The primary focus of technical SEO is a site’s back end, namely its HTML and the things that go along with it. This stuff may seem foreign to those without technical experience, but really, it’s not all that complicated. Sometimes it just takes having a web developer or code-savvy professional on hand to help implement these strategies.
Fixing errors, minimizing cumbersome code, and optimizing specific technical elements is one of the most effective yet overlooked components to gaining a competitive edge. And it’s often local business websites that stand to benefit the most. Here we delve five areas of advanced technical SEO for local businesses.
Site Load Speed
One of Google’s top priorities is providing a great experience for its users. It’s this priority that has made usability and performance variables like site load speed such a big deal. Slow loading sites that make visitors wait yield a poor user experience. In turn, Google is less likely to rank such sites at the top of the search results.
In fact, according to a study done by Aberdeen Group, a 1 second delay in load speed yields 7% loss in conversions. Amazon validated the study by reporting increased revenue of 1% for every 100 milliseconds improvement to their site’s load time. (source: Amazon)
So not only can having a fast site improve conversion potential, but Google has made it clear that site load speed influences its search results. Speed and delivery of content is the cornerstone to providing a quality user experience. It comes with ensuring a site is easy to navigate, mobile-friendly (using Accelerated Mobile Pages), offers relevant information, and is free of annoying pop-ups, loud graphics, or flash media files.
Investing in a fast, conversion-oriented website can make all the difference with SEO and generating new customers. Whether that means hiring an SEO-savvy web developer to audit and clean-up code, or designing a completely new site from scratch, this investment lays the groundwork for a successful SEO strategy.
LocalBusiness Schema Markup
Schema markup, otherwise known as structured data markup, is a classification of special HTML tags that are designed to better communicate a site’s content to search engines. For instance, you can add Schema tags to the name of products, places, and people. In turn, Google and other search engines will clearly interpret the tagged words with no assumptions nor confusion.
In the context of local SEO, “LocalBusiness” Schema markup can be applied to a company’s location and contact information, such as business name, address, and phone number (or citation mention). Franchises and businesses engaged in multi-location SEO can leverage Schema to ensure search engines fully understand that each location is unique and therefore should be ranked according to geographic scope.
For each page on your site that represents a unique location, implement LocalBusiness Schema markup to define that location’s name, address, and phone number. You can also try Organization Schema tags and other forms of structured data markup to better optimize your website. If you’re looking for an advanced technical SEO strategy, this is one of the most powerful.
Canonicalization, or the application of canonical tags (aka “rel canonical”) is a way of telling search engines that a specific URL represents the primary version of a page. Using the canonical tag prevents SEO issues surrounding identical or “duplicate” content appearing on multiple URLs. In essence, canonicalization tells search engines which version of a URL you want to appear in search results.
It’s easy to think “Why would anyone duplicate a page?” and immediately discount canonicalization as something you don’t have to worry about. The confusion is that we as users perceive a page as a standalone concept, such the homepage. However for search engines, every unique URL is viewed as separate page.
As a common example that can plague a site’s SEO, search engines might be able to reach a homepage in all of the following ways:
To users, each of the above URLs represent a single page, the homepage. To a search engines, each URL is a unique “page.” In this scenario, we can clearly see that there are five versions of the homepage in play. In actuality, this could be a small sample of the variations you might encounter.
For this reason, it’s best to implement canonicalization across your entire site. This will ensure that only that the specific URL you deem primary, or as the “master page,” ranks in the search results.
If you’re using a content management system (CMS) or platform like WordPress to manage your site, implementing a canonical tag on each page can be as easy as using a plug-in. The classic Yoast SEO plug-in offers a canonical tag feature that lets you define the master URL for a given page. Otherwise, your developer should be able to implement canonical tags manually.
Best defined by Google, “KML (or ‘keyhole markup language’) is a file format used to display geographic data in an Earth browser such as Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google Maps for mobile.”
With Google Maps involved, KML files are closely tied to local search. KML files are a way to communicate your business’s geographic information in manner that’s easily understood by applications like Google Maps and Google Earth. In other words, leveraging KML files is just another way for Google to verify your business listing and location. It also an overlooked SEO element for Google Maps optimization.
Like Schema markup, a KML file is a communication tool that can help Google Maps clearly understand each of your business’s locations. Otherwise known as “geositemaps,” creating a KML file can help support local SEO, especially rankings in Google Maps.
While we’re on the topic of communicational tools for advanced technical SEO, both HTML and XML sitemaps serve vital functions for better search engine perfrmance. The former is more common and typically linked in the footer of a site. Like the index of a book, the HTML sitemap organizes and links to the primary pages of a site. It enables search engine bots to efficiently locate, crawl, and index the pages of a site.
XML sitemaps serve a similar purpose in that they help search engines locate the URLs of your website with greater ease. While XML sitemaps help facilitate indexation, they don’t always promise that an entire site will be indexed in one swoop. By uploading a XML sitemap and submitting it to Google Search Console, you’re giving Google a clue that the URLs listed on the sitemap are quality pages worthy of indexation.
Sites like XML-Sitemaps.com make it easy to generate a sitemap. However, keep in mind that SEO best practices support only including the primary, search-centric landing pages of your site (not the potentially hundreds and thousands of basic utility pages with no SEO value). As such, it’s best to manually condense your XML sitemap accordingly. As for the HTML sitemap, you can meticulously structure this like a book intended for users. If you have thousands of pages in which you wish to include, consider multiple segmented sitemaps for greater organization (and interpretation by search engines).