Eighty-eight percent of B2B marketers now report using content marketing in their promotional strategies, according to the Content Marketing Institute.
Developing content and using SEO to drive rankings and traffic has become a fundamental part of digital strategies, not just for the thought leaders of the industry, but it has become standard across the spectrum.
Thanks in large part to this massive development of online content, there are now more than one billion websites available online.
This tremendous growth has resulted in an increasingly competitive online market, where brands can no longer find success through guesswork and intuition. Instead, they must rely on more sophisticated strategies and means of enticing new customers.
The art of SEO lies in helping customers find your relevant, helpful content when it would benefit them and then creating a pleasant experience for them while they visit your website. Hence, it is vital that marketers do not neglect their technical SEO.
Sites still need to be built and structured well so they can be found, crawled, and indexed, hopefully to rank well for relevant keywords. There are a few technical SEO strategies in particular that we believe brands should be paying close attention to get their site in front of their competitors.
How does technical SEO impact the bottom line?
According to research performed at my company, BrightEdge, over 50 percent of the traffic on your site is organic. This means that the majority of the people visiting your page arrived there because they thought your listing on the SERP appeared the most relevant to their needs.
Those who neglect their technical SEO will find that this can damage the rankings their pages receive on the SERPs as well as the engagement on the actual site. In other words, not applying these core technical SEO concepts will negatively impact the number of visitors received, and thus revenue for the brand.
Customers have reported that how well the site runs greatly impacts their decision about whether or not to make a purchase. More than three quarters of customers – 79 percent – report that when they encounter problems with a site’s performance, they are less likely to buy from them again.
These customers also hold sites to a high standard, with a single second delay in page loading lowering customer satisfaction by 16 percent. Other common consumer complaints about websites include sites crashing, poor formatting, and error notifications.
Technical SEO makes it easier for users to find the website and then navigate it. It has a direct impact on rankings and traffic as well as the overall user experience. It should be clear, therefore, the tremendous impact that poor technical strategies and orphan pages can have on the bottom line for any organization.
5 essential aspects of technical SEO that cannot be neglected
1. Site accessibility
Site owners should periodically verify that the site is completely accessible for both search engine spiders as well as users. Robots.txt, for example, can be useful at times when you do not want a page to be indexed, but accidentally marking pages to block the spider will damage rankings and traffic.
Given that more searches now occur on mobile than desktop, and the impending switch to a mobile-first index on Google, brands should also ensure that any content published is constructed for mobile usage.
When speaking about the user experience, visitors themselves also pay a considerable amount of attention to load speeds. Brands should optimize for load speeds, watching site features such as cookies and images, that can slow down pages when not used correctly.
Things to do to improve your site’s accessibility:
- Check that robots.txt is not blocking important pages from ranking
- Make sure the robots.txt contains the sitemap URL
- Verify that all important resources, including JS and CSS are crawlable
- Find and fix any 404 errors
- Check that all content, including videos, plays easily on mobile
- Optimize for load speed
2. Site structure
Navigation throughout the website should also be a main priority. Look at the organization of the site’s pages and how easily customers can get from one part of the site to another. The number of clicks it takes to get to a desired location should be minimized.
Many sites find it to be convenient to build websites using a taxonomy hierarchy. Creating clear categories of pages can help websites organize their content while also reducing the number of steps that visitors must go through to adequately engage with the brand.
As you explore your site navigation, also verify how well the pages have been interlinked so that prospective customers engaging with one piece of content are easily led to other material that they will likely enjoy. Check also for orphan pages and other content that might be hard to find. The key to a strong site structure is to consider the user experience so that useful material can be found intuitively.
Things to do to ensure your site structure is optimized:
- Create a hierarchy that ensures important pages are 3 clicks from the home page or less
- Uncover orphan pages and either delete them or add them to the site hierarchy
- Check links for broken or redirects and repair them
3. Schema markup
Schema markup provides search engines with even more information about the pages on your site, such as what is available for sale and for how much, rather than leaving it open for interpretation by the spiders and algorithm.
Although Google does tend to be relatively accurate about the purpose of websites, schema markup can help minimize the potential for any mistakes. In a increasingly competitive digital ecosystem, brands do not want to leave themselves open to errors.
Schema has also been attracting attention because of its potential to help brands trying to gain extra attention on the SERP in the form of Quick Answers and other universal content. Brands that want events included in the new Google Events SERP feature, for example, should use schema to call the search engine’s attention to the event and its details.
Things to do to make sure your site has the correct level of schema markup:
- Markup pages that have been optimized for Quick Answers and other rich answers
- Markup any events you list on your page or transcripts for videos
- Check for common schema errors including spelling errors, missing slashes, and incorrect capitalization
- Use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to ensure the markup has been completed correctly
4. Site tags
As sites become more technical, such as developing content in multiple languages for overseas versions of the site, brands will similarly need to pay closer attention to the markup and tags used on the pages. Correctly-used hreflang tags, for example, will ensure that the content is correctly matched with the right country.
Although Google might be able to tell that a website has been written in English, an hreflang tag can help ensure that it shows the UK version to the English audience and the US version to those in the United States. Displaying the wrong version of the websites to the audience can damage the brand’s reputation and ability to engage with the audience.
Many brands will also find canonical tags to be highly useful. Using these tags will signify to Google which version of any particular content is original, and which is the distributed or replicated version. If a marketer wants to publish syndicated content on another website, or even create a PDF format of a standard web page, canonical tags can help avoid duplicate content penalties so that weaken content visibility.
Things to do to ensure your site content is tagged correctly:
- Use hreflang tags to ensure that Google knows which country and language the content is intended for
- Verify that hreflang tags use proper return tags
- Use only absolute URLs with hreflang tags
- Use canonical tags to avoid duplicate content when necessary
5. Effective optimization
While this might appear to be rudimentary SEO, it remains one of the most important steps as well. As we create this spectacular content that is tailored for specific user intents and lives on a well-constructed website, it still remains that the page itself must be well optimized.
If the page does not have the right keywords, then it will be a challenge for the search engines to understand where the content should be ranked and placed. Carefully determine keywords through keyword research, and then construct sentences that link the terms and long-tail keywords together to make your topic and expertise clear to the search engines and those considering consuming your content.
Things to do to improve technical SEO today:
- Use keyword research to find important and in-demand search topics
- Create sentences that effectively link different keywords together to show context
- Place keywords in the page title, H tags, URL, and naturally in the content
Even as the industry matures with micro-moments and data-driven strategies, technical SEO remains critical to successfully building strong websites.
We believe that all brands should ensure that these five areas of technical SEO are a part of their digital strategy.