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A recent MOZ post by Michael King has been making the rounds at The Search Agency. Entitled “The Technical SEO Renaissance: The Whys and Hows of SEO’s Forgotten Role in the Mechanics of the Web,” the piece suggests that many SEOs have been discounting the technological aspect of search.

Instead, we’ve hopped aboard the content train, chugg-chugging out blog posts and articles without any regard to the condition of the tracks that guide the whole enterprise. The end result is an office filled with content marketers who lack even a basic understanding of how the web works. It’s time for a confession: I’m a content editor, and share Mr. King’s concerns (pause for gasps).

I believe content is important. Whether a web page contains a blog post, product details, videos, or some kind of crazy augmented-reality experience, both search engines and users appreciate helpful, accurate information. But I also rely upon an understanding of how websites work in order to do my job effectively. If you’re turning a blind eye to HTML, Javascript, page speed, and a dozen other concerns, your content efforts could be left in ruin. Don’t believe me? Consider the following risk factors.

 

Content Visibility: Is Your Masterpiece Hidden in Plain Sight?

Anyone who’s spent even a couple of weeks in SEO has seen sites that manage to hide their content from crawlers through a variety of ingenious technical fumbles. Frames, images baked-in text, or blocked JavaScript files come to mind, but I’m sure you’ve come across others.

Consider photo galleries. Google is largely reliant upon captions to understand the images being displayed. If the gallery is based in Javascript, and that resource is blocked from crawlers, you’ve essentially stripped all SEO value from the piece.

Forms and dropdown menus are also a continual headache. Let’s say you sell cars. Your website requires users to select the make and model of the car they want before results can be viewed. Congrats – you’ve just put up an effective barrier to search bots, who can’t make these selections. You may have an awesome landing page for Ferraris, complete with an entry by Magnum P.I. himself, but it’s going to struggle to rank.

When content editors and digital marketers fail to grasp the basics of web design and search bots, they don’t even realize these mistakes are being made.

There are simple ways to get around these technical obstacles. Unblock Javascript resources and build a sitemap so bots – and users – can find all your content without jumping through hurdles. But if you ignore technical SEO, these can be expensive lessons to learn.

 

Structured Data: Opportunity Knocks. It’s Still Knocking. Answer the Door.

King sets aside a section of his post to discuss structured data, and how it’s only going to grow more important from an organic search perspective. We know that structured data can produce a richer SERP result, including star ratings and comprehensive Knowledge Panels. Google also loves to present tables and lists in Featured Snippets. Keep this in mind as you create content.

While the search engine is getting better at understanding natural language, crawlers are still silicon-based lifeforms. They dream of spreadsheets and appreciate order. If you’re working on an article that is data-focused, make sure that you consider this preference so you can take advantage of additional ranking opportunities.

Digital assistants and internet-of-things appliances are going to lean more and more on structured data to supply the information you demand. All things being equal, when someone asks for the population of Chicago, an IoT device will look for the source that presents data in the most easy-to-parse format. The prize goes to a site that utilizes structured data.

 

Little Orphan Article: Can Google Find Your Masterpiece?

Clickpaths should be short and intuitive. Also, they should exist. I’ve come across high-quality pages that have either been placed too far down the subdirectory rabbit hole, or been completely orphaned. While King doesn’t expressly cover this concern, it’s a mistake I want to spotlight.

As content editors, we’re tasked with creating interesting, informative, optimized content. If Google can’t crawl its way to the URL, all of this effort is in vain. That’s why it’s important for your content strategy to include a navigational element. Where will it live? How will people get there?

 

The Bottom Line on Content & Technical SEO

Not everyone is cut out to be a web developer. Not everyone can write compelling copy. That being said, content professionals need to understand that the success of their projects is partially dependent on technical execution. Taking the time to gain a basic understanding of web technology can avoid costly mistakes. Enroll in a free online coding course and talk to the developers in your office. Embrace the technical SEO renaissance.

Gregory Sidor is the Content Lead for Earned Media at The Search Agency. Prior to his arrival in 2014, Gregory worked as a content producer at the L.A. Daily News, Myspace and The Walt Disney Company. He has a passion for smart websites that deliver on their meta descriptions. He also enjoys stand-up comedy, astronomy and exploring Southern California’s beautiful landscape.

1 Comment
  • david

    Thanks Gregory, appreciate the summary, For the foreseeable future, there will always be a place for technical SEO.

    November 27, 2016 at 11:19 pm Reply
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