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Redefining Technical SEO, #MozCon 2019 by Paul Shapiro



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It’s time to throw the traditional definition of technical SEO out the window. Why? Because technical SEO is much, much bigger than just crawling, indexing, and rendering. Technical SEO is applicable to all areas of SEO, including content development and other creative functions. In this session, you’ll learn how to integrate technical SEO into all aspects of your SEO program.

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Redefining Technical SEO, #MozCon 2019 by Paul Shapiro

  1. 1. @fighto REDEFINING Technical SEO @fighto
  2. 2. @fighto
  5. 5. @fighto Unlearning © akg-images / Johann Brandstetter
  6. 6. @fighto Unlearning
  7. 7. @fighto Unlearning
  8. 8. @fighto Oversimplification SEO
  9. 9. @fighto WEBSITE INFRASTRUCTURE (And Search Engine Accessibility) “TECHNICAL SEO”
  10. 10. @fighto When most people discuss technical SEO CRAWL INDEX RANK
  11. 11. @fighto When most people discuss technical SEO CRAWL INDEX RENDER RANK
  12. 12. @fighto
  13. 13. @fighto Most of the Way There
  14. 14. @fighto CMS Usage 33% 60% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% % All Websites % CMS Market WordPress Joomla Drupal Squarespace Wix Other Wordpress Wordpress
  15. 15. @fighto Technical SEO? • Most modern CMSs do the heavy lifting of technical SEO. • The barrier of getting technical SEO to “good enough” in some ways is much lower than getting content right in most cases.
  16. 16. @fighto
  18. 18. @fighto
  19. 19. @fighto TECHNICAL SEO? WHAT IS Any sufficiently technical action undertaken with the intent to improve search results. Russ Jones, Principle Search Scientist, Moz, at TechSEO Boost 2017 ” ”
  21. 21. @fighto Types of Technical SEO CHECKLIST TECHNICAL SEO
  22. 22. @fighto TECHNICAL SEO CHECKLIST Does the page have a canonical tag? Is the canonical tag crawlable and correctly formatted? Is the canonical tag directed at the desired URL? If canonical tag destination is self- referencing, should it be? Does the destination URL include a parameter that it should not? Are there conflicting signals with the canonical tag? Is the destination URL crawlable and accessible? YES YES YES NO NO NO YES
  24. 24. @fighto Types of Technical SEO GENERAL TECHNICAL SEO
  25. 25. @fighto TECHNICAL SEO General Crawling, Indexing, Rendering Insights Are Difficult to Automate Higher Skill Work Examples: • Finding and correcting obscure crawler traps generated by CMS bug • Designing maximally crawlable, taxonomically sound site architecture • Internal linking analysis • SSR Design • Etc.
  26. 26. @fighto Types of Technical SEO BLURRED- RESPONSIBILITY TECHNICAL SEO
  27. 27. @fighto TECHNICAL SEO Blurry-Responsibility Examples: • Web Performance Optimization • Internal Site Search Design • Structured Data • Advanced Analytics Implementation • Etc. UX? Front End Web Development ? CRO?
  28. 28. @fighto Types of Technical SEO ADVANCED APPLIED TECHNICAL SEO
  29. 29. @fighto TECHNICAL SEO Advanced, Applied Examples: • SEO testing • Adoption of new technologies that effect search (potentially may be a blurry-lined item) • Data science for SEO purposes • NLP to enhance content development • Use of ML for search data • Automation
  30. 30. “All SEO can be technical SEO!”
  31. 31. Defying Traditional Technical SEO Examples
  32. 32. @fighto Link Development
  33. 33. @fighto Expired Domains What it Does 1. Takes outlink report from Screaming Frog 2. Distills URLs to Domains 3. Runs Moz Linkscape API against the list for PA & DA 4. Checks HTTP Status Code 5. Runs WHOIS API to see if domain is available 22d0545ddec1fc9e
