SEO is an incredibly dynamic field that has changed a lot in the past decade, and yet it remains at the heart of every successful digital marketing strategy. In fact, roughly 53.3 percent of quantifiable web traffic still originates from organic search.
In 2020 and beyond, however, it takes much more than just creating content, building links, and sprinkling a handful of keywords to improve your online presence and elevate your organic search rankings.
Site security, architecture, and how content is formatted also play an increasingly vital role in how Google and other search engines rank websites.
Simply put, you also need to focus on technical SEO, which encompasses the technical health aspects of your website.
That’s because modern SEO goes beyond pulling in website traffic and getting on Google page one — it’s about offering a great user experience and generating quality leads, as well as driving conversions and revenue growth.
In this brief article, we provide you with 5 key things you need to know about technical SEO to rank above the fold in Google and other search engines in 2020.
1- SSL certificate is a must-have
Most people have heard about SSL, the vast majority may not know exactly what it means. Short for Secure Sockets Layer, SSL is a protocol employed to establish encrypted and authenticated online communications between a browser and a web server.
In the past, SSL encryption was confirmed by a padlock at the beginning of the site’s URL, especially when you sign up for an online account with sensitive information or provide any transactional data. Today, however, it appears across the entire website, and it doesn’t matter what the user is doing.
In July 2018, Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, and other browsers started including “Not Secure” warning for websites that lack an SSL security certificate. This tells the browsers that they are entering a dangerous platform where their data and privacy could be compromised.
As part of your technical SEO strategy, all you need to do is move your website to HTTPS and ensure an SSL certificate is installed on your domain. Don’t forget that Google has been using HTTPS as a ranking signal since 2014.
2- SEO URL structure matters
If you want to rank higher on Google SERP, your URL structure, also known as permalink structure, should be clear, simple, and SEO-friendly.
Ideally, you should end your URL with the post name, or, alternatively, include the category in your permalink as a prefix for the post name. Some smart SEO experts add their main keyword to the post name for optimal ranking.
In either case, your URL structure should be easy to understand because if it isn’t, Google will assume that it’ll affect the user experience and mark your site down. More importantly, you should avoid redundant conjunctions and articles like ‘and’ and ‘the.’
Should you add dates to your URL structure? That’s a big no as Google and most users will deem your content ‘dated’ – and will opt for something more recent. In other words, they will assume that the blog or web page is linked to something that happened on the said date.
The bottom line is that your SEO structure can have a huge impact on both your search ranking and user experience.
3- Going mobile is a necessity, not an option
Have you ever visited a website that’s too buggy and loads too slow on mobile? Consequently, have you left a site because it wasn’t mobile-friendly?
You are certainly not alone. Google says close to ¾ of mobile online users are more likely to return to a mobile-friendly. In fact, 72 percent of internet users say it’s important to them that a website has a mobile-ready design. And let’s not forget that over 86 percent of Americans (Pew Research) are mobile users, meaning they occasionally access the internet via a tablet, smartphone or other mobile devices.
Mobile-friendliness not only influences user experience but also affects the site load time, another important Google ranking factor. 40 percent of users say they’ve abandoned a website because it loaded too slowly, and that figure is increasing with time.
According to recent research, mobile users are more likely to quit your website if it doesn’t load in less than 3 seconds. If they are abandoning your website, they’re increasing your site’s bounce, another ranking factor important to Google.
4- It’s crucial to get rid of duplicate content
Duplicate content and mixed content issues are the leading killers of an SEO strategy. If 2 or more pages on your site are identical or have nearly identical content, then it’s said to have duplicate content.
Duplicate content is a big sin in the eyes of Google because it’s hard to tell which page to rank first, not to mention it is a telltale sign of plagiarized content. Consequently, you can expect to witness a huge drop in your site’s search ranking which may affect your web traffic, as well.
Obviously, the first option to get a handle on this is to eliminate the duplicate content altogether. However, if it’s paramount to your SEO success, you may consider re-writing the duplicate content, making sure it’s 100% original. This should be true for each and every page, article, blog, etc. on your site.
The consequences of not ridding your website of duplicate content are dire. Your site can be de-indexed by Google. In a lot of cases, you will just receive a warning or a minor penalty.
5- Create and submit an XML sitemap
Although technical SEO has evolved from being largely related to web development to an infusion of content and SEO, it is important to have a structured, easy-to-understand XML sitemap for your site. This is critical for Google crawlers that assess and index your site.
An XML sitemap is essentially a structured list of web pages that you need to be crawled by Google and other search engine crawlers. It simplifies that crawling process, and in turn, Google will reward you with a favorable search ranking.
When all’s said done, creating and submitting an XML sitemap for your website will make sure that the most important web pages are given priority during ranking. After all, you don’t want your homepage, for instance, to be outranked by an insignificant blog post.
These are just five strategies that you need to focus on when it comes to technical SEO. You should also enable AMP pages, add HTML data markups, use proper language tags, and clear canonical tags. Here’s a handy guide to technical SEO worth reading in 2020.
About the author
Marina Turea works as a content manager at Digital Authority Partners.