You have your website, you have been working on it for a while, you thought you are doing a great job, and then… the search engine rankings do not reflect the effort you put in. What happened?
There are a lot of possible culprits that can be responsible for this. Today, we will bring some of them a bit closer, so you can treat it as a checklist to make sure that all the commonly encountered technical SEO issues are taken care of.
Why is fixing technical SEO issues so important?
Short answer: Why would it not be?
There are many different ranking factors, but all of them can be matched with one of the following categories:
- or technical SEO.
Tech SEO issues are something that can bring even the best website down.
If you keep them unresolved, or do not even know about them, your website will suffer. The sooner you discover them, the sooner you can at least start planning how to tackle them – or fix them right away.
On top of that, fixing technical SEO issues is just taking care of your website, so it is up to Google’s standards, generally easier to crawl and index, and as a result – has better ranking potential.
Which technical SEO issues are the most common?
No strategy for indexing
Indexing is a process of adding pages to Google’s index – a database that Google uses to generate the search results. It is crucial to technical SEO, yet it is also one of the most commonly neglected areas because there is a lack of tools and knowledge to address it.
There is a bias in SEO to primarily look at your rankings and traffic data. And it makes sense, because that is where the business is.
But for any of your pages to start ranking and getting traffic, they need to be indexed first.
For example, if you have an e-commerce website selling products but some of the product pages are not indexed due to technical issues, customers will not be able to find those products via search. Not ideal, is it?
That is why you need an indexing strategy for your website.
For Google, indexing is the last step of a long process which results in Google having access to a fresh database of web pages to serve. Unfortunately, this process does not always go according to plan — things can go wrong, both because of Google’s shortcomings and the mistakes of website owners and administrators.
However, if there are problems with indexing, such as pages being blocked by the robots meta tag, then search engines simply will not be able to index those pages. This is a wasted business opportunity.
Mistakes in configuring robots.txt
Robots.txt is a small but critical file that plays an essential role in technical SEO. It tells search engine crawlers which pages on your website should be crawled and which ones should not be.
However, do not mistake robots.txt blockades with using noindex. This is a common misconception, but robots.txt file regulates only crawling, not indexing. Having a page blocked in robots.txt will not guarantee that the said page will not be indexed.
Then, if there are issues with the robots.txt file, such as incorrect syntax or unintentional blocking directives, it can cause significant problems for your website’s crawling, and as a result indexing and visibility.
Unoptimized HTTP status codes
HTTP status code indicates the response from a web server to a request made by a user or search engine crawler. These codes range from 100 to 599 and each of them represents a specific message about the requested page’s status.
For Google and other search engines, the HTTP status code is a crucial signal — both for what to do next with the page, and for the overall quality of your website.
For instance, if there are multiple pages on your website returning 404 error codes due to broken links or missing content, search engines will view this as poor-quality content and may not rank your website as highly (or at all) in search results.
Redirect chains and loops
Redirects are used to redirect users from one page to another. It is completely fine to have them on your site and, in fact, redirecting your pages is often necessary from the standpoint of SEO.
Redirects should generally move users to the destination page without any unnecessary stops on the way. But it is very common that redirects are improperly implemented, and that is when redirect chains or loops occur.
Redirect loops (infinite redirects without a final target) and redirect chains (multiple redirects) are easy to avoid and fairly easy to fix.
With proper guidelines for your website in place, it is unlikely for them to ever be created. But they can damage your crawl budget and, in extreme cases, even frustrate your users.
While many focus on external links, it is internal links that can be a goldmine – but only if they are working properly.
Internal links are used to connect pages within a website, providing users with easy navigation and helping search engines understand the site’s structure and content.
With broken internal links, though, you can create confusion for both users and search engines.
Let us assume that you have numerous pages on your website that contain broken internal links due to incorrect configuration or missing content.
This practice can, and, most likely, will lead to lower ranking positions for those pages in search results. Sometimes, it takes as little as spotting one pattern in broken internal links to understand the problem and improve your ranking positions.
