If you manage or own a website, you’ve likely heard your fair share of spiels about getting better Google rankings, fixing your website SEO, or getting more links to your content. Most of the time, these types of outreach are easy to identify as spam from the get-go—they come in through website comments, are submitted via your website contact page, or land straight in your junk folder chock full of spelling and grammatical errors. Promises of guaranteed search rankings, tons of links and traffic, and other too-good-to-be-true offers can be tempting, even when our spam spidey senses are tingling.
But the truth is, SEO is not some magical, quick fix. It’s an involved and ongoing process, and technical SEO should be taken into account for any minor or major website updates, whether that’s the launch of an entirely new site, a re-skin of an existing site, or even just the addition of a few new pages. SEO works best when integrated into your website development and publishing process from the get-go rather than as an after-thought—think of it as catching and preventing potential problems before they happen versus trying to fix an issue later, when it’s causing you grief or losing you customers. Of course, just because you didn’t consider SEO from the beginning, that doesn’t mean you should toss it out as a lost cause—in fact, you may need it more than you know.
Why does it matter whether or not you have good website SEO? The short answer is because website SEO provides all the signals that search engines need to determine what your website’s pages are most relevant for, how to display them in search, how trustworthy they are, and how they stack up compared to other pages relevant for those same topics. On average, nearly 40% of website traffic originates as a Google search, so if your site isn’t showing up in search, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Even if you are showing up, how professional those search listings appear to the average user can gain or lose you customers in a heartbeat.
But SEO doesn’t stop at the search listings—in fact, that’s just the beginning. What happens when users actually click through to your site? Is it slow to load, unattractive to mobile users, or displaying a security warning?
We’ve worked with clients with websites ranging from one page to hundreds of thousands of pages, and while SEO obviously becomes more complex the larger a site is, there are a few website SEO issues we come across regularly.
Is your website secure?
One of the easiest things to check is whether or not your website is secure. To do this, just visit your site and check in the URL bar of the browser. If your website is secure, you should see a closed padlock icon and “HTTPS” at the beginning of your site’s URL. In essence, this means that any data traveling between your web browser and that website will be encrypted rather than sent in plain text. If your website isn’t running HTTPS, this is something that is fairly simple to fix through your hosting company.
How fast should your website load?
Website speed is a big issue—much bigger than many realize. With an abundance of technology comes an abundance of impatience. You’ve got three seconds. Yep, three measly seconds. Studies have shown that websites that take longer than three seconds to load lose over half their mobile visitors. In addition, Google’s bots only have so much time to spend on indexation; the longer your site takes to load, the higher the risk that Google will only index part of your website or webpage, which will almost certainly negatively impact your search rankings.
So, what impacts speed? It could be a number of things, from caching issues to a poor web host to overly large media files that need to load. Not sure what your website speed is? Run a quick check here.
Is your website mobile friendly?
Did you know that the number of mobile users is now higher than the number of desktop Internet users? Statista estimates that 52% of all traffic originates from mobile devices. So, if your website isn’t mobile friendly, that’s a big problem that will hurt you both in search rankings and conversions. A website with responsive design (that is, it adapts to whatever device the user is on) is a must. Not sure how your website looks on various devices? Check out Screenfly from Quirk Tools to see.
Is your content visible to Google (is it being indexed)?
It’s easy to assume that because you can see content, so can Google. But the truth is, Google needs to have permission to index your content—and sometimes it needs to be told that your content even exists. First, make sure your website has a visible, easily accessible, and regularly updated sitemap. Next, make sure your robots exclusion standard (robots.txt) is set to allow robots to crawl the website. Finally, submit your sitemap to Google in Google Search Console.
Do all your website links work?
The Internet changes constantly. New pages are published, old pages are taken down, website URLs change, and so on. Unfortunately, the links you put on your webpages don’t automatically get updated when these changes happen. Set up a regular schedule for auditing links on your website, ensuring that you spot and fix issues with dead links, broken links, redirects, or orphan pages.
Are you using data to evaluate your website’s success?
Finally, it is key to evaluate your website’s success using data. Do you have Google Analytics installed and Google Search Console enabled? If so, do you review them regularly to spot potential issues and gain insights into what’s working—and what’s not? Keeping an eye on the technical aspects of your website is critical to success. Google Search Console in particular will help you spot issues that could be negatively impacting your search presence, like 404 errors, indexation issues, website security problems, and mobile usability issues. Technical errors like this are usually one of the biggest focus areas when we conduct website audits; they can be time consuming and tedious to fix, but the end result is a much healthier, more user- and search-friendly website.
Making sure a website’s SEO is consistently on-point is critical, no matter the size of your website or how well-known your brand is. Unfortunately, it’s something that is often forgotten or falls by the wayside until serious issues emerge. Stay on top of your website’s technical SEO to get ahead of the curve, prevent problems before they happen, and give your brand its best chance at success.