Why is Technical SEO Important?

Why is Technical SEO important is a question many people who are unfamiliar with web development ask and with some frequency as well. Technical Search Engine Optimization (Technical SEO) is one of the four pillars of a well-search-optimized website — get any of these wrong and your site’s performance in search results will likely suffer (we’ll discuss the four pillars later in this article).

Table of Contents

An automobile engine is similar to a website in some ways. If you don’t maintain your engine, eventually it falls apart, and in order to maintain a beautiful and perfectly clean masterpiece of chromatic engineering you’re going to have to work at it all the time in order to ensure that a few small specks of dirt or tiny spittles of oil don’t gradually wreck the pristine appearance of the engine. Technical SEO is similar in that if we don’t pay proper attention to this aspect of a website eventually it will start to decay and what was running well yesterday may only be running decently today and by tomorrow will be running poorly. Search engines and visitors will notice this, and not in positive way.

Technical SEO typically has site-wide implications, so it’s important that issues found in site health audit reports are addressed correctly.

As a Technical SEO Consultant, one of my specializations is in the WordPress Content Management System and I reference WordPress heavily in this article.

Ignoring electronic vehicles for a moment, would you rather drive a car with an old rusty engine that’s never had a tune-up or oil change or would you prefer to cruise in something with an engine that looks like what’s in the header image at the top of this page?

I’ve included a fictitious case study in the next section about a company that launches an e-commerce website to sell their automobile engine cleaning product and that encounters Technical SEO problems.

Fictitious SEO Case Study: AkmeClean CorporationΒ Rockville, MD

The following fictitious case study involves the launch of AkmeClean’s e-commerce website and introduces several Technical SEO issues that plague the application and that were discovered after it went live.

Scene: Bob’s Spacious Office at AkmeClean Corporation

As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a warm glow over Rockville, MD, Bob, the CEO of AkmeClean Corporation, sat at his desk, engrossed in the website’s analytics report. The recent launch of their groundbreaking e-commerce platform had him thrilled, but something puzzled him – high traffic figures were not translating into the expected surge in sales.

Just then, Sally, the head of digital marketing, knocked gently on the door and entered. Bob looked up and smiled, inviting her to have a seat.

Bob: “Sally, it’s great to see you. I was just going over the website’s performance, and I’m slightly concerned. The traffic numbers are impressive, but our sales aren’t reflecting the same trend. Any insights on what might be causing this discrepancy?”

Sally: “Yes, Bob, I’ve been digging into the website’s data, and I believe I’ve identified the root of the issue. It appears we’re facing some Technical SEO problems that are impacting the website’s performance and, consequently, our transactions.”

Bob’s eyebrows furrowed with curiosity as he leaned forward, eager to hear more.

Sally: “Firstly, our website’s architecture is not optimized for search engines. The structure is making it challenging for search engine crawlers to navigate and index our pages efficiently. As a result, some of our essential product pages are not being ranked as high as they should be in search results.”

Bob nodded, understanding the importance of ranking well in search results for increased visibility.

Sally: “Secondly, our page loading speed is slower than it should be. With the growing impatience of online users, this lag is affecting the overall user experience, leading to higher bounce rates and a drop in conversions.”

Bob pondered for a moment, realizing the significance of a fast-loading website in retaining potential customers.

Sally: “Additionally, our website lacks mobile responsiveness. In today’s mobile-centric world, this is a crucial factor. Users expect a seamless experience across devices, and without it, we’re losing potential customers who prefer to shop on their smartphones or tablets.”

Bob nodded, acknowledging the increasing importance of mobile users in e-commerce.

Sally: “Lastly, we’ve discovered a critical Technical SEO issue related to canonicalization on our website. The improper handling of canonical tags is causing search engines to index multiple versions of the same page, leading to duplicate content problems. This confusion is adversely impacting our search rankings and causing a drop in organic traffic.”

Bob’s expression turned serious as he understood the implications of canonicalization errors.

Bob: “Canonicalization? I thought our developers had that under control. How does it affect our rankings and conversions?”

