Over the last year I have performed quite a few SEO audits. While some of those were optimized pretty well, the majority had quite a few issues. Funnily enough, some of these SEO issues were present in most of those sites. In this blogpost I will list the top-10 of the issues I usually find. Once you know where to look, you may be able to recognize whether you have the same issues.
Number 1: Bad Page Titles
Though this should not be complicated at all, many sites have bad Page Titles: the <title> element in HTML view. If I need to name just one thing you should look at when it comes to SEO, it is this one. Especially as it is so prominent in the Google Search results. Just look at this example:
Unless you happen to know what Cristal offers, why would anyone want to click this link? So, make sure you write page titles that trigger people to actually click them. And remember, also Google uses this as a big ranking factor!
Read more about optimizing page titles.
Number 2: Bad or missing metadescriptions
Just take a look at the same result as above. The description looks messy, starting with something like About Us - Our Products page banner ... Our Products. Page .... Same again: why would you click on this? Metadescription and Page title play a very important role in Click Through Rate in the search results. Improving these may give you a lot of additional visitors, even without any higher Google rankings. Remember though, don’t improve this just for the homepage, but for all pages of your site….
Read more about optimizing metadescriptions.
Number 3: Keyword usage
Many people simply forget to use their keywords. While this seems as the most logical thing to do, I see many sites that totally forget this. I once saw an architect’s website, that did not even include the word architect! But there are also less obvious examples, say where people are talking about their products (generic), while they should be speaking about, say, their swimming pools (exact). And even better, perform some actual keyword research!
Read more about optimizing keywords.
Number 4: Duplicate content issues
This is two-fold, basically you can have technical duplicatent and duplicate content from incorrect Joomla set-up:
Technical duplicate content: Many sites are accessible with or without the www prepended. This means that every page of your site is accessible over 2 URL’s. If you have an SSL certificate installed, you can have the same issue, resulting in even 4 versions:
Make sure you technically enforce access through only your preferred version. You can fix this in your htaccess file (or some plugins).
On the other hand, you can also have duplicate content due to incorrect setup in Joomla. The most common reason for this is having multiple menu-items pointing tot he same article. Try to avoid this or if you must, use menu-item aliases to simply point tot the already existing menu-item.
Read more about optimizing duplicate content.
Number 5: NOINDEX issues
One that I see often, but one that is absolutely fatal if you have it: setting your site to a NOINDEX status (in Global Configuration). This is often done on purpose in the development stage (which is good), but the minute the site goes live, it should be removed. Otherwise Google will not show your site at all-in their index.
Read more about optimizing indexation.
Number 6: Canonical URL issues
Almost as bad as NOINDEX issues are canonical URL issues. Sadly, these are often less obvious and harder to spot, also because often not all but only a portion of pages are affected. The result is as bad though. Any valid page with a canonical page pointing to an incorrect page will not be indexed. There can be different reasons fort his issue, this really depends on your situation. Just some examples:
Some extensions store their own canonical URL’s in their own database tables. Especially when these URL’s are absolute URL’s (including the domain), this can lead tot he situation that the new production site has canonical URL’s pointing tot he old development site. Hikashop is an example where I noticed this on multiple occasions. Make sure to reset those to the production URL's if spotted:
I have also seen custom components that were built in a poor way generate funny canonicals. A good tool to spot canical issues is Onpage.org.
Read more about optimizing canonical URL's.
Number 7: Old robots.txt files
With newer sites issues with robots.txt are rare, but with older sites, people often have never looked at their robots.txt file since the Joomla site was installed. This may lead to blocking access to Google for parts of the site that should definitely be accessible (like all images even sometimes). Especially the following lines should not be in the robots.txt file:
If still there, remove those lines.
Read more about optimizing robots.txt.
Number 8: Slow websites
Obvious enough to spot, but people often don’t realize the impact of slow sites. These sites often have shorter visits, less conversions, higher bouncerates and ultimately even lower rankings in Google. If your site structurely loads in more then 2 seconds, do something about it.
Read more about optimizing Joomla performance.
Number 9: Unknown and empty pages
Quite often a site has more pages than you as the site owner knows. Joomla generates more URL's than just the URL's from your menu structure, like login and registration views etcetera (like www.example.com/component/users/?view=login). For pages like this it is best to set them to a NOINDEX status. Also there might even be quite a few "funny" pages from extensions that behave strange or maybe even ones which you forgot about. The key here is that you should know your site. Use a crawler tool to detect all your URL's, or simply type the following command in Google: site:example.com. You will probably find quite a few pages of which you did not know they were there.
Read more about removing obsolete content from Google.
Number 10: Dead links
Finally, I quite often see a number of dead links in sites. This should not happen, as it leads to frustrated visitors and bad SEO scores. Also, it is easily spotted using tools like Google Webmaster tools / Search Console or (again) Onpage.org or other online tools. Especially sites with bad set-up can sometimes generate hundreds or even thousands of 404 errors, and this is definitely something Google does not like.
Read more about optimizing dead links.