4 Signs You Should Invest in SEO Now

1. Dead Pages with Links

What it is: Sites regularly go through changes but along the way old URLs get left behind. This is normal but if the old URLs were often linked to a huge amount of your ability to rank in Google is pointed at dead end pages where those links can’t pass their value.

How you check it: Go to Open Site Explorer and search for your domain. Select the top pages report and look for pages that have external links and a 400 level HTTP status.

external-links

How you fix it: Create a full top page report then export the list to a CSV. Sort the list based on linking root domains. Grab any URLs that have greater than 1 domain and prioritize the URLs with the highest count. Map out the closest possible existing page and create a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new one.

2. Bloated Indexed URL Count

What it is: Websites these days have so many plugins and add-ons to create better dynamic user experiences but things like user profiles, post tags, author bios are often trouble if you’re having them indexed by Google. If they aren’t all high quality pages having search engine users land on these pages isn’t a good experience and Google measures that. Furthermore, it makes the task of sorting out your real pages from the low quality ones difficult and this can create problems for your most important pages.

How you check it: Estimate how many pages of real content you think you have on your website. Don’t count dynamically generated pages with no unique content. Then go to Google and enter a search like this:

your-domain

You want to look at the ratio of real pages to pages in the index. Most major websites will have a lot of extra pages, once you start getting into the 5:1 range of indexed pages to real page ratio you should be taking a serious look to see what’s going on. 10:1 and it’s time to start worrying. It’s important to note that the number shown by Google isn’t accurate, check it a few different times as it will change. It will still give you an approximate idea of the pages Google is finding. Also, check some of your subdomains and sub-folders to verify the accuracy of the number of indexed pages. For example:

  • site:yourdomain.com/categories
  • site:blog.yourdomain.com
These searches will only shown indexed URLs that include the subdomain or subfolder.

How you fix it: You need to identify where your extra pages are coming from. If you don’t know where they are you can use similar Google searches to before. For example:

  • site:yourdomain.com -site:yourdomain.com/categories
This search will subtract all “yourdomain.com/categories” pages from the URLs included in this search. Then check how many pages dropped off your total URLs count (again expect this number to be inaccurate at times). Sift through the results until you identify another potential sub-folder or subdomain and add it to the search query. Eventually you should have a list like this:
  • /categories 50 pages
  • /categories/tags 300 pages
  • /users 4000 pages
Look at the lowest subfolders and subdomains where possible. Once you’ve identified low quality pages you want to remove from the Google index by adding this tag to the meta data of the page:
<meta name=“robots” content=“noindex, follow” >
One thing to consider is that just because some pages within a subfolder are below a the quality threshold for pages you want in the index it doesn’t mean they all are. User profiles are a good example,  some users may be blank and others may have rich full unique profiles you would love to index. In instances like this consider an automated quality threshold script that determines whether to index the page or not.

3. Slow Page Load Speeds

 What it is: Slow sites reduce the amount of potential users who will be able or willing to use your site. Remember not everyone is coming from the same place or a strong connection. In addition Google factors this both into directly pages and measuring user sentiment of your pages within their index.

How to check it: Go to WebPageTest.org and run a test for:

  • Chrome, Firefox, IE
  • Locations you expect to access your website
The key things you are looking for are the first byte load times, elements that are taking the most time and elements that are being loaded but don’t exist (404 errors).

webload2

How to fix it: It’s impossible to avoid getting technical when talking about site speed improvements. First byte times have to do with the server side code loading your pages, images can be optimized and put in image sprites, while big CSS and javascript files can be minified. Check out these excellent site speed resources for digging into site speed further:

4. You Have a Big Audience

If you have a big audience of customers, partners and users interested in your company you are well positioned to take advantage of the benefits of SEO. Creating a plan to ensure that your successful branding translates well into Google is going to be one of the best marketing investments you can make. Every major Google update has benefited brands that have this type of audience online. Quite literally you have a plethora of advantages over any competitor trying to rank in Google that doesn’t have this.

How to check it: Go to the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, check “Exact” for your match type and search for your brand name and brand specific terms. This is your audience already on Google looking for you.

distilled-kw_001

Note how I didn’t include searches for “Distilled” because we wouldn’t be able to take credit for all those searches. The key is not to count your branded searches but rather identify whether you have an engaged audience actively looking for you.

SEO is About a User Focused Website

If you look at the recommended changes they are actually focused around your users. Look at them all again in that light:
  • Not having users coming from links on other sites end up on blank pages
  • Leading search engine users to land on high quality pages
  • Loading your website quickly so users can access content
In fact for me that is the core of SEO is finding ways to build assets that primarily benefit your users but also position you well within Google. So how else can you benefit your users today?

If you want to find out more I highly recommend coming to one of our conferences, find out more here.

Chris Warren

Chris Warren

Chris started his career as a professional poker player for five years. He soon realized that life in Las Vegas wouldn't be the last stop in his career and started building for profit websites on the side. This wasn't successful but eventually it...   read more

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10 Comments

  1. Al

    Thanks for blogging about this.
    Is there an alternative to Open Site Explorer for checking HTTP status? Without the pro version you can't get the full report...

    reply >
  2. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for this - is it possible to check the exact pages that have been indexed in WMT?
    Thanks!
    Sarah

    reply >
  3. Thanks for sharing this informative post and the links for checking HTTP status. A lot of people will learn from this post.

    BlueLeap

    reply >
  4. Al

    Thanks Chris!

    reply >
  5. Steve

    Hi Chris,
    Information rich Post must say ,got to know something very unique than many articles out there ,i have tracked a few points from this for my business website.
    This kind of articles help lot to the small scale business person like me to maintain their website rather than spending bunch of money on "the SEO Services"

    reply >
  6. Great post - an important fact that it draws to mind are the many ways SEO can be utilized to make a site perform better. In my experience, clients and potential clients have a warped sense of what "SEO" does which factors into whether or not they need it. SEO isn't an expansive term and avenue might provide you with a boost of traffic while you already have another avenue covered.

    reply >
  7. Excellent post... I just found 14 pages that were showing 404's and 5 pages which were not doing my site any favours and gallery pages that were slowing my site down...

    reply >
  8. Great post Chris. There is a lot of talk out there that SEO is dead, but that is far from the truth. On site optimization, such as page speed mentioned above, is becoming increasingly important. I see SEO branching out into a few different specialties, one being technical SEO involving onsite issues.

    reply >

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