With two-thirds of marketers anticipating greater investment in ‘website enhancements’ in 2021, according to a new Content Marketing Institute (CMI) study, the process of optimising webpages and servers to aid the crawling and indexing process for search is likely to be a top priority for webmasters.
The imminent arrival of Google’s Core Web Vitals ranking signal will also put technical SEO in the spotlight. With this in mind, search experts have weighed in on what they believe will be the major trends for spring and the rest of the year.
While there has been a lot of change during the last 12 months, Moz search scientist Dr Pete Myers believes that the ‘core essentials’ for technical SEO have pretty much stayed the same.
He advised SEOs to get the basics right and put foundations in place first. This means being able to understand the crawling and indexing process, and the fundamentals needed for a site to feature in search rankings.
Take care of the fundamentals
The concept of ‘new trends’ is actually something that frustrates consultant Joe Hall as he believes that the community is always looking for the ‘next best thing’, rather than starting with and investing in a set of practices that will always work well.
Like Myers, he advises taking care of the fundamentals, which include being able to flag and fix technical SEO factors such as crawling and indexing, and having a handle on site performance and how to address any issues that might arise.
Hall says that many of the clients he works with are looking for answers and new strategies, even though they don’t yet have the basics in place.
As a jumping-off point, SEOs should be able to identify the problems that are affecting their search rankings, and then know at least some of the tools that are required to put things right. Understanding how each of the technical issues can impact your site will also really improve your ability to address them.
Prepare for Core Web Vitals
Google’s Core Web Vitals update, which is expected to roll out in May, has received a lot of coverage in recent months because it could potentially change the search landscape. There is now a laser focus on the page experience and being able to not only deliver great content, but also package it up in a way that is quick and seamless for the end user.
The Core Web Vitals, which consist of ‘loading’, ‘interactivity’ and ‘visual stability’, will be incorporated into a new ranking signal alongside several other page experience signals, including mobile-friendliness and safe browsing.
The vitals are very much part of the technical search process, and SEOs will need to do their best to optimise for them in the coming months to prepare for the new update.
Kick Point president Dana DiTomaso recommends starting by improving site speed. She notes: “Site speed is one of those great parts of technical SEO where the benefit isn’t only for search engines – it also helps the people visiting your website. Remember, not everyone is coming to your website using the latest technology and fastest internet connection.”
Use schema and structured data
Using schema markup and structured data helps Google’s bots to read and index your content and then serve it to searchers at the right time. While both are important tools in the technical process, Dr Hall believes that they still need to be used “with clear intent”.
This is because some structured data does not really have any impact on how Google understands the content on a page. It therefore needs to be used with a specific goal or objective in mind.
SEO expert Lily Ray says that people in the industry often fall into two camps, with one side set on marking everything up and the other believing that it is not really needed at all if it does not help with ranking for rich results.
She approaches the dilemma by using structured data when it can provide context for Google, which is one of its main aims. Even if it does not lead to rich results in this instance, adding schema attributes can be worthwhile. The main thing then is to think about your strategy and goals, and whether it works for you.
Make use of automation
Technical SEO can be quite a laborious process, so it makes sense to leverage automation where possible to make perhaps mundane, but no less important, day-to-day tasks easier, according to Erudite’s head of SEO Miracle Inameti-Archibong.
She believes that performance optimisation is crucial for everyone and that it will not only help with preparation for the page experience update later this year, but can also have an impact on other areas of SEO and the wider business.
Therefore, experimenting with automation and finding new ways to use it for technical SEO and elsewhere to achieve key goals should be a priority.
Focus on data analytics
Dr Myers likens technical SEO to “washing dishes”, with other people unlikely to give you credit for work well done but almost certain to notice when something breaks.
To demonstrate that your SEO strategies are working as intended, it is important to dig into data analytics and reports, and link them to your objectives. Being able to show that your strategy resulted in an uptick in rankings and traffic will be a feather in your cap, and it will drive better ROI for future campaigns.
Outlining metrics that will define your success at the start is recommended, as is steering clear of any vanity metrics that don’t really offer any useful feedback or insights.
Moz’s senior search scientist Tom Capper also urges SEOs not to forget how non-technical, external factors can have an impact on core metrics such as organic traffic. Considering the bigger picture can improve the quality and relevance of insights.
With technical SEO fundamentals remaining the same this year, now is a great time to master the basics and build on them to deliver greater page experiences and increase your chances of ranking on the first page of Google and Bing.