How to learn Technical SEO

This is a bit of a wrap up and knowledge share following my last (nearly) 2 year journey diving into the world of SEO. Basically (IMO) to learn technical SEO, you too will need to get hands-on as soon as possible. Being able to practise what you preach means that you can more accurately prioritise in terms of implementation difficulty following an SEO site audit.

By learning technical SEO you will be able to explore, identify and explain TSEO (I’ll call it this for now) issues and their contextual impact on $.

When I refer to TSEO I’m referring to areas of SEO related to crawling and indexation, while avoiding other equally important areas of SEO like authority/trust and content/relevance. Think of it like this simplified diagram:

Venn diagram; showing intersection of Technical SEO, Off-page SEO & On-page SEO.

Bizzarely, I’ve seen Technical SEO being used to describe any “technical approach” to the whole range of SEO activity. Personally, I disagree with this definition, but hey, that’s how some people use it.

Getting hands-on and learning Technical SEO

I’ve made a list of things to do and dig deep on when starting to learn TechSEO.

  1. Make use of google (for research) and use self-directed learning to get through each of the things on the list. For each of these points, make an effort to read several blog-posts, technical documentation articles and how-to guides. By making an effort I mean you should be digging a lot deeper than Moz, Brian Dean and Neil Patel. Often the best techseo learning resources are no-where near the super-long but super basic info on first Google page, sometimes the good stuff is completely buried on Google and you’ll just need to browse through blogs, social media and communities to find the gold.
  2. You will get stuck (this means you’re doing it right!) learn how to leverage your community. Pre-researched, detailed and thoughful technical questions on reddit, forums, communities, slack and discord etc.
  3. Codecademy – go do HTMLCSS & JS introductions.
  4. Learn how to use devtools
  5. Buy a domain name
  6. Link the domain to Cloudflare
  7. Point the IP to free or cheap hosting that you setup
  8. Build a hobby topic static website with at least 10 pages of content for testing purposes, make sure to use a at least some JS and CSS frameworks, include some map embeds, video embeds etc.
  9. make your site responsive with manual @media query breakpoints and then re-do it with bootstrap classes
  10. test the site in some mobile friendly testing tools
  11. Cut the static website up into a WP theme & rebuild on WP (really just need a header.php, footer.php and page.php + styles.css)
  12. Use ScreamingFrog & GSC to fix issues found with the site (without plugins)
  13. Setup GSC & GA
  14. Setup https and redirect all versions of website to a primary https url with .htaccess (in one hop)
  15. Add manually written schema to all your pages
  16. add canonicals to all your pages
  17. Create an XML sitemap without a plugin
  18. Create a meta redirect, JS redirect, 301 redirect and 302 redirect see how they behave in devtools, in Ayama (chrome plugin) and in server logs
  19. add hreflang to all pages (no plugin)
  20. add meta robots tags to all pages (no plugin)
  21. edit robots.txt manually
  22. use different html rel tags for internal links
  23. Change a page into a different HTTP status without changing the content
  24. Use .htaccess to URL rewrite to create a duplicate page under a different URL
  25. Figure out HTTP status codes – the number, what it means in the specs, what it means in practise, how those pages are typically displayed in browser, how Google behaves with each code.
  26. Pick a page on your test site and change it to “soft 404” as reported by GSC
  27. Test out at least 3 different WP SEO plugins and crawl using SF with each one, spot the difference
  28. Use more than one crawl tool ie: Deepcrawl, SiteBulb, ContentKing (all have free trials) on your site and other sites.
  29. When using Sitebulb, comb through all the warnings and issues, understand what they’re saying, google them if you need more background, decide if they’re appliciable and if not have a good reason why not, fix the problems and recrawl in Sitebulb.
  30. Speed test your site with a lighthouse and a couple online tools and make some of the optimizations suggested, retest it
  31. Get log files from your web-server and analyze them with ScreamingFrog log file analyzer
  32. Do at least 3 different SEO audits, try Webris, Anne Cushing and find another good one.
  33. Make your own TSEO audit template
  34. Read about and dig deep on topics like ecom seo, site architecture / IA, javascript SEO, crawl rate and crawl budget optimization, international seo. Personally some good blogs here are contentking, ahrefs, onely
  35. Use cloudflare to inject X-Robots noindex HTTP headers aka “edge seo”
  36. Figure out how to prioritise techSEO issues following an audit based on business goals
  37. Figure out how to present an seo audit to a client / stake holder in terms of actions required and an overview
  38. Create your own professional template typically either slide deck or doc format if a stakeholder/client wants a business/digestible format. what, why, what next is a great format.
  39. look up some good site migration checklist processes and do enough research to have an informed opinion around how you’d approach this for CMS replatforming, site rebuilds, domain name changes, one-to-many microsites, many-to-one microsites etc.

^ if you can get through all of the above, then you’re well on your way to learning TSEO.

Technical SEO & Developer Chats

A nice side-effect of being skilled at TSEO is that communication with developers can be drastically improved. Being able to use correct terminology, up-to-date information and explaining things in a way that demonstrates your expertise, naturally builds trust with web developers. This is an extremely valuable skill to have in an industry where many web-developers have had poor experiences with SEO “experts”. In terms of SEO: it will help you to explain technical changes, while trust from a dev-team means that it’s easier to get necessary TSEO recommendations across the line.

I’m not claiming to know everything with regards to TSEO, but I feel as though I know enough to get into the thick of it and have opinions on some things, as well as sharing this list. Learning Technical SEO beyond the basics is an ongoing journey, and I’m still on it 🙂

Getting Good at Gutenberg

Here I am using the plugin to write this post. Woah dude… meta! For those in WordPress circles, there is a new WP editor doing the rounds and it is feature codename is Gutenberg. For those not in the know, the "editor" is the web-based User Interface inside WordPress admin, it is the area where posts are created, edited and produced.

Gutenberg is currently delivered in plugin form, meaning that it hasn't yet made it into WordPress Core. The plugin completely changes the edit view from the previous when working on posts & pages. While writing this post and getting to grips using the new UI, the main point of difference of Gutenberg that it feels very "modular".

Adding new blog post using "classic" editor
Add new blog post using Gutenberg editor

Getting custom

The killer feature in Gutenberg I would argue is the custom block type. This enables developers to create custom editable & repeatable regions within a post or page. This is getting close to the core feature-set provided by the popular ACF plugin which is very popular with developers.

The whole idea of custom blocks is that they are simple for non-developer WordPress users to edit and update, without having to change code.

The future of WordPress

This represents a paradigm shift from being a blogging platform to a fully featured CMS. I have seen swathes of developers ditch WordPress in the last few years in favor of things like Craft & Kirby which help to fill the feature void of crap free HTML/CSS/JS with some an easy, repeatable, custom fields.

I think WordPress has a long way to go to be seen as a technically bleeding edge, as opposed to just being popular. New developments like Gutenberg are definitely a step in the right direction.

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