickly — 3 seconds or less is ideal. You can check that at Pingdom or GT Metrix.
    • If you need to speed it up, the quickest ways to do that are to compress your images (plugins make this easy, I like EWWW Image Compressor and TinyPNG) and/or to move to dedicated hosting instead of shared hosting
  5. Check for broken links on your site
    • If you’ve deleted or moved a page on your site, set up a 301 redirect to tell your website where to send that traffic
    • Even if your site is technically perfect, you could be linking out to other people’s sites where links have moved, so this is worth checking from time to time
  6. If you have a local business or a site that has lots of recipes or reviews, it’s DEFINITELY worth adding schema markup. If not, it doesn’t hurt but it’s not nearly as important.
  7. If you’re not a developer and don’t know what to do with a robots.txt file … don’t worry about it too much.

If your site is just getting started and you’ve used this list to make sure there aren’t any major issues with your site, the two most important things you can do to boost your SEO are:

  1. Write really kickass content that’s better than what everyone else has written, and
  2. Get links from credible websites pointing to yours

Because technical SEO is useless if your content sucks or Google doesn’t trust you. #truthbomb

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