SEO is a funny beast. It can make or break- quite literally- your page ranking, and hamstring any other digital marketing attempt you make. Yet some of them are not the most instinctive fix, and site audits are an often-missed part of SEO optimization.
For those in the business of digital marketing, that shouldn’t happen. How can you avoid being part of the pack when it comes to SEO fixes?
Let’s take a closer look!
Google Page Experience
Before we begin, let’s talk about Page Experience. Google Page Experience is a set of signals used to measure how well each user who logs onto your site experiences your page.
As of August 2021, it has been rolled out to all mobile users globally, so not having the means to access it doesn’t mean that it’s not impacting your website. Google uses these page experience metrics to rank every URL in your site collection.
This makes running Google Search Console, through which you can access and evaluate your Google Page Experience audit, even more, important than ever.
Many of the SEO fixes we are about to look at will also be displayed through Google Page Experience, so make sure you are running this valuable SEO audit tool.
Using the pros
We’re going to dive into some technical details in this article, so let’s start off by saying that we fully acknowledge that some of these fixes are quite difficult to conceptualize unless you’re very familiar with SEO and how websites are built.
This is why we’ve seen a global boom in peer-to-peer SEO specialization over the last few years aimed not at the end client, but the digital marketing experts handling their sites. Even for marketers who work with SEO strategies daily, knowing every intricacy of the complex factors which contribute to SEO and page rank can be overwhelming. Even more so on the coding side, which requires in-depth knowledge of code too.
So, even if you feel you’re meant to be an ‘SEO expert’ as part of your daily work, realize there’s a reason many people just like you use the additional expertise of professional SEO services to help them provide the best possible service to their end.
So if it’s getting a little over your head, or you are unsure if any of these faults are impacting your SEO, don’t be afraid to reach out to professional developers and SEO experts to help, especially with coding matters that could easily break a site. It’s a subtle process, and sometimes you need the expertise, even if you yourself are in the digital marketing field.
What’s the difference between fixes and optimization?
Now that’s out the way, let’s look at another key difference. We’ve looked before at how to optimize for SEO. Optimizing your website and using best practices for SEO is, obviously, ideal. It’s become one of the keys focuses for digital marketing. How do they differ from SEO ‘fixes’ however? It’s a subtle difference, and there’s a lot of argument for overlap, so don’t get too caught up in it.
But SEO optimization aims to make your page the best it can possibly be, specifically to boost its ranking against other quality pages. That’s your marketing strategy, right there.
SEO fixes are a critical part of ensuring your page counts as quality in the first place, by removing things that will actively drag it down. That’s less about bolstering the brand tactics than it is about solid backend web development.
What SEO fixes should I know?
So what technical SEO fixes should you be aware of? Let’s dive in.
1. Lacking a Site Map and Robots.txt
We know that an SEO optimization strategy involves creating a logical and flowing site structure that feels good to humans as well as looks good to bots.
This logical structure should always be backed up with an XML site map. This helps Google find, and correctly index, your webpage. Otherwise, depending on search terms and the popularity of some of your pages, it can incorrectly begin to rank subpages above your key pages. A sitemap also allows you to prevent pages you don’t want index from being crawled by bots through the robots.txt instructions. Make sure your sitemap prioritizes your best quality pages.
XML sitemaps are simple to create. Many free WordPress plugins can assist. So can many other site hosts. Once you’ve created yours, you can upload it through the Google Search Console for your site. If you have a particularly large site- think over 50,000 URLs, use a dynamic XML sitemap.
Did you know that both missing robots.txt files and incorrectly set up ones are big SEO red flags? Many people don’t. Type the site address into the bad and add /robots.txt. If you see a message like this one:
User-agent: * Disallow: /
That’s trouble you need to fix right there. Maybe there’s a reason your developer has chosen to do that, but you need to understand why. It’s also worth sitting with your developer, on more complex sites, and going through the site map page by page to avoid SEO penalties down the line.
To test your sitemap, do the same with /sitemap.xml. Either you’ll see your sitemap, or you’ll get to a 404 error page and know you need to take action.
2. No HTTPS Security
As concerns like data privacy become larger and larger in the online world, proper HTTPS security is becoming more and more important. Google Chrome, for example, will display a grey (or worse, red) background on your URL to show the site as insecure, and it’s getting common for people to backtrack to the SERP instead of continuing.
