Beware of Inadvertent Roadblocks
ll of the keyword research and content crafting will be wasted if your site is unfriendly to visiting search engine spiders. Before you go live, there are a number of tools you can use to check for roadblocks.
- SEOMOZ has a good crawl test tool.
- The Web Developer Toolbar for FireFox
- LiveHTTP Headers.
- For the PC, Xenu Link Sleuth has good reviews.
Sample Checking Processes
Visit your home page default address – www.yoursite.com with LiveHTTP Headers running. Make sure you’re not being redirected. If you are, you’ll see something like ‘301 moved permanently’ or ‘302 moved temporarily’ in the LiveHTTP Headers window. Unless you ended up on yoursite.com, you’ve got a problem. Remove the redirect and make sure your home page really is your home page.
- Is there any content that can only be reached using a form? For example, a searchable list of stores? Create another way to access the content. Search engines don’t fill out forms. You’re hiding lots of good pages from search.
- Go to www.yoursite.com/robots.txt. Make sure it doesn’t block all visiting spiders. You can check that using the robots.txt checker in Google Webmaster Tools, or you can read up on robots.txt at robotstxt.org
- View the source code of a few random pages on your site. Make sure you don’t see something like <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,nofollow”>. That tag tells search engines to ignore the page. If you see that, find out if there’s a really good reason, like duplicate content issues. “It’s easier” is not a good reason to block out your biggest source of traffic and customers.
- If you haven’t, set up Google and Bing webmaster tools. Let them run for a few days. Then check for warnings regarding problems crawling your site. In Bing, look under ‘Crawl Issues’. In Google, look under ‘diagnostics’. If you see any, fix them. Now.
- Run Xenu or Integrity on your site. Fix every single 404 error. Every one.
Tips from Yoast
Remove potential sources of penalties
You can get yourself in trouble by accident. Make sure you remove these penalty flags:
- Text that matches or nearly matches the background color;
- Text that is too small for human eyes to read;
- Series of links across the top of the page;
- Duplicate title tags across the entire site;
- Duplicate keyword META tags across the entire site.
On every page that you targeted in the key phrase map:
- Put the target phrase first in the title tag. The title tag looks like this: <title>Your tag is here</title>
- Put the target phase into the page headline.
- Ideally, make that headline the only <H1> tag on the page.
- Make sure the target phrase shows up in the first paragraph of text on the page.
- Put a relevant image on the page, if you can, and make sure the ALT tag contains the key phrase.
- Try to put the key phrase into other structural elements on the page, where it works. Headings, image captions, pull quotes and such are all good targets.
- Try to have another instance of the phrase on the page in bold text, if it makes sense. Don’t start jamming boldface type onto the page.
- Review the page and try to make sure you don’t go synonym crazy. If you’re optimizing the page for ‘bicycles’, don’t use the word ‘cycle’. Got it?
All of those pages, isolated and alone, won’t do much for super-competitive terms. You need to create hubs:
- Remember all of those less-relevant pages you mapped to your target phrases? Get that list.
- Take each one and link it to the optimization target (the main target page for that phrase). That’s going to be your hub page.
- Use the target phrase as part or all of the link or ‘anchor’ text.
- Remove as many other links as possible from those pages, so that they’re passing as much authority and relevance to the hub page as possible.
Speed up your site
Page speed matters. So improve it.
- In FireFox, install Google Page Speed and Yahoo’s YSlow.
- Run them on your home page and at least a few random internal pages.
- Follow their recommendations for image optimization…
- …and for GZIP compression…
- …and CSS minification.
- Then look at the deeper, subtler speed improvements they recommend. They may or may not be doable. The more of them you can do, the better.
- If you’re still having page load speed problems, you’re going to need to look at your server, too. Check to make sure you’ve got enough memory, hard drive space and processor ooomph.
Start Using Webmaster Tools
- In Google Webmaster Tools, look at any reported problems and fix them. You should have done this before, but more will crop up over time.
- Then look under ‘HTML recommendations’. If you see any duplicate title tags, check those pages. They may be duplicate content. If they are, you’ll need to fix any canonicalization issues.
- If they’re not duplicate pages, then edit the title tags to make them unique.
- Do the same with META description tags, if you have them.
- Look for any reported 404 ‘page not found‘ errors in both Bing and Google Webmaster tools. Unlike errors you find using your own link checker, these errors may be caused by other sites linking incorrectly to you.
- Fix these links by setting up 301 redirects from the broken URL to the right one. Don’t just forward them all to your home page. As much as possible, forward them to relevant pages.
- Set up an XML sitemap and let the search engines know.