Ruth Burr Reedy is the director of strategy at Upbuild, a boutique digital marketing agency excelling in SEO, analytics strategy, and conversion rate optimization.
She gets straight to business once she steps onto the stage. “We no longer need to know how to code to build a website.” Search engines are getting better and better at crawling websites. They are much more easily able to understand websites that aren’t built perfectly.
Do we even need to be technical?
Reedy encourages us to think of SEO like the importance of accounting for a business. If you are a small business, you can learn enough accounting to run your business for a while. SEO is the same. Eventually, you get big enough that you need to hire a professional. You need a professional SEO to make sure your site can support the business you want to provide long term. If you want to do business on the web, organic search engine traffic is necessary. “It’s unavoidable.”
But Google can figure it out! Right? They have all the tools! They can do it!
No! Google doesn’t care about you! Google doesn’t care about your business.
If you aren’t as big as companies like Macys or Wikipedia, Google doesn’t care if you’re good at getting traffic sent to your site. If you can’t prove your site has a good answer for a query, Google doesn’t care.
Websites are different now. They don’t necessarily have to be on the web. Utilizing the progressive web is becoming more and more necessary. “The line between website and app is getting blurrier and blurrier.”
Continuing down the tunnel of changes, search itself is changing. Search is no longer just happening on a phone, desktop, or tablet. It’s happening on voice and with connected devices offline, online, and everywhere.
It’s all about content!
Content is the cornerstone of what you’re doing. It doesn’t matter how good your content is if no one can find or see it. You can’t just have content. You also have to find a way to serve it to users and search engines.
But my Content Management System (CMS) already does SEO! Not exactly….
CMS products are getting better at providing SEO functionality for you but they aren’t perfect. On-Page SEO is really important but “it’s like the furniture and the drapes and the carpet in your house. Without those, your house isn’t very enjoyable to be in and no one wants to come over.” In addition, if you have furniture in a ratty house, or don’t tell anyone where your house is, you won’t have a fun party.
— Jennifer Blunt (@jenbluntly) September 15, 2017
Three Main Categories of Technical SEO:
1. Performance – How easily does your site perform on the web? How easily can Google interact with it?
How fast does your site load? This is getting more and more important as the web gets faster and people’s attention-spans decrease. “Make your site as fast as possible.” Look at your page speed in Google Analytics. A good page load time is under 2 seconds on average. If you’re well above 4-5 seconds, a realistic goal is to try to get it under 4 seconds. She shares some tools for analyzing your page speed including: Insights for Chrome, Pingdom, and WebPageTest.org.
When thinking about performance, one of the main contributors to slow speeds is Code Bloat, or unused code on your site. This commonly includes retargeting pixels for tools you’re no longer using. Every single third-party widget increases your page load time. For example: “Facebook Like Buttons account for 16% of an average website’s code.” She encourages us to “be ruthless about looking at your code and taking stuff out.”
To help with this, use Chrome Developer Tools. Pay attention to Accelerated Mobile Pages, a set of html tags that allow you to load a lighter, cleaner, faster version of your page. This is being used more and more in mobile. It means that Google doesn’t trust you to make your site fast but can’t wait anymore for you to do it. If you want to really dig into many, many, many different ways you can make your site faster, she recommends going to MakeFastSites.com.
2. Crawlability – Once a bot gets to your page, how easily can it crawl your site?
She tells us all about Google’s Crawl Budget. This is the tool that decides how many resources Google is prepared to devote to crawling your site. Once it has used all those resources, it will stop crawling – even if there’s more site to crawl. If isn’t easy for Google, it will crawl your site less often.
So, what can negatively impact your crawl budget?
Facets, Parameters, & Session IDs. She used Macy’s website as an example. When a user filters a product differently, it designates a new URL for each filter. That’s hundreds of URLs for what is essentially one page and a waste of crawl budget.
Duplicate content – http vs https or www vs nothing – We see one page that is formatted slightly differently but Google thinks it’s a ton of different pages. Google can sometimes figure it out but you don’t want Google to decide which is most important.
Errors – If there are enough Hard and Soft 404s, Google will give up crawling your site.
Infinite Spaces – Don’t create blank spaces in a calendar. For example, don’t make one page for every day for every year for many years – that’s a ton of blank pages. A crawler can get lost in there!
She suggests the following services for finding the errors in your site’s crawlability:
- Server Log File Analysis
- Screaming Frog
3. Indexation – How much of your site is being termed relevant by a crawler?
Look at your Percent Indexation –what percent of your URLs aren’t showing up in the index. To track this, you can perform a site: search to see approximately how many results there are and compare this number to the amount of pages your site.
Get rid of low quality and spam content.
“It’s 2017. Get on my level. Quit spamming.”
Update your information architecture. How are the pages on your site laid out? Do they make sense? Where do pages link to?
Make your site secure if it’s not already secure – especially if you are compiling any sort of data. Starting in Oct 2017, Chrome is going to start warning people that your site isn’t secure
Practice good semantic markup tactics.
— Beth Dean (@Bibbish) September 15, 2017
The Future of Technical SEO
Next up, she walked us through where she sees the future of technical SEO moving in the future. She recommends getting performance issues solved before Google launches Mobile-First Indexing. We also need to prepare for Device-Agnostic Information. We have to make sure we are making it easy for Google to easily extract the important bits of information to use across devices in featured snippets. She urges us to use natural language more efficiently so that Google can learn from us. Finally, she tells us the importance of understanding and utilizing progressive web apps.
Investing in Technical SEO – Hint: It involves spending money.
She suggests that we invest in cross-device tracking and tells us to start thinking about our customer journey in terms of “device to device to device where users find, like, convert.”
We should hire SEOs who speak developer, developers who speak SEO, and designers who speak UX.
— Jenn Clore (@Just_Jenn3) September 15, 2017
You need more than technical SEO. Like she said before, if you throw a party in an empty house, it won’t be fun. You still need to invest in content, PR, etc. but investing in technical SEO makes everything easier. If your site is fast, it’s easier to get everything out there.
Professor Ruth Burr Reedy assigned us homework before she left the stage.
- Learn to use Chrome Dev tools
- Remove unused code
- Check your crawl and indexation in Google Search Console
- Make your site faster
- Learn UX best practices
- Pursue featured snippets
- Implement semantic markup
- Get developers, designers, and SEOs on the same page
Let’s just say we were all pretty inspired and motivated to make changes thanks to Ruth Burr Reedy’s speech!
— Janelle Archer (@janelleokc) September 15, 2017