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Five Signs That You Have A Technical Debt to Pay

Sites that have been active for a long time often have a technical debt to pay before they can rank high in the search engines. This is often due to old ‘inheritances’ which might be difficult for a new webmaster to know about. Here are five signs that you have a technical debt to pay.

A lot of your traffic goes to 404-pages

Some sites have a lot of traffic being directed to non-existent pages. This is a clear sign that something has been overlooked at some point. There might be a number of reasons for this, but usually it is the result of having migrated the site without doing proper redirects. What you have to do is to make sure that all pages that have inlinks or have traffic, are redirected to the right place.

If you add new content, it ranks better than the old

If you publish new content, for example news or blog posts, and these automatically take good positions while your landing pages never really make an impact in the search results you have a problem. Most likely your site already has the inherent authority Google requires, but your technology is not up to date. In this case, you need to do serious on page work to find out what is wrong with your platform.

The home page drives an unusually large amount of traffic

It is common that a home page drives more traffic than other pages on a site, both from search engines and from other places. However, if the proportion is surprisingly large, it may imply that the site does not work as it should in the search results. A healthy site gets a lot of traffic straight to the subpages, if the authority is spread properly across the site, and if Google can index it in a good way. Taking care of this problem might generate a huge increase in traffic.

Google Ads is much more profitable than organic traffic

Advertising in search results and search engine optimization has about the same audience, you show up in the same search results. It’s reasonable to expect that they should offer roughly the same level of profitability. There might be some slight differences, the competition might not be the same and Google Ads has the ability to be much more targeted. If the difference is significant, however, that indicates that there is something wrong with your site.

Google Search Console gives an information overload

When you open Google Search Console, does the amount of information make you panic? In that case, that might indicate that you have a technical debt to pay. Search Console more or less just shows different kinds of errors. The more information you find there, the more errors there are on your site. This might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it is not far from the truth. Sometimes it is a sign that you are about to face a massive amount of work, but other times it doesn’t have to be that bad.

What should you do if you have a technical debt to pay?

An old site that has gone through a few platform changes might need some heavy duty organizing before you can start working on the search engine optimization. This can sometimes feel like an insurmountable amount of work, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. An important thing to keep in mind is that you are in control of the technology, therefore you can actively affect your search results, this is a positive thing. It might be that you don’t have to build authority from scratch. Simply correcting the errors on your site might fix most of the problems. It is almost always worthwhile to make that effort.

Magnus Bråth


Magnus is one of the world's most prominent search marketing specialists and primarily works with management and strategy at his agency Brath AB.

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