Sally: “When search engines encounter multiple versions of the same page, they struggle to determine the original source of the content, leading to ranking dilution. As a result, our website is not being rewarded for the full value of the unique content it offers, affecting our search engine visibility. Additionally, visitors may land on different versions of the same page, causing inconsistency in user experience and potentially leading to lower conversions.”

Bob leaned forward, concerned about the impact on their online business.

Bob: “How do we fix this canonicalization issue and prevent it from recurring?”

Sally: “We need to ensure that our developers implement proper canonical tags on each page to indicate the preferred version that search engines should index. By specifying the canonical version, we consolidate the ranking signals and present a clear choice to search engines. Additionally, we should conduct a thorough audit to identify all existing canonicalization errors and rectify them promptly.”

Bob nodded, realizing the significance of resolving this Technical SEO problem.

Bob: “Let’s get our technical team working on this immediately. It’s crucial to optimize our website properly for search engines, as it directly impacts our online visibility and, ultimately, the success of our AkmeCleanEngine automobile engine cleaner sales.”

Sally smiled, relieved that they were taking decisive action.

Sally: “Agreed, Bob. With a well-optimized website, we can maximize our potential in the digital landscape and boost our organic traffic and conversions.”

As the night progressed, Bob and Sally collaborated closely to rectify the canonicalization issue, understanding that a robust Technical SEO strategy was the key to navigating the intricacies of the online marketplace and driving AkmeClean’s e-commerce venture to new heights.

In this fictitious story we have several Technical SEO issues that are causing problems for AkmeClean’s newly launched e-commerce website. This scene is particularly bad in that Bob and Sally only discovered these problems once the website was live so we can only speculate as to what other Technical SEO issues they may have missed.

In the next section, we’re going to take a look at the four pillars of a well search engine-optimized website — in order to achieve a maximum return on investment as it pertains to SEO, we need to pay attention to all four of these pillars.

The Four Pillars Of A Well Search Engine-Optimized Website

I’m borrowing this concept from the The 6 Pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework and have applied the same idea to SEO — behold The Four Pillars Of A Well Search Engine-Optimized Website — this includes the following:

Content SEO Pillar

Content SEO involves the optimization of website content in order to improve its visibility in search engine results. Content SEO involves using keywords strategically, structuring content for readability, and providing valuable information to enhance the User eXperience (UX) as well as to drive organic traffic. If you love to write, this pillar is for you.

On-Page SEO Pillar

On-Page SEO refers to the practice of optimizing individual web pages in order to improve their visibility and ranking in search engine results. On-Page SEO involves optimizing elements such as content, HTML tags, headings, and meta tags, as well as improving the overall user experience (UX) on the page. Some aspects of On-Page SEO overlap with Technical SEO.

Off-Page SEO Pillar

Off-Page SEO is the third pillar and refers to optimization techniques and strategies that are implemented outside of a website in order to improve its search engine rankings and visibility — building backlinks, paid advertising campaigns, guest blogging, and social media posts count as a few examples of Off-Page SEO.

In some cases, we can’t effectively perform Off-Page SEO without also getting our hands involved in other pillars listed here. For example, supporting Open Graph Meta Tags on a webpage overlaps with Technical SEO when a plugin is used, On-Page SEO as the content is specific to a given page, as well as crucial to a link performing well when shared on a social media platform which qualifies as Off-Page SEO.

Technical SEO Pillar

Technical SEO, which is the focus of this article, involves optimizing the technical aspects of a website in order to improve the website’s search engine visibility and performance. Technical SEO focuses on factors such as website speed, mobile-friendliness, crawlability, indexability, structured data, and site architecture in order to ensure that search engines can effectively crawl, understand, and index the website’s content.

Technical SEO typically has site-wide implications, so it’s important that issues identified in site health audit reports are addressed correctly. Technical SEO issues are typically somewhat easy to identify and we use tools help to automate the process of identifying problems and then testing that these issues have been resolved correctly once we have a fix in place.

Since Technical SEO typically has site-wide implications and can intersect with website architecture, decisions made early on for components used to host or develop a website can have implications that cause problems down the road if we’re not paying careful attention to what’s going into the application. I’ll point out some of the scenarios where this can happen as we cover some of the subcategories of Technical SEO below.

