How to Find and Fix 14 Technical SEO Problems That Can Be Damaging Your Site Now

January 10, 2017
seounity

Who doesn’t love working on low-hanging fruit SEO problems that can dramatically improve your site?

Across all businesses and industries, the low-effort, high-reward projects should jump to the top of the list of things to implement. And it’s nowhere more relevant than tackling technical SEO issues on your site.

Let’s focus on easy-to-identify, straightforward-to-fix problems. Most of these issues can be uncovered in an afternoon, and it’s possible they can solve months’ worth of traffic problems. While there may not be groundbreaking, complex issues that will fix SEO once and for all, there are easy things to check right now. If your site already checks out for all of these, then you can go home today and start decrypting RankBrain tomorrow.

thatwaseasy.gif

Source

Real quick: The definition of technical SEO is a bit fuzzy. Does it include everything that happens on a site except for content production? Or is it just limited to code and really technical items?

I’ll define technical SEO here as aspects of a site comprising more technical problems that the average marketer wouldn’t identify and take a bit of experience to uncover. Technical SEO problems are also generally, but not always, site-wide problems rather than specific page issues. Their fixes can help improve your site as a whole, rather than just isolated pages.

You’d think that, with all the information out there on the web, many of these would be common knowledge. I’m sure my car mechanic thought the same thing when I busted my engine because I forgot to put oil in it for months. Simple oversights can destroy your machine.

Source

The target audience for this post is beginning to intermediate SEOs and site owners that haven’t inspected their technical SEO for a while, or are doing it for the first time. If just one of these 14 technical SEO problems below is harming your site, I think you’d consider this a valuable read.

This is not a complete technical SEO audit checklist, but a summary of some of the most common and damaging technical SEO problems that you can fix now. I highlighted these based on my own real-world experience analyzing dozens of client and internal websites. Some of these issues I thought I’d never run into… until I did.

This is not a replacement for a full audit, but looking at these right now can actually save you thousands of dollars in lost sales, or worse.

1. Check indexation immediately

Have you ever heard (or asked) the question: “Why aren’t we ranking for our brand name?”

To the website owner, it’s a head-scratcher. To the seasoned SEO, it’s an eye-roll.

Can you get organic traffic to your site if it doesn’t show up in Google search? No.

I love it when complex problems are simplified at a higher level. Sergey Stefoglo at Distilled wrote an article that broke down the complex process of a technical SEO audit into two buckets: indexing and ranking.

The concept is that, instead of going crazy with a 239-point checklist with varying priorities, you sit back and ask the first question: Are the pages on our site indexing?

You can get those answers pretty quickly with a quick site search directly in Google.

What to do: Type site:{yoursitename.com} into Google search and you’ll immediately see how many pages on your site are ranking.

site-moz.png

What to ask:

  • Is that approximately the amount of pages that we’d expect to be indexing?
  • Are we seeing pages in the index that we don’t want?
  • Are we missing pages in the index that we want to rank?

What to do next:

  • Go deeper and check different buckets of pages on your site, such as product pages and blog posts
  • Check subdomains to make sure they’re indexing (or not)
  • Check old versions of your site to see if they’re mistakenly being indexed instead of redirected
  • Look out for spam in case your site was hacked, going deep into the search result to look for anything uncommon (like pharmaceutical or gambling SEO site-hacking spam)
  • Figure out exactly what’s causing indexing problems.

2. Robots.txt

Perhaps the single most damaging character in all of SEO is a simple “/” improperly placed in the robots.txt file.

Everybody knows to check the robots.txt, right? Unfortunately not.

One of the biggest offenders of ruining your site’s organic traffic is a well-meaning developer who forgot to change the robots.txt file after redeveloping your website.

You would think this would be solved by now, but I’m still repeatedly running into random sites that have their entire site blocked because of this one problem

What to do: Go to yoursitename.com/robots.txt and make sure it doesn’t show “User-agent: * Disallow: /”.

