Common SEO Issues

A majority of the issues flagged by SEO scanners, such as Moz, can be addressed in the admin via the Yoast SEO on a sitewide basis or page by page.  Below are common issues that you may see on reports, what they mean, and how to resolve them.

Technical Issues

Technical SEO issues such as indexing and redirects should be fixed first since those often have a big impact on user experience and SEO rankings. 

  • Results in a 4xx error

    • This is bad for site visitors, who may see ''404 Error Page Not Found'' instead of the content they are seeking. If external sites are linking to a bad redirect, you may also be missing out on valuable link equity. 

    • Action: Update your redirect to point to a relevant (and working) URL.  Or update/remove links that point to an external 4xx page.

  • Results in a 5xx error

  • When your server is unable to serve requests, search engines won't be able to crawl your page in order to rank it in search results. Often such issues are one-time or intermittent, but if they are occurring with any regularity, they should be investigated and fixed promptly.

  • Action: Fixing 5xx errors may require further investigation to identify the cause and solution. It's also possible your site is blocking the crawler.

  • Meta noindex warning

    • This tells search engines not to index your page, which prevents your page from being found in search engines. Depending on your page or circumstance, this may not be an issue that needs fixing.

    • Action:  Review pages marked as noindex and determine if they should continue to be suppressed from search engines and update accordingly.

  • Missing Canonical Tag

    • Each page on your site should have a canonical tag with a canonical URL for search engines to know which content should be shown to searchers and prevent duplicate content issues.

    • Action: Check the HTML Head of your page to ensure it contains a string of code which looks like this: <link rel="canonical" href="" />

  • X-Robots noindex warnings

    • This tells search engines not to index your page, which prevents your page from being found in search engines. Depending on your page or circumstance, this may not be an issue that needs fixing.

    • Action: If you determine that the links on this page should be indexed, remove 'X-Robots-Tag: noindex' from your HTTP header. This can also appear as: 'X-Robots-Tag: googlebot: noindex', or 'X-Robots-Tag: otherbot: noindex, nofollow.

  • Redirect chain issues 

    • Redirect chains are often caused when multiple redirect rules pile up, such as redirecting a 'www' to non-www URL or a non-secure page to a secure/https: page. Be particularly careful with 301/302 chains in any combination, as the 302 in the mix could disrupt the ability of the 301 to pass link equity. Every redirect loses link equity and offers a poor user experience, which will negatively impact your rankings.

    • Action: Look for any recurring chains that could be rewritten as a single rule. 

  • Page is setup as temporary redirects

    • 302, or 307 redirects will cause search engine crawlers to treat the redirect as temporary and not pass any link equity (ranking power) to other pages. In most cases, it's best to avoid these redirect strategies.

    • Action:  Consider replacing your temporary redirect with a permanent 301 redirect, which passes 90-99% of link equity (ranking power) to the target page. In most instances, 301 is the best strategy for implementing redirects on a website. Redirects can be managed via the Redirection plugin on your site.

  • Redirecting to 4xx

    • Instead of seeing the page, visitors may see a "404 Error Page Not Found" page. This is not an optimal user experience.

    • Action: Make sure no internal links on your site are broken. To fix external links to your site, try contacting the linking site's owner and asking them to fix or update the link. To fix broken links: open a text editor (or your web development program) and load the HTML file for the page with the 4xx error. Correct link typos and delete links that no longer have pages.

  • Slow load time

    • Pages that don't load quickly enough offer a poor user experience; faster pages both rank and convert better.

    • Action: There are a number of things you can do to increase the speed of your page including (but not limited to): file compression, reducing redirects, and optimizing code or images.

  • Page does not have an H1 tag

    • This is a technical issue because WordPress should automatically apply an H1 tag to the title of the page. 

    • Header tags help search engines and searchers quickly determine what your page is about. When search results are clicked on, the searcher expects to see a closely matching headline on the page they visit. Adding an H1 may decrease bounce-rate and improve rankings.