  34. 34. @fighto TECHNICAL SEO STATUS:
  35. 35. @fighto On-Page SEO
  36. 36. @fighto Optimize On-Page with Google Entity Extraction 1. Enable Google NLP API 2. Input SERP data, either via CSV, or rank tracking API 3. Download all ranking pages and remove boilerplate content 4. Run Google API to isolate entities, count frequencies, and determine document salience a702f8ada9a03c55d
  37. 37. @fighto TECHNICAL SEO STATUS:
  38. 38. @fighto Content Ideation
  39. 39. @fighto Reddit for Niche Content Insights 1. Input reddit login credentials 2. Specify output CSV 3. Specify sorting method 4. Specify specific or all subreddits 5. Enter a series of keywords (e.g., “how to”, “where can I”, “board games”, etc.) 6. Analyze
  40. 40. @fighto Search Volume 90500 74000 74000 49500 33100 33100 22200 14800 12100 5400 3600 3600 3600 1900 1300 1300 1000 0 10000 20000 30000 40000 50000 60000 70000 80000 90000 100000 guillermo del toro george romero alfred hitchcock john carpenter wes craven eli roth james wan clive barker david cronenberg dario argento ti west tobe hooper joe dante lucio fulci mario bava don coscarelli stuart gordon
  41. 41. @fighto Reddit Upvotes 10359 9788 6406 6072 3967 3700 2183 1577 973 733 699 278 272 262 246 241 56 2909 1504 1255 1079 938 1697 993 522 267 512 217 96 95 146 45 54 37 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 12000 john carpenter george romero wes craven guillermo del toro clive barker eli roth james wan dario argento lucio fulci ti west david cronenberg tobe hooper mario bava alfred hitchcock stuart gordon don coscarelli joe dante Upvotes Comments
  42. 42. @fighto TECHNICAL SEO STATUS:
  43. 43. @fighto Content Ideation Continued
  44. 44. @fighto YouTube Subtitles for Content Ideas 1. Input YouTube Playlist URL 2. Download all auto-generated subtitles 3. Remove stopwords 4. Do frequency analysis on text 5. Analyze 00fb66b57d429b9ed0
  45. 45. @fighto MozCon 2016 YouTube Playlist
  46. 46. @fighto TECHNICAL SEO STATUS:
  47. 47. @fighto Automation
  48. 48. @fighto Automatic Wayback Machine 301 Mapping 1. Find all historic URLs from Wayback Machine API 2. Extract text without boilerplate content from current website 3. Extract text from Wayback Machine archives without boilerplate content 4. Compare old and new content with spaCy’s pre-trained CNN 5. Analyze 9f0b38eaaded10
  49. 49. @fighto TECHNICAL SEO STATUS:
  50. 50. @fighto Bulk Meta Descriptions
  51. 51. @fighto Semi-Automated Meta Descriptions 1. Input a list of URL into source text file 2. Specify output file 3. Use various text summarization methods to create brief descriptions of the pages 4. Receive CSV 5. Edit descriptions accordingly 8e247aacd06c18
  52. 52.
  53. 53. @fighto TECHNICAL SEO STATUS:
  54. 54. @fighto Keyword Research
  55. 55. @fighto Persona-Based Keyword Research 1. Create a generic crosstab report in HitWise AudienceView with default demographic and psychographic data 2. Input list of keywords 3. Browser simulate with Selenium 4. Get CSV with data compared to general online population 5. Create personas for keyword research 9f0b38eaaded10
  56. 56. @fighto TECHNICAL SEO STATUS:
  57. 57. @fighto Dashboard / Reporting Automation
  58. 58. @fighto Storing Search Data for Reporting Dashboards Search Console as Example 1. Download search query data via API and store in SQL database 2. Incorporate all data sources together and manipulate them accordingly 3. Schedule collections 4. Display data with dashboarding software (Tableau, Google Data Studio, Power BI, etc.) python/#searchanalytics
  59. 59. @fighto TECHNICAL SEO STATUS:
  60. 60. @fighto A/B Testing & Experimenting for SEO
