Category: Search Rankings

Technical SEO

There are two big parts to search engine optimization (SEO): content SEO and technical SEO. Content creators spend the bulk of their time—if not all of their time—thinking about content. That is what a writer sees. That is what the user sees. They say content is king and the content is always right in front of us. Web managers also need to consider how technical metrics can affect SEO.

What is Technical SEO?

Technical SEO refers to measurable metrics which affect search engine optimization and search engine rankings that web developers, programmers, and infrastructure managers can influence. One important example is page speed. The faster a page loads, the better the experience is for the user. Search engines, such as Google, factor in your page load times when determining how to rank your webpages because search engines know that faster loading webpages provide a better experience to visitors.

There are many technical factors that can affect page speed, user experience, and website authority—all of which factor into search engine rankings. Several of these key technical factors include:

  • caching / minify / text compression
  • critical CSS
  • first paint experience / time to interactive
  • HTTP/2
  • HTTPS security
  • HTTP request total
  • image compression
  • image lazy load / mirage
  • image sizing (proper)
  • JS execution speed
  • media types (use modern ones: WebP, WebM, etc)
  • page redirects
  • render-blocking images
  • request preconnect
  • robots.txt configuration
  • third-party code/services

Your website’s frontend and backend developers and programmers—along with the people in charge of managing your servers and infrastructure—can make significant improvements to your page speed loading times and overall user experience by researching, prioritizing, and implementing improvements related to these topics. All of these factors will improve your technical search engine optimization.

Why is Technical SEO Important?

The spotlight has been shining brighter on the technical side of search engine optimization ever since Google came out with Core Web Vitals (CWV). Core web vitals measure the technical health of the user experience of any given webpage. These core web vitals are measurable and trackable and they push web developers to create a better user experience. Google factors in core web vitals and other measures of webpage performance when converting a site index into search engine rankings.

What are Core Web Vitals?

Core web vitals are broken down into three categories:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): LCP focuses on your webpage’s loading performance. You want the user to see meaningful web content as fast as possible—within 2.5 seconds. The slower your initial content loads, the more likely your webpage visitor will become impatient and leave your website. This is especitally important on mobile devices that may not be connected to fast WiFi internet service.
  2. First Input Delay (FID): FID focuses on webpage interactivity. How long does the user have to wait to actually use your website? You need to keep the first input delay under 100 milliseconds.
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): CLS focuses on the visual stability of your webpages. We all hate when we are looking at a webpage and we go to click on something—only to have the webpage content shift and move on us. Shifts occur when some additional element, such as an ad, image, or alert bar, appears after content above or below it has already appeared. Content shifts are frustrating, so keep your CLS to 0.1 or less.

How Else Can I Improve SEO?

In addition to focusing on technical search engine optimization, your content creators should also work on content search engine optimization. Writers, bloggers, copyeditors, and others who create and input content into your website can learn key SEO skills:


Common Errors on Webpages

There are many common issues you can watch for on your webpages to help increase the quality and search engine optimization (SEO) of your pages, make them more accessible, and follow Michigan Tech’s editorial standards.

Specific instructions that may be included below are for Michigan Tech’s Omni CMS.

Misspellings

It only takes a few misspellings to affect a user’s impression of your website. Be sure to use the spell checking options within Omni CMS before publishing your pages. The system does not check spelling as you go. Within the editor you can use the Spell Check icon Spell Check icon to check the existing text and underline spelling errors. Before publishing you should always run the Final Checks, which includes a spelling check.


Avoid Duplicating Meta Descriptions

Often times, it is easiest to copy something that you have already made in the CMS, to use as a starting point. Am I right? This is particularly true with Generic Pages. You’ve already made this particularly awesome webpage and now you want to copy it. You duplicate the item in the CMS, update the content, publish, and you’re done with it. Easy! One issue that we are seeing more and more though, is duplicated meta descriptions. This is often because people don’t know what a meta description is or why it is important.


External Links and Beware of the ‘Link Trolls’

As a web manager, you have a lot of responsibility. You have to keep your content “fresh” and accurate. It is a lot of work when you have 50+ webpages to manage along with various other job responsibilities. Making CMS updates typically falls under “and other duties assigned”—making things particularly difficult.

The ‘What’ and ‘Why’ of External Linking

We link to a lot of external websites—ones that Michigan Tech does not own or control. We link to resources about the local community and lodging, responsible research practices, and the products that our university uses. We link to information about disabilities. To our corporate partners’ websites. To sponsors, writing tips, and career advice.


Search Engine Optimization and Usability

Over the past month, 60% of our web traffic has come via some search engine. That number has hovered around 60% for months now. What does that mean? In a world where users automatically go to Google to find a website, it is increasing important that we optimize our websites for search engines (commonly referred to as SEO).

A number of the same principles for optimizing our websites (using headings, linking keywords, providing rich content) also create a website that is very user friendly. A good website follows usability best practices and SEO best practices.

To help our campus web liaisons, we have produced a guide about SEO and usability best practices.