Welcome back to our look at some of the things that can hold your site back and stop you getting all web traffic and visitors you would like.
Anyway straight on with the good stuff. Some of this will mean you need to use a couple of basic simple tools to help but these are all free and 10 minutes with these easy and simple free tools can pay dividends to your site traffic and search engine ranking position. The first tool you will need is part of Google itself and it is the Google Webmaster Tools There is not a serious webmaster alive who is interested in promoting their site that can afford to ignore this free tool. The second is a website spider eg Xenu this is a windows tool but there are hundreds of free web spiders and sitemap generators for all platforms.
You should set up Xenu and register for Google Webmaster tools (GWT) so if you read the appropriate instructions for each of those then come back here we can continue.
Once you have got GWT set up and verified for your site it will take some time to populate data for all the sections so lets start by running your spider which could be Xenu or some other spider, against your site. You should be able to scan the whole of your website but ignore any external links as we are not interested in scanning other peoples site at this time. In Xenu this is as simple as File > Check URL > enter the url and untick check external links. The start it going. After a while you will come back with a report. Please note for very large sites it can take an hour or more to finish scanning 20,000 + links but for most uses it finishes in under 15 mins.
What we want to do is to see how your site looks to a spider.
- If you can order your results by title then you can have a look straight away and see if your site suffers from large numbers of pages without any titles, or with many duplicate title issues. You will want to resolve these issues where possible so every unique page has a title that describes it. Title tags can make a big difference with duplicates and missing titles getting less weight in results than good titles which are relevant to the page content
- Order your list by result and have a look for any broken links which go nowhere. Fix these especially if they are internal links
- Order your list by duration and see if you have got any pages that take an age to load. Google is getting very hot on page load times now with slow sites being penalised
- Order your list by size and just make sure you haven’t got any file that are amazingly large which could indicate unoptimised images.
- Have a look at the out links on a page and see if you have too many outbound links. By the time you have over 100 outbound links on a page they pass very little juice to the target page. if these are internal links you are not getting full value for these links so have a check and see if you need all those links or if they offer you no value.
- Order by address and see if you have several versions of the url for the same page. Some systems generate multiple urls that give exactly the same page content as they add an extra parameter in the url. This can cause duplicate content penalties to be applied which will reduce your position. Each piece of unique or 90% similar content should have just one link.
- Ignore or remove unnecessary url parameters. If you look at the addresses you may see that your site uses extra parmeters in the address to change a breadcrumb or pass information around which has no real value on the page content. Make sure you get best value for each page in your site by removing or ignoring these url parameters in GWT so you do not dilute your page value across 3 or 4 different addresses with no real difference in page content.
This slows down your site and Google doesn’t like slow sites.
I just want to revisit that last point as it is an important one that is often missed. If you use URL params for example to control the breadcrumb so that it shows which of several possible routes a user took to get to that exact page then it has value for the duration of that visit only. If someone has searched for your “Super thingy” and landed on your product page it doesn’t matter if the breadcrumb shows one route or another, what does matter is that product gets full value in Google so they find the product, if you have a duplicate content penalty where you have two versions of the page then it is less likely anyone searching will find that product.
Spider traps and other nasties
Watch out for the spider traps. especially on older or poorly designed sites you would often find that the spider was going round and round and never finishing scanning your site. There were many things that caused this, however the curse of never ending parameter addition was the normal cause. you would visit a page and click a link that added a param to the url then click another link which added another param and you ended up with 60,000 links in a site that only had 100 pages. So make sure that your site can be spidered easily and you don’t have any nasty traps lurking around as Google will stop trying to spider a site after a while and move onto some other site even if it still has pages it hasn’t scanned. There are now ways to solve this issue and ensure your pages do get found, however we will cover that next time in the GWT section.
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