  61. 61. @fighto Conducting SEO Experiments WHY: • Far too often, SEOs recommend thing based on the status-quo, best practices, theory, and pre-conceived notions. • Experimentation can produce huge lift. Often, some of the largest lift. • Experimentation can help us better understand how the search engines work. H OW: • Writing testing specs and documentation • Follow scientific method • Measure before, after, and attempt to isolate anomalies
  62. 62. @fighto Subject Website Example – Title Tags Test Group 1: Control – Title Tags Unchanched • Generic 265D Lee Goal White Butterfly Pink Flowers Pattern Lace Bamboo Handheld Folding Fans For Girls Women, Blue, One Size: Home & Kitchen • Microfiber Cleaning Cloths, 5 Pack, Blue, All-Purpose Reusable Dust Cloths, Machine Washable: Home & Kitchen Test Group 2: Variant A – {Product} | {} • Cnlinkco Pastoral Floral Printed Sleeveless Vintage Mini Dress: Clothing | • 18 X 18 Inch Cotton Linen Retro Vintage Home Decorative Indoor/Outdoor Throw Cushion Cover / Pillow Sham | Test Group 2: Variant B – {} Removed • John Lennon Inspired Sunglasses Round Hippie Shades Retro Colored Lenses (Purple Ice): Clothing • AMTOK Blackhead Remover Kit Curved Blackhead Tweezers Kit Pimple Comedone Extractor Tool Set Dermatologist Grade Kit Treatment for Blemish , Zit Popper (Tweezers Kit Rose Gold): Beauty Test Group 2: Variant C – {Brand} (.com removed) • Apple Watch Screen Protector (42mm Series 3/2/1 Compatible)[6-Pack], DeltaShield BodyArmor Full Coverage Screen Protector for Apple Watch Military-Grade Clear HD Anti-Bubble Film: Toys & Games • Kate Aspen LOVE Chrome Bottle Stopper, Silver/Pink: Kitchen & Dining
  63. 63.
  64. 64.
  65. 65. @fighto Search Engine Behavior Example – JavaScript Writing Over Navigation URL #1 = nonsenselala.html Unique KW = ‘BagelHammersh’ Pg. 1 Feature A Hidden Content = (Nonsense/ “unique” text) “BlahDehBlehFoo” Feature B Hidden Link = ‘FooFeeFoGround’ Pg. 2 URL #2 = madeupwordisfoo.html Unique Kw = ‘SomethingSumthang’
  66. 66. @fighto TECHNICAL SEO STATUS:
  67. 67. @fighto Common Thread: Coding is a Fundamental Skill for Advanced, Applied Technical SEO @fighto
  68. 68. @fighto TECHNICAL SEO General Crawling, Indexing, Rendering Insights Are Difficult to Automate Higher Skill Work Examples: • Finding and correcting obscure crawler traps generated by CMS bug • Designing maximally crawlable, taxonomically sound site architecture • Internal linking analysis • SSR Design • Etc.
  69. 69. @fighto “Invest in Technical SEOs, Not Technical SEO” @fighto
  70. 70. @fighto Hiring Technical SEOs People adept at utilizing their technical aptitude and skills to aid, improve, and enhance both technical and non-technical SEO tasks.
  71. 71. @fighto How to Hire Techical SEOs Look for Similar Traits of Good Engineers: • It’s not all about the code • Strong ability to problem solve and think critically • Ability to communicate about and explain complex, technical topics • Creative
  72. 72. @fighto How to Train/Learn Coding • Don’t fixate too much on the language, learn the logic • If you need to pick a language Data Analysis Emphasis Web Development Emphasis
  73. 73. @fighto How to Train/Learn Coding • Have practical goals to work toward. Don’t learn for the sake of learning. Apply. Build something. • Leverage online tutorials, MOOCs, Codecademy, etc. • Don’t be afraid to look to examples on GitHub, StackOverflow • You don’t have to do everything yourself if you have the resources and understand the logic
  74. 74. @fighto CONTENT > TECHNICAL SEO?
  75. 75. @fighto CONTENT < TECHNICAL SEO?
  77. 77. @fighto TECHNICAL SEOs @fighto
  78. 78. | Organic Search | Paid Search | Paid Social Advertising Ecommerce Marketing & Amazon Advertising Thank You!

