SEO: we’ve all heard the acronym a million times by now, but many people still don’t realize the power those three letters can hold for the health of a website.
SEO – aka search engine optimization – can make the content of your site more relevant, more attractive, and more easily understood by search engines and humans. Lack of proper SEO or poorly planned SEO can have some hefty implications for your site that aren’t immediately obvious from looking at the surface.
Of course, some people dismiss the notion of SEO relatively quickly: “Well I don’t care if I rank in search engines, I have loyal customers.” This could be true, but what about all of the potential customers you’re missing out on because they can’t find you?
Think of SEO like your store, it has great products and merchandise but no one can find the location. That means a lot of lost sales and well, a pretty empty store that probably wouldn’t survive very long. This situation is exactly like poor SEO on your website.
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Not everyone will directly type your company’s name into their search bar or click a Facebook post or tweet. In fact, search is the number one driver of traffic content to sites, beating social media by 300% .
SEO is important and it is a big deal to implement on your web presence. You may now be jumping at the chance to give your site a design makeover, but the most meaningful changes often take place under the hood. In other words, the changes that will make your site healthier are less glamorous and more meticulous than you might be prepared for, but the juice is worth the squeeze.
Here are 3 behind-the-scenes areas to focus on that will help improve your site’s relationship with search engines. Coincidentally, you can tackle them all through Google Webmaster Tools.
(Google Webmaster tools is a free tool provided by Google that can get you started in the right direction. Think about it this way: Google provides the toolset so sites can improve and therefore improve Google results for users. It’s their not-so-subtle way of saying “Hey! Pay attention to this stuff!”)
1. Repair “not found” errors.
Not found or 404 errors could be a problem for your site—especially if you don’t have a pretty 404 page to send your visitor to. So why could this be happening? Here are a few possibilities:
- You deleted a page, but didn’t add a 301 redirect
- You changed the name of a page and didn’t 301 redirect it
- You have a typo in an internal link on you site, linking to a nonexistent page
These errors can be found under the health > crawl errors section of your dashboard. Viewing the “not found” page will list out all of your site’s broken links. It will tell you the date it was detected and if you click on the link a smaller box will appear. By clicking on the tab “linked from” you can see where the 404 is originating. Once on the page, it may still take some detective work on your part to find the link, but once you know what the link the broken is, setting up a 301 permanent redirect will fix the problem.
Here’s a best practice I follow: if you are getting good links to a page with a broken link, you should redirect the broken link to the page it was meant to go to, or if that page has been removed then redirect it to a similar page.
2. Fix Duplicate Meta Descriptions and Duplicate Page Titles.
If you have two or more pages with the same meta description (i.e., description of your page displayed in search results) or two pages with the same title search engines may not be able to decide which one is more important or relevant.
Even worse, you could be losing traffic and page authority as it’s spilt between two seemingly similar pages (this is called cannibalization).
The work here is a little more tedious in that you must manually re-write descriptions. Yet Webmaster Tools allows you to easily pop out each page, which will create a little less digging work on your part. However, a simpler way is to chat with your development team and ask if they can make default meta descriptions that grab the first sentence of each article. This can cut down your work for older, perhaps less relevant or less viewed pages and give your site a boost in rank. It’s important to have creating best practices for descriptions and titles part of your SEO strategy.
3. Find out who loves you through Google Webmaster Tools.
Looking through all the features of Webmaster tools may allow you to uncover some interesting things about your site that can improve your content as a component of your SEO strategy. For example, you can view who links to your content the most and what content of yours is most linked to.
Finding out this information can help you build relationships with others and become a thought leader in a specific area by capitalizing on relationships with people (and websites) who have already endorsed your content once.
These are just a few quick but meaningful ways you can improve your site without a complete design makeover.
[image: The Library of Congress]