What do you think of when you hear the phrase “technical SEO”?
The opening of “The Beginners Guide to Technical SEO” by Ahrefs pretty much sums up for me:
“Technical SEO is the most important part of SEO until it isn’t. Pages need to be crawlable and indexable to even have a chance at ranking, but many other activities will have minimal impact compared to content and links.”
That’s why we lead with content as an engine for growth while recommending technical SEO as a complimentary service (if necessary) to ensure that content can be crawled and indexed.
That doesn’t mean we don’t encounter technical SEO issues that require fixing.
Since we work with many different kinds of websites across various content management systems (CMSs), we consistently see many of the same issues. That includes WordPress, WebFlow, Craft CMS, Shopify, and more.
All of these systems have their nuances and quirks when it comes to building an SEO-friendly website. If built thoughtfully on one of these platforms, your website could have a rock-solid technical SEO foundation that only requires a little maintenance from time to time.
If done poorly, you may constantly be “swimming upstream,” battling technical issues that appear to have a significant impact. However, there are few ways to prove or validate that those issues hurt your website or business.
Nonetheless, you’ve still gotta fix them.
First things first, what is technical SEO?
Technical SEO refers to a specific practice within the SEO function that focuses on optimizing critical elements of your website to improve search engine crawling and indexation (mentioned above).
Generally, the following three areas tend to have the most significant impact on your website's ability to be crawled and indexed:
- Website design and structure
- Website speed
Of course, you’re only scratching the surface of technical SEO with these core areas, but generally going beyond here becomes trickier to understand prioritization and ROI.
Technical SEO issues are inevitable
The reality is, at some point in your company’s growth journey, technical SEO issues will arise. For many companies, it’s pretty common that these issues are ignored until they become a bigger, more glaring problem for the website and business overall.
Common reasons for this:
- Not properly resourcing/staffing early on
- Not understanding how to prioritize issues
- Not understanding the impact of resolving issues
Whatever the reason is, it’s important to understand that you should only focus on issues that you know will have an impact on performance and filter out the noise that comes with technical SEO audits.
Hot take: Trust Google to identify SEO issues
Identifying SEO issues is actually quite simple. Resolving those issues can be the trickier part.
But one of, if not the best, tools for identifying common technical SEO Issues is Google Search Console.
Google Search Console has specific reports that will surface critical issues related to things that Google themselves has said contribute significantly to performance issues.
There’s a common perspective amongst SEO professionals not to trust Google when they release these reports or announce that you should focus your efforts in specific areas.
I can tell you firsthand that it’s a bad idea to ignore announcements/directions.
Focus on these 3 common technical SEO issues
Since we work with SaaS businesses across various growth stages, we’ve encountered many technical SEO issues across platforms.
The most common that we see have an impact on performance can quickly be surfaced via Google Search Console.
These are three of the most common issues we see that are easy to prevent and manage as your business grows over time.
- Your website is too slow
- Your website is not mobile-friendly
- You have “duplicate” or “similar” content
I’ve also provided some resources to help you and your web developer investigate and resolve these issues.
1. Your website is too slow
Having a website that loads fast is critical to the overall user experience.
For businesses that are ultimately driving their target audience to a conversion, every second can contribute to a significant drop in conversion rates, loss in search rankings, increased bounce rate, and more.
One of the most common culprits contributing to slow load times is a metric known as the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP).
“The Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) metric reports the render time of the largest image or text block visible within the viewport, relative to when the page started loading.”
Google Search Console will flag URLs impacted by LCP performance issues within the “Core Web Vitals” report.
If you’re experiencing a website with slow load times, this is a great place to start technical optimization as you will likely see a more significant performance improvement.
You can also test the speed of your website via Google’s PageSpeed Insights, which will provide you with a similar report.
Resources that will help your Dev team fix page speed issues
Here are a few additional resources to help you dig into your page speed issues, LCP score, and more.
