Technical SEO Pitfalls: Common Issues and Proven Strategies to Avoid Them

Technical search engine optimization (SEO) demands a lot of setup and analysis. Even when you try to do everything right, issues still pop up.

Today, I want to share these issues with you so that you can

  1. Avoid them from the start, or
  2. Fix them when they pop up.
Ludwig Makhyan

Technical search engine optimization (SEO) demands a lot of setup and analysis. Even when you try to do everything right, issues still pop up. I’ve had issues occur when doing basic technical SEO because redirects broke or created a redirect loop. I needed to dissect the issue and fix the error.

When you’re working on a site with thousands of pages, it’s really common for issues to appear.

Throughout the years, I’ve come across many issues that I’ve documented internally and will use for reference. Today, I want to share these issues with you so that you can:

  1. Avoid them from the start, or
  2. Fix them when they pop up

8 Common Technical Issues and How to Fix Them

1. Canonicalized Tags Causing Traffic Loss

If a site has duplicate content or content that is very similar, it’s not uncommon to use “rel=canonical” tags to mitigate the issues. The tag lets search engines know which page is the original page and should be in the search results.

Canonized tags

I’ve come across issues where the wrong page is ranking much higher than the original page because of an issue with canonical tags.

Note: One time where canonical tags are used a lot is on e-commerce websites. You might have the same product in multiple categories in a shop, and using canonical tags is the best way to rank the original product page.

Fixing Canonical Tag Issues

Before you can fix canonical tag issues, you need to go to the impacted page(s), view the source code, and make sure the URL is pointing to the right page. Additionally, you’ll want to check for these common errors:

  • Tags appearing outside of the <head> tag
  • Category pages pointing to a featured article
  • Landing pages pointing to a featured article
  • Multiple canonical tags on a site
  • URL errors, such as placing the URL twice in the same tag

Update the canonical tags to remove errors and move on to the next issue on the list.

2. Pages Not Being Indexed Properly

Indexation issues happen a lot — even on big sites. When I first start working on a site, I look at indexation and try to identify issues that may be causing search engines not to index them properly.

If you’re having issues with indexation, the steps below can help.

First, go into your Google Search Console or go on Google and search “” to see if the site’s pages are indexed. If the pages are not indexed or only a few are, you can do the following:

  • Check your robots.txt to ensure that search bots are allowed to index the pages.
  • View the page source code and look for “NOINDEX” meta tags.
  • Make sure that there’s an XML sitemap to help search bots find pages on the site.
  • In Google Search Console look through the Index > Pages section to learn why some pages are not indexed

If you follow these steps and make corrections based on your findings, you’ll boost your indexation rate. You can also submit specific URLs to Google to try and get certain pages indexed.

3. Slow Site Speed

Site speed is such an important metric in search engine optimization and unfortunately it’s also an issue that can be notoriously difficult to fix. The main issue is that there are a lot of variables that can cause site speed issues.

Speeding up the site may require one or a mixture of the following fixes:

  • Check to see if it’s a hosting issue. Upload a simple, basic .html file to the server and see if it loads slowly. If the file loads slowly, it’s a good indication that you need to switch hosts.
  • Install a caching plugin for the CMS.
  • Minify JS and CSS files to save space.
  • Start using a CDN to speed up JavaScript, CSS files and images.
  • Run the site through Google’s PageSpeed Insights and correct any issues you find.

For most sites, the above fixes will work well. You may come across development issues, such as a custom-developed CMS or a plugin that is causing the site to be slow. You’ll need to convene with the developer in this case to work on finding a way to optimize and speed up the algorithm.

4. Redirect Issues

Redirects are something that I use a lot, especially with large sites. If a product is discontinued and is similar to another, a redirect can pass along the page’s SEO. I also use this when trying to eliminate thin content pages or content that is too similar to the main pages and is causing cannibalization issues.

Redirect issues

However, one mistype when making a redirect can lead to a lot of headaches.

To fix these I always recommend running a tool like Screaming Frog on the site to identify all redirects. The tool allows you to see the following:

  • Redirected pages and their destination
  • Redirects and their success or failure

If you have a redirect loop where page one is redirecting to page two and page two redirects to page one, you’ll need to update the redirects on page two to stop this issue. Additionally:

  • Review all broken redirects and point them to the right destination page
  • Examine and fix syntax for broken links pointing to the right page

Finally, rerun your tool and go through the list of redirect issues until they’re fixed.

5. Duplicate Content

As a site grows, so does the risk of duplicate content. I see this issue a lot when sites are dynamically created, it tends to happen on e-commerce sites the most. Search engine crawlers easily get confused and may serve the wrong page to your target audience.

Limiting duplicate content is the goal if you want to correct these issues.

Duplicate content can be fixed in a few ways:

  • Remove the duplicate page when it exists because of an error, such as two blog posts being added accidentally.
  • Use canonical tags for pages that are meant to be the same, such as products that may be found in multiple categories of a store.

If you’re unsure which URL should exist, you can use a 301 redirect to a single page to allow your SEO efforts to flow to the single destination page.

6. HTTPS Security Issues

When users click on search results and a message stating “not secure” is plastered on the page, it will lead people away from the site. The warning can be fixed in just a few quick steps.

Fixing HTTPS Warnings

Before you do anything else, type “https://” before the site’s URL and see if it works. If it doesn’t, you need to do two things:

  • Purchase an SSL certificate
  • Install the certificate

You can also redirect http pages to https in your “.htaccess” file by using the code below:

RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 80

RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [R,L]

You’ll also find CMS plugins that can do the redirecting for you if you would rather not edit your .htaccess file on your own.

7. Users Sent to Incorrect Language Pages

If the site is for a global brand and may have content in multiple languages, users being sent to the wrong language on the site is a fast way to lose traffic and revenue. The “hreflang” tag is to blame here. It’s a tag that requires a lot of detail to make sure errors don’t happen.

Correcting hreflang issues is a time-intensive process, and I recommend finding a validation tool to verify that the tags are inserted properly, then:

  • Fix any errors you find
  • Revalidate your fixes
  • Rinse and repeat

8. Broken Internal Links

Internal linking is very important for technical SEO and has shown great results for my clients. The main issue is that over the years and potentially with many SEO teams working on a site, internal links can become chaotic.

Broken internal links can also impact indexation and are easy to overlook.

Fixing broken internal links is your first step in solving the chaos. Instead of going through each page one by one, use a tool like Screaming Frog to scan your entire site for broken links. The platform will help you identify any broken links you have.

Then you’ll need to:

  • Update every link so it points to the right page or remove them when there’s no corresponding page
  • Run one final scan to ensure you didn’t miss any links

Going forward, try and maintain strong internal linking practices to help “shape the site’s SEO.”

Final Thoughts

If you master these issues, you’ll be able to confidently manage 80% of issues that you come across. I highly recommend documenting your processes. This reference will help you know where to start to fix future issues.

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