SEO Beyond the Basics: An Introduction to the Technical Side

Written by Brenda on December 30, 2014 How to sell online.

SEO Beyond the BasicsWe’ve all heard about SEO basics, but what about those areas that require you to have just a little bit of technical knowledge?

This is what we call technical SEO. Yes the term is quite technical, I know. In short, it’s less about focusing on keyword optimization and more about understanding how search engines work to index your site. It’s less about ensuring your images are ready for the search engines and more about things like rich snippets, sitemaps, and URL structure.

But, wait a second. If it’s so technical, why is it so common for people to implement these tips on their sites? Well, the good news is that it’s not all that technical. Everyone has a chance to use these tips, and plenty of companies are going out of their way to work on these SEO tactics. The only thing is that many people don’t want to take the time to learn about these slightly more technical SEO topics, creating a huge advantage for you.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the more technical areas of SEO and how to implement these tips on your own online store.

Indexing Your Site

To start off, we want to create something called an XML sitemap that can be submitted to various search engines. This sitemap is simply an outline of the pages and posts on your website, making it easier for the search engines like Google and Bing to crawl your website.

Google XML SitemapsThe easiest way to create and submit an XML sitemap is offered through WordPress. Simply install the Google XML Sitemaps plugin on your WordPress site and it will automatically submit the sitemap to all search engines.

If you don’t use a WordPress site, create a sitemap here and submit it to Google Webmaster tools. In general, search engines can find your sitemap automatically, but it never hurts to submit. Simply sign up your website on Google Webmaster Tools, go to the Crawl tab on the left and select Sitemaps. You can then upload your sitemap file there.

Here are a few other tips for indexing your site:

Broken Links

Use the Broken Link Check Tool or the WordPress plugin to find links that lead to non-existent pages. These pages are damaging to your SEO and confuse people when on your site.

Using Redirects

When you change the URL of one of your pages, search engines have to reindex these URLs all over again. Instead of losing your previous link power, simply redirect the page using a WordPress Redirect plugin. You can also complete this manually by following the nice redirect guide compiled by WordTracker.

Robot.txt Files

Robot.txt files are simple files that you can reference in Google Webmaster tools to tell search engines which pages you don’t want to be indexed on your site. In Webmaster Tools, go to the Crawl tab on the left, then navigate to the robots.txt Tester.

Robot txt TesterYou can then include pages you don’t want to be indexed and test to see if other pages aren’t being indexed. Who knows, maybe the reason one of your pages isn’t performing well is because it’s not indexed?

Working With Code

You don’t really have to know how to write code to improve SEO with code. You simply need to understand how your site is running with these different types of code. The first thing to check is whether or not your menus are using Javascript or Flash. These coding languages are typically harder for search engines to crawl, impacting your SEO. Your best bet is to do your research on the website template you use before starting your site.

Sometimes pieces of code affect the speed of your site, which drastically hurts your SEO. In order to fix this, use a tool like Pingdom to see how your site speed compares to other websites online. Take note of the areas where you need improvement and speak to your site developers about moving CSS and Javascript code to separate files or even just working on optimizing images on your site.

Another area to look at is the rich snippets on your website. Rich snippets are simply the area of text that pops up beneath your website or page title in a search engine. It pulls content from your site, while combining relevant content that matches what the person searched. It often comes up looking awful.

Rich SnippetIn order to test how your rich snippets are working, use the Google Rich Snippets Testing Tool. If the results render something ugly and useless, consider using a tool like All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets to improve how your search results show up to users and search engines.

All in One Rich Snippets

Working with URLs

URL modification and management is one of the simpler parts of technical SEO, but it’s still important. Here are some guidelines to get you started:

  • You should only have one URL for every single page on your website.
  • All URLs should be short, clear, and friendly for reading and sharing. For example, this is not friendly: www.xyzcompany.com/05-12-14/an-seo-guide-that-will-help-you-improve-your-websiteBut this is a friendly URL: www.xyzcompany/technical-SEO-basics. Basically, the shorter the URL the better.
  • Ensure that your homepage only has one URL. This is less common than you think, so check that you don’t have any redirects or that your host isn’t carrying multiple domains for the same page.

Tracking Your Website

A huge part of SEO is checking in with the status of your website at all times and testing out new methods. Are you aware of pages that aren’t getting many visitors? Do you know about the links and pages that are broken or not providing much value to your visitors?

Are there certain keywords that most people search for, making them vital for the future targeting for your marketing campaigns? All of these things are discovered when you start tracking your website. This is particularly helpful if you want to start focusing on local SEO, because you can learn where people are searching for your business and if you can make further strides to focus marketing on a particular area.

What are your best tools for tracking?

  • Use Google Analytics for tracking outbound links, inbound links, keyword searches and more.
  • Use a tool like CrazyEgg to try heatmaps for seeing where people are clicking on your site. This shows what pages are not user-friendly, meaning they probably aren’t performing well in search engines.
  • ChartBeat is an interesting tool for seeing what your users are doing on your site in real time.

Chartbeat

Conclusion

Yes, there are plenty of WordPress plugins and other tools to automate the SEO on your website. Yes, you can throw a few keywords in your blog posts and optimize your images, but the technical SEO areas are where your site can jump above competitors and start moving up the search engine rankings.

Overall, technical SEO ensures that your site is working the way search engines want it to work. It might bump you up a few spots in search engines, and this could be the difference between a record year in sales and you pinching pennies.

Let us know in the comments section if you have any other technical SEO tips for the e-commerce webmasters out there. Share your thoughts if you have any questions about how to implement these technical SEO tactics.

Image source: MoneyBlogNewz

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5 Responses

  1. Doug Smith
    January 7, 2015 at 8:23 pm #

    The <a href="https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-seo/"WordPress SEO by Yoast also takes care of creating a sitemap. That plugin does a great job of enhancing SEO, and having the sitemap output settings integrated with your SEO settings is a big plus.

  2. Andrew
    February 1, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

    I use the SEO Ultimate plugin, I find it more detailed than yoast. I had some pretty good successes with this, my best so far being a tractor tyre website that is now hovering around either 1 and 2 in google in New Zealand, or 2 and 3. This is for the terms ‘tractor tyres’ and ‘used tractor tyres’.

    My next challenge in SEO is a little tougher – I am building a site for my sons NZ confectionary retail called Lollies NZ. The site is http://lolliesnz.co.nz, keep an eye on this for the keywords ‘lollies nz’ and bulk lollies nz’. Currently around the no.20 mark.

    These sites are all WP/Woocommerce sites which I find very effective.

    Do ensure you optimise the site based on worthwhile keywords, and read the documentation on the SEO ultimate plugin, as this gives a lot of valuable info on how to structure your site to avoid bleeding rank to minor pages.

  3. Andrew
    February 1, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

    I should also mention, that I do SEO work for my clients. My own site, that is well in need of a rebuild – is http://www.bizstudio.co.nz

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