DIY SEO: Website Appraisal

Website Appraisal – Is your foundation SEO Friendly?

Welcome to Part 1 of the free do-it-yourself SEO Guide. We’ll start by taking a look over your site and flagging some issues that may have a negative affect on your efforts. We’ll be looking for common issues that can potentially adversely affect search engine rankings. Some of these are technical issues, some are web design issues and others are things you may have done based on bad advice.

Contents
Splash Pages
Frames
Flash
URL Structure
Content
Search Engine Terms
Black Hat SEO and Spam
Benchmark: Pages Indexed

Splash Pages
What Are Splash Pages?
Splash pages are an introductory page to your web site, often displaying a promotional animation.

Splash pages are often just a chance for web designers to show off their skills. However, visitors come to your site for your content, a splash page increases the distance to the desired content.

The problem is your homepage is usually the most important and powerful page of your site. Having a splash page dramatically decreases the power of your homepage and the flow-on effect throughout the rest of your site.

Summary: Splash pages are narcissistic and detrimental, if you have one lose it!

Frames
What Are Frames?
frames are an archaic method of website design, used to display more than one html document in the same browser window.

There are so many reasons not to use frames that listing them all would require it’s own post. In relation to search engine optimisation the cons include indexing issues – search engines will index individual frame pages that are part of a frame set, leading to poor user experience often loading a web page without navigation etc. Using frames in your website design makes it harder for search engines to properly index your site. Finally, you cannot build links to individual pages on your site, a huge disadvantage as link building is critical to SEO success.

Summary: We have the technology! Scrap the frames.

Flash
What is Flash?
Flash is a popular method for adding animation and integrate video into web pages. If you have something ‘flashy’ flying across your website with animation and often sound, chances are your site uses Flash.

Search Engines are making advances in reading and indexing content within Flash. However the search engines still cannot read Flash like they can read html. Your entire site should not be coded in Flash. If your site is, build a new one.

Do not use flash in your websites navigation / menus (unless you can use a text link menu somewhere else on the page), and don’t have all of your important content in flash.

Summary: Just having a flash header will not harm your site. Keep important content and your website navigation out of Flash.

URL Structure
What Are URLs?
Basically a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is the web address of a page on the internet. For example the URL of this page is: http://davidonnell.com.au/diy-seo-website-appraisal
The URL for Google Australia is http://www.google.com.au

Have a browse through your website and have look at your site’s URL Structure and how it changes as you move from page to page. Make sure your look at the pages with your most important content, and if you have products, view your product pages and shopping cart pages.

Do you have a nice clean, descriptive URL structure?
For example if you are a dentist do your URLs look like this:
http://www.yourdentists.com.au/teeth-whitening
http://www.yourdentists.com.au/laser-dentistry.html

Or do you have dynamic URLs that look more like this:
http://www.yourdentists.com.au/cms/page?120910
http://www.yourdentists.com.au/services/products.php?sid=12345&sort=a

Some content management systems, database driven websites and e-commerce programs use dynamic URLs like the second example above. The problem is that dynamic URLs are often long, contain characters (parameters) such as &,?,=, and to the search engines these URL’s may not be unique and may create duplicate content issues.

Summary: Use descriptive, unique URL’s, optimising both static and dynamic URLs will be covered in week 3: Website Optimisation.

Content
What Is Website Content?
When I refer to content I am talking about the text based copy on your website.

Do you have a page on your site for each of your main products, categories, or services? Do you have plenty of unique, descriptive content on each of those pages? (not copy simply taken from another site.)

Summary: Unique, Relevant content is a prerequisite for search engine love. Get writing!

Search Engine Terms & Conditions
What are Search Engine Terms and Conditions?
Put Simply they are the rules of the game. A summary of acceptable and unacceptable techniques you may/may not use. It is really just a list of best practices that should be common sense, but sense isn’t all that common, is it?

During this guide I will not recommend anything that goes against the search engines terms and conditions. Some people go against the T&C’s unwittingly, and some people are willing to take a risk. If you are reading this guide you are bright enough to know that you do not want to be black listed by the search engines. It’s simply not worth the risk.

If you’re curios, here are links to each of the main search engines guidelines:
Google Webmaster Guidelines
Yahoo Search Quality Guidelines
Guidelines for successful indexing

Summary: Abide by the rules or risk exclusion.

Black Hat SEO & Spam
What is Black Hat SEO and what methods are considered Spammy in SEO?
Black Hat refers to using deceptive or unethical techniques to get high rankings in search engines. Black Hat techniques include cloaking (serving a page to the search-engine that is different from that served to visitors), using link spam bots to gain links artificially, page hijacking, scraper sites and splog (spam blog) networks.

Any rankings gained using these methods usually do not last for long and if picked up by the search engines, will also end up in penalising or banning the website. Black Hat techniques are commonly used by affiliate marketers in a burn and repeat process, not those looking to build long term rankings for businesses.

Spammy SEO techniques may have worked in fooling search engines a few years ago but are less effective today. They include keyword stuffing, hidden content, hidden links, link spam and link farms. If detected or reported you will also be penalised or banned.

Summary: Remove/never employ Black Hat SEO / Spammy SEO tactics.

Benchmark: Pages Indexed
Before you change anything on your site you might want to benchmark how well your site is currently indexed in the search engines. Pages Indexed tells you the number of pages of your website that the search engines have indexed. Once you have applied the changes recommended throughout this guide you’ll be able to see the improvement.

Using the site: command we can check the amount of pages that are currently indexed by the major search engines.
Google: Go to www.google.com.au and type the following into the search field (replacing www.yoursite.com with the address of your own website:
site:www.yoursite.com

google-site-command

When the search results page appears you will see a page count in the top, right hand corner:

pages-indexed-google

Bing: Go to www.bing.com.au and type the following into the search field (replacing www.yoursite.com with the address of your own website:
site:www.yoursite.com

site-command-bing

Once again the page count will be at the top of the page to the right of the search box:

pages-indexed-bing

Take note of the numbers for both search engines for comparison later. We’ll also cover keyword and search engine ranking benchmarking during week 2.

If you have run into a big road block like having a website built completely in flash or using frames, you’ll need to address that before moving on.

If you have some of the other issues like a splash page or dynamic URL’s, make a note and look into having those issues addressed, however you can still move on to Part 2: Keyword Research.

2 comments

  1. managed hosting   •  

    Properly optimizing your pages to make them “search engine friendly” can greatly increase your search engine rankings, traffic levels, and potential earnings from your website.

  2. Website Appraisal   •  

    Great article! I just got into the internet game a while ago and will really use your suggestions and advice. Thanks again!

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