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by Tom Howlett on 7th October 2013
It is far too common these days for websites to contain elements that may harm or potentially hold back the ability for that website to succeed as far as SEO is concerned. You can have an amazing website visually that still struggles to reach anyone, all because of a few elements that are usually easy to change.
A mixture of correct planning and implementation can help you ensure elements of your website are benefiting your SEO. Here is a guide containing these common issues and how to ensure they do not prevent your website from succeeding.
When referring to Meta, I am specifically referring to Page Titles and Meta Descriptions. Duplicated Meta tells the search engines that these pages have nothing of value to offer website visitors by themselves and therefore may not be worth ranking or indexing.
Firstly ensure that each page provides unique value on your website, if this is the case, they should each have Meta that is targeted and details the information found on that specific page.
If you are left with lots of dynamically created pages due to the site functionality, you can look at telling Google to ignore certain URL parameters via Google Webmaster Tools or to block search engine access to URLs that contain specific parameters via Robots.txt.
Long page titles will affect the snippet visible within the search engine results and you can risk important title elements such as relevant keywords and calls to action being cut off with the character limitation. This can harm rankings and hinder site click through rate.
Ensure you limit you page titles to no more than 70 characters to ensure maximum impact. Include keywords that are relevant to the page and any valuable call to actions that can influence the click.
Meta Keywords are largely redundant nowadays; Google publicly stated a few years back that they do not use Meta Keywords to influence rankings within their search engine. They do not provide enough value and some websites try to add as many keyword variations within this tag as they can possibly think of.
This is not to say that they are not at all useful – some search engines may still use them, so keep the element if you wish to.
Either remove the tag completely or if you wish to retain it, try adding a few relevant keywords directly associated with the page or your business or products. If for example you are a business that repairs grandfather clocks who has a page targeting the Hampshire area – try adding highly relevant keywords such as ‘Clock Repair’, ‘Grandfather Clock Repair’, ‘Hampshire’. There is no reason to add any others.
There can be many navigational issues on a website, from having pages that are difficult to navigate to (deep within the navigational structure) to having a flashy visually driven navigation that is difficult for a search engine to crawl effectively. This could limit the crawl pattern of the website and potentially make it difficult for particular content to be found.
There are a number of steps to follow to ensure the navigation is appropriate and free from the most common problems, they are as follows:
It is also recommended you monitor users visiting your website to see how they interact and then make feedback based on real data.
An all too common issue, particularly on ecommerce websites is the lack of text content on each of the pages. Search engines primarily rely on text to establish a page theme and from this they will rank the content appropriately.
Ensure each page has an appropriate level of text content relevant to that page. I am not going to suggest that you should have a certain percentage of keywords within that content, just make sure that it is appropriate to the page theme whilst being visitor focused and then you will be on the right lines (be natural with the content, it is primarily for your visitors, not the search engines). Regarding the amount of content, it is not an exact science – some pages by nature will require more content and some will not need as much, try to stick to what feels appropriate for the page.
For example, a product page for an item of clothing could include a unique description of that item as well as additional information such as material and size information, possibly even some information on the designer and product reviews along with images or possibly a video. It will generally not require any more content than that.
One of the most notable examples of a good product page would be Amazon. They consistently rank highly within the search engines and their product pages are packed with lots of unique information such as reviews and links to similar products.
Lack of unique content is big problem with many websites. Generally these problems occur on particular websites for example ecommerce or hotel search websites that contain the same products or hotels, and do not provide enough unique content to differentiate themselves from each other.
Search engines prefer to aggregate results and give users a variety of content to enhance their service and experience. It is therefore unlikely that a search engine will rank similar content higher up the results alongside each other. This severely limits the potential for good rankings unless your specific content is unique.
Ensure each rank worthy page of your site contains content that is unique to anything else on the web and don’t copy information from elsewhere on the internet to populate your pages.
Start by considering what you offer that is unique to your competitors, what makes your business different and tailor your content around that. Don’t be afraid to be different when it comes to content on pages like product pages. Any unique content from your customers can also be hugely useful; this can come in the form of testimonials, reviews or even stories.
When referring to heading elements, I am specifically referring to H1s, H2s and so on. Being heading elements, search engines generally view them with importance to reinforce the page theme or subject, just as headings are used in print media.
They are also commonly used for styling purposes in web design and this is where problems are created.
Firstly, each page should have only ONE H1 element – H2s, H3s and others can be used multiple times on each page.
All heading elements should have a purpose such as isolating content on a page to make it easy to navigate and read rather than using them for styling page elements.
They should also be relevant and descriptive; again I would avoid trying too hard to enter keywords you wish to rank for. If they are relevant to the content it will help improve the overall page authority for similar keyword terms.
It may sound obvious following recent Google updates such as Panda, but creating pages of content purely to rank for selected terms is a big no. They tend to see right through this content when it provides no value for visitors to the site and it is therefore unlikely to rank.
Plan your website pages more effectively and approach them from a visitor perspective. Think about creating pages that are useful to them and develop a structure whereby people can easily navigate through the site. No page should be created if it doesn’t provide some sort of value to the site as a whole.
It’s no secret that Blogging is a good way of reaching your audience, to show the humanistic side of your brand, to provide value and on occasion for promotional activities. Although businesses and other websites are becoming familiar with the benefits of blogging, it is surprising to see how often blogs and their content are hidden from those browsing the rest of the site. They may never know that one exists.
Show it off! You don’t want to be working hard creating valuable content for people to then struggle to find it.
Make sure it is linked to clearly from the main navigation and you may even want to look at incorporating a list of recent or popular posts into every page of the site.
A messy URL structure is generally one that contains lots of dynamically created characters and therefore does not help visitor’s recognition of what they may expect to find on that page.
Where possible, opt for a clean and descriptive URL structure. For example, a website that sells trainers may utilise a structure as follows:
Search engines, particularly Google like to serve content that loads quickly for visitors to that page. Slow loading websites create a poor experience for users and therefore to create a better service, search engines prefer not to serve this content to its users.
There are a number of ways to improve website performance and load times, rather than list them all I suggest following the tips we covered in an earlier post.
When an image is included on a website it can also have an associated tag (called an Alt tag) that essentially describes the image. This is one of the main ways search engines have of establishing the image subject. They are also helpful for those who are unable to view images, due to using certain platforms that lack this capability.
Quite often Alt tags contain either irrelevant or duplicate text or characters and sometimes they just contain top-level keywords they wish to rank for.
First ensure each image added has an Alt tag associated with it. Any images added are likely to be related to the surrounding content and generally speaking, if you add a tag that describes the image it will be relevant to the page as a whole.
Avoid duplicating Alt tags across the different images and try not to just add the keyword you wish to rank for.
This guide contains many of the common issues I see on websites, however there are many more, which is why a thorough SEO audit is always recommended. If there are any other key areas you think are of vital importance, or that are simply pet peeves of yours, then please leave them below:
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