SEO Academy

Technical SEO

Every site is built differently, ensuring a site is built that is technically sound from an SEO perspective is very different to building a site with a slick front end for users. 

What is Technical SEO?

Search engines use programs called “crawlers”, these crawlers visit every page they find on your website and extract data from your web pages. This data is stored in the search engines database for later retrieval. 

When you perform a search on a search engine, it returns results from its database. So if your site is not in the search engine database, you won’t appear in search results.

If you have any underlying technical issues with your site, this can hinder a search engines ability to crawl your site

Every site is built differently, ensuring a site is built that is technically sound from an SEO perspective is very different to building a site with a slick front end for users. 

Alongside the crawlability of your website, the way your site is coded is also important, so is the speed and various other things that can be configured in your source code. 

Technical SEO underpins all areas of SEO, if an underlying technical issue exists, this can cause serious problems with the websites’ ability to rank.

Frequently asked about Technical SEO

We’ve been successfully optimising websites since 2001, we’ve added the most frequently asked questions pertaining to Technical SEO. If you have a burning question we haven’t asked, please let us know and we’ll add it to the list!

Webpages are typically made up of many elements. These include, but not limited to HTML, Javascript, CSS and Images. 

HTML which is short for Hyper Text Markup Language is type of programming language. If you are curious as to what HTML looks like, just right click anywhere on the page and click “View Source”. 

Javascript – or JS for short is a programming language which is typically rendered by your web browser. Javascript is typically what powers interactive elements of a web page, such as drop down menus, or animations on a web page. 

CSS is short for Cascasing Style Sheets, it contains all of the formatting for a web page such as the font, colours, etc

HTML, JavaScript, and CSS all impact Technical SEO, more so the HTML code itself.

As part of our Technical Site Audit, we will meticulously review your source code and can either provide documentation for your developers, or if its a system we support, we can implement fixes ourselves.

An XML Sitemap is a special document that lists all the pages on your website, it includes additional information such as the date the page was last modified (lastmod), the priority and how often the page changes (changefreq).

Let’s take an example news website which has 50,000 pages, if one news article is updated on the site, it might take up to a month for search engines to (i) discover the page has changed and (ii) update their copy of the page. This is dependent on the crawl budget instigated by the search engine. Using an XML sitemap, we can prompt search engines that the article has been updated using the lastmod date, this will expedite the process of search engines updating their index with the latest copy of your webpage.

XML sitemaps are typically placed in the root of your website e.g. https://www.bravr.com/sitemap.xml

XML Sitemaps are designed primarily for search engines and written in XML, here is an example of an XML sitemap extracted from Bravr.com.

https://www.bravr.com/ 2022-06-14T19:55:25+02:00 https://www.bravr.com/blog/ 2022-06-24T10:23:20+02:00

Let’s break down the individual parts:

This header denotes the XML sitemap is structured according the version 1.0 of the XML standard and UTF-8 character encoding. This is used to tell search engines what to expect and how to parse the content.

This groups the list of URLs contained within the XML sitemap. The 0.9 describes which version of the XML Sitemap standard is used. This tag is closed at the bottom of the XML Sitemap. Within the there are multiple values:

https://www.bravr.com/
2022-06-14T19:55:25+02:00

For every single web page, there will be a separate tag, within the tag is a which is short for location. The value of the tag should be the full URL including the protocol (e.g. https:// ).

There are additional tags which can be included within the group for each URL, these are:

  • lastmod: the date of when the content on that URL was last modified. The date is in “W3C datetime” format e.g. 2022-03-21 15:01 +00:00.
  • priority: the priority of the URL, relative to your own website on a scale between 0.0 and 1.0. Normally homepages should be set to 1, followed by your top level pages set to 0.9 and child pages set to 0.5. Setting everything to 1, means all pages are equal.
  • changefreq: how often the web page is expected to change. The acceptable values are: hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, early and never.

We wouldn’t worry too much about the lastmod, priority and changefreq, these tags have been abused by Webmasters so search engines may ignore them.

As part of any SEO Strategy its important your XML sitemap is configured correctly, we often see the following errors:

  • URL discovered in crawls which are not included in XML Sitemaps.
  • URLs included in XML sitemaps which should not be included.
  • Redirects submitted in XML Sitemaps.
  • 404’s submitted in XML Sitemaps.
  • Noindex pages submitted in XML Sitemaps.

