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SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

What is it?

Technical optimization is SEO activities that are completed on your site and are designed to improve SEO but are not related to content. So let's have a look at some of these features.

Features

So we're going to look at these activities in more detail, what they are in terms of ranking factors.

We'll look at some ranking factors that actually improve your technical optimization.

And what you'll find is sometimes you might need some technical help. So, if you're not that technical yourself, you might need to ask a web developer or someone that looks after, maybe, the web admin for your website.

And when it comes to the time investment, this is largely up-front. So, if you've got a website and you want to make sure that it's technically search engine-friendly, then we can do a lot of that at the beginning.

We'll also look at some tools that help make your website ‘search engine friendly’. Screaming SEO Frog is a tool that's very good that you might like to investigate.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free service that's offered by Google that helps you monitor and maintain your site's presence in Google search results.

Diagnosing technical issues

So essentially, if you've got a website and you want Google to know about it, it really helps if you register it for Google Search Console. And it's not just Google Search Console that you can register for. Bing has a very similar service which is called Bing Webmaster Tools. And some other things that you can have a look at in Google Search Console, we're going to cover now.

Crawlability optimization in five steps

We're going to have a look at these in five steps. And when we think about crawlability optimization, there are more things that we can investigate but these are maybe what we would call the top five.

Step 1: Minimize site errors

So firstly, we'll want to minimize site errors. We'll talk about redirects, how you use them wisely. We'll talk about why you need an XML site map and where you can submit one to. We'll also want to minimize duplicate content because you'll remember in order for content to be indexed it needs to be unique ideally.

And we'll also talk about how you can check to see if a page actually has been indexed. So minimize site and URL errors. Well, let's assume that you now have access to Google Search Console. You can either ask a colleague how you can get access to it, or if you just Google "Google Search Console setup" you'll find instructions there.

But one of the first things that you'll see in the crawl section is crawl errors, and these can be site errors or they can be URL errors. Now in this case, what we can see in this screen is there's actually 4,859 "Not Found" errors. So we really want to get that to be as low as possible, and really it's relative to the number of URLs on your site.

If you've got a site with 200,000 URLs, then, you know, 5,000 errors isn't that bad. But if you've got a site maybe with 20,000 URLs and a quarter of them are firing up errors, that's much more significant. And what we want to do is we want to minimize the errors on important landing pages.

In fact, they shouldn't be any errors at all on important landing pages because that will mean that possibly the pages can't be crawled or indexed, or if they are already crawled and indexed, it might just mean that the user doesn't find what they need. So use redirects wisely. So if you have changed the URL, maybe you've taken off an S from a URL, you've changed it from being plural to singular, if you haven't done a redirect what will happen is the old URL will throw up a "Page Not Found" error.

That means that if a search engine has built up history and trust about a URL, on the old URL and you haven't done the redirect, it means the reputation history won't be passed. It's bad user experience if someone's bookmarks an old URL and they can no longer find the new one.

Step 2: Use redirects wisely

You want to use a redirect and what we generally want to use more often than not is a 301 permanent redirect.

And that tells search engines that this is a permanent measure, it doesn't have to be forever, but it's not something that you're planning in changing in the short term.

302s are another form of a redirect. You know, some in the industry think that 302s don't pass any reputation and some believe that they do pass some or, in fact, all the reputation.

But to play it safe, I would generally advise to go for a 301 redirect if you do want to pass reputation.

The last one to look at is a meta refresh. This is something that can happen on the page and quite often it can be generated by JavaScript. So it's not something that we normally want to do for SEO but you might find some purposes for it for non-SEO reasons.

Step 3: Create and submit an up-to-date XML sitemap

What we're going to look at now is an XML site map. XML site maps are designed specifically for search engines and typically, they will list all the URLs that exist on your website. So, in this case, what we can see is this is for a website that has 25,000 or over 25,000 URLs have been submitted in the XML site map, but actually only 3,137 have been indexed.

So that means that there are a lot of URLs that haven't been indexed. And had we not created the XML site map and submitted it to Google Search Console? We wouldn't have known that information. And one of the reasons that might have happened is, do you remember in the previous step, we saw that the website had a lot of Page Not Founds.

So that would explain why quite a few of them hadn't been indexed. Maybe they've got a lot of duplicate content, but at least we know that in this case, we need to investigate further why Google isn't indexing the majority of the pages.

Step 4: Minimize duplicate content

Search engines generally prefer unique content. It takes a lot of resources to revisit pages during crawling and to access its pages and its index. So it wants to have a lean index as much as possible. So it's definitely not a good idea to copy content from other websites, and even you want to be careful about how you reuse content on your own website.

A little bit of duplication is okay, but if you've got, you know, the majority of a page is just duplicate to another page, it might mean that that page gets discounted or even it may just get de-indexed or not indexed at all. Okay. So step five is checking for index pages. Now in order for a page to rank, it has to be indexed.

Step 5: Check for indexed pages

It's really important that we know that our top landing pages are indexed. So one way you can do this is by either typing in a keyword into Google or a search engine or you can type in a URL into Google, and then when the listing appears, what you can actually do is you can click the triangle and then click Cached.

