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Technical SEO Guide 2024 – On Site & On Page Optimisation Explained

Technical SEO in 2024

Technical SEO concerns improving a website’s technical elements to boost its pages’ ranking in search engines. Technical optimisation aims to make a website faster to load, easy for search engines to crawl, and more understandable for search engines to recognise the site’s content.

This Technical SEO Guide will help you navigate and correct fundamental onsite issues. The goal is to help you take practical action while working through the guide. However, if there is anything you don’t understand or need further help with, please feel free to email or call us, and we’ll be happy to help.

Running a successful SEO campaign requires several skill sets. You need to be able to:

  1. Fully optimise your website so it loads extremely quickly, is secure, offers a great User Experience (UX), is mobile friendly, and is easy for search engines to crawl.
  2. Write and produce engaging content that helps users with solutions to issues they face.
  3. Reach out to publishers within your industry or region who will publish your material because they think it is helpful for their audience.

In this guide, we focus exclusively on point one.

Technical SEO – On-Site And On-Page Optimisation

Unlike some factors, on-site and on-page optimisation are pieces of the SEO puzzle under your control. In essence, it’s the technical quality of your website. The speed at which it runs, the HTML code used to optimise content, the Schema markup code you add to pages, the way it’s structured and laid out, and whether it is mobile-friendly.

You want to maximise these factors to the hilt. Some of it you can do yourself. You’ll likely need to ask a web developer to do other parts.

 

Best Practices for Technical Excellence

Aim to employ the best technical practices for your site. This includes components like:

  1. Meta tags:Meta tags are the title, description, canonical, header tags, and alt text.
  2. Page URL:URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. A URL is the address of a website or webpage and is unique to every page on the web.
  3. Site structure: Site structure is how a website’s content and pages are organised and connected. It involves the hierarchical arrangement of web pages and their relationship to one another. Website structure helps search engines and visitors navigate and understand the website.
  4. Page Speed: Site speed is essential to a site’s high ranking and user experience. If a site or page loads slowly, many shoppers will not complete a purchase, or readers will bounce rather than wait for an article to load.

To know if your site loads in good time, go to Google’s Page Speed Insights Tool and enter your URL. Google scores the URL for mobile devices and desktop computers from 1 to 100 and suggests how to speed up load times.

  1. Optimising site speed:Reduce image sizes, use a CDN, choose fast hosting, take advantage of Google Lighthouse, and regularly perform site speed checks.
  2. Site Security:Secure the pages on your site with a security certificate.
  3. Mobile-friendly:Use a responsive design that adapts to different screen sizes.
  4. Optimal crawlability:Crawlability is the ability for search engine bots to access, process, and index the content of your website.
  5. Schema Markup: Schema markup, also called structured data, is a type of code that helps search engines understand the content of web pages. It helps search engines organise and classify the content on a website.

Meta Tags

Meta title

Every page on your website should have a unique HTML title tag. This is a crucial signal to help Google understand what the topic of each page is about. In addition, the title tag is the first thing users see when looking at a page of Google search results. Becoming skilled at writing keyword-optimised and appealing title tags is essential.

Start the title tag with the target keyword. So, for example, if you are targeting the keyword “Bromley boiler service” on a given page, then your title tag may well be “Bromley Boiler Service | Business Name” or “Bromley Boiler Service | Repairs & Servicing | Business Name”.

You want to make sure it is descriptive and appealing, increasing the chances of a user clicking your result instead of your competitors.

If you have a high CTR (Click Through Rate) compared to the average for your position on Google, it will help you rise in the rankings. A low CTR may lead to a drop.

 

 

Mobile Vs Desktop

The title tag result will display differently on desktop than mobile results. Desktop results have more space to play with, whereas space is restricted on a mobile screen. As such, what appears fine on a desktop may be cut off on a mobile search. There’s no set number of characters, although it is considered good practice to stay within sixty. That is why including your target keyword at the start is recommended.

Include your business or brand name in the result, where possible. If people make multiple searches on a given topic and keep seeing your name pop up, it will help generate brand recognition and clicks on your results.

Finally, do revise your title tag from time to time if necessary. You might find that your initial title tag has a low CTR. Use Google Analytics and search query reports to check this. If the CTR is low, think about how you can improve your call to action. Look at the results page for the given search term you are targeting. What makes your competitors stand out? How can you improve your title? Once you develop an idea, update your title tag, and continue monitoring the results.

 

 

Meta Description

The meta description is where you get to summarise what each page of your website is about in 160 characters or less. It appears in Google’s search results below your title tag and URL. Meta descriptions can be any length, but Google generally trims snippets to ~155-160 characters. It’s best to keep meta descriptions long enough to be sufficiently descriptive but short enough to display fully.