Having poorly constructed pagination
Pagination refers to the practice of dividing content into multiple pages, such as blog posts or product listings. While pagination can improve user experience by making content easier to navigate, it can also create issues for search engines if not properly configured.
One of the most common problems with pagination is actually… not using it.
If you do not have a regular, clickable pagination, and prefer to dynamically load more items on a page – bots like Googlebot will most likely not access them.
And if there are duplicate content issues with pagination, such as identical meta titles and descriptions on each page or incorrect use of canonical tags, their first pages may rank lower, or not at all.
Publishing many orphan pages
Orphan pages are not pages that are not linked anywhere on your website. This makes them difficult to discover for both users and search engines.
Having orphan pages can lead to lower visibility in search results and reduced organic traffic.
If you create a new page but forget to link it from any other page on your site, it will be considered an orphan page, and it may remain undiscovered by search engines for ages. To avoid this, you should regularly audit your website for orphan pages and ensure internal links properly connect all pages within the site’s structure.
Not updating the sitemap
Sitemap is a file (usually XML) listing all indexable pages within your site. While it is not critical for small websites, it remains an essential element for proper indexing and crawling. Unfortunately, it can often be overlooked or not properly maintained.
If a new page or section is added to a website but not included in the sitemap, it may go unnoticed by search engines, ultimately resulting in lower visibility and traffic.
And, if the sitemap is outdated or for example, contains broken links, it can negatively impact the crawlability of a site and lead to reduced rankings in search results.
Ignoring page experience signals
Page experience signals have become a critical technical SEO issue in recent years.
With Google’s emphasis on providing users with the best possible experience, factors such as page speed and usability have become key ranking factors.
If your website is slow to load, it may negatively impact your search engine rankings and ultimately result in lower traffic and conversions.
Focus on factors such as fast-loading pages, easy-to-use navigation menus, and responsive design that works well across all devices, if you do not want page experience signals to be your issue.
Improving Core Web Vitals – Google’s favorite metrics – also will not hurt, as they are recognized official ranking factors.
Not focusing on mobile-friendliness
Connected with the previous point, mobile-friendliness has become an increasingly more important part of SEO.
Google’s mobile-first indexing approach means that it prioritizes pages that work properly on all types of devices – but especially on mobile. And with the majority of internet users now accessing websites on mobile devices, ensuring that your site is optimized for mobile has become more important than ever.
If your website is not mobile-friendly, it may be difficult for users to navigate and view content on smaller screens, leading to high bounce rates and low engagement metrics. Since Google’s algorithm now favors mobile-friendly sites in search results, you need to keep an eye on optimization issues that may arise when your website is viewed on a mobile device.
Canonical tags indicate which version of the same content should be indexed by search engines when there are multiple versions of the same content on a website.
Without proper implementation of canonical tags, search engines may view duplicate content as spammy or low-quality, potentially causing your well-vetted rankings to drop.
While Google often ignores canonicals, it is still better to have them in place.
One of the common strategies for e-commerce sites would be to implement canonical tags for product variants. It will help you to avoid a situation, where similar product pages are competing against each other for search engine rankings instead of working together to boost the overall visibility of the product.
Having a lot of duplicate content
When multiple pages on a website contain identical or very similar content, it can be difficult for search engines to determine which page should be ranked for relevant queries.
In turn, this can reduce the visibility of the affected pages and lower their positions in a particular search engine.
Let us follow the e-commerce example again.
If the site has multiple product pages with the same description, but different product IDs or URLs, these pages may compete against each other in search results.
From there, steps can be taken such as consolidating duplicate pages or using canonical tags to indicate which version of the content should be indexed by search engines.
Not using the right set of headings
Headings help to structure content and make it easier for both users and search engines to understand the main topics covered on a page.
Issues here arise when headings are used improperly, such as using multiple H1 tags or failing to use any headings at all. This can result in confusion for search engines trying to determine the main topic of a page and affect its ranking as a result.
