It is imperative to have a basic understanding about the technical SEO issues (for example, duplicate content issue) experienced by your website and sort them out to ensure a higher SERP ranking. Sometimes, you can enjoy more benefits by simply fixing a small technical issue than by building the best links. Though it may not be possible for you to fix these issues personally all the time, knowing what the actual problem is and its best solution, and having an SEO professional to implement the solution is very critical.
A newbie must keep two things in mind when looking for an optimization technique to solve a technical issue – optimization techniques frequently change according to the search engine algorithms; and black hat (not allowed by search engines) techniques can seriously harm your website. Here are some basic technical search engine optimization tips effective for non-technical people.
HTTP Response Status Codes
Each time a search engine or site visitor makes a request to the web server, an HTTP response status code is returned. This three-digit status code gives clear indications such as the following.
- 200 â€“ The requested web page loads fine
- 301 â€“ The requested web page has been relocated to a new permanent URL
- 302 â€“ The requested web page has been relocated to a different URL for the time being, but will continue to use the original URL for future requests
- 404 â€“ The requested web page does not exist
You can make use of these codes to make your web pages easily crawlable by search engines.
- If you want to pass link juice between redirecting web pages, use the 301 redirect instead of the 302 redirect. The latter redirect is best for resolving temporary problems with the web page. Do not redirect everything to your home page all the time, but do it on a 1-1 basis. The 301 redirect should not be used manipulatively as the search engine (Google) would penalize it with lower rank.
- If a web page really does not exist, make sure that the status code thrown up is 404, not 200. Ensure that your 404 pages are customized with navigational options recommended for visitors.
- If your web pages are returning 404 for longer periods of time and do have valuable links, use 301 redirects to other web pages.
However, it is a laborious task to check every page manually to find whether there would be redirect problems, 404 issues and other anomalies. Better use efficient tools such as Screaming Frog (as given below) to see the whole list of your URLs and status code associated with each one.
You can thus find out what issues are experienced by your web pages and determine what changes are required to address the technical issues and rank better in search engine result pages.
Canonical URL is a better solution for duplicate page issue. The 301 code redirects both search engine bots and website visitors, while canonical URL redirects only search engines so that it is possible to track visitors separately to the unique URL versions.
Suppose you own a site that sells shoes and there are several different URLs for the brown color menâ€™s shoes product page such as:
As all these pages have the same content, you can recommend Google to choose one link as the preferred version of the page to avoid duplicate content issue and improve link popularity. You can specify that link as canonical by creating <link /> element with the attribute rel= “canonical” and adding it to the <head> section of non-canonical versions. That is, if you prefer http://www.myshoes.com/shoes/brownshoes.html, then you should create
<link rel = “canonical” href = http://www.myshoes.com/shoes/brownshoes.html />
and add it to the section of
Adding canonical link to the head section of a page is beneficial for HTML content, but it is not useful for PDFs or other file types. In such cases, respond with the Link rel = â€ścanonicalâ€ť with HTTP header (example given below)
Link: http://www.mydomain.com/downloads/SEO-guide.pdf; rel = “canonical”
- Ensure that target exists for your rel=canonical (not an error page or 404). It should be in your sitemap and internal linking structure.
- Confirm there is no noindex robots Meta tag in your rel=canonical target
- Do not specify more than one rel=canonical for a page
Case Sensitivity of URLs
If there are two URLs pointing to the same content â€“ one with upper case letters and the other with lower case letters (for example, http://www.mydomain.com/latest-digital-marketing-trends and http://www.mydomain.com/Latest-Digital-Marketing-Trends), implement a site-wide canonical which points all uppercase URLs to their lowercase counterpoints. This will tell the search engine that even if they are two different URLs, they represent the same content so that you can fix the duplicate content and your users will not have an interrupted experience. Try to have all your URLs in lower case as people rarely capitalize URLs while typing them into search bar. You can also limit the number of 301 redirects in this way.
There are basically two types of URL parameters â€“ parameters that don’t change the page content (mainly used for tracking pages) and parameters that change the page content. An example for the former case is â€śsession id.â€ť If you remove the portion after ‘?’ from the following URLs it will work as they represent the same content.
On the other hand, if you use the following parameter and omit the portion after ‘?’, your page will be displayed in another color instead of blue
In essence, URL parameters can result in duplicate content. So, you should be careful about which parameter is necessary for your page content, and what Google can avoid. Google Webmaster Tools provide you the opportunity to tell Google how your parameters should be read (as given below) though it is required to implement some canonicals.
As mentioned earlier, reliable support from an expert is essential to resolve the technical issues efficiently. Having a thorough knowledge of basic technical SEO and getting support from a professional SEO services provider that offers white hat SEO services is the right combination for non-technical people to achieve their goals.