There are few things in digital marketing that are less misunderstood and less debated than technical SEO (which some folks like to call on-page SEO). Technical SEO is that critical collection of tasks that will set an SEO specialist apart from a marketer and a developer while combining their skillsets.

Last week, SEO consultant Peter Mead joined us from Melbourne, Australia to discuss SEO audits and on-page tweaks yet again (we never seem to have enough of technical SEO here on #SEMrushchat!). He had a lot to share on what you need to know, quick-win tactics, keeping up with trends, tracking performance, and other SEO nuances. Here are some of the key takeaways from the chat, so, grab a coffee and read on…

Q1. What is the most overlooked technical SEO tactic that is a quick win? Why?

Peter advises refocusing on your primary content pages and improve your internal linking structure to point more relevant, contextual links at these pages. If needed, you can also restructure your URLs for added effect.

Dawn Anderson had similar advice: Focus on your canonicalization. Pagination and redirects (which lead to protocol conflicts in the sitemap and incorrect mapping of URLs to query clusters) are areas where it is easy to go wrong with canonicalization which could result in huge SEO fails.

Dawn is seconded by Angie Schottmuller, who added trailing slashes to the list. Ruthlessly weed out technical errors that result in duplicate content.

404s and 301 redirects are the usual suspects – the most common errors that are simple to fix.

Cleaning up your code is always an option if you are looking for quick technical SEO wins. And if you don’t know where to start, look no further than Google Search Console!

The point of all SEO efforts is not just to rank higher but to get clients to click through to your site. So, remember to optimize your titles, meta descriptions and URLs in ways that will entice searchers to click on your listing in the SERPs. More organic traffic = bigger SEO wins.

Page loading speed is a ranking factor (confirmed by Google) that matters for both desktop and mobile devices, and it is easily measurable, and there are multiple ways to improve it. What is stopping you from lowering page size and rendering time?

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Q2. When it comes to technical SEO, which data should marketers measure and analyze regularly? What can they skip?

Peter emphasizes the importance of using SEO tools like Google Search Console, Screaming Frog, and our SEMrush Site Audit to check for errors and inconsistencies with site crawlers. Schedule these audits frequently for best results.

Practically all the technical SEO issues that matter for your site can be solved with SEO audit software and technical tools. Cross-checking the impact of these issues on organic traffic in Google Analytics is a good habit to get into.

Other than crawl errors, the metrics that you should be looking at improving include impressions, CTRs, average positions, bounce rate, page views, session duration, organic traffic, and conversion rates. Also, keep an eye on whether these figures are rising or falling. There are some metrics that you don’t need to measure manually or frequently; you should be automating data collection, tracking, and reporting wherever possible.

While on the subject of technical SEO, marketers tend to sideline the importance of content. However, all SEO revolves around content, so focus on understanding what content converts better and creating more of the same, identifying the sources that bring you more traffic and targeting them better in ways that maximize your ROI.

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Q3. What is the most surprising site speed or performance related SEO ranking anomaly that you have come across?

WordPress is the most popular platform for building websites while Cloudflare is the most used content delivery network (CDN). However, certain caching plugins for WordPress cause conflicts with Cloudflare and need special configuration.

— Peter Mead

Plugins can cause conflicts and result in dragging down speed. This problem persists across multiple CMSs with add-ons/plugins. 

Optimizing images for the web is a quick and easy win most sites inexplicably ignore.

A variety of technical SEO issues might be affecting your rankings. Pages blocked by robots.txt is a common error. The wrong hreflang markup may result in content from other countries ranking above local content. But keep in mind, even with correct markup and speed optimization, you might be outdone by a competitor who has more and better links.

Pay special attention to optimization glitches on smartphones. Speed becomes far more critical when browsing from mobile devices. Android phones are also slow to render JavaScript, which adds another layer of complexity to mobile optimization. That brings us to the next question…

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Q4. What can SEOs do to ensure a great mobile experience for their site users?

Peter advocates an all-around strategy that sticks to the basics for mobile optimization. Implement responsive design and keep improving loading speed. Employ AMP pages if you are a news or timely content publisher. Constantly stay on top of crawl errors reported by Google Search Console.

