We spend a lot of time auditing websites as a part of our SEO services. The websites tend to be WordPress as a popular CMS for small businesses. The first stage of any SEO enquiry is to take a look at the technical state of the website, including technical SEO errors. We need to know the scale of the work needed to rectify any errors here, before looking at keyword research, on-page and off-page SEO strategies.
95% of the websites we see have technical SEO errors that can negatively affect organic ranking in search engines.
It’s not unusual for a website to have some form of technical error, whether it’s significant, or perhaps one or two minor faults; such as missing meta descriptions.
The more significant errors, which often go unnoticed, can have a dramatic effect on how a website performs in organic search on major search engines including Google and Bing.
Surprisingly, many of the websites are new, and recently completed by a web designer. It’s worth noting that a large proportion of web designers or developers do not deal with SEO, and have little or no knowledge of how to correctly optimise a website for search engines before launching it.
Technical SEO Stats
From our own research, we’ve noted some of the top technical SEO stats. These technical SEO stats are recored when websites are first audited, before any SEO work is carried out.
- 95% of websites have technical SEO errors.
- 84% of websites have image file sizes that are too large.
- 38% of websites have broken images.
- 78% of websites have broken internal links.
- 23% of websites have at least one orphan page.
From our own audits and studies of our SEO agency client websites, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 technical SEO errors found on WordPress websites, before beginning SEO.
Top 10 Technical SEO Errors in WordPress
Here’s our list, based on our own technical SEO audits. We’ve roughly listed these in order from most serious and likely to affect search engine presence, to not so serious.
Non-canonical pages in sitemap
A canonical page is the preferred version of a web page for search engines to crawl and index. As an example, https://studio36digital.co.uk/technical-seo-errors-stats-in-wordpress is the canonical version of this page. A page with similar content which identifies this page as the canonical version, shouldn’t be in the sitemap. The same goes for a different version of the URL, ie. https://www.studio36digital.co.uk/.
Noindex pages in sitemap
A noindex page is marked as noindex to instruct search engines not to crawl and index them. Examples of pages that are often marked noindex include; user account pages, checkout pages and cart pages.
Pages in a sitemap are there to show search engines what should be crawled and indexed. Therefore, having noindex pages in a sitemap is contradictory and can have a negative effect on rankings.
Multiple redirects can affect how search engines navigate your website, how users navigate your website and affect loading speed, ultimately hurting your rankings. Where it’s possible, pages should be linked directly or the links removed if not necessary and practically possible.
404 pages are broken links. Links to pages that no longer exist or have been moved ie. URL changed. Broken links affect how search engines crawl your website and the user experience on your website. 404 pages should be found and redirected to the new URL and the original link updated to the new URL. Sometimes, when content has been completely removed and no similar pages exist, it’s wise to use a 410 header, which means ‘content deleted’.
500 or 50(X) pages show an internal error with a web page. It means that the page cannot be viewed by users or crawled by search engines. It’s worth taking a look at your server error logs or speaking with your hosting provider to get to the bottom of these errors.
Orphan pages in SEO are how they sound. Pages that are alone on a website. They exist in the sitemap, but have no internal links to them from within the website. These pages cannot be found from a website unless you know the URL to reach them directly.
Orphan pages should be avoided, with the odd exception. A Landing page for paid ads, may need to exist without inbound links from the rest of the website.
Broken images are images that are missing or have moved location (URL). They are effectively another type of broken link within a website. Above all, they don’t promote a positive user experience for users on your website and should be replaced. Images are indexed independently and can also display in Google Images.
Missing Meta Descriptions
Missing meta descriptions or meta tags are extremely common. The meta tag shows a short description of the web page content, and is shown beneath the clickable link in search engines. While Google have stated that these aren’t used directly in ranking, the content is there to sell your content and entice users to take a look. Google also highlights relevant keywords in your meta descriptions, depending on the user’s search query.
While it’s good practice to add meta descriptions, search engines including Google will often ignore them and take content from the page itself, it it feels the description is more relevant or helpful to users.
Image files too large
Something that’s rarely considered by web developers and website owners, is the file size of images on the web pages. This is more prevalent as an issue on portfolio style websites with a large number of high quality images.
Images often make up the bulk of a page’s file size, and it’s good practice to monitor the effect on page loading performance. Google are rolling out page experience updates which concentrate on page loading performance. Images should be optimised, compressed and served via a CDN (content delivery network) where possible.
Page titles too long
Page title tags describe the web page for use in search engines, browser tabs and social media shares. When you make a Google search, the page title tags show as a link in the search results.
While it’s important to include a short description, inclusive of relevant keywords, the length should be considered. Google as an example, only displays the first 50-60 characters of a page title. While there’s little evidence to show a huge effect on ranking performance, it’s important for user’s browsing the search results to be able to see your full title.
Technical SEO Errors Conclusion
Technical SEO errors are a huge part go SEO in 2021 and beyond. While it’s widely understood that on-page SEO and off-page SEO are the two types of SEO, it’s often forgotten that technical SEO errors form a large part of on-page SEO optimisation.
With a huge focus on user experience and Core Web Vitals from Google, it’s vital that as many technical SEO errors as practically possible, are found and fixed.