30 December 2019
Search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial for anyone who wants their website to rank high on Google or other search engines. And honestly, who doesn't want that? Organic traffic is, after all, the best source of traffic you could hope to have on your website. But did you know that beyond the keywords you choose, how you use them, how many headings you have, and other on-page SEO techniques, there are technical problems that could limit your success? Here are some of the most common such technical issues and ideas on how you can avoid them.
The short advice on how to avoid this is, don't copy from someone else! Or if you must - for definitions or other things that cannot be rephrased, then give proper credit. Duplicate content isn't an issue only when you copy an entire blog post. It can become an issue if you just copy paragraphs or even phrases. Why is this such a problem? Because when there are several pages with identical content, it becomes hard for search engines to properly rank each of them. The result? A lower rank for those pages.
Another common technical problem that will sabotage your SEO success is the lack of an XML sitemap. Without it, Google will not be able to properly crawl your website and index it correctly. You need to create one ASAP! If you use a common CMS, like Wordpress, you can install a plugin that will quickly create a sitemap for you.
When your website is indexed correctly, it will come up when you search for its name. If it doesn't, there might be a problem with indexation. To check, simply search on Google for "site:yourdomain.com". If the number of results matches the number of pages of your website, indexation is correct. Otherwise, there might be some mistakes to fix. Start by adding your URL to Google, otherwise, it will never find out about it. Make sure you have a site map and that the robots.txt file isn't missing.
Broken links might happen every now and then. But when you have too many of them, when users constantly get to 404 errors, it causes a bigger bounce rate and decreases session duration. Both of these things have a negative impact on SEO. For smaller sites, you can try to keep track of any changes you bring to any URLs. Alternatively, several tools can help you find any broken links.
A meta description is a short text that summarizes what the page is about. It is also the text that shows up below the title when your page appears in searches. If that text is missing, search engines will usually grab the first part of your page, which is not ideal. The meta description should also be SEO optimized, just like the rest of the text. A quick SEO audit will show all the pages on your site that are missing this feature.
The speed with which your page loads is important not only for user retention but also for SEO purposes in general. Many people make the mistake of focusing only on content and never on the actual page speed. You should also consider that just because a page has a good loading speed on Desktop, on one browser, it might not have the same speed on mobile. So how to increase loading speed? Focus on optimizing images on each page, use caching and make sure compression is enabled.
Since December 2018, mobile-first indexing represents over half of the results showed by Google. This means that for good SEO results you must optimize your website for mobile. So make sure all meta-data is updated and add structured data to your mobile pages.
The ALT tags are, in short, the description of the image that search engines see. They don't look at the title or the caption, they will look for the ALT tag. If that's missing, images are overlooked by search engines entirely. This is why it's important not only to use these tags but also to use the keywords you want to rank for.
Search engines prioritize informative websites. And the way they measure this is through the length of the text. Content which is over 300 words is considered good SEO practice, but to maximize results, you should probably aim for around 1000 words or more. It all depends on the type of website you run, of course.
But the length of the text, in general, is not the only concern. You should pay attention to the text to HTML ratio. In short, this means the site is poorly coded and there's a lot of backend code that users are not seeing, but that takes time to load.
If you've paid attention, you might have noticed that for many sites typing "thissiteaddress.com" and "www.thissiteaddress.com" will lead you to the same page. This can seem convenient at first, but in reality, Google is wasting time indexing multiple versions of the same page, thus decreasing your website's visibility.
How to know if your site has this issue? Perform a Google search for "site:yourdomain.com" and check the results that come up. Make sure the pages that appear duplicate truly lead to the same destination. Also, make sure to check what happens when you use HTTPS versus when you don't. Ideally, you want to avoid users ending up on the non-secured version, even if the content is the same. If you encounter such issues and set up a 301 redirect.
Though the usual recommendation when it comes to on-page links is "as many as possible", that's not always good SEO practice. Make sure to only add relevant links, that bring value to your content. Also, have a proper text to links ration, don't add a link every other word. Make it about your content, not about what other websites you can link to.
SEO is not difficult to master, but you should be focusing on more than just text. Simple mistakes can take away from your efforts and result in lower rankings, higher bounce rates, and fewer visitors. While these issues are not easy to spot by beginners, this list hopefully gave you a good idea of where to start.
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