And what will happen then is that you will see whether the page has actually been indexed or not. If it has been indexed, you'll get a version of the page and you'll see the date and the time of when it was indexed.

Technical SEO ranking factors

When we think of technical optimization, it's mainly about optimizing for crawlability and ease of access to get your pages indexed.

But there are factors that actually affect your SEO performance and rankings. The first one we're going to look at is site speed, we're then going to look at mobile friendliness, and then we'll finish off with HTTPS, so that's making your web pages secure.

Site speed

You need to understand how to improve site speed. Now, when we load a web page, really what we should be aiming for is two seconds or less.

If it's any longer, there is the worry that the user will get fed up and hit the back button or maybe they'll just get frustrated and get a bad feel for your business or your brand. So things that we can do is we can make file sizes smaller for images, we can compress texts and files. When a web page is loaded, there may be as many as 100 requests being made, so maybe a request for an image, a request for a technical file like a CSS file.

And the smaller number of requests means the quicker the page is going to load. You may need to upgrade your web hosting. If your web host is maybe quite a cheap one, it might mean that you're not getting the performance that will really allow you to get a fast loading web page. There are quite a few more factors that we can look into as well which we will cover.

And one way you can do that is by using a tool provided from Google, and it's called Page Speed Insights. So with Page Speed Insights, it allows you to add in a URL and it will actually give you a score from Google to say how well optimized your web pages for speed.

So in this case, for the bbc.co.uk, the desktop gets a 76 out of 100, and there's actually some elements that the tool is offering to suggest improvements. You can also click on the mobile tab and get recommendations for mobile as well. But rather than use the mobile tab, another alternative you can do is actually use another separate Google tool, and this one is called Test My Site - Think With Google.

And the idea here is that you add in a URL and it just goes a little bit more in depth of how it checks your speed for mobile. So, in this case, it's saying that it loads in two seconds google.com, and this is on a 3G speed experience. This is considered a very good speed on 3G. So I definitely recommend checking out that tool.

One of my favorite tools is Pingdom. So with Pingdom, it's another tool that helps, you know, diagnose any issues with slow loading web pages. And what you can do is you put in a URL, you say "Test From" and then select the closest test area to your location, and then you can hit Start Test. And in this case, we can see for twitter.com, the load time is just over one second.

It's actually given it a performance grade of 90%, and it's saying there's 18 requests which is quite a small number. And if you use this tool and you actually scroll down, you'll get more details about things that might be slowing your website. So you'll be able to see whether you've got large images that maybe you can reduce in size. So I definitely recommend checking out pingdom.com.

Mobile friendliness

This is about making sure that your website renders in a nice way for mobile devices. And Google actually announced back in 2015 that this was a ranking factor, will be only a slight ranking factor, but a ranking factor nevertheless.

And also in 2015, mobile actually overtook desktop. So more people were using mobiles to Google search queries than they were desktops. And currently, Google has actually announced that it has plans to have a mobile first index, and this might happen quite soon.

And what that means is when Google actually builds up its index, it's going to do it in a way that responds to mobile devices primarily and secondary to desktop devices. So how can you check if your website is mobile friendly? Well, there is a tool called the Mobile-Friendly Test.

You enter in a URL and it will tell you whether your web page is mobile-friendly. Now this tool only checks, you know, a URL at a time. And if you do want to check out your whole website to see if it's search engine-friendly, then you can do that through Google Search Console. So that's another reason that you probably want to take a look at Google Search Console.

HTTPS

So the S in HTTPS means that the page is secure, the page will have a certificate, and that's something that Google announced as a ranking factor in 2014. And before that point, we generally only used HTTPS on private pages.

So maybe where you are taking the payment from someone or maybe where you're taking contact details from someone, we generally made those pages securely. But after 2014 or during 2014, what we actually started to see was lots of websites were actually making the whole website secure, and that's because there's a slight ranking benefit for doing that.

Now, if your website hasn't got a HTTPS, it's only a small ranking factor at the moment, but you might want to think about getting HTTPS which would require a certificate, but it would also require making sure all the old URLs, the HTTP redirect to the new URLs.

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Please note that the module slides are designed to work in collaboration with the module transcript document. It is recommended that you use both resources simultaneously.

Digital Marketing Resources:

Joe Williams

Managing Director and SEO Trainer at Zen Optimise

  • Founder and SEO Trainer at Zen Optimise with 10 years’ experience in Search Engine Optimization
  • Zen Optimise is a London-based digital marketing training company
  • SEO consultant and trainer for hundreds of small, medium, and blue chip companies including Qantas Airlines, Sky, Eurostar, EasyCruise, and Anti-Slavery
Joe Williams

The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful. While relevant to this module, you will not be assessed on this content.

You can find more information and content like this on the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library

ABOUT THIS DIGITAL MARKETING MODULE

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Joe Williams Joe Williams
Skills Expert

This module begins with the fundamentals of SEO and how search engines work. It explains why it is vital to align SEO objectives with overarching business objectives and how to use keyword and competitor research to build an SEO content plan that brings the right kind of visitors to a website. It also covers how to boost online conversions to help stand out in today’s fiercely competitive online marketplace and ensure the best possible ROI.

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