Editor's Notes

  • Let’s take a trip back to SEO grade school…

    To the very beginning when you were learning our craft.
  • Grab your Ninja Turtles lunch box and recall what you were taught about it in the early days…
  • If you were like me, you had a picture painted like so.

    3 pillars intersecting in the venn diagram of search engininess…
  • Which in practice, equated to the following sub-disciplines… (often silod)
  • The problem is that the things we were taught in school weren’t always right, were sometimes oversimplifications, embellishments, collective truths that were in reality collective falsehoods, etc.

    For instance, an apple falling on Isaac Newton’s head did not cause him to have a eureka moment resulting in the law of gravity. He was observing apples fall in his orchard though.
  • “i before e except after c”

    It’s generally true, but there are something like 193 exceptions.
  • Benjamin franklin’s famous kite experience, not used to discoverer electricity. Electricity was well know for quite some time. This was to test electrical nature of lightning.
  • I recall an anecdote from college where a friend majoring in engineering told me how everyone is taught V=IR, except the equation falls apart in more complex scenarios, a so called “infinite grid of resistors”

    Anyway, SEO is no different. It’s complex, and its subject to overs implications among other things.
  • So let’s evaluate how the common definition of technical SEO in my opinion is somewhat misguided.
  • Traditionally, technical SEO is about designing well architected websites that enable proper crawling and indexing of its content, so that it may rank.
  • And of course, with JavaScript heavy websites increasing in popularity steadily over the years, the model comes to include proper rendering of that for bots.
  • And don’t get me wrong, this is hugely important.

    If you’re an ecommerce website and product can’t be crawled or isn’t crawled properly, then you’re missing out on sales that you would have gotten from one of the highest converting channels there is.
  • Websites can get quite complex and expertise in how all of this works is surely necessary.
  • BUT… you can have the most technically sound website and earn no traffic from organic search, get no sales, because at the end of the day—it’s content that drives that. Content may be more important. (shrug)

    “GASP”—How can I say that!? this is the technical SEO. I’m getting there.
  • Furthermore, there are some very easy ways to get your technical seo right.
    A wordpress installation with the yoast plugin, gets you most of the way there.
  • In fact, if we look at the adoption of WordPress across the web, we might conjecture that a large portion of websites are already set-up for success.
  • So, it’s no wonder you see articles like this popping up.

    I think the underlying idea isn’t entirely wrong, but it was a very poor, offensive analogy and a bit inflammatory.

    Technical SEO is very important.
    There’s also WAY MORE to technical SEO than what articles like these are talking about.
    There’s WAY MORE to it that the definition that you learned in SEO grade school permits.
  • Let’s redefine technical SEO.
  • If you aren’t already aware, I founded a conference completely dedicated to technical SEO, TechSEO Boost. It’s coming back for its 3rd year in December.

    It’s free to attend. Although we have a lottery for tickets. We’re also livestreaming it for free if you can’t make it.
  • If you aren’t already aware, I founded a conference completely dedicated to technical SEO

    The first year we had it, I brought Russ Jones in to do a talk about the “state of technical SEO”. It was a brilliant presentation and during it, Russ gave his definition for what technical SEO is:

    “Any sufficiently technical action undertaken with the intent to improve search results”

    That certainly widens the playing field for technical SEO doesn’t it?
  • Let’s dive deeper.

