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:
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Codecademy – go do HTML, CSS & JS introductions.
- Learn how to use devtools
- Buy a domain name
- Link the domain to Cloudflare
- Point the IP to free or cheap hosting that you setup
- 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.
- make your site responsive with manual @media query breakpoints and then re-do it with bootstrap classes
- test the site in some mobile friendly testing tools
- 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)
- Use ScreamingFrog & GSC to fix issues found with the site (without plugins)
- Setup GSC & GA
- Setup https and redirect all versions of website to a primary https url with .htaccess (in one hop)
- Add manually written schema to all your pages
- add canonicals to all your pages
- Create an XML sitemap without a plugin
- 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
- add hreflang to all pages (no plugin)
- add meta robots tags to all pages (no plugin)
- edit robots.txt manually
- use different html rel tags for internal links
- Change a page into a different HTTP status without changing the content
- Use .htaccess to URL rewrite to create a duplicate page under a different URL
- 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.
- Pick a page on your test site and change it to “soft 404” as reported by GSC
- Test out at least 3 different WP SEO plugins and crawl using SF with each one, spot the difference
- Use more than one crawl tool ie: Deepcrawl, SiteBulb, ContentKing (all have free trials) on your site and other sites.
- 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.
- Speed test your site with a lighthouse and a couple online tools and make some of the optimizations suggested, retest it
- Get log files from your web-server and analyze them with ScreamingFrog log file analyzer
- Do at least 3 different SEO audits, try Webris, Anne Cushing and find another good one.
- Make your own TSEO audit template
- Use cloudflare to inject X-Robots noindex HTTP headers aka “edge seo”
- Figure out how to prioritise techSEO issues following an audit based on business goals
- Figure out how to present an seo audit to a client / stake holder in terms of actions required and an overview
- 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.
- 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 🙂