Whenever I take on a new client, I get a little bit excited about all the easy wins that come from fixing the most common technical SEO issues. In this blog post, I’ll be highlighting what these issues are, why they’re important, and how to utilize them.
The result from fixing technical SEO issues usually presents itself in the form of:
- Ranking for new keywords
- Improve ranking for existing keywords
- A faster website
- A website that is easier to use for both people and search engines
Poor Use Of Titles
The title of a page is not much different than looking at the cover of a book. If the title is vague or misleading, it won’t rank. The title should match the content. Oftentimes, people don’t know what to use for their page title, so they just put something simple.
Choosing an effective page title is about understanding the content presented on the page as well as doing some keyword research to understand what people would search to find that content. You need to pair a keyword to its search intent and see if it makes sense with the content on the page. If it does, then it should be used in the page title.
Poor Site Structure & Permalinks
Many website CMS (Content Management Systems) such as WordPress will automatically generate a permalink based on the title you’ve selected. This is how a lot of poor-quality URLs are created. Instead, URLs (or permalinks) should be crafted carefully at the time of the page’s creation.
For websites that have already made this mistake, some changes need to be made. This means mapping out the site’s structure, changing permalinks, and setting up the appropriate 301 redirects.
Fixing poor permalinks is a delicate process. When done wrong, it can tank a website’s traffic and rankings. A website’s rankings are based on data collected around a particular URL (or document). By changing the permalink, you are deleted the web address for a document, erasing it from existence.
Before any permalinks are changed:
- The entire website’s structure should be mapped out
- Each URL should be individually inspected for rankings and traffic
- All internal links should be documented
- Carefully select the keyword and structure of the new URL
This might sound like a lot of work, but tools like Ahrefs do most of this work for you. It should all be double-checked manually as you don’t want to rely entirely on a tool. Changing permalinks is similar to changing page titles, but requires surgical precision. Find the right keyword to use in each URL.
After any permalinks are changed:
- Document the old URL and the new URL
- Create a 301 redirect pointing from the old URL to the new URL
Even though we’re deleting a URL from existence, it doesn’t mean we have to lose it. By setting up a 301 redirect, we are signalling to search engines that this URL has been permanently moved to a new address. This will keep all the rankings and traffic of the old URL and begin building up new data for the new URL.
How a website is structured can make or break its search visibility. I like to use a visual example to explain site structure. Imagine you’re holding a book in your hand. It’s a thick book with hundreds of pages. When you open the book, you notice every single page looks exactly the same. There are no chapters, page numbers, or table of contents. You’ve been tasked to read this book and explain what it’s about.
Common site structure issues include:
- Exhausting crawl budget
- Orphaned pages
- Keyword cannibalization
This is no different from when a search engine visits your website. Without structure, it will have a hard time figuring out the context of your site. When a search engine reads a website, it’s called crawling.
Search engines give each website a crawl budget. This means how much time they’re allowed to spend scanning your website. A website with poor structure may not get scanned completely. A lot of pages can be missed.
Fixing site structure can be a big task as it involves mapping out each and every URL on a website. Then, each page needs to be individually considered for its importance to the website. And finally, it needs to be re-mapped to a new structure that is more usable for people and search engines.
There is no cookie-cutter solution for fixing a site’s structure. Each website is unique and its structure should be crafted carefully.
Poor Use Of Headers
People will often use headers as a way to style their web pages. It’s an easy way to create eye-catching blocks of text, but that’s not what they’re for. Headers are intended to split sections of content. When used incorrectly, a search engine won’t be able to draw the context of web pages.
Here are some common best practices for using headers:
- Only have one H1 header. It is typically used for the page’s title.
- Each subsequent header after H1 should be H2.
These two tips alone will help a webpage to be better understood. By using one H1 followed by subsequent H2 headers, you are essentially highlighting the page’s title topic and splitting subtopics into their own sections. This helps search engines quickly discover the context of a page.
- If a subtopic separated by an H2 header presents subtopics, you’ll need to split the subtopics further. This is done by simply using H3 headers (subtopics within a subtopic). The idea here is to create a perfectly structured hierarchy of topics and subtopics that can be quickly digested by a search engine.
- The same goes for creating H4, H5, and H6 headers. The deeper you explore subtopics, the deeper the hierarchy goes.
Poor Use Of Images
Image SEO has a lot of elements to consider. There are two major issues that are easy to fix and provide some big wins. Don’t sleep on image SEO.
The image file size is huge
Fixing image file size issues is easy, but it can be exhausting work. It’s common to find an image with a file size of 3 MB or higher. It’s also common to find a gallery page with dozens of images like this. There are optimization services that can change file formats and file sizes automatically, but this can also be done manually.
Download the images, change the file format and file size, then re-upload them and change the images used on the page. You can reduce loading times by 99% just by changing the image file format and size.
Not utilizing image alt tags
I’ve seen a client’s website rank for some great keywords simply because the keyword was included in the alt tag of an image. This works for two reasons.
First, image alt tags contribute to a page’s keyword density. For lots of keywords, they can rank by simply being mentioned on a page.
Second, the keyword has attribution to a piece of media on a webpage. This acts as somewhat of a “soft internal link”.
Poor Use of Internal Links
Internal links are praised by SEOs as being one of the most effective methods for improving keyword rankings. It’s easy, it’s free, and it’s proven to be effective.
Internal links work so well because they help search engines to draw additional context between web pages. In one Google patent, there is even a claim that internal links are more important for a web page than its title and URL combined. This is because it’s easy for a web page to identify itself, but without a referencing document, there is nothing to verify its identity.
Many web pages can be missed during a site crawl. This is usually the case of an orphan page (a page with no links pointing to it). Orphaned pages will not ever reach their full potential. This is why it’s important to document internal links when mapping a site’s structure.
Again, Ahrefs helps with finding orphaned pages.