Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a tricky strategy to implement for brands that want to grow their audience online. Implementing the right SEO tactics requires consistent awareness and technical knowledge of how to ensure your business’s website ranks in the coveted top positions in search engines, for the right keywords and search terms, which collectively drive traffic to your website pages.
Increasing your online visibility in search engines often leads to significant business growth, marketing success, and upticks in sales, hence why it’s no secret that companies rely heavily on SEO. Such an SEO strategy requires extraordinary levels of patience, preliminary research and strategising.
What’s more, SEO strategies are never clear-cut; in fact, they can often be plagued with unforeseen obstacles, ranging from core Google algorithm changes to the emergence of new ranking factors. Not to mention the fact that the marketplace is increasingly competitive and search engines look for more than what’s within your site pages, including a user’s search intent, page load speed, authorship, and much more.
Why Both Technical and Content SEO Are Important
SEO never has a prescribed formula or timeline for success – each business will see varying results via its SEO efforts. Furthermore, the strategy that each company implements will have to be executed differently from the next.
However, to make it easier to understand the common tasks and strategies associated with SEO – and its constantly-expanding glossary of terms and acronyms – it can be broken down into two disparate categories: technical SEO and content SEO. These two categories involve drastically different sets of tasks and responsibilities, which we have outlined in this guide, to show their distinction from one another.
Ultimately, however, to rank well in search results, your website must be developed with the right technical intricacies and web design skills that appeal to your target audience, as well as a solid understanding of their buying behaviour and other marketing channels working in unison. Your technical and content SEO strategies should work together for the benefit of improving your search engine rankings and driving traffic to your website.
What Does Technical SEO Include?
Technical SEO is the strategy that you use to ensure that your website can be crawled, understood and indexed. It also refers to the ways in which your site provides an effective user experience, like site speed, errors and responsiveness. The components of technical SEO are based on website code and web development.
If your website is built, organised and optimised in the right way, it will likely be seen to ‘play by the rules’ as far as search engines are concerned. Technical SEO strategies encompass a wide range of activities, but below are some common examples of what web developers will need to look at when optimising a website technically.
Google uses structured data markups like JSON-LD, RDFa and Microdata to read and interpret the context of your content. Developers can implement data like schema markup to help Google digest and render that content more easily, delivering rich search results like featured snippets or features in the local pack.
Page Speed and UX Optimsation
Website load speed is incredibly important for user experience, as slow-loading sites usually have higher bounce rates. Google’s Core Web Vitals introduction in 2021 essentially stated that slow sites will likely not rank as well. A developer can improve site speed and UX through image and file compression, caching, limiting redirects, and potentially using a CDN.
Responsive Mobile Design
Websites that use responsive design (in other words, scaling a site to render according to the device screen) are more likely to be seen as ‘mobile-friendly’, which is an important ranking factor. Developers do not need to create separate desktop and mobile versions of sites, saving time and money.
All website pages are listed in sitemaps, which search engines use as a way to find and crawl pages, as well as how often. Creating and submitting a sitemap through Google Search Console can be done in different ways, whether generating one via a CMS like WordPress (usually RSS or Atom, or via plugins that support XML sitemaps) or creating one manually using a text editor. It’s handy because in your sitemap you can influence which URLs are the canonical URLs that you want to display in search results.
This is a text file that sits in a website’s root directory, consisting of ‘instructions’ that tell search engines what can and cannot be crawled on your site. In the robots.txt file, you can disallow duplicate or low-value content to conserve more of your crawl budget, allowing Googlebot to dedicate its allocated resources to crawling pages of more value.
Google penalises sites that do not secure their site with SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption, alerting users that they are about to enter an insecure site (noticeable by its use of ‘http’, rather than ‘https’).
Not only that, but an experienced developer will need to ensure that sites are patched and updated, as well as any plugins that it relies upon for functionality. This is crucial because insecure and unpatched sites are at increased risk of cyber attacks and breaches, and if that site interacts with other important business systems like CRMs or databases, it could pose a huge risk to a business if data were compromised. Businesses can go a step further by investing in enterprise-grade incident detection solutions alongside their internal security processes.
404 Status Codes and 301 Redirects
Broken links that return a 404 status code when clicked can have a detrimental effect on a site’s Google rankings. It could be that the targeted site is no longer available, has been moved, or has had its URL changed. If your website requires the same thing, or is moving to a different domain, it could be prudent to set up 301 redirects on pages that have value, to point to new URLs, as an example. All would require the input of an experienced SEO developer.
What Does Content SEO Involve?
Conversely to technical SEO, content SEO is focused on improving a website’s ranking signals to reach and drive more traffic through the use of effective on-page marketing activities. Content is central to many of the below activities, influencing the types of search queries that each page will rank for, as well as earning credible referral links from high-quality third-party sites.
Creating content that is engaging, establishes authorship in a subject, performs well in search, outranks competitors and addresses users’ search queries is not easy. What’s more, Google is assessing billions of sites against billions of possible search queries, determining the value of content. This is where content SEO comes in handy, as alongside technical site optimisation, it means your site stands a good chance of ranking for relevant search terms, and building consumer trust for your brand.
Here are just some of the activities associated with content SEO.
This boils down to understanding what your target audience is searching for. The search terms and keywords will vary in search volume and keyword difficulty, which is why you need to factor in competitor research alongside keyword research. This should form the basis of your supporting content and SEO strategy.
If you are building a new site or refreshing an existing site, your content strategy requires you to determine what content you have on your site. This strategy involves you establishing the right structure and length of your pages, which should align with your website design. Logical page structure tells the search engine crawlers about your page’s quality and the order of importance, as well as helping your human visitors.
Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
These are two separate pieces of HTML code that tell crawlers what that specific page is about. Page Titles (also known as Meta Titles) need to be succinct and to-the-point, while meta descriptions (which are not a ranking factor) must be written with the purpose of driving clicks through to that page if it were discovered in a SERP.
Your website service or product pages need to be written with your audience and keywords in mind, with preference given to the former. However, you will also need to bear in mind that Google loves sites that are delivering high-value content regularly, which means you should factor in the time to write blogs, articles and case studies.
Image Alt Text
Also known as ‘alt tags’, this refers to the written copy that appears in place of imagery on webpages if that image fails to load. The text helps visually-impaired users using screen-reading tools to understand the page context and also helps search engines crawl and rank your site better, as they cannot read images themselves, no matter how high quality they are.
Backlinks and Brand Mentions
Search engines measure brand authority through the amount and quality of referring backlinks (i.e. links on other sites that point to your site). The more reputable and authoritative the referring site is, the more likely your site’s domain authority will improve. In some cases, it may not even be a link specifically, but rather a mention on a third-party site of your business, which can also increase brand awareness.
It’s clear to see that technical and content SEO are two very different disciplines, but both are crucial when it comes to improving your rankings and driving traffic to your site. It’s imperative that you capitalise on both if you want to reap the full benefits of greater search engine visibility and, in turn, improved sales.
About the author
Dakota Murphey is an established freelance writer specialising in Digital Trends in Business, Marketing, PR, Branding, Cybersecurity, Social Media Channels and Company Growth.
Her key aim is to support niche businesses and enterprising individuals to increase their visibility and promote their products and USPs.