Onsite SEO is ground zero for your SEO strategy. You might have a fantastic backlink profile, a thriving social media presence, and amiable ongoing relationships with other sources and publishers, but if your site isn’t properly optimized for search engines, you could suffer a lower domain authority and throttled ranks.
It’s often hard to notice when something’s off with your onsite optimization, because it isn’t something SEOs tend to visit frequently (the way they would a blog or link profile). Fortunately, onsite errors are easy to find if you know what you’re looking for, and even though it might take some time, they’re relatively easy to fix.
To keep your site in tip-top condition, scout for these 10 common onsite hiccups:
Duplicate content can sneak up on you; it’s usually the result of improper page structuring rather than deliberate copying and pasting. For example, if you have two versions of the same page, one with a URL of https:// and one with https://, Google could index that as two instances of the same content. You can generate a list of these instances in Webmaster Tools. When you locate an error, you can either delete the page in question, or add canonical tags to make sure Google knows which version of the page it should index.
Title tags are one of Google’s favorite means of analyzing the purpose and function of your site. If you’re missing any, it could cost you some serious ranking points. Odds are, you’ve got your home page and main navigation pages on lockdown, but what about those other, less popular pages? Use Webmaster Tools again to check for any missing title tags, and while you’re at it, look for any duplicates. Every page should have a unique tag.
Missing descriptions are the “sister problem” of missing titles. You’ll be able to find and detect them the same way, so you can probably knock both of these out at the same time. Like with title tags, you’ll first want to make sure every page on your site has one, and then comb through and ensure that all of them are unique.
You may already pass Google’s mobile compliance test, but are you sure your site is running seamlessly on all mobile devices? Mobile performance is a major ranking factor in both desktop and mobile search results, so prioritize it as an onsite factor for consideration. Among other things, you’ll want to evaluate the display and interactivity of your content, the availability of multimedia files like images and video, and the overall page loading time. Use multiple different devices to test your site on a variety of different platforms.
You should have lots of images on your site (if you’re practicing content marketing and web design effectively), but how many of them are fully optimized for search? All your images should be titled in a descriptive, accurate way, and feature alt tags that help the search engine understand what your image is. If any of your images are blank (i.e., they don’t have titles or alt tags), now’s your chance to fix the problem.
Most 404 errors are bad news. Most of the time, Google thinks you should have a page where there isn’t one. If a user’s first impression of your site is a 404 error, it could cost you a visitor, and if the 404 error persists, it could reflect poorly on your domain. Fix 404 errors by using robots.txt files to prevent Google from indexing them, set up 301 redirects, or simply fix whatever bug caused the page to go offline in the first place.
Your URL structures should be neat, organized, logical, and legible to a reader. Extended trails of random numbers and punctuation could cost you authority. Instead, make sure all your URLs feature descriptive, spelled-out text, and a breadcrumbs trail indicating their location within your subpages.
Interlinking your onsite pages is a good thing. It keeps readers on your site for longer and helps Google understand the structure of your site. Unfortunately, most webmasters neglect linking to new pages—so check back to ensure all your internal pages have at least some links pointing to them.
This is more of a subjective factor, but it’s still worth checking. Put yourself in the shoes of one of your average visitors. Is it clear which pages feature which functions and content? Are you able to jump from area to area easily and without confusion? Do you always have the chance to go back home, or pull up a sitemap? These are important features that can sometimes get lost in the addition of new pages.
Last but not least, check all the links you’ve featured on your site, whether they’re internal or external. Each of them should be embedded in relevant anchor text. If you notice any sticking out without anchor text, or inaccurate or nonsensical anchor text, fix it.
If you (or your SEO via an SEO audit report) find one or more of these errors on your site, don’t panic. It happens to the best of us. You might have simply forgotten to update a new page, or you might have overlooked something you should have optimized in the past. Either way, no single error can break your strategy, and none of these errors can hold you back for long, as long as you correct them when you find them. Remain vigilant about your onsite optimization, and check in once a month or more to make sure everything’s in its right place.