- How to Optimize Your Site for Google's Core Web Vitals (Education) - Kinsta’s excellent resource detailing how to optimize for all of Google’s Core Web Vitals
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) (Education) - Google Developers detailed documentation on LCP specifically
- PageSpeed Insights (Tool) - Google’s free tool that helps audit page speed issues across mobile and desktop
- Lighthouse - Chrome Developers (Tool) - Lighthouse is an open-source tool for Chrome, created by Google, to help audit and resolve a variety of performance issues
2. Your website is not mobile-friendly
In March of 2021, Google rolled out mobile-first indexing 100% across the internet. This was a major milestone as it meant that Google would index and rank content based on the mobile experience of a given website.
“Mobile-first indexing means Google predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. Historically, the index primarily used the desktop version of a page's content when evaluating the relevance of a page to a user's query. Since the majority of users now access Google Search with a mobile device, Google primarily crawls and indexes pages with the smartphone agent going forward.”
This should come as no surprise, as mobile market share has risen to ~54% as of June, 2022.
There are many ways to improve the mobile user experience, of course. But if you focus on improving your scores across the following three areas, you’ll be able to make a meaningful improvement.
- Text to small to read
- Clickable elements to close together
- Viewport not set
Google Search Console breaks down the user experience in a few different reports. These issues are surfaced within the “Mobile Usability” report and can be easily diagnosed and fixed.
When you’ve successfully fixed all issues impacting the mobile user experience, you could see a report like this:
Resources that will help your Dev team improve your mobile user experience
Here are a few additional resources to help you understand how to improve the mobile experience as well as tools for auditing mobile performance.
- Mobile SEO: The Definitive Guide (Education) - Huge resource from Backlinko that walks you through every aspect of mobile SEO and how to optimize your mobile user experience
- Mobile-First Indexing: What You Need to Know (Education) - Great post from resource that explains all aspects of MFI
- Mobile-Friendly Test - Google Search Console (Tool) - GSC’s simple tool for quickly understanding if a page is mobile-friendly or not
- Test My Site - Think with Google (Tool) - A more robust tool from Google that gives you mobile performance benchmarks along with directional tips on how to improve performance
3. You have “duplicate” or “similar” content
One of the more common misconceptions about duplicate content is that you will be “penalized” by Google if two or more pieces of identical or similar content are identified on your website.
A “penalization” is when Google manually enforces a punishment against your website. Many will interpret minor performance issues as a “penalty.” But in the case of duplicate content, it’s more likely that google’s algorithm doesn’t know exactly how to index and rank similar content, which is why we categorize this as a technical SEO issue and suggest prioritizing fixing any duplicate content you encounter.
This is also defined as “internal competition.”
You can quickly diagnose this via the Performance report in Google Search Console. Here, you’ll be able to identify which URLs are competing for the same terms. From there, you’ll be able to decide how you want to resolve those issues (e.g. content consolidation, properly canonical URL, etc.)
For step-by-step information on how to resolve those issues, we recommend reading the below post.
Recommended Reading: What Is Content Decay? How To Identify & Fix To Unlock Organic Growth
Resources that will help your marketing team resolve duplicate content issues
Here are a few additional resources to help you identify and resolve duplicate content issues.
- The Ultimate Guide to Duplicate Content & SEO (Education) - Sitebulb’s very detailed resource on duplicate content, tips for how to identify, fix and more
- Avoid creating duplicate content - Google Documentation (Education) - Another resource directly from Google documenting their guidelines on duplicate content
- Siteliner - Duplicate Content Checker (Tool) - Copyscape’s tool that can quickly identify duplicate content across your entire website
- Copyscape Plagiarism Checker - Copyscape (Tool) - The original tool from Copyscape that lets you search for copies of individual pages across the internet
Don’t let technical SEO issues hold your business back
Technical SEO can be an intimidating endeavor when you start to notice issues popping up on your website. It doesn’t have to be, though. With the right resources, you can identify and fix them easily.
If you think you’re website is being held back by technical SEO issues, let’s chat!