Here’s a fancy screenshot:

Screenshot 2017-01-04 17.58.30.png

And this is what it looks like in Google’s index:

2-robots-1.png

What to do next:

  • If you see “Disallow: /”, immediately talk to your developer. There could be a good reason it’s set up that way, or it may be an oversight.
  • If you have a complex robots.txt file, like many ecommerce sites, you should review it line-by-line with your developer to make sure it’s correct.

3. Meta robots NOINDEX

NOINDEX can be even more damaging than a misconfigured robots.txt at times. A mistakenly configured robots.txt won’t pull your pages out of Google’s index if they’re already there, but a NOINDEX directive will remove all pages with this configuration.

Most commonly, the NOINDEX is set up when a website is in its development phase. Since so many web development projects are running behind schedule and pushed to live at the last hour, this is where the mistake can happen.

A good developer will make sure this is removed from your live site, but you must verify that’s the case.

What to do:

  • Manually do a spot-check by viewing the source code of your page, and looking for one of these:
    4-noindex.png
  • 90% of the time you’ll want it to be either “INDEX, FOLLOW” or nothing at all. If you see one of the above, you need to take action.
  • It’s best to use a tool like Screaming Frog to scan all the pages on your site at once

What to do next:

  • If your site is constantly being updated and improved by your development team, set a reminder to check this weekly or after every new site upgrade
  • Even better, schedule site audits with an SEO auditor software tool, like the Moz Pro Site Crawl

4. One version per URL: URL Canonicalization

The average user doesn’t really care if your home page shows up as all of these separately:

But the search engines do, and this configuration can dilute link equity and make your work harder.

Google will generally decide which version to index, but they may index a mixed assortment of your URL versions, which can cause confusion and complexity.

Moz’s canonicalization guide sums it up perfectly:

For SEOs, canonicalization refers to individual web pages that can be loaded from multiple URLs. This is a problem because when multiple pages have the same content but different URLs, links that are intended to go to the same page get split up among multiple URLs. This means that the popularity of the pages gets split up.”

It’s likely that no one but an SEO would flag this as something to fix, but it can be an easy fix that has a huge impact on your site.

What to do:

  • Manually enter in multiple versions of your home page in the browser to see if they all resolve to the same URL
  • Look also for HTTP vs HTTPS versions of your URLs — only one should exist
  • If they don’t, you’ll want to work with your developer to set up 301 redirects to fix this
  • Use the “site:” operator in Google search to find out which versions of your pages are actually indexing

What to do next:

  • Scan your whole site at once with a scalable tool like Screaming Frog to find all pages faster
  • Set up a schedule to monitor your URL canonicalization on a weekly or monthly basis

5. Rel=canonical

Although the rel=canonical tag is closely related with the canonicalization mentioned above, it should be noted differently because it’s used for more than resolving the same version of a slightly different URL.

It’s also useful for preventing page duplication when you have similar content across different pages — often an issue with ecommerce sites and managing categories and filters.

I think the best example of using this properly is how Shopify’s platform uses rel=canonical URLs to manage their product URLs as they relate to categories. When a product is a part of multiple categories, there are as many URLs as there are categories that product is a part of.

For example, Boll & Branch is on the Shopify platform, and on their Cable Knit Blanket product page we see that from the navigation menu, the user is taken to https://www.bollandbranch.com/collections/baby-blankets/products/cable-knit-baby-blanket.

But looking at the rel=canonical, we see it’s configured to point to the main URL:

<link  href="https://www.bollandbranch.com/products/cable-knit-baby-blanket" />

And this is the default across all Shopify sites.

Every ecommerce and CMS platform comes with a different default setting on how they handle and implement the rel=canonical tag, so definitely look at the specifics for your platform.

What to do:

  • Spot-check important pages to see if they’re using the rel=canonical tag
  • Use a site scanning software to list out all the URLs on your site and determine if there are duplicate page problems that can be solved with a rel=canonical tag
  • Read more on the different use cases for canonical tags and when best to use them

6. Text in images

Text in images — it’s such a simple concept, but out in the wild many, many sites are hiding important content behind images.

Yes, Google can somewhat understand text on images, but it’s not nearly as sophisticated as we would hope in 2017. The best practice for SEO is to keep important text not embedded in an image.

Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed that it’s unlikely Google’s crawler…

Get more information about this news here: Read More