Why Is Technical SEO Important: Subcategory Breakdown

In this section, we’re going to take a look at the various subcategories of Technical SEO. There are many articles on the Internet that describe these as ranking factors and they likely are however we don’t know how each of these is scored by Google because this is not published information.

What we don’t want to do, however, is to get these wrong and have loads of Technical SEO-related issues present on our website because both humans, as well as search engine crawlers, will have trouble understanding the information on our website. What we want to avoid is a lower number of Impressions because information on a given website can’t be found, a lower Click-Through Rate (CTR) because pages on our site do not appear in search results or take forever to load, we do not want the Position of our content to be impacted by crawl errors, and we do not want the bounce rate and time on our site to be exacerbated by issues that could be easily found and fixed in an audit.

Technical SEO issues can be especially problematic in that unless something significant breaks, the website should continue to appear to function correctly, for the most part. Technical SEO issues are often silent problems, as people visit and bots crawl the site over time and are not finding what they need and/or are experiencing issues that drive them away from the site. One user who navigates to a product page that takes ten seconds to load and then leaves may not make a difference in the grander scheme of things however when 10000 visitors are finding this same product page this can be especially problematic.

Why Is Technical SEO Important: Website Structure and Website Architecture

This category focuses on optimizing the organization and structure of a website, including elements such as URL structure, sitemaps, navigation, and internal linking (a topic that overlaps with On-Page SEO). This is not just important for humans but also for search engine crawlers to effectively crawl a website — the easier both can move around the site, the easier they’ll both be able to find important information.

I rely on the WordPress Content Management System for this website and others that I manage specifically so that I have the website structure and architecture available out of the box. WordPress is a fantastic solution for developing websites and, according to ColorLib.com, in 2023 is the content management system powering ~ 43% of websites on the Internet.

Content management systems are complex web applications that have significant collective brainpower invested in their development. In the case of WordPress, for example, the first release of WordPress was in May of 2003 so that’s over twenty years of development effort going into the product and the WordPress.org GitHub repository has 71 contributors listed as of July 2023; there are also many companies offering website hosting solutions based on WordPress. Given these points, it should come as no surprise to anyone why WordPress is the content management system of choice for so many websites. With that said, however, it is still possible to make Technical SEO mistakes with respect to site structure and site architecture and end up suffering as a result.

Why Is Technical SEO Important: Indexability And Crawlability

This category involves ensuring that search engines can easily crawl and index website content. It covers aspects like robots.txt files, XML sitemaps, canonicalization, and managing crawl budget. Crawl budget should not be an issue for most small websites so in most instances we shouldn’t need to be concerned with this. The robots.txt file is different, however, and it’s possible that a misconfiguration here could result in page access restrictions or altogether prohibits crawling and if the site can’t be crawled the content simply won’t be indexed. The same applies to the sitemaps required on the site — if these are not available or if they’re broken or littered with URLs that don’t exist, then it can cause problems such that content is not located when the site is crawled and if the content cannot be located it won’t be indexed.

Another issue that can come up from sitemaps is when they are populated with pages and posts which don’t belong there. This can be problematic when pages that should not be crawled are found by search engine crawlers. For example, it may not be advantageous for WordPress category and tag pages to be crawled on a specific site, mainly because these can be viewed as containing sparse content, which is not helpful toward delivering good SEO results.

Adding a NOINDEX rule to the robots.txt file may be necessary to instruct the crawlers to not index these pages. Refer to the right-hand side of this page for a survey tweet where Joe Hall asks how people handle category and tag pages.

WordPress gives us a well-defined architecture and produces websites with a well-determined structure however that doesn’t mean there’s no further work to be done — in fact, quite the contrary, and much of this work falls into the category of Technical SEO.

