To learn technical SEO, you too need to get hands-on as soon as possible. Hands on meaning figuring out how to make some of the changes you’re talking about rather than just recommending.
When I refer to TSEO (I’ll call it this from now on) I’m referring to areas of SEO related to crawling, rendering & indexation, while avoiding other important areas of SEO like authority/trust and content/relevance. Think of it like this diagram:
Getting hands-on and learning TSEO:
I’ve made a list of things to dig into on when starting to learn TSEO.
- 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. Researched, detailed and thoughtful technical questions on reddit, forums, communities, slack and discord etc.
- Codecademy – go and do the HTML, CSS & JS introduction courses.
- Learn how to use devtools
- Buy a domain name.
- Link the domain to Cloudflare.
- Use Clouflare to 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, figure out what each piece of output means, and how you would approach fixing it.
- 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 TSEO issues found with the site (without plugins).
- Setup GSC & GA for the website
- Setup https and redirect all (4x) versions of typical URLs to a primary https url with .htaccess (in one hop)
- Add manually written schema to all your pages
- Add manually written canonicals to all your pages
- Create a live XML sitemap without a plugin, on your site
- 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 a log file analysis tool
- Do at least 3 different SEO audits, Anne Cushing’s or find your own equally good one.
- Make your own SEO audit template, think about why certain parts of an audit might not be needed/relevant to every site.
- 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 & Working With Devs
In an industry where many web-developers have had poor experiences with SEO “experts”, being able to demonstrate you know what you’re talking about can . 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.
Learning Technical SEO beyond the basics is an ongoing journey, and I’m still on it. This list is simply my opinion of what would make a good start for someone new, but everyone comes to SEO from their own background and experience, so mileage may vary – and that’s okay too.