If you need an XML sitemap audit or help setting up an XML sitemap, please contact us 

The Robots.txt file is an text file that sits in the root of your website. For example https://compare.parts/robots.txt.

This robots.txt file contains instructions for search engines crawlers, such as areas of the sites they are and aren’t permitted to visit.

Editing a robots.txt file should be undertaken by an experience SEO only, if configured incorrectly your entire website can dissapear from search engines!

If you need help configuring your XML Sitemap, please get in touch with an SEO expert 

A Canonical is a technical solution where you specify the preferred URL when pages are similar/duplicate.

Lets take an example car part called a “100mm Velocity Stack”:

  • https://compare.parts/velocity-stack-100mm-pink/
  • https://compare.parts/velocity-stack-100mm-red/
  • https://compare.parts/velocity-stack-100mm-black/

In the case above its exactly the same product, except for the fact there are three different colours. So if a user is searching for “velocity stack 100mm” which one of the three should a search engine show?

Where you have similar web pages and they can rank for the same term, a search engine cannot know which URL it should list. This known as keyword cannibalisation.

To solve this problem you can set a “canonical URL”. Which is essentially the preferred URL.

So in the example, we’d set the canonical values as follows:

On the following URLs:

  • https://compare.parts/velocity-stack-100mm-pink/
  • https://compare.parts/velocity-stack-100mm-red/
  • https://compare.parts/velocity-stack-100mm-black/

We would set the canonical value to point to the black variation.

  • <link rel="canonical" href="https://compare.parts/velocity-stack-100mm-black/" />

This piece of HTML code would be placed in between the <head></head>

Please note:

  • On Pink and Red, these canonical values are pointing to the Black variation. There URLS are “canonicalised“.
  • On the Black variation its pointing to itself. This is called a “self-referencing canonical“.
  • Canonicals are seen as hints not a directive, therefore search engines may ignore what you specify as the canonical value and use what they think is best (which in our experience 99% of the time is wrong!)

Canonicals can be tricky to setup especially on large sites. If you need help with setting canonicals or reviewing issues with URL canonicalisation, please get in touch with one of our SEO consultants.

Redirects forward users and search engines from one URL to another. 

Redirects are used when:

  • moving content from one URL to another
  • pages are no longer available or deleted
  • moving websites
  • merging websites
  • tracking

Redirects occur server side or client site. Typically redirects are managed server side. When a user requests a webpage that is redirected e.g.

https://www.bravr.com/some-url

The server will read that request, and respond with a redirect response code (3xx) this tells the browser that the request is being forwarded to another URL. 

https://www.bravr.com/new-url

Whilst there are many different response codes for redirects, there are two main redirect response codes: 301 – permanent redirects and 302- temporary redirects. For more information on the different types of redirects

301 – Permanent Redirect

Permanent Redirects instruct search engines that content has been permanently moved. An SEO would use a permanent redirect to migrate authority from one page to another. Take this URL as an example:

https://www.someretailer.com/summer-2020-campaign/

Now imagine the campaign has run all summer and attracted links from blog sites, magazines, news sites etc. These links are all passing authority and valuable from a traffic referral and SEO perspective. Now we’re in winter and the summer campaign is over, normally the retailer would delete this entire section of the website, all the referral traffic will hit a 404 (broken page) and all the SEO value will be lost. This is where a 301 permanent redirect come into play. The /summer-2020-campaign/ can be redirected to the homepage, meaning all the value attained from the campaign is now passed into the root of the website, any users clicking on an outdated article will be redirected to the homepage. 

https://www.someretailer.com/summer-2020-campaign/

301 permanently redirected to:

https://www.someretailer.com/

In the case of a permanent redirect, the “/summer-2020-campaign” URL will permanently drop from search engines index completely.

Search Engines treat permanent vs temporary redirects differently. 

  • With permanent redirects, search engines take note of the final destination URL and this is what they keep.
  • With temporary redirects, they’ll keep coming back to the initial/first URL to check. 

302 – Temporary Redirect

Temporary redirects instruct search engines that content has been temporarily moved, unlike permanent redirects, search engines will keep trying the initial/start URL. 

