Identify and fix website problems

First, make sure your website pages are according to Google Guidelines and you don’t overlook any point that could affect the website to rank well.

1. Consistent relationship

User behavior is one of the metrics Google now uses to understand the quality of the website. This means that Google monitors how much time users spend on every page and how well your website engages a visitor. 

Do not break visitor’s interest due to any of the reasons below:

  • Broken links/images
    • Xenu’s Link Sleuth (FREE) tool is best to identify the broken page links and images on the website. Run your website on it and get a complete report in a HTML file.
  • Broken functionality
    • Website’s internal search should return the required results.
    • Contact form should fulfill the query, and return the thank you page.
    • Email addresses should contain “mailto”.
    • Every form like member registration, login or feedback forms should work properly.
    • Shopping cart should function properly till the end.
  • 404 Error page
    • 404 is actually not just a technical site problem but a user experience one. With an excellent 404 page you can try to maintain a good user experience even if something’s gone wrong. (You can also make an interactive 404 error page. See the example here.)

2. Usability

Usability makes user experience better which in turn increases conversions on the website. Many large organizations are investing heavily in usability for better engagement. There are a lot of articles written on the topic of usability.

For now let’s discuss the most important things where most of the website lack.

  • HTML/CSS Issues
    • If your website is passed by the “Quality Assurance Team” then it would probably not having such issues. It is a normal case in web that solving a bug on first page can produce new CSS issues on the other pages with formatting, alignment, links and headings style, paragraph breaks and spaces that could cause a reason for user to leave the website and put a bad impression on visitors – they could assume your business is not worth their time.
  • Page speed
    • Google loves websites that open quickly and this is one of the major ranking factors on the SERPs. Don’t let users wait for a long time.
  • Navigation
    • A site with complex navigation is not only tiresome but it saps at the visitor’s interest. A quick and easy-to-use navigation that displays important pages in just one click is far superior.
  • Flash
    • There are three reasons I’d not recommend using Flash: 1) if a user doesn’t have an updated Flash player they cannot see it 2) it decreases the web page performance 3) it is not compatible with search crawlers.
  • Formatting/Alignment
    • Irregular, ad-hoc and inconsistent content placement as well as images on web page make will make your site look like an ugly dish of sticky mashed potatoes. No one likes that.
  • Browser compatibility check
    • Websites usually don’t look the same in all browsers. Sometimes a healthy looking site on one browser might turn out incredibly sour on other browser. Make sure your website return the same results in every browser.
  • Screen resolution
    • I’d suggest here to go with responsive web design that adjusts with the screen size. Nowadays, I don’t think you need to make a separate website for mobile devices unless there is a specific reason to do so. 

3. Content

Content is by far the most important yet critical part of the websites that can lead you to lot of conversions or a penalty by Google. Look at your website content pages and take close attention to the following:

  • Duplicate content
    • Google has strict content policies and the Google Panda update has hit thousands of websites on Google SERPs. If you are afraid of being the next victim of a Google update make sure your website is free from all duplicate content issues. 
  • Pages having thin content
    • Thin content pages or pages without content are also against Google Guidelines – either remove such pages or add real content to them.
  • 301 Redirect
    • If your website opens with both www and non-www URLs, make sure to apply www redirect in the .htaccess file. It will save you with content duplication of “every page”.
  • Grammatical issues
    • Content is a key tool in conveying the right message and grabbing the user’s attention. Ensure that you provide your readers with easy-to-read, grammatically correct and error-free content.

4. Source code

Google views/crawls through the page code. Hence it is essential that you analyze your website’s source code to see what Google sees. This will help you make changes in order to make it easy to crawl and display what is necessary.

  • Canonicalization
    • A canonical page is the preferred version of a set of pages with highly similar content. Proper canonicalization is a critical thing to apply, So, I’d recommend contacting an expert who can resolve this issue for you.
  • Remove Meta Keywords
    • Yahoo and Bing consider keywords for rankings but the same can take you down in Google SERPs (in my experience). I never add keywords tag in the source code and it works well for me.
  • iframe
    • You cannot differentiate whether a particular section is built under iframe until you view the source code. Remove iframes and make the content accessible to search crawlers.
  • Hard-coded JavaScript
    • Check whether your website contains hard-coded JavaScript in the header or within the body. It doesn’t hurt but your code should be simple and start without having a bunch of useless scripts (that also increases the page size).
      If you remove it, you might tip off some functions so the best solution is to put all hard-coded JavaScript material into external JavaScript files and attach it in the header (hire a developer if you don’t know coding already, it is critical development task).
  • Keyword-stuffing
    • I know it isn’t done on your website but possibly done in 2008 when the trick was to put hidden keywords in the code that you can’t see in the front design. If you aren’t caught in the Google yet, check and remove it quickly!!!

Optimise how your site is shown in the SERPs

While making everything better, let’s not forget how a website result will appear on the search page. We need to make sure that it is good enough to attract those searching to click on your site result. Low CTR decreases the search rankings so it is pretty important.

  • Rich Snippets
    • Sites using rich snippets hold higher rankings and have higher CTR in organic listings, but only 0.27% of domains are using schema. Check this post by Dana Lookadoo for more details and how to use them.
  • Author markup
    • An author picture with the search result increases the trust rate and CTR. Put your Google+ profile on the website and get yourself featured on some niche related authority websites through guest blogs. It will ridiculously increase your content ranking as compared to just starting or have no mentions.
  • Dynamic URLs
    • Dynamic URLs decrease the CTR. Make the URLs shorter, readable and memorable by humans.
  • Optimized Title Tag
    • The title is limited to just 70 characters in the SERPs. It is still one of the most important factors of Google ranking and you need to be creative to get the clicks and attention. Be careful here. No hard and fast rules but use your creativity to put together a good title.
  • Optimized Meta Description
    • It is the final point of attraction to those using search engines. Write short, meaningful, creative and complete information about the page in the Meta description.

Final recommendations

The previous recommendations need to be checked for every website, in any market. Now lastly, some that will help you grow traffic and make your website easy to be understand and accessible by search engines.

  • Blog
    • If your website does not have a blog, I consider this a critical oversight. Blogging is a one of the best ways to produce fresh content, get visitor attraction and have website engagement.
  • Important pages
    • Write separate pages for each of your key services on the website and look to generate some high quality links for these.
      • Note: Never create a separate page for every keyword for rankings. If you’ve already done that, clean it right now or contact a professional who can help you.
  • Robots.txt
    • This file is a guide to search engines about what pages should they crawl/index and what they shouldn’t. It is also one of the critical components that needs to be managed carefully.
  • Internal Links
    • Put reference links within your content and send visitors to detailed pages. It maximizes the website interaction and good for SEO too. Don’t overdo it!
  • Sitemaps
    • Create both HTML and XML sitemaps on your website. They are both necessary.

A technical SEO checklist covering the above is free to download for Econsultancy subscribersWe also have a comprehensive SEO Best Practice Guide.