Technical Optimization Items

Technical Optimization Items

Technical optimization items include how your content management system is configured and what plugins are installed, as well as various server related settings & configurations that can impact SEO performance.

Redirects

Select either a www, or non-www version as the main site URL and setup appropriate 301 redirects to handle the desired configuration. Without these 301 redirects in place, search engines treat the two versions as two separate sites, which can have undesirable effects with search indexing.

Ensure that there are no unnecessary redirects on the home/entry page of the site. Some CMS or server configurations have default redirects that can cause major problems with how search engines crawl and index the site. Keep things simple, only use redirects when they are actually needed, and remove unnecessary, outdated and possibly damaging default redirects.

If pages are moved, ensure that 301 redirects are in place to redirect search engines to the new version of the page. 301 redirects also pass along the link authority of the page to the page the redirect points to, as well as making sure that users are finding the appropriate content.

If pages are removed and there is no new version available, use custom 404 error messages to manage the user experience. Ensure the server response is 404 so that search engines remove the page from the index.

Be aware of the impact that removing and renaming pages has with search engines. If a page on the site is ranking for a high value search term, and it’s suddenly removed without the use of a 301 redirect, significant traffic to the site can be lost, and regaining the ranking can be difficult, time consuming and costly.

Broken Links & Server Errors

Things change on a website all the time and it’s surprising how easy it is to wind up with a site that’s full of outdated broken links and 500 server errors.

Broken links and server errors impact conversion rates as users struggle to find what they’ve come to the site for, and search engines will devalue a site, or remove it from the index completely, due to broken links and server errors.

Running regular crawls to identify and repair outdated links is a vital maintenance task.

HTML Code

Ensure that all code passes basic error checks. Having an error free site ensures that search engines will be able to easily crawl and index the site.

Ensuring that the site works across Chrome, IE, Safari and FireFox may be challenging and time consuming, but is worth it to provide users and search engines with a predictable and stable experience.

Sitemaps

For Joomla, WordPress and other content management systems, plugins, modules or extensions are available that create dynamic HTML and XML sitemaps. For large custom sites, development will be required to create dynamic HTML and XML sitemaps. For smaller sites that don't have many changes to pages, static HTML and XML files can be used.

HTML sitemaps make it easy for users to find and navigate sites with large volumes of pages, they also give search engines one single page with links to all main sections.

XML sitemaps provide search engines with a document that contains links to all pages. XML sitemaps are then submitted via Google & Bing Webmaster Tools, which they then re-index on a daily/weekly basis.

Site Load Time

Site load times greatly impact conversion rates, and have become an increasingly important factor in search engine ranking algorithms. Slow loading sites are devalued in favor of faster loading sites due to the increased user experience faster loading sites provide.

Depending on the website, there are many ways to increase page loads, some examples include image compression and image hosting, loading fewer external objects, allow unconditional caching, and minimizing code bloating.

Regular server monitoring should be performed (on a simulated slow connection) and developers should be pushed to provide lean, fast loading pages.

Server Uptime

Nothing can kill rankings as quickly as a server that’s down regularly. Search engines devalue sites that have constant uptime issues.

Monitoring server uptime is essential so that issues can be identified and solutions implemented immediately.

Directory Structure Optimization

Page and folder names should be optimized using keywords and unnecessary folder depth should be avoided. Keep everything as close to the root level as possible, and when folders are required, use logical keyword oriented folder names. Eliminate session IDs and other parameters that effect URLs.

Each URL is treated by search engines as a separate page, so make sure that pages aren’t being replicated, and aren’t available using multiple URLs. If this can’t be avoided, use proper canonical tags to tell search engines which version is the master.

Image Optimization

File names for images should be chosen logically, using keywords where appropriate. The names for images should provide an indication of their content.

As with the directory structure, keep folder depth to a minimum for images – and name sub-folders using keywords where possible.

All images should have an ALT and Title tag, this helps users with accessibility issues (which may be a legal requirement for your organization), and also gives search engines another signal as to the theme/topic of the page they are crawling.

File Downloads

Sites that provide PDF document downloads should ensure the following optimization elements are being used:

  • Minimal sub-folder usage
  • Keyword rich folder names
  • Keyword rich file names
  • Keyword rich document titles
  • Keyword rich descriptions
  • META data fields should be completed on all documents
  • Leverage tags and accessibility features
  • Use Alt tags for images
  • Link back to the site within the document
  • Enable write protection on all documents
  • Provide HTML versions of all documents

Analytics Implementation

Being able to track all key metrics and ensuring the accuracy of analytics tracking is vital in being able to make informed business decisions.

Depending on what metrics are important and what marketing campaigns are being used, non-standard and more complex analytics components may be required. These can include event based tracking; pixel tracking and dynamic call tracking for tracking phone calls by source.

Evaluation of what key metrics are important is required, as is testing and confirmation that analytics is accurately tracking is required. Read more about SEO Campaign Key Metrics.

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