Content Optimization
June 4th 2019

6 Technical SEO Factors Preventing Your Content From Ranking

You’ve identified a keyword for which you could rank. You’ve created a detailed and well-researched post around that keyword, but it’s not ranking for the chosen focus keyword or any other related keyword. And even if it does rank, then Google positioned it on the 3rd or 4th SERP.

So, what is preventing your post from getting ranked?

Two Words: Technical SEO

What is Technical SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comprises of three parts:

  • On-page SEO focuses on on-page optimization that will improve the content.
  • Off-page SEO focuses on creating inbound links and promotion of content.
  • Technical SEO focuses on crawling and indexing of a site’s pages.

Although search engines employ hundreds of SEO ranking factors, they can’t rank what they don’t see nor understand. Work on technical SEO so that search engine spiders can crawl and index your page in order to rank it.

In this article, I’ve listed the six common technical SEO issues that may prevent your site from getting ranked, along with their actionable solutions.

1. Website Is Not Mobile-Optimized

Nearly 63.4% of the audience accesses the internet via a mobile device, a trend that has steadily continued for the past six years.

Responding to this boom in mobile internet users, Google rolled out mobile-first indexing in 2016. This initiative aims at improving UX for the searchers, ranking mobile-optimized sites higher than the rest.

If your site is not mobile-optimized, then your rankings will fall in the mobile SERPs.

How to Make Your Site Mobile-Optimized?

Before fixing any issues, you need to identify them. Run a mobile-friendly test to create an SEO audit of the problems related to your site. Address those issue first, then apply Google’s best practices to ensure your website is mobile friendly.

2. Excessive Load Time

Visitors tend to bounce quickly off your page if it takes too long to load. Google can’t see the bounce rate because that information is private to your website. But it can calculate the dwell time (the time spent on page). Short dwell time can indicate visitor dissatisfaction and negatively impact ranking.

Apart from that, when a page loads slowly, visitors tend to move on to another search result within five seconds. This behavior is called “pogo-sticking,” and once more is indicative of poor user experience; something which Google tries to avoid at all cost.

Moreover, slow page loading speed affects the crawler’s potential to crawl a page effectively and index it. Search engine spiders do not have unlimited time to crawl an individual site. This limit is known as a crawl budget, and for large websites, this can become a significant problem.

So, if your site loads slowly, the content may not even get indexed. Although you can’t change your crawl budget, you can ensure more pages get crawled by making them load faster.

Keep in mind that page loading speed is an important Google ranking factor. Check your page speed by using this Website Analyzer Tool where you can find information about other SEO factors as well.

How to Improve Page Loading Speed?

Identifying the issues that are holding your site from ranking higher can be done through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.

Enter the URL and Google performs a comprehensive analysis of its loading speed. If the end report states that the pages take too long to load, the tool provides suggestions for improvement.

3. Presence of Links Returning Error 404

Error 404 is an error code for ‘this page does not exist.’ They are otherwise called Broken Links.

The presence of Error 404 can hurt your credibility and reduce the amount of traffic driven to your domain. When users encounter one or more Error 404, they start looking for other relevant options that can resolve their query instantly.

However, if it’s the crawler that encounters Error 404s during a crawl, then it categorizes them as domains that affect the user experience. Therefore, they may rank it lower.

How to Remove Broken Links or Error 404?

Removing broken backlinks is pretty straightforward. You can use the free Broken Link Checker tool and make a list of every broken link returning a 404 error.

Either remove or replace them with internal links to relevant posts on your domain or an external site. If you discover any broken internal links, use redirects to ensure inbound links referencing those non-existent pages end up at the right place.

4. Existence of Duplicate Content

Having identical content on different pages under the same domain is a grave mistake. The presence of duplicate content might not be problematic for the visitor, but it can affect the crawling process.

Duplicate content can make it problematic for search engines to determine which page to rank. This confusion can lead to a negative effect on each page’s rankings.

Apart from that, if your site’s content resembles that of other domains, you risk suffering a manual action from Google.

Currently, around 29% of websites are facing duplicate content issues. You need to be sure that your site is not part of that 29%.

How to Remove Duplicate Content?

When it comes to the removal of duplicate content, you should start by running a plagiarism test on your site’s content. Through the test, you will find links to the source of the material.

If the original source leads to a different domain than yours, then you should prepare strategies for its timely removal from your site. You can rewrite them and provide additional valuable information to the readers.

However, if the link is sourcing back to other pages on your domain, then you should inform the crawler about the page it should rank. You can do that by placing a Canonical tag in the link.

Web page source code showing rel=canonical tag.
Rel=canonical tag in use.

5. Improper Meta Data Optimization

Just optimizing your content with keywords isn’t going to improve your rankings. You need to place keywords in the technical elements of your content viz. Meta Data.

  • Title Tag
  • Meta Description
  • Heading Tags
  • Alt Tags
  • Slug

These are all essential elements of the MetaData. The crawler scans the MetaData of a page for keywords and indexes them and ranks them accordingly. When you stuff keywords in Meta Data, then your page is bound to get the Google penalty.

How to Optimize Meta Data properly?

When you are optimizing Meta Data, there’s one golden rule: do not stuff the keywords, place them organically instead. Keep in mind that this data helps the crawler determine the context of a whole page. Therefore, you have to write them in a manner that allows the audience to identify what resides on a particular page conveniently.

Note that meta descriptions don’t influence ranking, but they can affect click-through rates. Even though Google frequently determines what meta description to use, spend some time creating one that’s compelling enough for a searcher to click.

6. Active Robots.txt file

There are multiple reasons for not wanting your entire site to be visible to search engines. It may be for privacy reasons, or a part is under development and not ready for worldwide exposure. Whatever the reason, you can control which parts of your site search engines can crawl using a Robots.txt.

While that’s useful when developing a website, people often forget to update this file when their new site goes live. Remember, if search engines can only rank the content they can index.

How to Remove Robots.txt File?

Open any browser and enter this ‘yoursite.com/robots.txt’.

This search produces a detailed list of the pages and directories on your site with existing Robots.txt file. You can decide the pages and directories from which you need to remove Robots.txt and access the backend of those pages to do the same.

If you’re using WordPress, just unmark the checkbox to enable search engine visibility.

WordPress dashboard showing location of Search Engine Visibility checkbox.
WordPress dashboard.

Bonus Points:

Create Sitemaps

If your content is not ranking even after improving upon every technical SEO aspect of it, then you should create and submit a sitemap to Google. A sitemap instructs the crawler about the pages of your site to crawl and index.

A sitemap should not have any errors because that will affect the crawl and indexation process of your site. You can create sitemaps either manually or through a plugin and submit it to Google Search Console.

Convert to HTTPS

Here’s another advise you should follow: if your domain still operates on an HTTP server, you should convert it to HTTPS. It is important because the user data is encrypted and secure on HTTPS. And since Google has always been about helping make search better for its users, it is pretty evident that Google will rank sites with HTTPS higher.

Final Thoughts

Technical SEO cannot be taken lightly. Website owners should conduct a technical SEO audit regularly to ensure technical issues are quickly resolved.

This list of major technical SEO factors that prevent your site from ranking can help you conduct a technical SEO audit conveniently. You will find the issues and ways to resolve them as well. So, if you’ve not run a technical SEO audit of your site for a while now, you should begin right away!

Sahil Kakkar

Written by Sahil Kakkar RankWatch

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