3 Technical SEO Tips

HTML Coding Word CollageYou may have heard that content is king, but did you know there is more to your SEO strategy than just blog posts and website copy? Yes, there is a collection of code that makes up the infrastructure and platform that your content sits on, and if this foundation is not built and maintained properly, your content might never be seen by your users. If your users can’t find your optimized content, how are you supposed to convert them into patients or customers?

Check out the first 3 technical SEO tips in a running blog series below to see if your site is up to par.

TL;DR

404 errors

  • this error tends to denote broken links or missing pages.
  • to fix this error, you implement a 301 redirect. If you don’t, search engines will remove the page from their SERPs due to the error communicating that the content no longer exists.
  • 404 errors don’t direclty affect your SEO, but they do affect user experience. Makes sure your content is linked correctly and redirected appropriately.

Page speed load time

  • The general rule on the internet is this: you have 3 seconds to make your impression. Make sure your site and its content is optimized for your target audience and that it loads even quicker.
  • Google has a page speed load time insight tool to help judge how fast and optimized your site is in regards to load time from the server.

Duplicate Content

  • If you have duplicate content, make the investment to have yours rewritten. The revenue you lose simply because search engines are marking your site as low-quality duplicate is greater than the money you saved to copy and paste. You will see a ROI with original, optimized content.

1. Not Found Error (hard 404)

If you see this on your website, it should be by design to help the user understand that they’ve input the wrong URL. For example, the image below is a result of entering the following URL into the bar at the top of the browser: https://mdpmconsulting.com/404error

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 11.50.23 AM

However, some websites show a 404 error for the following reasons:

  • Broken Links
  • Missing Content
  • Moved Content not found at requested URL
  • Non-redirected URLs after a new version of a site went live

To manage these issues, MDPM uses Google Webmaster Tools and various link checkers on a regular basis to see if it has registered any 404 errors for client websites.

Google Webmaster Tools 404 Error Notification Table

If a 404 error does register in GWT or the link checkers, we enact the following steps:

  1. Visit the page and confirm the error
  2. Grab the URL and create a 301 redirect
  3. Implement a 301 redirect from error page to correct page
  4. Double check implementation by visiting old error URL

There is also what’s called a soft 404 error. This occurrence represents the server returning a real page to the user that is marked as OK but doesn’t exist. In most cases, we treat this soft error the same way we treat the hard error: we redirect it to the correct page. In some cases, a 410 code is implemented to let search engines know the page no longer exists and there is no page to replace it, which means the “broken” page will be permanently removed from the SERPs eventually.

A 404 error does not directly hurt your SEO efforts. It simply communicates to search engines that the page no longer exists, which means the search engines will pull that page from SERPs. However, if you are gaining traffic to these 404 error pages, it’s a great idea to determine the value of that traffic and, either 301 redirect the pages to relevant content or allow them to remain non-existent.

In most cases, if a page is gaining attention, MDPM will 301 redirect it to retain the traffic for the client’s website.

2. Page Speed Load Time

Google Insights offers a great free tool to test your site for its load speed time on desktop and mobile. This tool measures the server response time to a request when loading a page. If you’re interested in how Google rates websites, check out Search Engine Land’s article.

Website visitors tend to lack patience when it comes to their internet experience. They tend to bounce off a site that takes too long to load. Dealing with the issue or maintaining a “light” site is vital to your user’s experience and online marketing strategy.

Google Page Speed Insights Page

The following list is a way to decrease your website’s page speed load time or, in other words, make it “lighter”:

  • Use HTML5 instead of Flash
  • Reduce images to their smallest needed file size (compression)
  • Limit images and photos unless absolutely necessary (Logo is .png, all other images are .jpeg)
  • Regularly check your websites page speed and implement ways to make it faster where necessary

MDPM uses or recommends using all the following items above among other technical implementations to ensure client websites function and run smoothly for all user on any device.