The fix is easy. You need an SSL certificate from a certificate authority. Purchase and install on the site. Boom.
3. NOINDEX set for Meta Robots
NOINDEX is subtly different from blocking a page from indexing through robots.txt. Rather, it shows the page isn’t as important to search engines. An appropriate use, for example, would be blog categories over multiple pages.
Incorrectly configured, it’s an SEO killer. It will pull all of a specific page configuration from Google’s index. It’s used a lot while parts of a website are being developed, especially for larger sites. This prevents the page from being incorrectly crawled while under construction and damaging your SEO optimization at that point. But if it’s never actually removed, it will forever pull your site into Google obscurity.
You can only spot this one by diving into the page code, either via your backend host servers or via ‘view page source’ in your browser, and searching for NOINDEX or NOFOLLOW tags in the HTML itself. There are some third-party sites that will help check for it, too.
If you find them inappropriately, the fix is to have them removed from the source code, so you will need your developer to fix it.
4. Multiple Homepage Versions
Did you know that if you run multiple URL versions (i.e mypage.com and www.mypage.com go to the same page) Google might index both URL versions as your homepage? This dilutes your page authority and visibility in search. But, of course, you still want the convenience to users of all possible versions
This can be checked through using site:mypage.com to pull what pages have been indexed, and whether they are pulling from multiple versions of your homepage URL. If you discover they are, the issue is that you don’t have a canonical domain set up in your Google Search Console. So get that done. To fix the damage that’s already been done, it’s going to need 301 redirects.
5. Rel=Canonical is incorrect
In a related concept, rel= canonical is quite important if you have a site with very similar or even duplicate content, something that can easily happen perfectly legitimately on eCommerce sites. Even a dynamically rendered category or product page can look like a duplicate of Google’s bots. A good rel=Canonical tag will tell the search engine an ‘original’ page that’s of most importance, and that the others are subsidiaries. So very similar to the canonical URL concept.
Of course, on the wrong page, or if it’s not existent and you run intentionally duplicated content, it’s a mess and your SEO will suffer for it. Again, it’s going to make searching the source code to find this one and will be fixed through the same route. Google has a guide to this you may want to check out.
6. Deliberate Duplicate Content
As both personalization and dynamically created websites become more used, alongside content management systems, we’re encountering more and more issues with Google perceiving things like duplicate content which need to be there. This leads to crawler confusion and SEO pain. Even having the same content, but in multiple languages, can be an SEO issue.
This doesn’t have an easy one-time fix. However, there’s a holistic set of things you need to do. Rel=Canonical we’ve already mentioned. Make sure your site maps and other site configurations are correct. Use hreflang tags correctly if you offer content in multiple languages. You can use 301 redirects, top-level domain strategies, and, of course, simply reduce boilerplate content, too.
7. Alt Tags are Missing
When images break, your alt tags are supposed to step into the gap. In fact, you’ll see them recommended as an SEO optimization strategy a lot. They serve to help tell the bot what the image is, which also helps your images get separately linked as Google Images and so on. It’s a simple way to give a page’s SEO a good boost and enhance your site experience too.
It’s worth noting that broken and missing alt tags, on the other hand, drag SEO down a lot. So make sure you don’t only optimize your alt tags, but that you ensure you didn’t break or miss any, too.
Get into the SEO audit habit
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that SEO best practices, Google algorithms, and what will penalize your site changes rapidly. So never view your SEO processes as a one-and-done deal. It’s a good idea to set up a regular time each month, or at least each quarter, to go through your websites and check for SEO issues that need fixing. You will have been introducing new content, altering existing content, and best practices may have changed.
After all, websites are meant to grow. A regular audit process (don’t forget Google Page Experience) helps make sure your hard-won SEO progress is never reversed by some insignificant detail you thought was resolved that never was.
And there you have it! As well as SEO optimization, remember that fixing bad SEO is just as important. Once you have an established SEO audit routine in place, it will be considerably easier to leverage your optimization and branding strategies, be it for your own marketing efforts or your clients.
Author’s Bio: Tevai is good at two things: creating compelling content through her work at Crystal Zebra Bespoke Writing Solutions, and consuming caffeine. When not crafting copy that drives her client’s campaigns, she can be found enjoying the world with her Lhasa Apsos.