Let me start by say­ing that there is objec­tive and sig­nif­i­cant val­ue to have from well-done tech­ni­cal and on-site SEO.

Tech­ni­cal SEO refers to opti­miz­ing your site and site struc­ture for search engines to crawl, index, and under­stand your site quick­ly and effi­cient­ly.

Hav­ing poor tech­ni­cal SEO while the rest of your site is opti­mized is like dri­ving a shiny new Lam­borgh­i­ni with­out an engine.

On-site or on-page SEO refers to opti­miz­ing your con­tent both for search engine rank­ings as well as for users (you want them to see you in the SERPs and be attract­ed to what you may have to offer).

With that said, you should view them both as a foun­da­tion to be expand­ed on. With­out the basics, you’ll be stuck on an end­less tread­mill of medi­oc­rity.

They Do Matter, But…

My frus­tra­tions stem from the idea that they are all you need or that “advanced” tech­ni­cal SEO course for three easy pay­ments of $999 is going to make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence for you.

This may be the case in some spe­cif­ic sce­nar­ios, but for the large major­i­ty of sites, they sim­ply will not pro­pel you ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion or fix your more impor­tant under­ly­ing issues (like poor con­tent qual­i­ty or a weak link pro­file).

What They Can & Can’t Do

Viewed as a foun­da­tion, there are a num­ber of high­ly impor­tant com­po­nents of tech­ni­cal and on-site SEO.

Here are the main pieces that can make a tan­gi­ble dif­fer­ence:

  • Crawl/indexability
  • Site speed
  • Site structure/architecture (and strong inter­nal link­ing)
  • Schema (in some cas­es)
    • Review and rat­ing schema, pric­ing, sitelinks, NAP for local busi­ness­es, mis­cel­la­neous oth­ers (pri­mar­i­ly those that can assist in dis­play­ing addi­tion­al con­tent in the SERPs)
  • Canon­i­cals
  • Prop­er redi­rects
  • Mobile-friend­li­ness
  • Good meta con­tent
  • Opti­mized H1s/H2s and body con­tent
    • Avoid­ing “over-opti­miza­tion”
    • Top­ics > key­words

It’s these “basics” that have the most impact – invest­ing sig­nif­i­cant­ly in improv­ing beyond this will often not make enough of a dif­fer­ence to war­rant it as a pri­ma­ry focus.

Schema, for instance, is a great tool to have in your arse­nal and employ strate­gi­cal­ly, but going over­board and tag­ging every sin­gle page with every schema ele­ment pos­si­ble will sim­ply not make a dif­fer­ence in your search rank­ings. Don’t let “indus­try experts” con­vince you oth­er­wise.

Schema is not even a direct rank­ing fac­tor that we know of (right now).

There are some great capa­bil­i­ties with struc­tured markup, but you aren’t going to make your site rank out of thin air with it.

Improv­ing your site speed from a score of 20 to 90 will not only make the user expe­ri­ence sig­nif­i­cant­ly bet­ter and reduce bounce rates, but it can act as a rank­ing fac­tor as well.

I’ve had clients see almost imme­di­ate traf­fic boosts after bol­ster­ing site speed and have heard many sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences from oth­ers in the indus­try.

But remem­ber this quote from Matt Cutts back in the day:

Qual­i­ty should still be the first and fore­most con­cern [for site own­ers]. This change affects out­liers; we esti­mate that few­er than 1% of queries will be impact­ed. If you’re the best resource, you’ll prob­a­bly still come up.”

Per­haps this per­cent­age has increased in the past 9 years, but the empha­sis is clear:

Con­tent qual­i­ty and rel­e­vance win.

Clear­ly site speed should be opti­mized, but stress­ing over obtain­ing a mar­gin­al­ly bet­ter score prob­a­bly won’t be worth the time unless you’re already a com­pa­ny of sig­nif­i­cant size.

It won’t bring a bad piece of con­tent to the first page or make up for hav­ing the low­est author­i­ty out of your com­peti­tors.

Should Technical SEO Be a Focus For You?

Don’t get me wrong – if you’re already a strong organ­ic per­former with a slow site, tag issues, wonky redi­rects, and poor site architecture/taxonomy, then you’d absolute­ly ben­e­fit from a tech­ni­cal or on-site over­haul.

If you have a wealth of fan­tas­tic con­tent and a strong link pro­file (author­i­ty) yet are not see­ing the results you think you should be – then you may also be in a ripe posi­tion to fix up these foun­da­tion­al ele­ments and begin tak­ing advan­tage of your exist­ing pil­lars of con­tent and author­i­ty.*

Also, be mind­ful of a poten­tial algo­rith­mic penal­ty. Assess the health of your link pro­file.

  • Have you engaged in paid link build­ing or oth­er “sketchy” link build­ing tac­tics?
  • Are the anchor texts of your links over-opti­mized?

Then check your site for key­word stuff­ing or oth­er over-opti­miza­tion of key­words and con­sid­er con­sult­ing with an SEO expert if this is a long­stand­ing and unsolved prob­lem you’re fac­ing.

Should Technical SEO Be a Focus For You

Why Technical SEO & On-Site SEO Are Not Enough

Two of the top Google rank­ing fac­tors today by far (that aren’t going any­where soon) are:

  • Con­tent qual­i­ty.
  • Links (or author­i­ty).

