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Most people who have even a basic understanding of SEO know how important well-written content, keyword targeting, and backlinks are for their Google ranking.
But these public-facing on-site and off-site SEO efforts can’t do all the heavy lifting. Your technical SEO is just as important — in fact, it’s maybe even more important. After all, hosting a perfectly optimized blog post will count for little if your website hasn’t been optimized “under the hood.” Think of your technical SEO as the fluid that keeps your search engine performance ticking over.
At MySiteAuditor, we know a thing or two about SEO, and we routinely come across the same issues time and time again. That’s why we thought it’d be a good idea to run through some of the common technical SEO issues, and we’ll even tell you how to fix technical SEO issues too. None of the issues we outline below are particularly difficult to resolve, and it’s possible that you can fix all of them in a single afternoon if you’re tech-savvy.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
Common Technical Issues and Solutions
No HTTPS Security
Which technical SEO issues are most important? They all play their role, but if we had to pick one, we’d probably go for anything security-related. Having no HTTPS security impacts the success of your website in two ways. First, visitors who see a “not secure” notification when they land on your website will be more likely to close the page within seconds because, in this day and age, people take their digital security seriously — and rightly so.
And that’ll impact your Google standing, too. The search engine wants to send people to valuable websites that they enjoy using, and if they see that everyone seems to be leaving your site within a couple of seconds, then it’s clear that your website does not fall into that useful and valuable category. And in any case, keeping your website is just the right thing to do. Your visitors should feel safe at your site.
So how do you solve this? It’s easy — you buy an SSL certificate from a reputable certificate authority. Once it’s installed, your website will have the much-needed “Secure” badge of honor.
Site Isn’t Indexed Correctly
Everyone talks about improving their site’s SEO, but they often overlook that if a site isn’t indexed correctly, then all the magic SEO tricks will be for nothing. If Google can’t index your website’s pages, then those pages essentially don’t exist.
There’s a quick check you can do to see how many of your website’s pages Google has indexed. Simply point your browser to the search engine and type “site:[yourwebsitename.com]” into the search bar. At the top, you’ll see how many results pop up. If your website has 450 visible pages and it says “about 450 results” then you’re good.
If there are no results, then you have a problem.
If you see significantly fewer results than expected, then you have a problem.
If you see more results than expected? Yep, you have a problem.
If your site isn’t yet indexed, then you can submit it directly to Google; you’ll find information on how to do this on this page. For pages not indexed, you’ll need to perform an audit. You can check those pages against Google’s guidelines (also found on the previously linked page) to ensure that the website is fully compliant. And if you see more results, cross-reference for duplicate content or old pages that may still be active. Deactivating the pages or redirecting them to a different page should do the trick.
No XML Sitemaps
Your website’s XML sitemap is what allows Google’s crawlers to make sense of your website. This isn’t the most common technical SEO issue, but if your website has many pages and is generally quite complex, then it can make a huge difference. Without an XML sitemap, Google’s bots could get lost as they crawl your site. You can think of the sitemap as the compass that pushes crawlers in the right direction.
It’s easy to overlook XML sitemaps, especially if you’ve grown your website steadily from its humble beginnings. If you don’t have one, then now’s the time — and remember that once it’s done, you’ll have to share the location in your website’s robots.txt.
If you do have one, make sure it’s the only one that’s active. Google can’t differentiate between outdated and up-to-date XML sitemaps.
Missing or Incorrect Robots.txt
You can’t call missing Robots.txt one of the most common technical SEO issues. And that’s largely because it’s one of the most serious technical SEO problems, so people normally know about it — without it, Google’s crawlers have no way of knowing which pages it should be crawling. With robots.txt, you’ll prevent Google from spidering all over your website, which could involve indexing pages that are old or not meant for public view.
If you only have a few pages that you’re happy for the world to see, then you may not need robots.txt. But if you have private areas, staging sites, or just want complete control over what crawlers see, then you absolutely do.
You’ll need to work with your developer to put together or correct your robots.txt file, because although it’s relatively straightforward to fix, things can quickly go wrong if handled incorrectly.
Meta Robots NOINDEX Set
Having an incorrect robots.txt file can be damaging, but it’s not necessarily fatal. The pages included in the file will still make their way to Google’s pages, even if it would be better if they didn’t.
But if your website has a NOINDEX command, then all the pages included within the file will be removed from the crawler’s exploration of your website. Your site won’t automatically have a NOINDEX directive; it’s usually added when a website is being developed or redeveloped, which is when it should be used. But sometimes the directive is not removed when the website goes live. It’s usually just an oversight in the mad rush to get the website online.
You can manually look for NOINDEX directives by checking your website’s source code. If it’s there, speak to your developer to get it out of there. You may also want to set a reminder to remove NOINDEX directives if you’re regularly updating your website.
Slow Page Speed
Your page load time impacts your SEO performance in an indirect way. Studies have shown that people are quick to leave a website if the page fails to load quickly — a 5 second load time results in more than 80% of people hitting the ‘X’ button.
This matters because Google’s overarching goal is to point their users in the direction of quality websites. And if people are leaving a website within the first few seconds of being there, Google will get the message that the site isn’t valuable. If you’ve put a lot of time and effort into creating a great site, then you want your visitors to see it!
Even if your website loads quickly for you, that doesn’t mean it’ll load for all users just as quickly. You can check your site’s speed directly within Google by clicking here. It’s best to check mobile speed as well as desktop — mobile users are even less patient when it comes to load time.
