Technical SEO

“While using makeup right can make you more attractive, applying more makeup doesn’t always make you more attractive. At some point, you’re done. You’re made up. More makeup would be futile.

Technical SEO is makeup. You can use it to make your site more attractive to search engines, but at some point there’s nothing more to be done. You have to move on to less superficial qualities to increase your website’s attractiveness.”1

That was a quote from a 2016 Search Engine Land article, written by someone named Clayburn, from NYC, and apparently it caused quite the stir.

Having been introduced to SEO through tinkering within WordPress, I would rather spend the day breaking down Screaming Frog crawls or in Search Console or analyzing waterfalls than I would crafting content for a local HVAC company’s product offering and service differentiation. However, I nevertheless agree with this statement – but only if the decision was binary.

I’m sure like most I’ve caught my fair share of newly minted WordPress websites coming from dev with Discourage search engines from indexing this site still checked within Settings. But it’s standing operating procedure to understand the contents of your robots.txt, server response codes, and what noindex, nofollow, and the canonical link element do.

“SEO Best Practices are more or less the same wherever you go. That’s why they’re called best practices.”1

Of course, binary side-taking aside, SEOs know “technical SEO” isn’t just something you check off, but a nuanced approach towards and analysis of an individual website, as they are all unique cases. The following quote from a response article really hits this concept home:

“What I often find with people that don’t really understand technical SEO is that they tend to follow a “checklist mentality.” But good technical SEO is not about following a checklist and ticking things off so you can show the client you’ve done them; it is about digging deep into the data, understanding at a core level how search engines’ spiders are interacting with the website, and identifying those (sometimes small) changes that could make a big difference.”2

To summarize, if I applied makeup to myself right now, it would look really sloppy (and would be weird), because I only have a basic understanding of how makeup works. But if a cosmetologist applied the makeup, with an understanding of their craft, and with appreciation to my unique complexion, it would look good (but would still be weird).

Finally, I really like the following quote from an SEO named Barry Adams, who teaches technical SEO:

“…at its core, understanding technical SEO is about understanding how the web works and understanding how search engines work. And by knowing these things – especially the first one – you will become a more informed, more effective, and more successful digital marketer.”3