Search engine optimization (SEO) comes in many forms. You can improve the content on your page (by making your headlines more compelling) and the content off your page (typically done with backlinks). The goal remains the same: You want to get a coveted spot toward the top of a search engine results page—if not first place. But there is a third form of SEO that you need to optimize: technical SEO. Read on for the basics of technical search engine optimization.
What is technical SEO?
Technical search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving a website’s functionality to increase its ranking in the results generated by search engines. Technical SEO typically involves improving a website’s user experience by making the website faster, more accessible, and easier to navigate.
Technical SEO is closely related to on-page SEO, which focuses on improving the content on your website, such as keywords, meta descriptions, H1 tags (a web page’s title), URL naming, and linking. Conversely, technical SEO contrasts with off-page SEO, which generates exposure for a website through other channels, such as backlinking.
Search engines rank the pages on your site by crawling and indexing them. When you publish content on your site, a search engine’s bots, or “spiders,” crawl your site, discover your content, and review your pages. The search engine will then store pieces of your content in its search index, a vast database containing billions of pages. If your page meets the ranking criteria (the result of a combination of on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO), it will show up in search results.
A website must pass several criteria for technical optimization. For one, it needs to be fast. It also needs a good site structure so it can be crawlable for search engines. Each page needs unique content because duplicate content can harm a page’s ranking. Additionally, your site’s internal links need to work. Lastly, a technically optimized site uses an HTTPS security structure.
The importance of technical SEO for ecommerce businesses
Technical SEO affects a website’s performance on search engines. If your site isn’t accessible, it won’t appear or rank in search engines. This can be detrimental for ecommerce businesses, leading to a loss of traffic, and therefore, fewer potential customers.
Ecommerce websites usually have many product pages, category pages, and filters. Technical SEO helps ecommerce businesses optimize this content to ensure search engines can crawl and index these pages. Properly optimized product pages use structured data to ensure that products can show up in Google Shopping results.
Google also ranks sites based on page speed and mobile friendliness, which are vital for ecommerce businesses. If your site takes a long time to load, customers may leave your site, resulting in a loss of traffic and decreased conversion rates. Because most online shopping is now done on mobile devices, it’s also crucial your site is responsive and displays content properly on various screen sizes and device types.
Technical SEO basics
You can do a lot with technical SEO for your ecommerce website. Here are four categories where improvements can have a real impact for your site.
Site architecture, or site structure, is how your site organizes and interlinks its pages. An effective site structure uses a consistent URL structure so crawlers can find your website content quickly and easily. Organize your site logically, where all pages are just a few clicks away from the homepage. This makes it easier for crawlers (and customers) to navigate your site to find what they want quickly. Once you have your site structure, submit your XML sitemap to Google so the search engine can easily crawl your website.
You want to make sure your site loads as fast as possible on mobile and desktop. To do this, you can:
Images are the largest files on your web pages. Reducing image file size makes your site load faster.
Use a content distribution network (CDN)
A CDN stores copies of your web pages on servers around the globe. It connects visitors to the nearest server, so there’s less distance for the files to travel.
Minification removes unnecessary characters and whitespace from code to reduce file size, which increases page speed.
Broken pages won’t load. Replace any broken links and redirect them to live, relevant pages on your site.
Google uses mobile-first indexing, which looks at mobile versions of web pages to index and rank content. Your website should be fast, responsive, and navigable, and display content and design elements such as text, buttons, and links on various screen sizes, devices, and orientations.
HTTPS is a secure version of HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol, or how data is transferred on the web). This added layer of security protects sensitive user information like passwords and credit card details from being compromised. To improve your site security, you can install an SSL certificate, which authenticates your website’s identity and establishes a secure connection. Most website hosting platforms like Shopify automatically provide SSL certificates for new websites.
Technical SEO tips for ecommerce businesses
- Product page optimization
- Category page optimization
- Faceted navigation optimization
- Structured data
You can enhance technical SEO for your ecommerce business in the following four ways:
Product page optimization
Product pages convert browsers into buyers. Good product pages have unique and highly visual content, using high-quality images to highlight product attributes. Ensure your product pages are linked to other pages on your website to avoid any orphan pages, which are pages that don’t link to other pages.
Category page optimization
Category pages list the products you sell—think “shoes,” “accessories,” or “women’s clothing.” Optimizing these pages adds more context for crawlers, driving more traffic to your ecommerce site. Category pages are usually higher in an ecommerce site’s hierarchy, target broad topics, and are organized logically.
Faceted navigation optimization
Faceted navigation, or faceted search, is a type of navigation found on the category pages of sites with many listings. Its purpose is to help users perform a custom search to find what they’re looking for using filters based on listing attributes. These filters could be anything like brand, size, or color to help narrow a product search.
Structured data provides additional context and meaning for web page content. It lends itself to enhanced search results, such as rich snippets (search results with additional data displayed) used on search engines to display product listings. In ecommerce businesses, structured data is useful because it lets you provide search engines with information about your products, reviews, ratings, prices, and more. This makes your listings more attractive to potential buyers searching for products.
Technical SEO tools for ecommerce businesses
- Google’s PageSpeed Insights
- Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test
- Google Search Console
- Schema markup generators
- Semrush or Ahrefs
From website speed to crawlability analysis, here are a few technical SEO tools ecommerce businesses can use:
Google’s PageSpeed Insights
Google’s PageSpeed Insights test measures the speed of your site on both desktop and mobile and provides suggestions to improve user experience. The faster your page, the easier it is to navigate, which can positively impact your search rankings.
Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test
Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test assesses your site’s mobile usability and makes recommendations for improvement.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a free tool that can help you monitor your site’s appearance in Google search results. It can give you insight into how your site appears to crawlers, alert you to indexing issues, and offer suggestions to improve your site’s performance. Within Search Console, the Core Web Vitals report measures real-world user experience for a page’s loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability.
Schema markup generators
Schema markup generators like Schema.org help you create the correct structured data markup for products, reviews, and other ecommerce-related content to enhance search results. Use Google’s Rich Results Test to see if your page supports rich results.
Semrush or Ahrefs
You can use SEO tools like Semrush or Ahrefs to perform a technical SEO audit on your site. A site audit helps you find and fix technical SEO issues that affect your site’s performance, crawlability, and indexability.
Technical SEO FAQ
Does website security play a role in technical SEO for ecommerce?
Yes, website security plays a role in technical SEO for ecommerce. Site security can affect user trust and performance, search engine rankings, data regulations, and more.
How can technical SEO help with site structure changes or website redesigns?
Technical SEO can make it easier for search engines to find and crawl your site content. Be sure to set up an SEO-friendly site and URL structure to make it easier for bots to find your content.
How often should technical SEO strategies be updated to align with search engine algorithms?
You should review technical SEO strategies every three to six months. You may need to check them more frequently, based on algorithm updates, industry competitiveness, updated Google search criteria, website changes, and industry best practices.
Are there any emerging technical SEO trends that I should be aware of?
Emerging trends such as video SEO, local SEO, and Search Generative Experience (browsing web pages with artificial intelligence to quickly find a web page’s key points) could have an impact on your ecommerce business. There also is an intensifying focus on mobile-first indexing, and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to improve page speed for mobile devices.
Should I seek professional help for technical SEO, and what benefits does it offer?
If you don’t have the expertise or the capacity to handle technical SEO, outsource it to a technical SEO specialist. This can be essential if you’re dealing with a complex website, need that expertise, and want to implement technical SEO changes quickly.