Why Is Technical SEO Important: Website Speed and Performance

As a Website Speed Consultant website speed and performance is a subject that I’m very interested in. This subcategory of Technical SEO emphasizes optimizing website speed and overall performance, including factors like page load times, server response times, caching, compression, and minimizing unnecessary code or resources. For websites that rely on the WordPress Content Management System ensuring that you use a well-developed theme and limiting your WordPress plugins can go a long way toward the development of a site that is easy to maintain and performs well enough. Finding a good web hosting provider is usually fairly easy to do but you’ll still need to make sure that your website functions well on that platform, and that includes WordPress given the configuration that we’re relying on. This all needs to be tested and since performance typically has site-wide implications we should be testing multiple pages as well as checking the Google Search Console page experience, core web vitals, and mobile usability pages to ensure that no problems are present. Website speed and performance directly impacts mobile responsiveness, which is discussed in more detail in the next section.
The GTMetrix Performance Report for the Technical SEO article entitled "Hot to Fix the og:image Open Graph Meta Tags Are Missing Critical Issue". with a grade of A, performance at 94% and structure at 95%; web vitals include an LCP at 1.1s, TBT at 171ms, and CLS at 0.02.
GTMetrix.com Performance Report for the How to Fix the og:image Open Graph Meta Tags Are Missing Critical Issue Technical SEO article.

Website Speed and Performance Improvements Can Save You Money

Website speed and performance improvements can save money when the application/s are hosted with cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Digital Ocean.

Businesses hosting a single instance of WordPress on AWS may not benefit much in terms of savings directly from performance improvements made to the application however when multiple instances of WordPress are in use and the backend is using other AWS services then this may yield attractive savings.

For applications deployed on the AWS cloud AWS Cost Allocation Tags are one of the tools that can be used to gain insight into where your money is being spent. Refer also to the article regarding the purpose of Cost Allocation Tags in AWS as well as the introduction to AWS Budgets, AWS Alarms, and AWS Single Sign-On for other tools which can be used to help manage your AWS expenses.

Website Hosting Matters

I placed Website Hosting Matters under Website Speed and Performance Improvements however this could just as easily be its own subcategory and/or be related directly to Website Structure and Website Architecture.

Many businesses offer hosted WordPress solutions, including high-performance and business solutions, and many websites, including this one, use these offerings because it removes much of the responsibility pertaining to server management and all of the requirements that accompany it and place it in the hands of people who are experts in the matter. This website, for example, is hosted on WordPress.com under the business plan subscription and is suitable for my purposes. That was a decision I made when I started the website and if I needed an advanced installation I would have likely just hosted the website on Digital Ocean or AWS and managed everything myself, but not everyone can or should be bothering with these responsibilities.

Delegating the decision-making of part of the WordPress architecture is usually a good choice and allows us to focus on developing content and managing our WordPress instance however it often also restricts us from certain choices and this is both good and potentially bad in some cases:

  • It’s good in that so long as the web hosting provider has a good solution we should benefit from those choices being made for us.
  • It can be bad if, down the road, we need more flexibility and those choices are restricted by the plan we’re on. In situations such as what I just described, we’re left with two choices: fix what we have or move to another platform.

As a web developer and software engineer, I can say from experience that it’s not a good position to have to seriously contemplate moving from one platform to another. We really need to get the hosting solution right from the outset and understand the parameters we have to work in and the limitations it places upon us and keep an eye on performance, especially if performance is important because, for example, the website in question is an e-commerce site and the business is actually making money from people completing transactions.

What often happens with WordPress, which is typically pretty fast initially, is that the administrator(s) install a bunch of plugins and a theme and then add content, images, and videos and the website gradually slows down. It’s not uncommon when this happens for a consultant to be called in to take a look and see if they can figure out what’s going on.

Why Is Technical SEO Important: Mobile-Friendliness and Responsiveness

See the article entitled Technical SEO: Mobile Friendliness And Responsiveness.

The Mobile-Friendliness and Responsiveness category centers around optimizing a website’s mobile experience, ensuring that it is mobile-friendly, responsive, and provides a seamless user experience across different devices. It’s one thing to produce a website with a consistent look and feel on desktop devices however tablet and mobile devices account for a significant percentage of devices used to browse the Internet.

Whether or not a website renders correctly and in a timely manner is important to both search engine crawlers as well as to people who visit the site.

