The most common SEO issues on websites revealed

By Elena Terenteva

Technical SEO issues can prevent you from improving your site’s positions in Google search engine results pages (SERPs). It is often the case that very common mistakes prevent webmasters and site owners from getting the rankings they yearn for. But why?

Obviously, the reason is because of a lack of understanding. It can be a real challenge for a webmaster with little experience and knowledge to optimise a webpage for search engines.

Let’s face it: SEO has never been easy for newbies or pros. Many websites have the same mistakes.

But when you’re aware of what can potentially hurt your website, you know what issues to look out for.

We decided to identify the most common SEO issues and errors by analysing anonymous data on 100,000 websites and 450 million pages using SEMrush’s Site Audit tool. We obtained some interesting results and published the 11 most common on-site SEO issues on our blog.

The 11 most common on-site SEO issues

But wait – there’s more!

We also discovered how many websites these issues affect.

Here are some facts from our research:

  • Half of all analysed websites face duplicate content issues;
  • 45% of all websites have images with missing alt attributes; and
  • 30% of all websites have pages with duplicate meta descriptions, while 25% of sites have pages with no meta descriptions at all.
  • 35% of analysed sites have broken internal links (70% of those return a 4xx code) and 25% of sites have broken external links.

The most common on-site SEO issues

And these are just a few examples. In this post you will find a complete list of the most common on-site SEO issues and information about the impact they can have on your search engine rankings. For example, removing duplicate content or replacing it with unique, relevant and valuable content can help your website rank higher without raising any red flags.

As for image issues, they might not be the very first thing you need to address, unless they are crucial for your website (e.g., if you have a travel or food blog). Nevertheless, alt tags are important for image search, because they help search engines understand what your images show and they enable search engine bots to categorise them. That’s why it’s worth including your SEO keyword phrases in your image alt tags.

Common SEO issues with tags

We also found out that 35% of analysed websites have broken internal links, and a majority of those return a 4xx code. There are fewer websites with broken external links. The fact is that broken links create a poor user experience. Cleaning up your broken links will help search engines understand how to find and rank your content.

In a nutshell, some of these issues are more severe than others. Not all of them harm your rankings equally. But, it is better to be aware of all these issues so you can easily prioritise and fix them to improve your Google SERP positions.

On-site optimisation is the foundation of your overall SEO plan, analogous to the foundation of a house. You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. You should make sure it’s solid before building upon it.

SEO issues ranked in level of severity

Elena Terenteva is the product marketing manager of the Site Audit Tool at SEMrush


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Andrew Thompson
5 years ago

Yet no mention of Google Webmaster Tools. Shame to see what I once regarded as a reasonably authoritative business journal becoming a click bait farm like all the others.

Elena Terenteva
Elena Terenteva
5 years ago

Hi Andrew! This research is quite massive and yet it’s covering the frequency of certain SEO issues which can appear. We’ve tried to give hints on fixing these issues, but I guess you’d agree with me that one article is simply not enough to cover them all deeply. That’s why we didn’t focus a lot on mentioning tools.

Dumb & Dumber
Dumb & Dumber
5 years ago

….and 100% of discussions about SEO on websites used jargon that the average business owner just doesn’t understand……