Start with search intent. Mobile intent might differ entirely from desktop. Speed and responsive design are essential requirements. Your mobile audience is far more inattentive and has far less patience than your desktop audience; they have and use limited resources while browsing your site. Therefore, you need to put even more efforts in conveying a clear message while keeping it concise.

Think about how people will consume your content on mobile devices. Make your content crawlable, optimize for voice and long-tail keyword searches, use responsive design, simplify navigation, make tapping and pinching easier with better spacing, optimize images, use AMP, and make sure your landing pages are fully functional. Test every aspect of mobile browsing on different devices – and test it using a mobile network, not Wi-Fi!

While the browser intent for mobile may be different than desktop, the user experience you provide must be consistent across devices. While you can offer coupons, offers and trust signals on mobile just like desktop, you should be doubly wary of using popups. Marketing should drive the purpose of every webpage.

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Q5. When it comes to learning and keeping up with the latest technical SEO trends, what are your favorite resources (i.e., blogs, courses, Facebook groups, etc.)?

There is no single pathway to SEO mastery. Peter recommends a multi-point strategy:

Some useful blogs and resources to follow are:

Twitter is hands down the most popular platform for staying updated on SEO and marketing news. After all, this awesome #SEMrushchat community wouldn’t be there without Twitter in the first place! Great people and handles to follow include @ElephateSEO, @BruceClayInc, @dumbseoqs, @DeepCrawl, @MobileMoxie, @Suzzicks, @Marie_Haynes, and @GoogleAds.

If you want to geek out and get amazing SEO abilities, go check out the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office (stalk Google there), Google Developer Pages, the Semantic Search Marketing community on Google+, the Google AI Blog, Google’s DeepMind blog, and various other research teams working on search and answer related projects.

Thank you to these participants for their awesome suggestions on books, courses, people, and blogs that can help you to keep up on the all of the latest Technical SEO tips and trends: @petermeadit, @dawnieand, @bill_slawski@flexoid, @ExpWriters, @pairnetworks, @KatHammoud, @SnowWrite, @BGiffuni, @davidrosam, @JLFaverio, @micahfk, @MattShanley, and @adspedia

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Q6. In your opinion (not Google’s :)), what do you think will be the next step ahead for technical SEO in 2018?

Peter strongly believes that voice search and answering technology such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant will drive the future of SEO. Metadata that affects SERP display, natural language, and well-written web content will continue to matter.

The majority of #SEMrushchat participants believe that voice search will gain importance in 2018, combined with other factors such as Local SEO, rich snippets, instant answers, structured data, and HTTPS.

The internet, as well as search, are now primarily and overwhelmingly mobile-driven. Mobile-first design, simplified site navigation, mobile speed, mobile security, semantic relevance, assistive search, and an integrated experience across mobile apps that overcomes limited attention and display space will be critical factors that influence SEO in the near future.

We need to think beyond text as a medium of communication; get niche-focused with visuals, video, and voice content across social media, messaging, and virtual assistant platforms.

While the web is getting bigger, competition is also heating up. You really need to get into the top 3 slots in the organic results or play ball with Google Ads. That said, building trustworthiness will help you beat popular sites, as search engines attempt to overcome the bane of fake news.

There were a couple of outlier predictions too! Google could find a way to collect and analyze data from your site and give this data precedence over the actual site. It also remains to be seen how SEO would change if a web without URLs is forced upon us by Google Chrome.

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Technical SEO is the rocket science of marketing. However, you don’t need to be a scientist to work it out. The way we search and seek information is continually changing; so is the way search engines are answering our questions. Marketers, like Google, need to have their finger on the pulse of evolving user behavior.

Have some questions, comments, or suggestions? Leave us a comment here; we would love to hear what you think!

We want to chat with you in real-time too – mark this Wednesday’s #SEMrushchat on SEO and Topic Hubs with Dan Shure on your calendar; hope to see you there!

Author Photo
Maria KalyadinaMaria is the Social Media Marketing Manager at SEMrush and the host of the weekly #SEMrushchat. You can always connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter! Join the #SEMrushChat every Wednesday at 11 am ET/ 4 pm BST!
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