    As I see it, there are 4 types of technical SEO
  • Checklist/automated technical SEO
  • Checklist Technical SEO is where you can simply go through a checklist process, one item at a time and make sure things are as they should be.
  • You can use a template like the one Annie Cushing sells (I’ve not actually seen it) and a use a tool like Screaming Frog or Botify to get most of the way there.
  • Essentially it’s the lower skill form of traditional technical SEO and subject to automation.

    And, I don’t mean to diminish this either. There are tons of websites that get these things wrong and fixing them will most certainly help. But the robots are coming for your job if you rely entirely on this.
  • General Technical SEO
  • This concerns itself with the same things as checklist technical seo, has to do with the more traditional definition of crawling, indexing, and rendering—

    but requires higher skill and are more difficult to automate. These like finding and correcting obscure crawler traps generated by a bug in your CMS’s codebase, developing custom site architecture, internal linking analysis, SSR design, etc.
  • Blurred-Responsibility Technical SEO

    …welcome to SEO folks
  • Oftentimes as SEOs, there are technical (and non-technical) tasks that fall to us, that aren’t necessarily SEO tasks. They can easily fall to UX, CRO, Front End Web Development, Taxonomists, etc.

    These are tasks involving web performance optimization, internal site search system design, structured data, and analytics implementation

    All important to a holistic view of SEO, but can also fall to someone else.
  • Advanced, applied technical seo
  • Technical tasks that are specifically for SEO purposes, but not necessarily concerning crawling, indexing, and rendering.
    - SEO testing
    - Adoption of brand new technologies that effect search (might be a blurry-lined item)
    - Data science for SEO purposes
    - NLP to enhance content development
    - Use of ML to search data
    - Automation
  • I’d like you to show particular attention to general technical seo and advanced, applied technical seo. When you consider these facets of tech SEO, the whole “tech SEO is makeup argument surely falls apart”. Tech SEO becomes integral to every aspect of SEO, from content, to link building, and of course, crawling, indexing, and rendering.

    All SEO can be technical SEO
  • Now that you’re nice and excited let’s look at some examples and give you fine folks a bunch of free Python scripts…
  • Applications to link development
  • Expired domains script. Use to find old domains with great content. Redevelop that content’s purpose, examining the site with the wayback machine, and perform outreach.

    Explain how it works above
  • For instance, I scraped a niche forum for my board game blog – - saw an old domain for sale and reached out to the original author asking to use its old content. I could have just written to his highest linked content, but I’m giving this a try first.

    Technical application to link building.
  • Applications to on-page SEO
  • Now, what if we wanted to enhance the relevancy of our new and existing content and expand the breadth of our keywords?

    We could do something like this, using the Google Natural Language API.

    Explain how it works above
  • So this represents scored entities on the term “martin guitars”. We can use these insights to enhance our Martin Guitars page, improving relevancy for that term by encompassing more topics, and rank for more keywords.

    Technical application of on-page SEO
  • There are many technical approaches to content ideation, because data mining is so very useful for this purpose
  • I’m a big redditor, and I think it’s a great source of content ideas. You have a bajillion niche communities, on every subject manner imaginable.

    Explain how it works above
  • I feel as SEOs, we tend to over rely on Search Volume. You need more semblance of audience in your decisions.

    For instance, I used to run a horror movie blog. When I was looking to see which film directors to write about, I first looked at search volume.

    This data would have you believing that Alfred Hitchcock should be a high priority content piece.
  • Head over to /r/horror, Dreadit and you see that he’s not discussed all that very much. Search Volume reflected the general populace, which wasn’t my audience.

    I was much better off writing about George Romero, which was the happy medium

    Data mining for content ideas. Technical application of on-page SEO.
  • Let me give another example, since this one is so rich
  • YouTube is a great repository of content, but it’s all locked up in videos.

    So you could use a script like the one above to automatically download all the auto generated transcripts and figure out what to write about.

    Explain above
  • I ran this on the MozCon 2016 playlist. 2016 was the year of content and friends apparently.