Fortunately, content management systems in general, and WordPress, in particular, should remove much of the effort required to ensure that this works correctly. It’s not always so easy though and we can run into mobile rendering issues if we’re not careful and these can show up in Google Search Console’s core web vitals reports and it can impact the user experience such that people get frustrated and leave a site.

Below we can see a Technical SEO test being configured using Chrome Web Developer Tools, which has the mobile device option enabled and the performance category selected.

Chrome Developer Tools: Generate A Lighthouse Report with pointers to the Mobile device option and Performance category for the article "Why is Technical SEO Important?".
Chrome Developer Tools: Generate A Lighthouse Report with pointers to the Mobile device option and Performance category

According to the article entitled How Many Smartphones Are In The World?:

According to Statista, in 2023, the current number of smartphone users in the world today is 6.92 billion, meaning 86.11% of the world’s population owns a smartphone.

With numbers like these we do not want to miss the opportunity to render content correctly in all cases, and this definitely includes mobile and tablet devices.

See also Forecast number of mobile devices worldwide from 2020 to 2025 on the Statista website.

Mobile friendliness and responsiveness directly intersects with website speed and performance and we need to ensure that we account for both.

Why Is Technical SEO So Important: Technical Markup and Structured Data

The Technical Markup and Structured Data category involves implementing technical markup, such as schema.org markup and Open Graph Meta Tags, to provide additional context and structure to the website’s content, helping search engines understand and display it more effectively.

On a page-by-page basis the subject of technical markup and structured data would be more appropriate for On Page SEO however we would like the ability to add this information without having to add custom HTML tags and JSON data to each page and when it comes to WordPress websites, in particular, we’ll use a plugin to deliver this functionality.

In the image below we can see the results of properly implementing the HowTo schema on a webpage.

In this example, we added the HowTo schema using the All In One SEO (AIOSEO) plugin for WordPress — there are other plugins in this space and we can always implement the schema on the website directly if we need to. It’s preferable, in my opinion, to not have to worry about adding metadata directly to a page as it can become a pain to manage.

Search Result Page for the article entitled "Discover Which Question based keywords your site ranks for now" with a red pointer to the HowTo Schema rich snippet which is visible in the Google search engine results page (SERP) as a rich snippet and should improve SEO.
The HowTo schema rich snippet is visible in the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for the article entitled SEO Gem: Discover Which Question Based Keywords Your Site Ranks For Now!

Using a plugin can impact the entire site so this falls into the category of Technical SEO. The plugin provides us with capabilities to add page-specific metadata which is part and parcel of On-Page SEO. Finally, the inclusion of the HowTo schema results in a rich snippet being displayed in Google SERPS which expands the real estate the search result occupies and improves the chances that a visitor will click on that link and come to this website and this falls into the category of Off-Page SEO.

In the image below we can see the example of what the URL to the article entitled How to Fix the og:image Open Graph Meta Tags are Missing Critical Issue looks like when it’s shared on Skype.

A link to the article entitled "Tutorial: Learn How to Mount a Local Directory in a Pod running in minikube (2021)" using Open Graph Meta Tags and rendered in Skype.
An Open Graph Meta Tags Example from ThosPFuller.com rendered in Skype

Similar to the previous example the Open Graph Meta Tags for this article were added via the All In One SEO (AIOSEO) plugin for WordPress, they apply to each page and positively impact the off-site experience by including metadata about the page when URLs are shared on applications and social media sites that support the specification.

Why Is Technical SEO So Important: HTTPS and Website Security

The HTTPS and Website Security category focuses on implementing secure website protocols, such as HTTPS, and ensuring robust website security measures to protect user data, build trust, and comply with security best practices by encrypting data.

Implementing HTTPS on a website may add a slight performance hit on the server as data needs to be encrypted however this should be minimal.

Some browsers, and Chrome quickly comes to mind, will display a warning if a website is not secure, and this warning will damage trust and drive visitors away. Implementing HTTPS on a website solves this issue.

Why Is Technical SEO So Important: URL Optimization and Redirects

The URL Optimization and Redirects category deals with optimizing URLs for readability, keywords, and user experience. It also includes managing redirects, such as 301 redirects, to ensure smooth user navigation and preserve SEO value during website changes or restructuring.