A good example of when a temporary redirect would be used is for a website that is under temporary maintenance. In this case, whatever page on the retailer site is accessed, is temporarily redirected:

https://www.someretailer.com/

302 temporary redirected to:

https://www.someretailer.com/under-maintenance

This is a good example of when to use a 302 temporary redirect. Any users who land on a page on the someretailer.com domain would be temporarily redirected to the under maintenance page. Once maintenance is over, the temporary redirect can be removed.

Now if a permanent redirect was used, this would tell search engines that “/under-maintenance/” is now the permanent URL, this would cause huge SEO issues.

Redirect chains are when more than one redirect occurs in a consecutive chain. For example: http://someretailer.com/page-a 301 permanently redirects to: https://someretailer.com/page-a which then 301 permanently redirects to: https://someretailer.com/page-b which then 301 permanently redirects to: https://someretailer.com/page-c In the example above, a user is redirected multiple times. The first is from non-secure (http) to secure (https), the second redirect is to page b and finally on to page c. Where possible we advise to minimise the chain. Search engines have said they will follow 4-5 redirects before giving up, so its important to minimise the number of redirect chains. If you think you have a problem with redirect chains and would like us to review your redirect rules, please get in touch with an SEO consultant
The server response header is the message given back to the browser by the webserver. When you request a URL by typing in www.google.co.uk into your URL bar, your browser is requesting the Google search engine. The initial response from Google’s server is called the server response header. In the case of Google.co.uk, the server response header looks like the following: alt-svc: h3-29=":443"; ma=2592000,h3-T051=":443"; ma=2592000,h3-Q050=":443"; ma=2592000,h3-Q046=":443"; ma=2592000,h3-Q043=":443"; ma=2592000,quic=":443"; ma=2592000; v="46,43" cache-control: private, max-age=0 content-encoding: br content-length: 38923 content-type: text/html; charset=UTF-8 date: Wed, 10 Feb 2021 16:17:07 GMT expires: -1 server: gws set-cookie: 1P_JAR=2021-02-10-16; expires=Fri, 12-Mar-2021 16:17:07 GMT; path=/; domain=.google.co.uk; Secure; SameSite=none strict-transport-security: max-age=31536000 x-frame-options: SAMEORIGIN x-xss-protection: 0 The server response code tells the browser lots of valuable information, the response code is “200” which means “OK”. Breaking down each part of the Server response code is beyond the scope of this FAQ, if however you are interested in finding out more, please get in touch

When typing in a web address you may have noticed the first part of the URL may be different:

Let’s take the following examples:

  • http://www.bravr.com
  • https://www.bravr.com

Can you spot the difference? It’s the “s” that appears after http. So let’s start with http:// – This is the protocol used to read web pages. It stands for hypertext transfer protocol, it was created in the 90’s by Tim Berners-Lee (good pub quiz knowledge). This is when the internet was in its infancy and people were using dial-up modems and AOL… “you’ve got mail”…. I digress, anyways back to http vs https.

  • http – means no data encryption is present
  • https – means the connection is encrypted or secure (hence the s)

Dependant on what browser you are using, if you look at the address bar above, you should see a little padlock. This means the connection is encrypted.

The majority of sites are now using https – i.e. secure encrypted connections. If the connection isn’t encrypted browsers will typically prompt you to warn the connection isn’t encrypting when entering data.

A URL parameter, query string or URL variables pertain to the values after a question mark in a URL.

  • https://someretailer.com/shirts?colour=purple&size=medium

They are compromised of two parts, a key and a value pair, these are separated by an equals sign.

  • colour=purple
  • size=medium

When more than one parameter is used, they are separated by an ampersand “&”

URL parameters are used for a number of reasons including, but not limited to:

  • Tracking urls: You may have seen a URL which includes ?utm_medium=x (where x is a variable) this may have been when clicking on a social campaign or an email newsletter. 
  • Sorting: Its common to see url parameters used on ecommerce sites for sorting product results. For example: ?sort=popular or ?sort=recent
  • Filtering: Again on ecommerce sites when filtering by colours, size, brand. For example: ?colour=purple
  • Pagination: When you click on Page 2 of a results page, you may notice the URL change to ?page=2 in the browser address bar. 
  • Search Results: When you use search functionality on a website, you may notice the query string you searched for appears in the browser address bar. For example: https://somewebsite.com/?s=something+i+searched+for
  • Translations: When a single piece of content appears in multiple languages, the translated URL may appear in the browser address bar. For example: https://somewebsite.com/?lang=fr

If you have a site which uses URL parameters/query strings – these need to be evaluated from an SEO perspective to avoid creating duplicate content. It’s important that the canonical tag is implemented correctly (see what is a canonical tag).

