Let's be honest. Technical SEO sounds daunting. For the typical marketer, it's full of enough three-letter acronyms and number codes to fill your spinning head with some choice four-letter words. On top of that, technical SEO rides the line between marketing and web development, so it can sometimes fall through the cracks of responsibility. Confusion and job descriptions aside, allow me to be the voice of reason: do not ignore technical SEO. In 2018, this practice is far from dead. Your site could be the poster child for on-page content optimization, but if Google can't crawl your pages or understand what matters on your site, all your hard work will be in vain.
To illustrate why technical SEO matters (and encourage you that you're not alone in your bewilderment), here are three classic tales of technical SEO faux pas. (Don't worry - they all have a happy ending!)
1. Wrong Status Code
Once upon a time, there lived a hard-working client with a lovely page on their website devoted to their main keyword theme. For more than six months, this client labored away to get this page to rank, creating wonderful, SEO-optimized copy, curating great images, and even building links to the page. Alas: to no avail. Google just didn’t seem to find the page valuable. When I checked to see if the page was even in Google’s index (site:www.examplepage.com), it wasn’t. Big red flag. On further inspection, the page appeared to be live but was returning a 404 (Not Found) status. As soon as the dev team fixed it to return a 200 (OK) status, the page zipped up to the top of Google’s results.
Moral of the Story: Always check your status codes.
2. Renaming Pages Without Redirecting Them
In a far-off land and a different IP, a client embarked on a website redesign journey. All was well and good until said client made a nearly fatal mistake: they didn’t redirect all their important pages. And they certainly paid no mind to which of their pages had valuable links. They only redirected category and product pages. I reviewed their 404 errors from Google Search Console and found a .EDU link to an article on their site that had a new, non-redirected URL. We put a 301-redirect in place, and voila! We had a .EDU link that pushed us above the competition.
Moral of the Story: 301-redirects can be your saving grace, so long as you remember to use them.
3. Not Paying Attention to Google's Index
There once was a wealthy website, boasting nearly 200,000 shining pages in Google’s index. Unfortunately, truth would tell this client only had about 30,000 pages on their site... With a wrinkled brow, this client and I set off on a hunt through Google Search Console. We found that about 100,000 of these indexed pages were hardly pages at all; rather, they were “pages” the website made for each of their alternate product views. Each of their 30,000 products had at least three alternate views (and some as many as six). We made a simple adjustment to Google Search Console parameter handling, and the next time the Panda Algorithm rolled around, they saw a significant boost in rankings across their whole site.
Moral of the Story: If the number of pages indexed is way beyond the size of your site, something is not quite right.
Hopefully, these stories show you that the only thing "scarier" than technical SEO is ignoring it. With the right tools and the right folks on the job, most mistakes are totally fixable and happily ever after is still within reach.
Not sure what you don't know when it comes to technical SEO? Talk to us about a technical SEO audit.