Think of the meta description as your elevator pitch. What makes your page unique? Why should someone leave Google to visit your page rather than one of the other search results?

Including the keyword you are targeting in your meta description is beneficial. It’s not a ranking factor, but by including the keyword someone has searched for, you increase the chances of catching their eye. This, in turn, increases the chances of them clicking through to your result. As already discussed, this element, the CTR, is part of the algorithm.

Characteristics of a Good Meta Description

  • 160 characters or less
  • Contains the target keyword
  • Includes a call to action – Available now! Learn more!
  • It is relevant to the content
  • It should be unique on every page of your website
  • It contains vital data. On product pages, including the price and availability can help get the click and drive the sale!

Practice writing and optimising your meta descriptions. They are vital in getting people off Google and onto your web page. Use your Google Analytics reports to monitor poor-performing pages and update your meta descriptions where appropriate.

 

 

Header Tags

These are the H2/H3/H4/H5 HTML tags you want to keyword optimise and include in your website pages and blog posts. They’re the sub-headings in any text on your site.

<h2>This is the H2 HTML code for the H2 tag</h2>

And it looks like this when implemented in the code.

This Is The H2 HTML Code

As you can see, each tag gradually makes the text smaller for the end user.

This Is The H3 HTML Code

This Is The H4 HTML Code

THIS IS THE H5 HTML Code

Google interprets the code as being a hierarchy of importance. Namely, the wording in the h2 tag is important, the h3 slightly less so, and so on.

So, continuing with our “Bromley boiler service” example, you would have that keyword in the title tag, meta description and in one or two H2 tag sub-headings. However, be careful not to overdo the number of keywords in your H tags. Google may regard this as keyword stuffing and penalise the page, causing a drop in rankings.

 

 

Alt Image Tags

Adding images to your content can help maintain your user’s attention and illustrate your points. It’s, therefore, important to add an alt tag to tell Google what is in the images. Although Google is good at understanding what is in an image, the alt tag can help in some cases.

Alt text will appear in place of an image on a webpage if the image fails to load on a screen. This text helps screen-reading apps describe images to those who are visually impaired.

Where appropriate, use the keyword you are targeting on the page. So, on the page targeting “Bromley boiler service”, you might include an image of a plumber hard at work with the alt tag “Bromley boiler service in action”.

 

 

Canonical Tags

The Canonical tag is an essential HTML tag you should have on every page of your website. You need to use this tag to avoid a duplicate content penalty. Even if there are no other similar versions to a page, the page should still include a self-linking canonical tag.

How Does a Canonical Tag Help With Duplicate Content?

Suppose you have several pages with similar or identical content, it is considered duplicate content. Google needs to know which page to put in their search results.

As such, the canonical tag allows you to tell Google which version of your page you would like them to show.

T-Shirt Shop Example

So, for example, you may have a shop on your website selling t-shirts. You have one style available in four colours: red, orange, green and white. All four colours have their landing page, and all four landing pages use the same description text, which has been keyword optimised for the term “funky t-shirt”. Which page should Google put in its search results for that keyword?

As the business owner, you must decide which of those four colours you would like to prioritise putting in the search results. Let’s say you pick the white option. The other three pages will include a canonical tag pointing to the white t-shirt page, and the white t-shirt page will have a self-referencing canonical tag pointing at itself.

So, the red, orange, and green pages would all have the following as the canonical tag in their code:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.example.com/shop/white-tshirt”/>

As would the white t-shirt page itself.

Here are the rules for using the Canonical tag:

  1. It should be self-referencing. For example, on the homepage of https://www.example.com/, the canonical tag should be as follows:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.example.com/” />

  1. If not self-referencing, it should point to the content source used on the page. For example, if the content on the page https://www.example.com/reference-material uses the same content that you first published on another page of your site, then the canonical tag should point to that page. If, however, you’re using content that was first published on someone else’s website, for example, on the page https://www.otherwebsite.com/reference-material, then the canonical should be set as follows:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.otherwebsite.com/reference-material” />

This way, you’re telling Google, “Hey, I know we have directly copied someone else’s work, but we’re being honest and telling you that the original publisher should get the credit.” If you fail to do that, and Google knows the other page is the source of the material, you could face a penalty, or most likely, Google will not index your page, as the original work already exists.

 

 

Yoast Plugins

There are some great plugins available to help you manage your meta tags and on-page SEO. The one we recommend to clients is the Yoast Premium plugin. It enables you to optimise your title and description tags and advises you on factors you can improve within your content. For example, the plugin will alert you if you have not included a keyword-optimised sub-heading or alt-image tag. These helpful reminders help to ensure your completed article has ticked as many optimisation boxes as possible before publishing.

