Want to dip your toes into technical SEO? Columnist John Lincoln shares some fun tidbits for those just starting out.

Tech­ni­cal SEO is an awe­some field. There are so many lit­tle nuances to it that make it excit­ing, and its prac­ti­tion­ers are required to have excel­lent prob­lem-solv­ing and crit­i­cal think­ing skills.

In this arti­cle, I cov­er some fun tech­ni­cal SEO facts. While they might not impress your date at a din­ner par­ty, they will beef up your tech­ni­cal SEO knowl­edge — and they could help you in mak­ing your web­site rank bet­ter in search results.

Let’s dive into the list.

1. Page speed mat­ters
Most think of slow load times as a nui­sance for users, but its con­se­quences go fur­ther than that. Page speed has long been a search rank­ing fac­tor, and Google has even said that it may soon use mobile page speed as a fac­tor in mobile search rank­ings. (Of course, your audi­ence will appre­ci­ate faster page load times, too.)

Many have used Google’s Page­Speed Insights tool to get an analy­sis of their site speed and rec­om­men­da­tions for improve­ment. For those look­ing to improve mobile site per­for­mance specif­i­cal­ly, Google has a new page speed tool out that is mobile-focused. This tool will check the page load time, test your mobile site on a 3G con­nec­tion, eval­u­ate mobile usabil­i­ty and more.

2. Robots.txt files are case-sen­si­tive and must be placed in a site’s main direc­to­ry
The file must be named in all low­er case (robots.txt) in order to be rec­og­nized. Addi­tion­al­ly, crawlers only look in one place when they search for a robots.txt file: the site’s main direc­to­ry. If they don’t find it there, often­times they’ll sim­ply con­tin­ue to crawl, assum­ing there is no such file.

3. Crawlers can’t always access infi­nite scroll
And if crawlers can’t access it, the page may not rank.

When using the infi­nite scroll for your site, make sure that there is a pag­i­nat­ed series of pages in addi­tion to the one long scroll. Make sure you imple­ment replaceState/pushState on the infi­nite scroll page. This is a fun lit­tle opti­miza­tion that most web devel­op­ers are not aware of, so make sure to check your infi­nite scroll for rel=”next” and rel=”prev“ in the code.

4. Google doesn’t care how you struc­ture your sitemap
As long as it’s XML, you can struc­ture your sitemap how­ev­er you’d like — cat­e­go­ry break­down and over­all struc­ture is up to you and won’t affect how Google crawls your site.

5. The noarchive tag will not hurt your Google rank­ings
This tag will keep Google from show­ing the cached ver­sion of a page in its search results, but it won’t neg­a­tive­ly affect that page’s over­all rank­ing.

6. Google usu­al­ly crawls your home page first
It’s not a rule, but gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, Google usu­al­ly finds the home page first. An excep­tion would be if there are a large num­ber of links to a spe­cif­ic page with­in your site.

7. Google scores inter­nal and exter­nal links dif­fer­ent­ly
A link to your con­tent or web­site from a third-par­ty site is weight­ed dif­fer­ent­ly than a link from your own site.

8. You can check your crawl bud­get in Google Search Con­sole
Your crawl bud­get is the num­ber of pages that search engines can and want to crawl in a giv­en amount of time. You can get an idea of yours in your Search Con­sole. From there, you can try to increase it if nec­es­sary.

9. Dis­al­low­ing pages with no SEO val­ue will improve your crawl bud­get
Pages that aren’t essen­tial to your SEO efforts often include pri­va­cy poli­cies, expired pro­mo­tions or terms and con­di­tions.

My rule is that if the page is not meant to rank, and it does not have 100 per­cent unique qual­i­ty con­tent, block it.

10. There is a lot to know about sitemaps

  • XML sitemaps must be UTF-8 encod­ed.
  • They can­not include ses­sion IDs from URLs.
  • They must be less than 50,000 URLs and no larg­er than 50 MB.
  • A sitemap index file is rec­om­mend­ed instead of mul­ti­ple sitemap sub­mis­sions.
  • You may use dif­fer­ent sitemaps for dif­fer­ent media types: Video, Images and News.

11. You can check how Google’s mobile crawler ‘sees’ pages of your web­site
With Google migrat­ing to a mobile-first index, it’s more impor­tant than ever to make sure your pages per­form well on mobile devices.

Use Google Console’s Mobile Usabil­i­ty report to find spe­cif­ic pages on your site that may have issues with usabil­i­ty on mobile devices. You can also try the mobile-friend­ly test.

12. Half of page one Google results are now HTTPS
Web­site secu­ri­ty is becom­ing increas­ing­ly impor­tant. In addi­tion to the rank­ing boost giv­en to secure sites, Chrome is now issu­ing warn­ings to users when they encounter sites with forms that are not secure. And it looks like web­mas­ters have respond­ed to these updates: Accord­ing to Moz, over half of web­sites on page one of search results are HTTPS.

13. Try to keep your page load time for 2 to 3 sec­onds
Google Web­mas­ter Trends Ana­lyst John Mueller rec­om­mends a load time of two to three sec­onds (though a longer one won’t nec­es­sar­i­ly affect your rank­ings).

14. Robots.txt direc­tives do not stop your web­site from rank­ing in Google (com­plete­ly)
There is a lot of con­fu­sion over the “Dis­al­low” direc­tive in your robots.txt file. Your robots.txt file sim­ply tells Google not to crawl the dis­al­lowed pages/folders/parameters spec­i­fied, but that doesn’t mean these pages won’t be indexed. From Google’s Search Con­sole Help doc­u­men­ta­tion:

You should not use robots.txt as a means to hide your web pages from Google Search results. This is because oth­er pages might point to your page, and your page could get indexed that way, avoid­ing the robots.txt file. If you want to block your page from search results, use anoth­er method such as pass­word pro­tec­tion or noin­dex tags or direc­tives.

15. You can add canon­i­cal from new domains to your main domain
This allows you to keep the val­ue of the old domain while using a new­er domain name in mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als and oth­er places.

16. Google rec­om­mends keep­ing redi­rects in place for at least one year
Because it can take months for Google to rec­og­nize that a site has moved, Google rep­re­sen­ta­tive John Mueller has rec­om­mend­ed keep­ing 301 redi­rects live and in place for at least a year.

Per­son­al­ly, for impor­tant pages — say, a page with rank­ings, links and good author­i­ty redi­rect­ing to anoth­er impor­tant page — I rec­om­mend you nev­er get rid of redi­rects.

17. You can con­trol your search box in Google
Google may some­times include a search box with your list­ing. This search box is pow­ered by Google Search and works to show users rel­e­vant con­tent with­in your site.

If desired, you can choose to pow­er this search box with your own search engine, or you can include results from your mobile app. You can also dis­able the search box in Google using the “nositelinkssearch­box” meta tag.

18. You can enable the ‘notrans­late’ tag to pre­vent trans­la­tion in search
The “notrans­late” meta tag tells Google that they should not pro­vide a trans­la­tion for this page for dif­fer­ent lan­guage ver­sions of Google search. This is a good option if you are skep­ti­cal about Google’s abil­i­ty to prop­er­ly trans­late your con­tent.

19. You can get your app into Google Search with Fire­base app index­ing
If you have an app that you have not yet indexed, now is the time. By using Fire­base app index­ing, you can enable results from your app to appear when some­one who’s installed your app search­es for a relat­ed key­word.

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