Developing a well-structured and great-looking website can help a company provide its target audience with a great online experience. However, without a strong search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, a great website won’t be readily found by potential customers. If you are either in the process of creating a website or have already created one, it is important that you understand what potential problems within your technology strategy may be impacting your site.
While search engine optimization is not necessary when creating a portal, it will still largely impact B2B marketing, B2B ecommerce and websites for healthcare, education, government and more types of organizations. SEO can have an especially large impact on B2C marketing sites, B2C ecommerce and non-profit websites, as these rely on target audiences finding them via search engines. Without proper optimization, well-crafted websites can go unfound and outranked by competitors.
The following SEO issues may affect your site, but most of these problems can be corrected when equipped with the right information. Take the time to see if your site is running into these complications and how their related solutions can be applied to your online presence.
Frequent SEO issues that can be encountered on a website can be plotted on two axes: Warning - Severe and Technical - Content. When mapping out your SEO problems, consider where they fall on this grid in order to better understand when and how you should take action.
The following four types of problems may be affecting your sites and vary in both importance and effects. As such, consider whether your online presence is currently experiencing these issues when developing a plan to improve your SEO strategy.
The following issues are caused by technical missteps, but have a less immediate negative impact on a website’s SEO. However, these can harm a site over the long term.
Problem: 302 Redirects Instead of 301 - Programmers will need to decide whether 301 redirects, which indicate a permanent move, or 302 redirects, which is often used for temporary purposes, are right for what is happening with their sites. A 301 redirect will be right in the event that a page will be permanently replaced, redirecting all traffic to the new correct landing page, while a 302 may be more appropriate when a site’s content is being updated and edited. Choosing the right one will keep your page’s search rankings intact despite the changes being made.
- Solution: Determine the type of move that has happened with your site content and redirect as necessary. Try to prevent switching redirect type by thinking long term.
Problem: Overly Dynamic URLs - Variables and parameters that help to produce URLs may create countless iterations of URLS for the same page, leading to duplicate content and a loss of link value for landing pages.
- Solution: Fix issues with redirects that use 200 instead of 302, create good looking URLs when possible and always tell search engines what your parameters do.
Problem: Missing Canonical Tags - In the event that your website generates the same or similar content on multiple URLs to create dynamic pages, search engines may become confused during crawling and lead to poor search engine results for your site content.
- Solution: Canonical tags can group these multiple URLs together and assign a master version, which will be crawled by engines to rank appropriately for target keywords, leading visitors to dynamic content when appropriate after landing on the page.
These issues also have a less immediate and severe impact on a website’s SEO, but result from how content is created and implemented on a website.
Problem: Bad Search Presentation - If your content is displaying poorly in search results, it can prevent searchers from clicking on your link, despite it ranking for the correct terms. Issues that lead to poor presentation include titles or title tags that are too long, programmatically created titles and missing meta descriptions.
- Solution: Create a page title attribute that content creators can control and consider giving control over open graph tags as well.
Problem: Too Many Title or Meta Description Tags - It may be tempting to apply as many title and meta description tags as possible in order to give your content a wide scope, but overtagging will not help your site’s SEO.
- Solution: Keep the number of tags limited and stay focused on the specific keywords of your content. Descriptions should give visitors an accurate overview of your page’s content without being longer than 160 characters.
Problem: URL Too Long - Either due to being automatically generated or manually created, overly long URLs can prevent your content from properly targeting and ranking for your designated keywords.
- Solution: Create standards for URLs, including limiting the number of subdomains used, excluding dynamic parameters when possible, keeping it readable by human beings and trying to stay under 100 characters if possible.
Problem: Using Meta Keywords - Meta keywords should not be part of a modern SEO strategy. However, many companies still use them in their pages, believing that it will be the key to ranking well, rather than effectively optimizing the page content itself.
- Solution: Let go of using meta keywords in your SEO strategy and instead create a strategy based around focus keywords and content optimization in order to rank for terms relevant to you and your target audience.
Severe Technical Issues
There are several severe website technical issues that may find their root in initial programming or various updates. In either case, these problems can cause severe interference with a site’s SEO and should be addressed as soon as possible.
Problem: 4xx and 5xx Errors - These errors occur when either the client has caused an error on a site (4xx) or when a server was failed to fulfill a request (5xx), but while it may be impossible to completely prevent these from occurring, a high volume will affect both SEO performance and user experience.
- Solution: Identify your top offenders and decide if they are valid or not. In addition, identify the source of the issue, use 301 redirects to relevant content, fix bad references and leave the rest as 404.
Problem: Poorly Written Robots.txt Files - A robots.txt file acts as a website gatekeeper that decides which bots and web crawlers can enter. Poorly written files can cause crawler accessibility problems and may negatively affect site traffic.
- Solution: Cross check web traffic with robots.txt file updates to see if issues are being created, then consider using Google Webmaster Tools’ robots.txt Tester to scan and analyze your file for issues.
Severe Content Issues
Whether the issues are present within a site’s content strategy or are the result of creators being unaware of certain issues they may cause when expanding a website, the following severe SEO content issues can interfere with a well-designed website’s optimization.
Problem: No/Non-Strategic Title Tags - Often, programmatically created pages can create ineffective page titles, which can be caused by placing the URL in the title tag.
- Solution: Consider changing how your programmatically created pages are generated regarding title tags or create a review process for your team to prevent complications after generation.
Problem: No/Too Many/Non-Strategic H1 Tags - Every page should have one H1 title tag, but errors in programming or a lack of strategy can lead to a lack of H1 tags, too many H1s or poorly picked H1 titles, which negatively impact optimization.
- Solution: Keep in mind that only one H1 tag should be used per page and create a strategy for headline usage that informs your programming and manual page creation.
What Tools Can Help You Solve Your Problems?
Now that you have identified your SEO issues, you will want to take effective action in order to prevent these problems from continuing to negatively affect your website. The following tools can be used for various issues.
- Google Search Console: This tool can help you to identify crawl issues, robots.txt problems and 4xx 5xx errors. Define parameters.
- Bing Webmaster Tools: While Google accounts for the vast majority of traffic, this tool provides the same help as Search Console, but for Bing.
- Screaming Frog: This SEO spider tool will crawl websites and identify issues quickly so that you can implement fixes for the issues highlighted in the above content.
- Facebook Open Graph Debugger: Make sure your content is displayed well through this tool to preview URLs in social networks.
- ELK Stack: A log management platform, this software stack can provide multiple useful tools and can find 4xx and 5xx errors in your site.
You may need to use all of the above-mentioned tools or only some of them, depending on the problems you are experiencing. However, they may all be useful in preventing future problems with your website. By understanding what can negatively impact your site and eliminating these issues, combined with efforts to strengthen your site's overall SEO, websites can have a far stronger chance at ranking for the desired keywords.
Discover the Benefits of Strong SEO
Eliminating your SEO issues and strengthening your overall strategy will not necessarily immediately lead to massive amounts of traffic to a website. However, it will prevent the SEO efforts of your company and coworkers from being hampered. The first step is discovering these issues exist within your site, so make sure to take an in-depth look at your website’s technical and content-focused SEO efforts and begin the path to a stronger performing website today.