Technical SEO for Developers
SEO stands for search engine optimization. At its best, SEO is about developing a better user experience and providing useful, compelling content. The industry may not be perfect, but this post will show what you can do to make it better.
Search engine optimization began when a group of geeks figured out how search engines work and tried to reverse engineer the technology. As a result, the industry has a bad reputation. Too many people think the best way to market their website is to game search engines.
There is also a good side to SEO. Much of what search engines do nowadays wouldn’t be possible without it. A good search engine optimizer will focus on improving the end user experience. Things like making sure a site loads as fast as possible, fixing broken links and make sure people can find the website with the keywords that people actually use when they search for it.
There are two pillars to search engine optimization. The first is ‘off-page’ optimization. This is about getting people to link to your website. The more reputable links you get, the higher your website will rank. There is no playbook for getting respected websites to link to you. It’s all down to how creative you can get and how connected you are.
The second pillar is ‘on-page optimization’. This is the technical pillar and what the rest of this post is about.
- Title tags are arguably the most important aspect of on-page optimization. They tell the user and the search engine what the page is about.
- The ideal title is about 65 characters long.
- Contains the primary keywords towards the front of the phrase.
- Is unique for every page.
- Meta descriptions have no impact on rankings. It shows up as the description in the search result so it’s important for humans. Search engines reserve the right not to show your description when it does not contain the words searched for. It will crawl the rest of your site for the keyword and show whatever it gets.
- The ideal meta description is 165 characters long.
- Contains the primary keyword.
- At least one header tags, preferably at the beginning of the page, should contain the primary keyword.
- Body Copy
The golden rule is to write compelling stuff first and then edit for the search engine. Not the other way around.
- Ideally copy should contain at least 100 words.
- The content should contain the Keyword 2-3 times. Keyword stuffing is penalised.
- Sprinkle the content with synonyms of the primary keyword. Modern search engines are great at understanding which categories or words go together. Most people don’t take advantage of this.
- Compress images so the site loads faster. I use TinyPNG.
- Name images files descriptively. use hyphens between words.
- Use alt tags to describe images Search spiders cannot see images so you must use alt tags to describe the images. Screen readers also use alt tags to describe images to blind people. The simplest way to name an image is to pretend you are describing it to someone who can’t see. If you try and jam keywords into image descriptions you are prone to over optimization penalties.
- The text of every link should be descriptive, ideally it should contain the keyword of the page it links to. Generic stuff like ‘click here’ and ‘info’ is unhelpful people and your ranking.
- Duplicate content is a problem. If you have duplicate pages you can other use a 301 redirect or a canonical tag in the head to preserve and aggregate its SEO value on the page it points to.
- The closer the link structure is to the root domain the better. One or two folders down is fine but when you have pages 7 levels deep it is something you want to consider.
- Make sure there are no broken links (Set up Google webmasters and verify the domain to crawl for broken links)
- Select www or non-www (in google webmasters)
- Select a country (in google webmasters)
- Submit a sitemap (in google webmasters)
- Run Google Page Speed Insights. This can take ages depending on how your site is built. Make sure you keep plenty of time for this step.
- If your web page is for an article, a book, a course, or any other category under the ‘Feature Guides’ drop down in the left hand panel on the structured data section on Googe then you can add rich snippets to make your page more informative in Google search results. I just copy the appropriate example and then modify it in Google’s structured data testing tool. A complete list of all the attributes can be found on Schema.org. Once the snippet shows the corrects information I add it inside a
<script type="application/ld+json"></script>tag in the head of my website.
This covers the most common technical SEO issues.
This is not everything.
Having a mobile-friendly website and things like how old your site has a huge impact on your ranking but they are not quick fixes. I focused on the most actionable things that have the most impact with the least amount of effort.