There's often confusion about exactly what skills are needed for Technical SEO, lost in a sea of doubt about where the discipline overlaps – and differs – from web development and programming.
The truth is, that within Technical SEO, programming skills are not really necessary, nor do web developers need SEO knowledge. However, from a Technical SEO point of view, it’s useful to understand the basic components of a website and how it works, in order to understand its potential and adapt it to the requirements of search engines.
So, it’s fair to say Technical SEO is almost a go-between, bridging the gap between SEO and web development. We’ve pulled together a short list of the most used technologies and tools that make our day-to-day life much easier when it comes to Technical SEO.
1. Crawling and Indexing
It all starts when Google (or another search engine) visits a website. Normally, it goes: ‘Oh hi! Can I go in?’. Then a robots.txt file politely decides whether they can or not.
As Tech SEOs, it’s our duty to ensure that not only crawlers have access to the desired pages, but that all of them can be found and indexed. Luckily, technology can replicate these bots’ behaviour so that any crawlability issues can be detected in time.
For that purpose, we use ScreamingFrog, a website spider that extracts data and highlights common SEO issues. For a more technical perspective, Sitebulb comes in handy, as it also provides hints and actionable guidance. A mix of the two plays a big role in every technical audit.
Afterwards, once crawlers have access to the pages, they normally go: ‘Oh hi! Can I keep you in my index?’ at which point the meta robots politely decide whether they can or not.
We can use the same tools to prevent any indexability issues. However, note that I said ‘normally’ in both cases. This is because even though search engines are usually chivalrous, they sometimes forget their manners and crawl and index without even knocking.
Luckily, we also have Google Search Console, where this rude behaviour is recorded and makes it easier for us to sort any misunderstandings quickly.
2. Page Speed
Although most groups, blogs and training focus on SEO from WordPress - as if it were the only web technology - there are actually many other content management systems.
The problem, from a technical perspective, is that these frameworks are not normally created for SEO, but to improve the user experience in their website development process. Although it’s true there is a growing community and that SEO is getting more and more consideration every day, why not take both factors into account? Well, there it is! That’s where Tech SEO comes in.
One of the most recently released Google ranking factors is the page loading speed. Since June last year, Google considers this factor for mobile searches, and since March 2022 also for desktop ones.
No one would be surprised to know that images or videos on a website are its heaviest elements and a key point to be optimised. However, other elements that can also harm the speed performance are scripts and stylesheets files, which are necessary for the correct visualisation and interaction with the user.
To solve these kinds of problems we rely on Lighthouse and Page Speed Insight, Google's tools for measuring the quality and performance of pages regardless of the CMS or framework used. Auditing with these tools will help us understand how the website behaves, which files are oversized, which are called early in the loading process, and what aspects need to be improved to enhance rankings.
3. Traffic analysis
Needless to say, traffic is often the biggest indicator of success for a website and, as a result, it’s what every Tech SEO dreams - or has nightmares about. It’s vital to keep on top of any drops in organic traffic sitewide, as it’s often the first indicator that something is wrong. It’s also nice to see any rises in traffic, from parts of the site that have recently been fixed or optimised.
Most of you reading will probably already know the most valuable technology in this matter, Google Analytics. It’s free, it’s from Google, so it only needs to be properly set up (and migrated to GA4 asap) to get the most from it.
4. Artificial Intelligence
This is probably the most fun, but also the most tedious, part of Technical SEO in my opinion.
By artificial intelligence, I don't mean machines or robots that do all the work for us, but automated processes that save us time.
Technical SEO is one of the fields where automation is most developed. There is this revolutionary AI technology called Machine Learning, which actually means ‘machine teaching’ for us since we need to provide a learning framework which the machine learns from. Then, through programming languages such as Python, we’re able to automate tasks and improve efficiency and avoid hours of manual work.
Tasks like categorisation, clustering, or even keyword research, are where ML become a life saver. At Yard, we go a step further, with some of our internal processes already automated, including aspects of keyword rank tracking, snippet monitoring, page speed performance, reporting and/or internal linking.
Thanks to Python, we no longer waste our time on tedious tasks, instead focusing on the important jobs, helping us all become better SEOs.
5. Search Volume and Trends
As mentioned above, Google has an index where it stores all the information it finds on the web in order to offer the best possible results for a query. At the same time, this data is sorted by relevance based on hundreds of factors and displayed in the SERPs.
Unfortunately, only Google knows the full details of its algorithm, as well as its index and keyword search figures. In fact, search volume is a tricky world, where not even Google seems to offer coherent data across its sources, so we have to deal with these discrepancies as best as we can.
That’s why we tend to use third party tools such as Semrush or Ahrefs, that provide search volume and trend figures from a mix of data sources. They collect or buy clickstream data from apps and plugins that measure our online movements from our browsers (not as scary as it sounds) which allows them to refine their Google database.
Some low search volume keywords may not show on these tools, but this isn’t to say they have no value. On the contrary, they can often be used to great effect to drive relevant and high intent traffic. Therefore, tools like Answer the Public can come in useful here too.
Overall, while the keyword search volume often varies from tool to tool and isn’t always perfectly accurate, it’s a helpful indicator, and it’s also all we have for now.
Finally, what if I told you that all the technologies mentioned above are merged into a single software?
That is Cubed.
Cubed is the tool we all wish we had. A multi-touch attribution software powered by machine learning, which in addition to monitoring traffic and rankings, it tracks the performance of the website at a page level also highlighting technical issues.
Furthermore, visibility and search trends dashboards are available in order to prioritise content planning. Also forecasts, outreach link trackers, PPC performance and on top of that, it supports sustainability.
What more could you ask for?
If you’re struggling to get your Technical SEO in order, feel free to give us a shout, our expert team will be more than happy to help!