When it comes to SEO, you’ve probably heard all about the importance of having engaging content well optimised for keywords.
But, often overlooked is the technical side of SEO, which encompasses all the work done behind the scenes to ensure a website is in tip-top shape when a search engine crawls and indexes it. This means that technical SEO is arguably even more important than creating and optimising content. After all, what good is it having great content if there’s a structural problem preventing that content from ranking well?
As an SEO team, we find new and complex technical problems all the time – mostly from an audit of a new client’s site. Very few sites are perfect – we often see glaring errors from the biggest brands. When a brand is so big that users flock to the site in their hundreds of thousands, a small dip in traffic is hardly noticed, but that small dip could be a symptom of a bigger, underlying issue. In this blog we highlight the main technical issues that hamper search performance of the biggest brands right down to start-ups.
1. Crazy canonicalisation
When you have content that can be accessed from different URLs, for example with dynamic breadcrumbs, canonical tags should be used to simply tell a search engine that these are all legitimate versions of one page.
Yet incorrectly set up canonicalisation is probably the most common technical SEO issue we come across; everything from canonical URLs missing the domain name, to the target URL not actually existing. When canonicalisation is set up incorrectly, it can lead to big duplicate content problems.
2. Dastardly duplicate content
This is a big one. There is sometimes a slight misunderstanding of what constitutes duplicate content. Fortunately, our Search Director , Simon, has written a great SEO’s guide to duplicate content to clear up any confusion. Simply put, duplicate content occurs when a webpage can render at multiple URLs, which can be detrimental to performance in search engines.
A great example of this is the BBC homepage, which renders at both http://www.bbc.co.uk and https://www.bbc.co.uk. The only difference between these two URLs is the security protocol, HTTP and HTTPS. Note that this only happens on the BBC homepage, all deeper pages are managed with 301 redirects from the HTTPS version to the HTTP version.
For any other site, having a homepage that renders at both HTTP and HTTPS protocols without any canonicalisation would be a huge problem. Fortunately for the BBC, the likelihood is that all organic traffic to the homepage is as a result of branded search queries. Their homepage doesn’t need to rank for any non-brand keywords and as such this isn’t a problem.
3. Ruffled redirects
Typically speaking, inbound links are still the biggest contributor to a website’s ability to rank well in the search engines. Therefore, if a page expires or is removed, it is important to retain any inbound link equity by redirecting it to a relevant page elsewhere on your site.
We’ve taken clients on previously with a huge amount of lost link equity due to broken inbound links. Correcting this simple error with a series of 301 redirects has taken their rankings from the deepest, darkest depths of the search engines and straight into the top ten.
Getting your technical SEO right is the key to ensuring that the great content on your site can be found online. One of the best ways to keep your site healthy is to set up a regular checking process, so that you can spot any new issues caused by changes and additions made to the site. This is especially important for businesses without a truly household-recognised brand, who are reliant on strong performance for non-brand keywords to drive traffic to their site.
If you’re worried about the technical health of your site, our team prides itself on finding and fixing issues in our technical SEO audits.