The back end performance of a website does directly affect the site’s potential to rank higher than other sites. Page speed load time is just one of many ranking factors. Not only does page speed load time impact how you rank, but it can also help or hinder the user experience, which has a big bearing on overall SEO. In this day and age of the 3-seconds-or-less-to-make-an-impression rule, it’s vital to make sure your site loads quickly and performs flawlessly.

3. Duplicate Content

As we’ve said time and time again, duplicate content is a bad thing, whether intentional or unintentional. One proven way to deal with multiple pages being marked for the same content is canonicalization, which is the process of choosing which URL best represents the duplicate content and notifying search engines bots or crawlers of this choice so that the content isn’t crawled twice.

For example, most people would consider the URLs below the same:

  • www.test.com
  • test.com/
  • www.test.com/home.asp
  • test.com/index.html

Technically, these are all registered as different URLs, which means user interaction or server requests will be split/dispersed among these destinations if left as is and unmarked. This can skew your traffic, limit visibility on search results, and — in some extreme cases — return content to your users that is irrelevant and potentially provoke them to leave your site.

In Google Webmaster Tools, there is an option that allows the web manager to select which URL Google should crawl and display in SERPs. This is the “www.test.com” and “test.com” version. This informs Google that among X number or potential URLs entered by the user to access a single page, the non-www version is the one desired to show in search results. So, in the case of the four listed domains above, the “test.com” can be selected as the desired domain and Google, in this case, will index that domain instead of the other three.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 11.21.00 AM

Meta titles and descriptions (although not used as signals in the ranking algorithms can be marked as duplicate) can be resolved in two different ways. Review the example below:

Page 1 title – Your Best Pizza Place (product page)

Page 2 title – Your Best Pizza Place (coupon code/thank you page)

These are two separate pages, but the titles are the same. You could have a main page that shows the offers of the pizza, which would be a product page. While Page 2 could be your “thank you” page after a user has completed an order, offering them the coupon code. The titles themselves could be marked as duplicate, which means Google will make its best judgement on which page to show in search results.

A simple rel=”canonical” tag will notify search engines which page to index, but only if you would like to keep duplicate content out of the SERPs. Only indexed pages appear in search engines, while the crawled pages are simply “viewed” by search engines and users.

Make sure you mark the correct pages when using canonical tags and non-index signals.

You could also edit the coupon code page meta title to fix the problem, while still allowing for both pages to be indexed and shown in the SERPs.

For example:

Page 1 title – Your Best Pizza Place

Page 2 title – Your Best Pizza Coupon

In the long run, it’s best to set a unique title and description for each page, so that when users find the link in the search results, they are able to discern what they’ll find on the other end of the link based on the title and description. Setting unique page titles and descriptions also allows for two pages on your site to be indexed and shown in search results instead of one page, creating a larger footprint for your site. As an example, see the images below for one of MDPM’s pages along with the code suggesting to search engines what to show in the SERPs.

Search Results:

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 11.27.01 AM

On site (viewable using “page source”):

Meta Title Code for MDPM's Website
MDPM's code for meta description on site

Although meta information is no longer used as a direct signal or influence to the ranking algorithms, it can still help and entice potential users to visit your website, therefore impacting click through rate and overall traffic. Duplicate content, if marked as such, can indicate to search engines to remove pages from the SERPs, which means less content for your users to find and consume. For this reason, it’s crucial to be careful and strategic with your indexing labels. Yes, it is nice to rank on the first page of Google, but if your internet footprint is not clean and consistent with SEO standards, your user won’t enjoy their experience on your site, and the ranking won’t matter much.

As John Wooden would say:

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

Are you interested in learning more about technical SEO and how it affects your website? Want to make sure your website is up to Google’s standards? Ready to take your web presence to the next level? Give us a call at (972) 781-8861, or send us an email at [email protected]. Check back next week for a discussion on permalinks, sitemaps, and 301/302 codes.