Eliminate Road Blocks

Despite SEO becoming more recognised lately it is still common to see certain mistakes on websites which actually make life harder for the search engines to “crawl”. The websites are actually making it more difficult for Google to give them a good ranking!

If you remember that search engines primarily work by reading the plain text on your pages some of what follows should become obvious to you.

If you already have a site make sure that you remove these roadblocks to maximise your SEO efforts. If you are going to build a new site you can avoid them from the beginning.

You can use a tool like http://seo-browser.com to get insight into how a search engine views your website.

Eliminating road blocks should be something you should only need to do once. Just make sure you don’t reintroduce them down the track.

Search engine friendly AND visitor friendly

You will notice that many of the roadblocks below also make your site harder to use for visitors. This highlights the fact that if you make a site that is great for your visitors then Google looks to reward that.

It’s also good because a site is only effective for your business if it helps visitors buy something from you. An easy to use site is going to achieve that.

Fancy menus

If your site navigation (menus) are in Flash (web animation) or have a fancy drop down effect they can prevent Google from seeing the rest of your site. This is because the menu links to the other pages are not in plain text and are invisible to Google.

If you find that only a few of your pages are listed in Google make sure that this isn’t your problem.

It is true that there are now ways to do dropdown menus which are friendly to search engines. However I would personally avoid them for another reason. They can be almost impossible to use if you have poor mouse skills or using a touchpad on a laptop. This goes double if the menus have multiple levels (sub-pages and sub-sub-pages).

Navigation

You need to keep your site’s pages quite shallow. You don’t want to have to click through 3 or 4 pages to get to the important information hidden several levels deep.

Your landing pages and any other popular pages should be linked prominently from the home page.

Weird URLs

The URL is what you type into your browser address bar to get to a web page. google.com is a URL. You want to keep your URLs as simple as possible.

A poorly setup CMS or web shop can produce URLs which look something like this: example.com. Most web software these days has a feature which will convert this into a much more optimised (“friendly”) URL like this: example.com/valencia-oranges.

Check out your software’s documentation or ask your web developer and get this fixed up. If this feature is missing from your software you’ll want to think about changing.

Breaking links

At some point you’ll want to rearrange the pages on your website. You’ll run across two problems when you do this:

  1. Breaking inbound links. Inbound links are hard to get so if you move the page that has been linked to you’ll want to make sure that these people are sent to the new page.
  2. Maintaining your Google rank. Google will have attached some value to your pages and if you move them you run the risk of losing that value. You need to let Google know where the replacement pages are located.

The answer to both of these problems is to use what is known as “301 redirects”. The redirect automatically redirects any visitor looking for the old page across to the new one. In addition the 301 is a server code which tells Google that the content has moved permanently and it should change its search results to reflect the new page URL.

301 redirects may be handled by your website software. You should check your manuals to see if that is the case. Mostly they are set at a server level. You can Google “301 redirects” for details on how to add them to your server setup.

Duplicate content

You should never copy content from somewhere else or duplicate content across different websites. This is likely to get your ranking severely penalised.
Sometimes your website can be setup so that a different URL returns the same page. This is commonly seen on the home page where the following URLs might return the exact same content:

You should setup a 301 redirect (as above) to make sure that the variations are redirected to a single URL, in this case example.com

Keyword captions

We’ve discussed how SEO requires that your content be in plain text so the search engines can read it easily. This doesn’t mean that you should completely avoid images, video or other multimedia. This is a vital part of what makes the web so interactive and popular. Remember your site’s ultimate goal is about getting through to your visitors. Video and images are vital in doing that job.

Just make sure that you add keyword rich captions to photos and other multimedia. This gives the search engines the text they need to figure out what the image or multimedia is about and point interested viewers your way.

Splash Pages

Sometimes when you visit a website you’ll see a page with a fancy graphic or logo which says something like “click here to enter the site”. These are known as “splash pages”. Not only are they consistently rated as highly annoying by website users it can upset search engines as well. Often splash pages hide the rest of the website from search engines.
If you have a splash page on your website get rid of it - now. Everyone else should avoid them.

Server outage

If Google keeps coming to your site and it is unavailable because your server is down your ranking will suffer. If your webserver is unreliable then you should be concerned anyway because people can’t see your site. Get yourself some reliable hosting. These days it is not that expensive.

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