1. Dead Pages with LinksWhat 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.
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 CountWhat 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:
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:
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
- /categories 50 pages
- /categories/tags 300 pages
- /users 4000 pages
<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 SpeedsWhat 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
4. You Have a Big AudienceIf 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.
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 WebsiteIf 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
If you want to find out more I highly recommend coming to one of our conferences, find out more here.