As a bonus, you can also manage 301 redirects using the plugin (which you may need if you change your site URL structure. A 301 redirect is where you tell Google, “You know that page that you used to find here? Well, we changed the URL slightly, and you can now find it over here”. It helps ensure Google can keep all your content in the index and pass any link juice your URLs receive from other websites onto the new URL.

Yoast has a local plugin to help you with your local SEO campaign targeting. The plugin will include your NAP details within your code, so Google can quickly see your details align with your GMB listing and citation sources.

These plugins will save you a lot of time and make life much easier. We recommend you support the developers and pay for the yearly license, which gives you additional features.

 

 

Page URL

The page URL is where you should put your target keyword. So, with the example of the keyword “Bromley boiler service”, the page URL could be https://www.example.com/bromley-boiler-service. Such URLs are far easier for people to remember should they want to revisit a page. In addition, they become easier for sites to link to you as they do not have to copy some random string of nonsense like https://www.example.com/?4y24070124hidihd218y8y30pj.

With WordPress sites, navigate to Settings – Permalinks – Common Settings and select the Post Name option. This will ensure all future blog posts follow the URL-friendly pattern. If you purchase the Yoast plugin, you can also manage SEO-friendly URLs when setting up blog posts and pages.

 

 

Site Structure

You should aim to build your website like a pyramid, with your most important pages at the top and linked to all other pages of your website. So, your Homepage would be at the top, followed by keyword-optimised category pages.

Next will be your product pages if you run an eCommerce store. And finally, your blog posts/articles/resources would be at the pyramid’s base.

Use navigation to ensure all your most important pages (homepage and category pages) are linked to from all other pages on your site.

Do your keyword research at the start to ensure your category pages are targeting higher-volume monthly search keywords. Blog posts should target lower volume and long tail keywords.

Use taxonomy and breadcrumbs so users can easily navigate your site without confusion.

Link related blog posts to each other so users can easily find support articles within the context of your blog posts. The Yoast Premium plugin will suggest previous posts you have written that you can link to in your current blog post. Ensure all blog posts and pages are not orphaned so they remain in Google’s index.

 

 

Optimise Site Speed

The speed at which your website loads is crucial for users and Google. Most people now use their phones rather than desktops to navigate the web. As mobile connection speeds can be slower, websites must load as fast as possible, or users can and will move on to other, faster-loading sites. Google will observe such behaviour and alter its rankings accordingly.

This is an area you will want to run by a web developer. Here is a checklist that a developer would typically work through:

  • Reduce server response time
  • Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content
  • Enable compression
  • Leverage browser caching
  • Optimise images
  • Reduce file size with tools like TinyPNGor Image Recycle.
  • Test with GTMetrix.
  • Avoid landing page redirects
  • Minify CSS
  • Minify HTML
  • Minify JavaScript
  • Prioritise visible content

Using the links below, you can run tests to confirm optimum implementation:

Page Speed Insights

Pingdom

Google Lighthouse

 

 

Caching

A hardware or software-based web cache positioned between a user and web servers lowers bandwidth requirements, server load, and lagging. This frees up resources and improves performance.

Plenty of WordPress plugins are available to address caching. Various web caching techniques exist. If you use WordPress, two popular caching plugins are:

WP Rocket

WP Super Cache

 

 

CDN

CDN stands for Content Delivery Network. A content delivery network is a group of geographically dispersed servers that speed up web content delivery by bringing it closer to where the users are. So, let’s say your server is in London, and a site visitor is in New York. The load speed for this visitor may be terribly slow, given the distance to your hosting server. However, if you add a CDN, you can deliver your site from a server closer to the user.

Speak to your web developer or hosting provider to add a CDN to your site infrastructure.

Takeaway

A fast-loading site is essential for your Google rankings and user experience. Address this as a priority to help improve both. And be sure to run tests using the likes of Google’s Lighthouse every few months. Staying on top of this issue is vital as there are so many moving parts to site speed. As such, vigilance and testing are essential.

 

Site Security

Google Chrome highlights any website that does not have a security certificate applied. This is a negative ranking and user experience you should address. Without a security certificate applied throughout your site, any user interaction is open to hackers to exploit.

So, for example, a user filling in your contact form may have their name, email and phone number exposed to a hacker if you have not implemented an SSL certificate on your Contact Us page.

Again, speak with your web developers and ask them to purchase, install and configure an SSL certificate for your site today. They cost as little as £10 per year, or even less, so they are worth the investment.