Why Is Technical SEO So Important: Website Accessibility

The Website Accessibility category involves optimizing website accessibility for all people, ensuring compliance with accessibility standards, and providing equal access to website content for all users.

Why Is Technical SEO Important: Website Maintenance

Keeping the software at the current production versions is important and this can easily be missed because websites often just sit there and tick along serving content to visitors without issue indefinitely so it’s easy to forget that they need maintenance at predictable intervals. Depending on how deep down the rabbit hole one needs to travel any of the following dependencies may need to be updated for a simple website based on the WordPress Content Management System. The more that we manage ourselves the more responsibility we assume for both Technical SEO as well as server administration — any of the following may become our responsibility:

  • WordPress Content Management System
  • WordPress Plugins
  • WordPress Theme
  • Linux
  • Apache
  • MySQL
  • PHP
  • Any other software which needs to be updated
  • Website backups
  • Virtual machine monitoring
  • VM snapshots
  • Disaster Recovery

It’s easy to forget about these dependencies and then a year goes by and in that time if there were any security vulnerabilities discovered, performance improvements delivered, or new features released, your website will not have these installed and will have a potentially large gap in time where these benefits could have been in place.

Free SEO Consultation

A Free SEO Consultation is an opportunity for you to receive specialist advice regarding how to improve your website's visibility in search engine results. This hour-long SEO consultation can help to identify opportunities that lead to increased organic traffic, improve user experience (UX), and achieve your digital marketing goals. This offering is for business websites only and is restricted to prospective clients located in the United States, Canada, or the European Union.

Furthermore, there’s also the potential for the upgrade path to become difficult if the dependencies are so out-of-date that it’s no longer a simple upgrade.

Google Search Console: Experience Menu with a pointer to the Page Experience used in the article entitled "Why is Technical SEO important?"
Google Search Console: Experience Menu

Technical SEO And The Google Search Console

Google Search Console under the Experience menu includes three options that can be used for Technical SEO purposes — these include the Page Experience, Core Web Vitals, and Mobile Usability options.

Page Experience checks if the site uses an SSL certificate and is secure, it also provides us with some insight pertaining to the mobile and desktop experience.

Core Web Vitals gives us insight into the performance of pages on both mobile and desktop devices and categorizes the experience for each URL as poor, needing improvement, or good.

Lastly, the Mobile Usability option provides us with information pertaining to whether or not URLs on a website are usable or not and the reasons why. This is an important page for us to review because Google has a strong emphasis on providing search services for mobile devices.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

On Page SEO vs Technical SEO: Google Search Console: Experience: with a pointer to the Mobile Usability option on the left and on the right zero pages are not usable and 39 are usable.
Google Search Console : Experience : Mobile Usability

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Technical SEO with SEMrush

Β 

SEMrush Site Health site audit report for ThosPFuller.com with a pointer to an overall score of 97%.

Why is Technical SEO Important: Article Conclusion

This concludes the article that attempts to answer the question “Why is Technical SEO Important?“. In closing good Technical SEO practices lead to improved website performance, better visibility with search engines which ideally leads to more traffic, better user experience, and long-term success and growth. Good Technical SEO practices alone are not enough to generate success online and need to be implemented in tandem with the other pillars described in this article in order to maximize the chances of success with our websites.

🌻 Did you find this article to be helpful?

🐝 Do you disagree with anything I’ve written regarding my attempt to answer the “Why Technical SEO Is Important?” question?

⛳️ Let me know in the comments!

ThosPFuller

When it comes to Digital Marketing as a/an: Organic SEO Consultant: I can help improve your website traffic, increase search engine rankings, and increase brand visibility; Technical SEO Consultant: I can help improve your website performance, identify and fix errors, improve crawlability, and optimize your website structure and code; WordPress SEO Consultant: I can help improve your WordPress website ranking, improve your WordPress website usability, and optimize your WordPress website content and plugins. I am based in Northern Virginia -- which is in the Washington DC metropolitan area.