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Why Is Technical SEO Such a Hot Topic?

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Technical SEO always seems to be a controversial topic in SEO, with people constantly arguing about its worth. I’m hoping to use this article as a way to cover some common myths about technical SEO and why we should re-shift how we approach technical SEO.

It seems like every day I see a post on LinkedIn about someone claiming that technical SEO is complete BS.

Calling it worthless basically.  

Not only is this not true, but statements like these impact SEOs who actually know what they’re doing. 

I’ve even seen plenty of evidence first hand of how technical SEO can help a website. 

This does come with a catch though.

Technical SEO is still a main pillar of SEO, so why is there so much controversy tied to it?

I believe the answer lies in the ambiguity of the field.

I’m hoping to use this article as a way to dive into the myths people have about technical SEO and how we need to re-shift our focus on what we consider technical SEO to be.

What Technical SEO Is and What Technical SEO Isn’t

Before I dive into this, I want to highlight what technical SEO actually is. 

There are a few categories that fall under it, but it’s mostly made up of: 

  • Discovery: Can search engines properly discover URLs on your website 
  • Crawling: Can search engines access those URLs after they’ve been discovered? Are they blocked via robots.txt? 
  • Indexing: Can search engines properly index your content? Do you have proper canonical tags in place? Does your URL have a noindex tag? 
  • Rendering: Can search engines properly see the content that’s found on your page? This becomes an issue with JavaScript heavy websites 
  • User experience: Is your website usable for mobile users? Is your website fast? Are you genuinely providing a solid experience for your users? 
  • Schema: This probably falls more under on-page but schema does help search engines understand your site and content better. In some cases like Ecom, it can help your products be featured directly on Google too

I may be missing a few specific categories there, but the majority of technical SEO falls into those categories. 

However the main category I want to start with is the first one.

At its core, discovery, crawling, indexing, and rendering are the backbone of SEO and Google Search.

Google even breaks this down for us

Google Search works in three stages, and not all pages make it through each stage:

  1. Crawling: Google downloads text, images, and videos from pages it found on the internet with automated programs called crawlers.
  2. Indexing: Google analyzes the text, images, and video files on the page, and stores the information in the Google index, which is a large database.
  3. Serving search results: When a user searches on Google, Google returns information that’s relevant to the user’s query.

Simply put, Google Search starts with crawling and indexing. 

If there is any issue along this process, your content will not be able to rank. 

Full stop. 

So if you can’t get your pages indexed, there’s a good chance you’ll care about technical SEO.

So, now that we have the “what” covered, let’s dive into what technical SEO isn’t since this is a common mixup in the SEO industry.

Technical SEO isn’t:

  • Fixing meta descriptions
  • Fixing site health issues in SEMrush or Ahrefs
  • Shortening title tags
  • Missing alt text (this does fall under accessibility though)
  • Not getting the green light for Yoast

I could go on and on, but there are things that often get labeled as “technical SEO” but aren’t actually technical SEO issues. 

I think Peter Rota, an SEO consultant, puts it nicely here:

Why This Even Matters

Okay, so why does this even matter? 

Why call these things out when there are constant circle jerks over who’s right and who’s wrong?

It’s not my job to say I’m right or someone else is wrong, but these things do affect SEOs industry-wide.

This is going to sound overdramatic, but miscategorizing technical SEO almost acts as misinformation. 

Denying what something actually is only discredits people who actually know what they’re doing and are busting their asses to get it done.

It only adds to the hill they have to climb to get their job done. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of confusion when it comes to technical SEO, and it really boils down to 2 different sides:

  • Technical SEO often gets oversold when it’s not an issue
  • Technical SEO is important to every site, as mentioned earlier with how Google Search works. Yet, site owners don’t necessarily know what that entails

I think the biggest issue that causes this argument is the ambiguity of technical SEO. 

SEO is already an ambiguous field to non-SEOs, but throwing technical SEO into the mix is like teaching a kindergartner AP calculus.

That’s not to say you can’t learn it, but to the average person who doesn’t know SEO, it’s easy to sell based on that ambiguity and lack of understanding.

And when people realize they’re being sold snake oil, they’re turned off from it entirely. 

You can say the same thing for regular SEO, but technical SEO in my opinion is the most accessible field to BS.

And that is not to discredit technical SEOs either; I’ve met some great technical SEOs, and I’ve seen first-hand what technical SEO can do for a website.

Who I am discrediting are those who are capitalizing on that ambiguity for personal gain.

Whether that’s engagement or more business. 

Those who give potential clients a laundry list of junk labeled as technical SEO to get additional buy-in. 

It almost becomes a negative spiral of people being burned by technical SEO and then shouting into the void about how technical SEO is BS. 

This then makes others believe that technical SEO is basically complete BS.

It’s just a net negative all around and discredits SEOs who actually know what they’re doing. 

The main point I want to make here is that:

  • Technical SEO comes in all shapes and sizes. Every website is unique, so therefore technical SEO will depend (it depends 😁) site to site. Technical SEO matters for every website, but the extent of prioritizing issues will depend on what’s actually going on. Technical SEO is important, but optimizing for it will always depend on each site and what they’re going through
  • Since SEO naturally comes with ambiguity, companies capitalize on this by overselling “technical SEO” issues that aren’t actually related to technical SEO 
  • Because of the above, people naturally think that technical SEO is BS and convince others that technical SEO is a waste of time. I’m almost positive this is the root cause of the issue here. 

What We Can Do to Improve This

So I got this far in my article and realized I was adding to the circle jerk without actually adding any solutions. 

I still think this conversation will continue to be a circle jerk regardless of what I say, but I figured I’d offer my thoughts on what we could do to fix this. 

I think the best approach moving forward is education and accessibility. 

There are obviously tons of resources out there that explain exactly what SEO is (including technical SEO), but I think the best solution is to educate non-SEOs whenever we can on what’s important and what isn’t.

There are always going to be bad apples who oversell on that ambiguity to earn a new client, but the best thing we can do is be available to give guidance whenever it’s needed. 

And that’s not to mean we should work for free, but we should help educate others when they might be getting burned or misled.

Basically, I think the point I’m trying to make is that we need to be accessible to explain to people what technical SEO isn’t and what technical SEO actually is. 

Also to push back against people making false claims in SEO. 

The more we speak up, the more we’ll be understood. 

And if you’re an SEO discrediting others for personal gain, you’re just discrediting the industry as a whole that’s already been dealing with plenty of misunderstandings.

Don’t be that person.

Help others bridge the gap to that ambiguity whenever you can, or at least educate yourself on what technical SEO is and what it isn’t. 

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