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

By Joe.Robison

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Posted by Joe.Robison

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.

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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.

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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:

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