 

 

Mobile Friendly

As per site speed, having a mobile-friendly, responsive web design is vital. Google indexes sites based on their mobile performance. If your website is not mobile-friendly, you are likely to drop down the search rankings pretty fast and miss out on traffic and potential income. And you won’t recover until you address the issue.

Features of a mobile-friendly website:

  • Displays correctly on smartphones and tablets,
  • Fast loading speed,
  • The content is easy to read – no need to zoom in and out all the time to specific page sections
  • Simple to navigate by touch
  • Search engines easily understand code and content.
  • A responsive design template is installed and working
  • Optimise site speed
  • Does not block HTML and CSS code
  • Does not block JavaScript
  • Does not use pop-up promotional messages
  • Avoids using too many redirects

Takeaway

The mobile version of your site is now the most important as far as user experience and Google rankings are concerned. Do everything possible to fix and optimise your mobile site design and experience. The search results and visitors that should come as a result will make it worthwhile.

 

 

Optimal Crawlability

This is where you’ll need to log in to your Google Search Console account. Google Search Console acts as the physician to your website. It allows you to see how healthy it is and how well it’s running.

Here’s a list of things to go through and check each month.

  • HTML Improvements
  • Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
  • Accelerated Mobile Page URLs in place and applied correctly
  • Check crawl errors
  • Apply relevant HTTP Status Code to crawl error page URLs
  • Mark as fixed all page URLs as you correct them
  • Check robots.txt file is working correctly

 

 

Sitemaps

If you run a huge site, tracking all the pages in your sitemap is hard.

Many website sitemaps have pages with 404 and 301 status codes. Considering that the primary goal of a sitemap is to show search engines all your live pages, you want every link in the sitemap to point to a live page.

We recommend running your sitemap through the Map Broker XML Sitemap Validator. All you need to do is enter the URL of a sitemap from your site, check for warning messages and apply the correct fix.

 

 

Work With Your Developer

Speak with your web developer so they can check each of these issues with you the first time around. You can ask them to go through and show you how to check for improvements and errors. They will need to fix some things, but elements, such as HTML improvements and crawl errors, can be fixed using the Yoast plugin.

 

 

Schema Markup

Schema markup is code you can add to your site, which helps Google provide more informative results to users. For example, you can add Schema markup to a site, so Google regularly displays customer reviews next to Google listings. This helps attract the attention of potential visitors.

The following is a list of Rich Cards and Content Types that you can apply to your site if relevant to your business and industry. Rich cards are a type of search result that is based on the idea of rich snippets. They provide more interactive and visually appealing information about the search results. Like rich snippets, rich cards use schema.org structured markup to show content more visually, focusing on providing a better mobile user experience.

Rich Cards

  • Breadcrumbs
  • Corporate Contact
  • Carousel
  • Logo
  • Sitelinks Search Box
  • Social Profile

Content Types

  • Articles
  • Books
  • Courses
  • Datasets
  • Events
  • Fact Checks
  • Job Postings
  • Local Businesses
  • Music
  • Occupations
  • Podcasts
  • Products
  • Recipes
  • Reviews
  • TV & Movies
  • Videos

When you set it up, the Yoast local plugin adds quite a few of the Rich Card elements. It’s another good reason to buy the plugin rather than pay a web developer to code it themselves.

On-Page Signals Summary

As you can see, on-page ranking signals are quite involved. In places, it can be pretty technical. However, the more you learn and can do yourself, the more empowered you will be. Ask your web developers to assist you through the learning stages or hire an agency like ourselves to help get you on the right path.

 

 

Domain Authority

One last point to raise. Once you have fixed any technical issues you’ve encountered, your site is running at optimal levels, and you’ve built some great backlinks from other sites, you will have improved something called your Domain Authority.

You see, not all websites are created equal. A national newspaper with hundreds of thousands of archived pages with millions of inbound links has greater authority than a one-page blog someone just set up. Domain Authority is the status you acquire through on-site and off-site work. It’s something to bear in mind moving forward.

Ultimately, it’s the culmination of a quality all-round marketing approach. The higher your Domain Authority, the better the ranking signals you send, and the higher the search rankings for competitive keywords you achieve.

 

 

Summary

On-site and on-page optimisation can be intimidating when first encountered. However, if you tackle the tasks methodically, you have nothing to worry about.

Hopefully, this guide has given you a good idea of the issues involved. Whilst it’s not exhaustive, the above are all great starting points for resolving some of the most regular on-page and on-site issues websites face.

If you have any comments or questions, please call us on 020 3289 5595 or email info@smokingchilimedia.com, and we’ll discuss how we can help you.

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