If you have a problem, then your developer will need to investigate. It could be as simple as needing to compress your site’s images, or as complex as an underlying server issue.
Multiple Versions of the Homepage
You want to give your visitors as many ways as possible to reach your homepage, but it’s important to keep in mind that you may be making Google’s job more difficult.
For example, let’s say you’ve indexed ‘www.yourwebsitename.com,’ ‘yourwebsitename.com,’ ‘yourwebsitename.com/home.’ and ‘www.yourwebsitename.com/home.’ While Google may decide just to prioritize one version, there’s also a chance that they focus on all the variations. And that means that the SEO credentials of your homepage have been split between four different sites, even if they’re all effectively the same page.
This is one of those SEO technical issues that is easy to fix and which costs you nothing. It’s best to use the “site:yourwebsite.com” Google search tool to see which of your homepages pops up first on search results, and make that one your priority.
Many websites have no need for rel=canonical tags, but if you’re running a website with pages that have similar content, then it’s key. For example, many e-commerce sites have product pages that have highly similar content that can look virtually the same to Google’s bots. It can also be useful if you have dynamically rendered pages.
Rel=canonical simply tells Google which pages should receive priority. You’ll want to place the tag in the one that is of most importance. For example, it could go on the overall product category page, which would then point users to that page rather than a specific product page. You’ll need to dig into the source code to fix this one, but the tag is easy to place — you can follow this guide from Google on how to do it. If you’re really unsure of what to do, then let your developer handle the job.
Duplicate content serves little purpose and can make Google’s job of indexing and ranking your website more difficult. And anything that is unwelcome by Google should have no place on your website.
Duplicate content can come from multiple sources. Having older pages still “live” to Google, even if they’re publicly visible, is perhaps the top reason for duplicate content. It also occurs when similar URLs point to the same website (for example: www.yourwebsitename.com and yourwebsitename.com.).
The solution to this is to tell Google which pages should receive priority. You can use the above-mentioned rel=canonical tag to order live pages. For pages that you don’t want or need to be indexed, you can use the robots.txt tag.
Missing Alt Tags
Not having alt tags on your images is not going to necessarily hurt your SEO, but you’ll be missing an opportunity to make your website’s SEO as robust as possible. It’s very easy to add alt tags to your images, and since Google’s algorithm loves them, it’s a no-brainer.
Alt tags provide additional information to Google about what the website is about. The images on your site already provide an improved experience to your visitors — with alt tags, you can get maximum value from those photos.
How you add alt tags will depend on your CMS, but most — and all the major ones — make it very simple to add them. The issue is normally identifying which images don’t have alt tags. There are website SEO scanning tools that can flag up any images without tags.
Having internal and external links on your website enhances the user’s experience, and can make a huge difference to your site’s SEO performance. However, that’ll only happen if your links are live and working. It’s better to have no links at all than broken links.
Your internal links should always be updated when a page is updated. External links are a little trickier since you won’t receive a notification if that page is removed or changed. It’s recommended to periodically check your external links. There are SEO tools that can help identify any broken links, at which point you’ll just need to remove or change the URL.
Not Enough Use of Structured Data
Structured data is an underused tool in the SEO world. Not only does it improve the user experience, but it also gives your website a clean and structured look and feel — two things that Google loves.
How you incorporate structured data will depend on the type of website you run. You’ll often see recipe websites feature ingredient lists as structured content, for example. Your business’s contact information is also suitable.
If you’ve underusing structured data, then keep it in mind moving forward. It’s not an essential SEO tactic, but when you’re coming up with new content for your site, try to identify opportunities to use it.
Mobile Device Optimization
You’ll know from your own internet usage just how important having mobile device optimization has become. More searches are now made with a smartphone device than a desktop computer, and that should guide your SEO efforts.
We’re going to assume that you have a mobile-ready website. For SEO purposes, it’s recommended not to have two different versions of your website (for example, yourwebsitename.com and m.yourwebsitename.com). That’ll run the risk of splitting your ranking — it’s much better if all your SEO efforts are concentrated on a single page. The easiest solution to this is to adopt responsive design, which will automatically present your website in line with the user’s device.
Missing or Non-Optimized Meta Descriptions
You can think of meta descriptions in much the same way you think of alt text for your images. Meta descriptions may not appear directly on your website, but they’re essential from a search engine’s perspective. They provide additional information to Google’s bots about the content of the page. Plus, they show up on Google’s results page, which can help generate interest in your site from users. It’s a way to let people know what to expect when they land on the page.
You can use SEO auditing tools to identify which pages do not have meta descriptions. It’s also recommended to look at the meta descriptions of your website’s most important pages to check they’re logical and well-written.
Users Sent to Pages with Wrong Language
Websites that have an international audience should serve content in a variety of languages. It helps to improve the user experience and also ensures that Google ranks your pages even when searches are made in other languages.
Some years ago, Google introduced the hreflang tag to help businesses serve local communities around the world. Including the hreflang tag on your website will help to redirect the user to the page in their local language. Since this is code-based, it’s important to update the code when making changes to pages.
As we said at the beginning of the article, your technical SEO is arguably just as important as your on-site and off-site SEO efforts. The reason why many website owners overlook this crucial aspect is that most of the actions take place on the developer’s side, and they’re focused on website performance, not SEO — they already have enough to do and SEO is not on their agenda. Moving forward, it’s recommended to speak to the developer team to check that all the elements above have been checked before the website goes live.
If your website is already live, then check all of the above to ensure you have no technical issues SEO that may be impacting your site’s Google performance. All of the problems are relatively easy to fix with the help of your developer.