For example, if a blog post has multiple H1 tags instead of just one, search engines may struggle to understand what the primary topic of the post is and how it relates to other content on the site.
Avoiding this is relatively simple – focus on things such as using only one H1 tag per page and structuring subtopics with appropriate heading levels (H2 for subheadings, H3 for sub-subheadings, etc.). Just like we do in this post.
Not caring about URL structure
A well-structured URL can help both users and search engines understand the content of a page and its relationship to other pages on the site. It helps you to keep the site intact and organized. And last, but not least – it is just more user-friendly than a combination of letters and numbers.
When URLs are too long, contain irrelevant information or are not optimized for keywords, ranking for them might pose a challenge.
For example, if a blog post has a URL that contains irrelevant parameters such as dates or session IDs, this can hinder search engines from identifying the relevance of the post, which may impact its ranking.
More importantly, such dates or IDs are usually created with URL parameters, which generate page duplicates and may negatively affect your crawl budget.
To at least partially avoid it, use descriptive keywords in URLs and keep them short and simple whenever possible. No parameters, unless they are actually needed (for example, in the case of pagination). Also, using hyphens instead of underscores or spaces can help improve readability for both users and search engines, so you might want to introduce that as well – this is a practice recommended by Google.
Implementing wrong hreflangs
Hreflang tags help search engines understand which version of a page to display based on the user’s language and geographic location, which is critical for international businesses. However, the more language versions a page has, the more complex this task can be.
If a website has multiple language versions of its content but does not reflect that in the hreflang tags, search engines may struggle to determine which version of the page should be displayed for different users.
For example, a website has pages in both English and French but does not include hreflang tags to indicate which version should be displayed in different countries or regions – this can easily cause the wrong version of the page to appear in search results.
It gets even more complicated, if you want to clearly separate your US and UK versions – while both are in English. Then you need to use the power of hreflangs, along with some localization factors, such as currency of the specific country.
Alt tags help search engines understand the content of images on a website. They are used to describe the image in text format for users who may not be able to see the image, such as those using screen readers or with slow internet connection. Or bots – like Googlebot.
And even though they seem to be a small thing, they can have a significant impact on SEO rankings.
If images are missing alt tags, or are not descriptive enough, this makes it difficult for search engines to understand the content of the image and its relevance to surrounding text. This can lead to fewer visibility opportunities for the page in question.
Adding even a single alt tag for each image can make a big difference, so make sure to include them whenever possible. Descriptive, keyword-rich alt tags are even better.
Just do not spam alt tags with keywords – bear in mind the experience of screen reader users.
Can Google EVEN see your rendered content?
Since it is free to use, you should bookmark it straight away!
How to fix technical SEO issues?
Do a technical SEO audit
You cannot start fixing things unless you know where the issues are. Performing a thorough technical SEO audit will be a critical first step.
If you are interested in SEO and have a bit of time, you can work on that yourself, following resources published online. Google’s official documentation is actually our go-to source – so you can try that as well.
Or go straight for technical SEO services (and have a partner in crime)
But if you are having trouble finding technical SEO issues on your own, it is worth looking for advice from experts who specialize in this area. A good technical audit will help you pinpoint specific changes that need to be made and provide guidance for how to make them.
During the audit process, we will analyze your website’s structure, content, and performance to identify any technical SEO issues that may be hindering its success. And… we will take it from there.
No matter what errors or issues you are facing with your website, Onely can provide you with the solutions you need to get it running smoothly and attract organic traffic to your site again.
Do not let SEO issues remain unresolved
If your website has any lingering technical issues, it might be fine for a day or week. But if you do not address them, it can cause long-term damage to your organic rankings and put you at a disadvantage.
Technical SEO issues can also make it harder for search engines to crawl and index your website correctly, which can have an even more negative impact on your search engine visibility.
Unsure where to start, or quite the opposite – you know exactly what to do but still feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work?
Reach out and get the help you need to get your business in shape.