Episode 6

Technical SEO: What a Startup Founder Should Know

Discover four elements of technical SEO you, as a founder, must be aware of to create a website that will maximize its search potential

Episode transcript:

Hello there, and welcome to another episode of Stacking Pancakes, a show that helps you build your startup’s organic growth. I’m super delighted that you have me back in your ears. And if this is my first episode that you’re listening to, hello, it's amazing to meet you.

Today’s episode is all about technical SEO. And there’s a funny thing about technical SEO. It’s one of those things that practically anyone’s heard of. Ask any founder about the three things that first come to mind about SEO, and they’re likely to list content, technical SEO, and links.

But out of those three, I think technical SEO is the one, well, most confusing. It’s easy to figure out or “get” content and its importance to achieving good rankings. The same goes for links.

But technical bits...you know, all this stuff about crawling errors or internal URL structure or anchor text or response codes or JS indexing, that just feels weird, doesn’t it? How could stuff like that affect rankings even in the tiniest bit? And yet it does. And it does so greatly.

But luckily, as a founder, you don’t really need to know it all. You don’t really need to get into analyzing response codes or crawling issues. Most of the time, you’ll be having someone like me - an SEO consultant - to do it. That said - There are certain things you should be aware of to ensure that your site is not just great-looking but able to maximize the potential of your content. The consultant will do the rest. But you could take care of the basics from the get-go.

In this episode, I’m going to try to give you all the foundational info that you need to know to ensure you tick all the boxes with technical SEO.

And, of course, we have to start at the beginning and discuss what exactly do we mean by this term, technical SEO.

So, in a nutshell, when we do technical SEO, we basically help search engine bots effectively crawl and index web pages.

It’s that simple.

Because let’s face it, Google and other search engines can only rank your content if they can first discover it, crawl it, and understand it.

The funny thing is that this is something we often take for granted. We assume that Google will be able to crawl our pages. But it isn’t always the case. Even if it can access them, other issues might affect the crawl or hinder its efforts to understand what the page is about (and what goes with it, what queries to rank it for.)

And that’s exactly when technical SEO comes in.

Technical SEO helps you ensure that crawlers can reach every page on your site. I admit it’s not something you typically have to worry about at the beginning when your site is relatively small. But usually, it gets more complex as the website grows. You have more and more pages, some of which might not be included in any navigation or linked to from other content, and crawlers might not be able to access them that easily, and so on and so forth.

You may also have issues with how those pages get rendered or whether crawlers can access every element on the page. There might be issues with overall page performance, usability, user experience, etc.

All that and hundreds and hundreds more of similar factors can affect how search engines perceive your content. And what goes with it, whether they rank it and how well.

Now, I do admit that this may have sounded a bit scary, particularly when I mentioned hundreds and hundreds of factors. And look, that’s what it is. But as I said at the start of this episode, as a founder, you don’t have to know it all.

However, there are several technical SEO issues that you should be aware of. Let me just list them very quickly, and then we’ll go through them one by one.

So, in no particular order, the technical SEO elements you should be aware of are crawlability and indexability of the site, site speed and performance, mobile friendliness, and finally, on-page SEO.

I actually like to think of those four factors as categories or buckets that focus on a particular aspect of the site’s setup.

Let’s start with the first one, crawlability, and you’ll quickly see what I mean.

First things first - When we talk about crawlability, we talk about how easy it is for a search engine bot to access and crawl a webpage. You see - search engines discover webpages through a process called crawling. Search engine bots literally crawl the web, typically following links, and go through whatever pages they encounter. In other words, crawling is how they discover new content and updates to existing pages.

This also means that if there’s anything preventing them from crawling your pages, then this content will not get indexed and won’t rank.

Now, this is where things get a bit more complicated, and that’s also where you’ll see what I mean by categories or buckets. Because you see - There is far more than one aspect of a page that can affect crawlability. There’s the overall site structure and how deep a particular page lies within this taxonomy. There is the internal links structure, sitemaps, and problems with redirects; you might also be unintentionally blocking bots from accessing certain parts of the website, have set incorrect canonical tags, and a whole lot more.

As I said, you don’t necessarily have to know it all. But you should understand that search engines must be able to crawl whatever pages you want to rank.

The second factor is site performance. I actually like to bucket this one under user experience. I think this term explains what this factor is about quite clearly. Because let’s face it - If users don’t enjoy the overall experience of using your site, if it’s slow or confusing to use, or the text is small or too closely packed on a page, or if they can’t see images well, well, they won’t be happy.

But how’s that affecting SEO? Well, think about it - What’s Google’s objective when it delivers search results to users? It wants to present the best possible options, right? But that goes beyond just delivering the most relevant answer to the person’s query. It also means delivering results that those people will enjoy reading.

So, if your page misses out on the UX, Google will be less likely to rank it well.

The same applies to the third factor - Mobile-friendliness. We live in a mobile world, after all. Most of us access at least some of the websites from mobile devices. Some of us do most of our web browsing there. So, naturally, your pages must pass certain criteria when it comes to mobile-friendliness, and technical SEO helps you ensure that that’s what happens.

The final element is on-page SEO (sometimes also called on-site SEO.) And this one is all about optimizing both the content and the code of a webpage to ensure that bots can crawl and understand its content better. And once again, on-page SEO is more like a category, involving more than a single action you take and involves optimizing various different aspects of a page.

On-page SEO focuses on optimizing content so that search engines (and users, they’re as important in this process as search engine bots) can understand what the page is about and also identify what search queries it is relevant to, ensuring the content is readable and aligned with the user intent.

On-page SEO also looks at page elements too, like how many links you’ve included on the page, what those links are, whether you’ve used any structured data and if it’s error-free, your URL structure, page metadata, and a ton more.

And it all combined ensures that your pages get discovered, crawled, and ultimately indexed and ranked for the right queries or keywords, positioning you right in front of your target audience.

And that's it for today's episode. You can always head to gopancakego.com/podcast to find the show notes for each episode. You can also check my full guide to startup SEO, where I outline the entire process of building search visibility for an early-stage startup. Again, head to my site, gopancakego.com, and you'll find a link to it in the Resources section of the main navigation.

Don't forget to subscribe to the show. I'll see you here in two weeks, and until then, take care.

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