Most people involved with developing websites have heard of onsite and offsite SEO. Onsite SEO refers to optimising each page’s content to ensure it communicates its topic, quality, and relevance to search engines. Offsite SEO involves gaining backlinks and citations from other websites, signalling the site’s authority and popularity.
The topic of technical SEO has remained in the background, often relegated to discussing a few tools to ensure mobile usability and site speed. Still, an excellent grasp of technical SEO can score quick wins for ranking well on search engines and improving the user’s experience. Some SEOs categorise technical SEO as a subset of onsite SEO, but others consider it its own thing. Improve your understanding of technical SEO, the highlights of helpful tools, and why software can only uncover some technical problems with websites.
What is Technical SEO?
What is technical SEO, and how does it differ from onsite and offsite SEO? Briefly, onsite SEO focuses primarily on content. Offsite SEO describes gaining external links and citations from other sites. In contrast, technical SEO strives to improve the performance and functionality of the website’s code and architecture.
Advanced search engine algorithms measure several technical aspects of a website that may impact the user’s experience. Primarily, technical SEO strives to correct common errors that can detract from functionality, frustrate users, and lower search engine ranks. For instance, when Google detects a page that loads too slowly, it may lower its search engine rankings. Even worse, statistics from a recent survey by Digital.com found:
- Over half of eCommerce shoppers expect pages to load within three seconds.
- Fifty per cent of online shoppers will abandon shopping carts that load too slowly.
- Almost half of the customers say that slow pages detract from their impression of a brand.
Notoriously impatient internet shoppers prefer immediate satisfaction. Other website problems can frustrate users and even detract from their overall opinion of the company’s brand. Examples include poor device functionality on phones and tablets, link 404s, and inadequate security. Just like website owners, search engines strive to keep their users happy. Thus, technical SEO audits should compare multiple factors related to a website’s performance, including speed, security, and functionality.
Technical SEO Audits Improve More Than Just SEO
Thus, better technical SEO can often lead to higher ranks in search. However, these improvements also provide users with a more satisfactory experience, no matter how they end up on the website. Thus, technical website tuning can improve experiences and conversions. Better user experiences will increase engagement and revenue from all traffic sources, including organic search, paid ads, and social networks.
What Technical SEO Issues Will Automatic Tools Overlook?
Technical SEO tools offer plenty of benefits. Experienced website developers typically review, correct, and test issues before debuting a new site. Most of all, high-quality tools can scan hundreds of pages for dozens of problems much faster and more reliably than a person could check one page.
However, issues arise after making minor changes long after the development phase. Technical SEO tools offer a way to routinely scan every page of a massive site, which can prove impractical if done manually.
Still, these tools can only detect some problems. Thus, they don’t replace the insights of a skilled human auditor. Also, using the tools to catch more than the most fundamental problems takes some skill and additional manual effort. For instance:
Plenty of website auditing tools scan for malware. However, these scans can’t recognise all types of malicious code. For instance, hackers might break into a website to install and index pages for their own business. They might redirect these pages to URLs on their site or use them for phishing attacks, relying on the excellent reputation of the company that owns the domain to help fool victims.
Technical website auditors must routinely check for unexpected files or folders on the server. They should also constantly monitor the security access levels for login credentials.
User Experience and Website Architecture
Tools look for some issues that impact website users’ experiences. Some examples include speed, broken links, and basic mobile usability. However, they won’t pick up on more subtle issues with the design. Examples include confusing navigation or even a font that’s hard to read on mobile devices.
Auditing software can report on a website’s architecture, like the URL structure, internal links, and sitemaps. However, it takes more manual effort and a practised eye to determine if the design compares well to other industry websites and offers the best performance and user experience. For instance, popup menus or tips may work well on larger screens but mask other essential features on smartphones.
Technical Site Auditing Tools to Consider
Even the most skilled website technicians use tools to save time and provide insights. Several companies offer specialised SEO auditing software. These tools can assist experienced technical auditors, but they can’t replace them. Sometimes, the software produces false positives. At other times, they miss critical issues that require an experienced technician to catch.
Some general SEO software includes technical auditing features, and other tools focus specifically on technical audits. Sometimes, the best choice may depend on features the business needs or ease of use for non-technical users.
- Screaming Frog: Many startups start with Screaming Frog because it offers excellent features and a free plan for scanning less than 500 URLs which would be adequate for many smaller sites. Paid plans should handle more than 100,000 pages without an issue. The software can locate complex problems and point you toward what to resolve and where to look.
- SEMrush: SEMrush doesn’t offer a free trial, but the basic plan can scan 100,000 pages. The software also makes it easy to create custom scan schedules. This tool also tracks progress and offers an excellent reporting dashboard.
- Ahrefs Site Audit: This product can scan for dozens of technical issues. The software produces categorised reports that make it easy to build workflows.
- Sitechecker: Small businesses with little technical expertise should find this tool simple to use. The platform provides customised checklists and offers 24/7 website monitoring.
Website owners who want to know precisely which technical issues impact their site’s performance and ranking should also consider Google’s free tools. Google’s Mobile Usability, Performance, and Search Console scan websites and offer insights directly from the most prominent search engine.
Technical SEO Services
The usefulness and value of any tool will depend upon the operator’s skill. A fancy calculator can speed up calculations but doesn’t replace learning the fundamentals of arithmetic. Similarly, skilled technical auditors rely on tools, experience, and their understanding of how a high-performing site should function. They also keep up with the most current guidelines from search engines to help websites stay competitive.
Learn more about technical SEO services to maximise the value of available tools and find tricky problems that tools will miss.