 

Javascript is a programming language used by web pages. It’s often confused with Java which is a completely different type of programming language or a type of coffee!

Javascript can be used to update HTML, CSS and calculate, manipulate and validate data.

Have you ever typed in your password, and the site responded saying its not complex enough – well thats Javascript running, evaluating the password you typed in against a set of rules.

When you clicked on this question “what is Javascript” and the accordion opened up to reveal the answer, guess what!? That’s Javascript. 

Search engines like Google now render Javascript on web pages, before they processed Javascript SEO’s would spend time rendering websites with Javascript disabled to see websites through the eyes of a search engine, now its not as important as it used to be (even though we still do it!)

 

At the time of writing this FAQ, Google’s tool to measure a webpages speed was called the Pagespeed Insights Tool.

This tool allows webmasters and SEO’s to evaluate the speed of their website and review the recommendations presented by Google.

https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

The speed of your website is a factor when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation, so its definetely worthwhile investing into a fast hosting environment (like ours) and ensuring your website is well optimised (also like ours).

 

A broken link is simply a link that doesn’t work anymore.

Broken Internal Links

These are links connecting one page to the next within your site. These should be fixed as a matter of priority because users and search engines alike cannot navigate as intended which gives a poor experience and potentially orphaning pages. When a page is orphaned it may not be visited by search engines and prevent it to rank.

Broken Inbound Links

This can happen for a number of reasons many of which maybe out of your control. However if an inbound link is pointing to a page on your site that no longer exists, this causes a broken link. These should be addressed asap as you are losing valuable link equity. Simply creating a redirect could resolve this and reconnect the inbound link back to your site.

Hreflang is a way for sites to host multiple versions of the same page but in different languages for a worldwide audience.

This helps search engines like Google to decide the best version of the page to display in results depending on the language of the person searching.

Another reason to use Hreflang is the content on these multiple pages is largely duplicate. Applying this attribute gives a clear signal of the intent of the duplication which prevents a penalty and drop in rankings.

How to add Hreflang?

This is a achieved by setting the Hreflang HTML attribute, this can be page specific.

Hreflang Code Sample
<link rel=”alternate” href=”https://www.bravr.co.uk/” hreflang=”en-gb” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”https://www.bravr.com” hreflang=”en-us” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”https://www.bravr.es/” hreflang=”es-es” /

Our approach to Technical SEO

Initially we crawl your website, imitating the behaviour of a search engine. Our crawler will start with your homepage and work its way through your entire website, following all links it finds. 

 Whether your site is just a few pages or hundreds of thousands of pages, we’re able to crawl it quickly and easily.  

 

We take the information from the crawl and analyse the results. Our SEO Experts will document any findings,  and prioritise them based on difficulty to resolve and impact. 

Being competent in SEO and web development we’re able to quickly analyse code and highlight any issues we find that our crawler doesn’t. 

 

We’ll provide you with a report on our crawl + analysis. 

Any issues found are documented and prioritised. 

We can work directly with your web development agency, or if you are running a CMS we’re familiar with, we can implement the fixes ourselves.

Our five pillars of SEO

With over 200 different ranking signals which influence your visibility in search engines, to make it easier to manage we’ve divided it into five key pillars. 

Ensuring your website has a strong foundation, free from technical errors, enabling crawlability, mitigating loss in visibility.

External inbound links, ensuring links are from authorative relevant domains, with optimised anchor text, and a healthly follow/nofollow ratio.

Optimising your websites information architecture, increasing the weighting of key pages. Optimal anchor text and internal link equity distribution.

Ensuring all ranking signals such as page titles, meta data and content is relevant for the target search phrase. 

 

Understanding whats SEO strategies and effective. Visibility is the output of the other four pillars, providing valuable insights and learnings in search engine optimisation.

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