Technical SEO: Stating the Obvious About Its Importance

You know it’s getting real all up in the SEO world when a Twitter fight breaks out about the importance today of Technical SEO.

A couple weeks go an article started circulating amongst the SEO community: The True Value of Technical SEO.

The controversy was around whether or not Technical SEO is valuable at all, and whether Technical SEOs way overcharge for the value they provide (if it contributes any value at all).

The question of whether Technical SEO is valuable is, quite frankly, as asinine as “Is SEO dead?”**

Is Technical SEO still important? Umm, yes.

And so when this second follow-up article started making its way around, and the outrage continued to build I was riveted. Especially because some heavy hitters in the industry started weighing in with very passionate comments and barbs. A small firestorm erupted, with many accusing the columnist and Search Engine Article of being too “click-bait-y” and promoting misperceptions around an industry that continues to be plagued with mistrust and confusion.

And I’m all like…

Source credit: Unfortunately I have no idea – posted on the WCATL hashtag and I have been endlessly amused by this since.

Source credit: Unfortunately I have no idea – posted on the WCATL hashtag and I have been endlessly amused by this since.

Confession: I’ve always been jealous of technical SEO people. I used to try and study up on technical SEO, because I didn’t know it, and I felt it held me back as a professional. I was always afraid someone was going to call me out as a fraud, or sneer at me for attempting to call myself an “SEO.”

And then somewhere along the way, I realized I didn’t have to know it all. I got over it. I started delegating out technical pieces, or picking up knowledge through execution along the way instead of trying to know it all on the front end. And getting past that fear reinforced my philosophy that you don’t have to know it all before you begin. The path, and knowledge, is revealed along the way after you do the action.

You don’t have to know it all to do SEO. You just have to know how to look, to research, to experiment. Hypothesize, take action, analyze.

Here’s how I explain technical SEO to clients:

SEO used to be a very technical checklist. You could do a few isolated tasks and see instant results.

Today, it is not like that.

I still remember the day, about a year ago, a web designer came to me on behalf of one of her clients and said: “they just need some SEO work. You know, they need SEO tagging, back-end work, adding links to directories, writing keywords into the back end…”

I was about to tell her I wasn’t the best fit for the job, because frankly I had no idea what she was talking about. And then I realized that “SEO tagging, SEO back-end website work” was her idea of what SEO was.

Google’s spider is looking for those signals. What that “looks” like is a super-fast site, responsive design, possibly an SSL certificate.

First let’s start out with the (informal) definition of Technical SEO: Don’t make Google guess.

And give the people what they want. A unique, efficient, valuable, experience. Google constantly adjusts their algorithm to make sure the sites that do the best at uniqueness, relevance, efficiency, innovation and website visitor happiness are going to win.

Technical SEO means not leaving things up to chance to make sure Google knows your site is as awesome as you say it is.

Modern SEO requires much more to come together just to see marginal results. Nothing but the right mix of time and strategic activities that contribute to better rankings and visibility will garner you results. When I do a holistic audit on clients, “technical” is one of 7 audits I conduct, along with: keywords, on-page, content assets and social, links, competitive, and off-page/SERPS in order to lay out a roadmap.

Here are a handful of the biggest technical issues I’ve seen in the past 12 months:

  1. Title tags – (I actually consider this to be on-page while many consider it to be technical so it’s worth putting on this list)
  2. Site speed – a site that loads in in 6-7+ seconds (once I saw 12 seconds for a homepage) is not going to move up the rankings.
  3. Canonical – when multiple versions of the homepage exist and don’t resolve to one single URL, believe me, it’s not just Google that is confused.
  4. Duplicate pages – see the above same issue with canonical URLs.
  5. Bloated index – believe me when I say just because a page exists on your site, it does not need to be indexed. If you have 10,000 pages, but truly only 25% add up to a valuable contribution to your site, then only show those pages.
  6. Crawl errors – something on the page is preventing Google from properly crawling, indexing, or displaying your page. A crawl error here or there isn’t a big deal, but multiple crawl errors add up.

Technical SEO alone won’t garner you (significant) results, but you can’t get ANY BETTER results without making sure your technical back-end is as optimal possible. Here’s an oldie but goodie about Technical SEO I published a few years ago: http://jennymunn.com/technical-seo-issues/. If it turns out that you have substantial technical issues you can’t resolve on your own, it’s important to hire a true technical SEO (like AJ Martin) to help get your back-end all squared away.

If you have some free time and can appreciate a little drama taken with a grain of salt, you can read the original article that ignited the firestorm here. As with most good controversial pieces, the comments alone are equal to the value of the post.

Fair warning. You will get sucked in.

**For my new readers, here is my response to “Is SEO dead?” The TRADITIONAL way of doing SEO is dead, yes. But SEO, meaning the concept of being findable and discoverable by your target market when and where a search query is done, is still very much alive. As long as people google, and search for information online to get the best result as quickly as possible, SEO is alive. 

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Jenny Munn

Jenny Munn is an SEO Strategist who helps organizations get more leads from their website and integrate SEO into their marketing mix. She consults with in-house marketing managers, agencies, and small businesses. Jenny has taught SEO at WordCamp Atlanta, Digital Atlanta, Solo PR Summit, Business Marketing Association, Atlanta Tech Village, and various content marketing and social media organizations.
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1 Comment

  • Love it Jenny, thanks for the article. I have seen and experienced the same challenges with some of my own clients. There are still a lot of mis conceptions out there that impact on the way we go about approaching the “SEO brief”. I recently met some folks who are in the finance sector here in the UK, whose really expensive website as a technical catastrophe, and had been worked on by a leading global digital agency for some 18 months. They have since pulled the SEO work from them and set it up in house.

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