How Important is Technical SEO?

There are a variety of webmasters, web designers, marketing agencies and SEO software companies who emphasize the power of optimizing coding, server issues, broken links, and other problems commonly dubbed as technical SEO.

The fact is, many websites do have significant issues whether via server and plugin issues, poor coding, or wordpress templates. Some rate very poorly for technical performance, and Google’s standards for the technical side has risen considerably. For large sites, technical problems can be costly with downtimes, broken links, and slow pages. Someone does have to fix the issues.  But is technical SEO really worth the effort?

In a very competitive keyword area and where traffic is high volume, these errors might result in lower rankings and some business losses.  But hold on.  Is this technical thing real? Is the issue that important? Certainly, I offer technical checks in the SEO audit and digital marketing audit, because everything should be uncovered initially, just in case.

If the technical algorithm solution is real then should we see sites plagued with slow, non compliant sites at the top of the rankings?

Lots of Top Ranking Websites have a Poor Technical Rating

SEO ServicesIn fact, we frequently do find sites with bad coding at the top and they’ve got thin content as well, and optimization is not ideal. They violate nearly everyone of Google’s celebrated “200 ranking factors.”  Is it all real then, or might technical SEO aficionados use this as a marketing angle to stimulate demand to grab a client?

Or are their subtleties and complexities lurking in the code that actually detract from many website’s rankings and user experience that cause lower rankings and traffic, than the site deserves.  I’m not sure we can answer all these questions right now, but let’s take a brief look at the technical search engine optimization so we might at least iron out problems, and when to know that it really isn’t our big problem.

Technical SEO is sometimes used as a tactic to distract attention and money away from where it’s actually needed — promotion and content. Some marketing agencies are desperate to prove value. Technical issues might be put in a basket of services to help them get the sale.

However, there has been a lot of hype about technical SEO and Google has made noise about the core metric needs. It was mobile indexing that got this all started.  Yet, we wonder how many US consumers are actually using 3G wireless connections.  If it is real, will the technical SEO matter last?

What is Technical SEO?

Server performance, mobile screen rendering, indexing readiness, and optimizing page load speeds etc. are tasks SEO experts must tackle. It’s part of what’s reviewed in SEO audits. But a great SEO audit will focus more on what’s holding back good rankings and visibility on search engines.

Technical SEO issues should be resolved, if the company has time for it. However, if developers start monkeying around with complicated server settings, coding and plugins, it can invite even more problems, simply result in another set of poor performing settings.  Obviously some A/B testing is required (e.g., deactivating plugins, checking template components, checking the waterfall results).

Technical Search Engine Optimization May Include:

  • core metrics and mobile friendliness testing using Google’s pagespeed tool or other SEO software
  • checking site loading issues using tool such as
  • finding 404 pages and broken links
  • reviewing meta tags and structured data markup
  • reviewing wordpress plugins
  • reviewing server log files for robot spidering
  • finding errors in Google AMP site version and resolving errors reported
  • finding any coding issue that causes an error
  • check for redundant content
  • create robots.txt file and file and directory disallows as needed
  • check for image optimization, alt tags

Do Technical Issues Lower a Site’s Ranking?

When a technical SEO audit is performed, your site’s server performance, mobile friendliness and loading stats are checked for issues. WordPress websites can cause a number of issues due to extra weighty code, outdate templates, plugins, big javascripts, and even php database issues. WordPress is a plague which is likely why the whole technical SEO thing got started.

Will server and coding problems destroy your rankings as the technical SEO enthusiasts swear?  Yes, possibly if you’ve got some nasty things going on. And you’ll find many corporate developers don’t even regard SEO, because most leads are purchased through advertising. Some of them consider SEO an annoyance (going back 25 years).

But, let’s take a look at some websites in an industry I happen to be familiar with. It’s competitive and PPC bid prices are high.

This industry is dominated by two companies in particular. Both of these companies have poor performing, issue laden websites as depicted in these Google core metrics reports below. But for some reason, all the problems don’t hurt their rankings or traffic. Google seems to forgive them.

Their branding, visibility and Google rankings are exceptional. Their web content is well designed, slick, targeted, and comes across laser clear to visitors. They know significance is the real goal. They  put the customer experience first, even if it’s painful and creates all sorts of technical warnings.

Of course, they’re spending a fortune on marketing and until some new market contenders find a way to unseat them, they enjoy persistently good exposure.  Although as you can see, they’re not immune to a nasty Google algo update.

The poor performance reports for these website’s core metrics shows us that rankings aren’t so dependent on technical issues. As you can see, Google traffic of 30k to 50k per month and top rankings on Google for the best keyword phrases shows Google still feels these sites are the most significant for their customers.

Many big companies have little respect for SEO or technical issues. They assign a webmaster/tech person to monitor the server and look for errors. When a company manages a million dollar or ten million dollar marketing budget, SEO is an afterthought.  And Google knows this too.

Clearly, these companies focus more on the presentation of their significant value proposition and on powering up SEO and organic marketing efforts so that technical SEO issues become trivial. Advanced SEO strategies applied to these websites would significantly grow their traffic.  However, there are numerous smaller competitors employing professional quality SEO and taking some traffic away.

It’s Not Technical Problems – It’s a Lack of Promotion of Your Site

What may look like a technical or trust related algorithm penalty might likely be to insufficient ranking power. If Google can’t find enough quality signals to tell them if a site is on-topic, credible, and high quality, then technical issues could hurt rankings.  It’s just an additional signal of a low quality website.

It comes back to the quality of the content along with the strength of promotion that creates visibility. And that visibility tends to a be self-fulfilling proposition.


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