Advanced schema imple­men­ta­tion, snip­pet opti­miza­tion, JS ren­der­ing, light­ning-fast page speed, and pic­ture ‘per­fect’ site archi­tec­ture are all best prac­tice and should be used when pos­si­ble, but they aren’t going to over­come a lack of qual­i­ty con­tent (along with, ide­al­ly, rea­son­able quan­ti­ty as well) and link author­i­ty.

Ask your­self: Where will your time and effort be best spent right now?

If you’re con­fi­dent in your con­tent and you’re gen­er­at­ing a bet­ter link pro­file than all of your com­peti­tors, then go all in on the above.

Until then, a bal­ance lean­ing towards con­tent and link build­ing may be more ben­e­fi­cial.

Check out the top rank­ing pages for just about any query, and you’ll notice some pret­ty con­sis­tent trends – high author­i­ty and/or direct links to the rank­ing page among the biggest.

Only 2 of these 3 have schema imple­ment­ed, and one of them has ques­tion­able schema type choic­es that prob­a­bly aren’t help­ing Google under­stand the page.

These sites rank pri­mar­i­ly because of their top­i­cal rel­e­vance, con­tent qual­i­ty, and author­i­ty. They have an aver­age 87 DR accord­ing to Ahrefs. Even with page speed as a rank­ing fac­tor, it doesn’t out­weigh their dom­i­nant author­i­ty.

This is only one search term out of poten­tial­ly tril­lions, but I encour­age you to try it and see what kind of speed scores and schema the top sites have in com­par­i­son to their domain rat­ings.

Then What Is the Most Important?

If I haven’t stressed this enough already, tech­ni­cal SEO should be looked at as your foun­da­tion.

With­out the basics, you won’t even be able to index your con­tent in search engines, and users will nev­er be able to find the con­tent and resources that you’ve worked hard to cre­ate.

On-site SEO should be con­sid­ered an assis­tant to the bulk of your con­tent and the tech­ni­cal foun­da­tion you’ve cre­at­ed.

Focus on writ­ing nat­u­ral­ly over chuck­ing your key­words all over the page.

Use best prac­tices (key­words and vari­a­tions in the title, H1, body con­tent, etc) – but don’t force them.

What cur­rent­ly mat­ters most in the world of SEO are these two things.

1. High-Quality Content & Strategy

Writ­ing with the con­sis­tent aim to cre­ate the best piece of con­tent on a top­ic ever seen on the web will do won­ders for your rank­ings.

Using experts goes a long way; not only will cred­it­ing a health-relat­ed piece of con­tent to an actu­al M.D. be a tes­ta­ment to legit­i­ma­cy in the users’ eyes, but Google claims to under­stand and cred­it author­ship from ver­i­fied and cred­i­ble sources more than a gen­er­al con­tent writer with­out expe­ri­ence in the field they’re writ­ing about.

Nat­u­ral­ly inter­weav­ing relat­ed key­words and subtopics is anoth­er sol­id strat­e­gy.

Remem­ber, we want to cre­ate the best piece of con­tent ever seen on this top­ic.

This is going to require cov­er­ing a mul­ti­tude of subtopics and not just tar­get­ing one key­word per post.

Think big­ger and think holis­ti­cal­ly.

2. Site Authority

The num­ber of unique link­ing domains (ULDs) to your web­site along with the rel­a­tive qual­i­ty of these links is the pin­na­cle of your site’s rank­ing poten­tial.

Even with high-qual­i­ty con­tent, you aren’t going to out­rank the big play­ers out there with­out mid-to-high author­i­ty (com­pared to your com­peti­tors).

You may be able to tar­get and attract long-tail key­words at low­er lev­els of author­i­ty, and depend­ing on your niche, you may be able to hit it big with con­tent alone if the com­pe­ti­tion is low.

As time goes on and more peo­ple become sophis­ti­cat­ed in SEO and con­tent strat­e­gy, they’ll eat up the exist­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties that may be out there, and it’ll be hard­er to con­tin­ue with­out strong author­i­ty.

How do you improve your author­i­ty?

A large array of options are at your dis­pos­al, but link build­ing through PR, con­tent mar­ket­ing, out­reach, guest post­ing, and more are some of your most notable choic­es.

Want Strong, Long-Term Organic Growth? You’re Going to Need Good Content & Links

Per­haps in 5 to 10 years links will tru­ly mat­ter less and Google will have placed a sig­nif­i­cant empha­sis on schema and oth­er tech­ni­cal mat­ters, mak­ing them pow­er­ful, game-chang­ing rank­ing fac­tors.

Until then, I’d rec­om­mend that you do things in this order:

  • Ensure a strong tech­ni­cal foun­da­tion for crawl­ing and index­ing.
  • Research and cre­ate amaz­ing con­tent.
  • Build or obtain links back to your site and your awe­some con­tent.
  • Con­tin­u­al­ly reevaluate/iterate on-site oppor­tu­ni­ties and improve­ments.
  • Revis­it more advanced tech­ni­cal SEO oppor­tu­ni­ties and improve­ments.

SOURCE: Search Engine Jour­nal