    • Action: Use one topically relevant H1 tag on every content page.

  • URLs too long (75+ characters)

    • This issue is often related to page titles being too long. It is the lowest priority issue since fixing other issues may also address this one.

    • URLs describe a site or page to visitors and search engines. Keeping them relevant, compelling, and accurate is key to ranking well.

    • Action: Choose shorter, readable URLs with descriptive keywords that are under 75 characters. When possible, place content on the same subdomain to preserve authority. Example:

Content Issues

Some content issues can be corrected in bulk by adjusting the settings in the Yoast plugin. Other issues will need to be manually corrected. The best method for fixing these issues will depend on the issue itself, but we recommend starting by adjusting the settings in Yoast, and then doing manual cleanup of any remaining issues.

  • Multiple titles

    • While not necessarily a proven issue with search engines, having multiple title tags on a page can confuse our crawler and other third-party tools.

    • Action: Please remove the additional title tag.

  • Missing titles

    • All of your pages should have title tags that accurately summarize the content on the page. They are critical to both user experience and SEO.

  • Action: We recommend that you keep your title to 60 characters or less to ensure that customers see your full title. Titles should be unique per page, and include the top keywords for how your primary audience is searching for your content. The optimal format we've found is: Primary Keyword - Secondary Keyword | Brand Name.

  • Title that is too short

    • A really short title tag (especially one less than 10 characters) may not sufficiently describe the page to the user, and likely does not include relevant keywords for search engines.

    • Action:  Use a title length of 10-60 characters to ensure that customers see your full title. 

  • Page title is outside the 30-60 character ideal range

    • If your title is too long, it will not display properly and may limit your ability to attract customers to your site. Google typically displays the first 50-60 characters of a page title depending on the width of the characters. The display actually maxes out at 600 pixels and indicates an ellipsis ("...") if the title is too long to fit in its entirety. 

    • Action:  Limit your title to between 10 and 60 characters or modify the characters selected to keep it under 600 pixels. (Example: use less "W"s and more "i"s or "l"s)

  • Duplicate titles 

    • Title tags should be unique on each page of your site for the optimal user experience and to avoid replacement text that may not provide the same incentive to click as a custom-written tag.  It is okay for title tags to contain similar content like brand names and keywords, but make sure they reflect what is unique to that page. 

    • Action:  Review and update duplicate titles accordingly.

  • Meta description less than the ideal length of 120-160 characters.

  • When your meta description is too short, your click-through-rate may suffer.

  • Action:  Update your meta description to the ideal length of 55-300 characters.

  • Description that is too long

    • When your meta description is too long, it may get cut off by search engines and your click-through-rate could suffer.

  • Action:  Reduce the length of your meta description. The ideal length is 120-160 characters.

  • Missing meta descriptions 

    • Meta descriptions are a very important factor in improving click-through rates on search engine results pages. In the absence of a meta description, social media platforms and search engines will pull in the first matching text they find on a page, which may not be interesting for users.

    • Action:  Add meta descriptions for key content that employs keywords in an intelligent and compelling way to encourage a searcher to click. Optimally, the length of your description should be 120-160 characters.  Documentation is available here.

  • Thin content

    • 50 words or less on a page rarely fulfills user intent and search engines thus see it as a low quality page, which will impact rankings.

    • Action: There's no one-size-fits-all fix for improving thin content. The best solution depends on what the page is intended to do. You may want to add more unique and helpful content that enhances the user experience, or consider adding a 301 redirect or a nofollow if there's a better page to point to.

  • Duplicate content 

    • Search engines may not know which pages are best to include in their index and which to prioritize in rankings. This may lead to a decrease in traffic or even cause your page to be filtered out of search results.

    • Action:  Consider adding 301 redirects to direct duplicate pages to the one you want people to visit, adding the rel=canonical tag to your canonical (most authoritative) page, or by using the Parameter Handling Tool in Google Search Console.

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