    Again, Data mining for content ideas. Technical application of on-page SEO.
  • I love this one. Site migrations can be such a pain, and oftentimes you miss old URLs. You can use the wayback machine API to download a list off all the historic URLs and map it to your current content.

    Explain above.
  • I searched google for “law firm redesign” btw. Totally random website that needs some redirects.

    Anyway, you get a score of how similar one page is to another and then you can create redirects automatically.

    Great for large websites. Saves a ton of time.

    Saving time for strategy, with a technical approach to SEO
  • This is also a sort of automation example, and I wrote about it on Search Engine Land.

    What if you had to create a lot of unique meta descriptions all at once? That would take a while. Rather than letting Google pick, you could use text summarization to begin the process for you.

    Explain above.
  • Ran on my board game website. Some algorithms are definitely better than others depending on the page. I’ll pick the one I eyeball as being the best.
  • Then plop it into my handy bulk title tag and meta description pixel width checkers and start rewriting them a bit.


    A technical solution to an SEO problem that otherwise isn’t techical
  • I believe in audience driven SEO, and when time permits, creating personas when doing keyword research is a part of that process.

    You can use a tool like HitWise that meshes panel and clickstream data to categorize audiences and apply it to your keyword research.

    They have this tool called AudienceView that’s pretty awesome, and will show all sorts of demographic and psychographic data for search terms. The only problem is it doesn’t allow you to quickly do individual keywords.

    Explain above
  • So we can start looking at individual keyword audience representations, individually or in aggregate. It can be very powerful.

    Again, you wouldn’t expect it, but creating something like this to enhance your keyword research is a technical process.
  • Spending too much time on creating reports? Consider creating dashboards with live data. You’ll still need to explain to the client or stakeholder, but it can do a lot of the heavy lifting.

    In order to do that, you need to create a data lake.

    Explain above.
  • So you can make really informative dashboards

    The initial creation was technical
  • I also would like to illuminate a non-coding example. I believe that testing for SEO is of the utmost importance now-a-days.
  • Explain above
  • And I include this as an example, because almost all of the other ones implied you need to code, and although I think it’s important, it’s not the only path to advanced, applied technical SEO.

    Aiding in experimental design and writing test specs is technical and wildly important.

    Explain above.

    That being said…
  • That being said, having some semblance of knowledge is important to many aspects of advanced, applied technical seo. It permits to work more agilely, without engineering resources. Or if you have engineering resources, it aids in your understanding of how to better work with them. I recommend at least learning the basics.
  • Aw. My twins again.

    Coding is also becoming basic literacy—it’s being taught in elementary school. My twins will learn to code at a young age.

    It might seem daunting, but you can really get the basics very easily. And if not, remember your children will have this knowledge, and they’ll eventually enter the workforce…
  • Also truly proficiency in “general technical SEO” will also lead you down the coding rabbit hole

    See the following examples I mentioned earlier? Coding would certainly help.
  • All of this is why I recommend thinking about investing in technical SEOs, rather than technical SEO itself.

    It’s the skills, the people that are the glue here, your bottleneck
  • That being said, I don’t want you to stress if no one on your team meet the criteria or you don’t.

    how do you solve that?
    Should we just hire software engineers? Data scientists? Analysts?

    Can my existing SEO staff learn these skills?
  • Read above.
  • People who can code and meet the following criteria, you’re set.

    People who can’t code and meet the following criteria, invest in education.
  • Okay, to go back to our discussion of the pillars of SEO. I insinuated that content might be even more important than technical SEO.

    Is it? Na
  • Nore is technical SEO isn’t more important than content or link building either. It’s all apart of that crazy venn diagram.
  • And Technical SEO can be at the center, enhancing the other disciplines.

    Elevate your work that your creative, content strategists are already doing.

    Elevate the work that your link builders are doing.

    Start thinking about technical SEO differently
  • Let the technical SEOs be your glue. They help everyone
  • ×