Articles in the SEO 101 – The Basics Category

What are SEO “best practices”? How can you ensure the search engines are able to “see” and “crawl” your website? What’s the best way to optimize your website’s content and meta data? Learn SEO basics thought our SEO 101 blog posts, and discover how you can use simple techniques to optimize your website for search.

October 1 2012

Kicking Pagination Problems

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Quite a few websites make use of pagination to distribute products or content evenly across multiple pages. Pagination is essentially the distribution of on page content across multiple pages. This can provide good user experience on many sites which might include blog or product categories. If these category pages have too much content to realistically fit on one page, spreading them across multiple pages can be a smart choice.

There can be serious SEO issues with this however. For one, ranking and indexing signals such as inbound links might be diluted across all pages instead of accumulating on the most important page in the series. This can keep the main page from ranking as well as it should be. Second, if you have some static content such as a descriptive paragraph on every page, pagination can cause duplicate content issues.

These problems have been run into across many websites, and Google has created some solutions. First, if your website or blog has an article which is broken up across multiple pages, the recommended solution is to implement rel=prev and rel=next tags on each page. These will inform search engines that the pages are in a series and should be grouped together. More from Google about this action can be found here.

The next example would be if you have a blog with categories, and you have so many posts within each category that they cover many pages. If your blog appends a parameter to the URL on each page such as page=1, page=2, page=3, then you might run into issues where links become created to pages with no content. This could be seen as page=133 when you only have 10 pages. If this is a problem with one category, it is very possible that this will happen to multiple categories and it is important to address early. The best solution is twofold; however it is important to be very careful with this solution. If you are not technically knowledgeable then it is recommended to contact your webmaster or an expert.

First, create and verify a Google Webmaster Tools account if you do not have one already. Next, go to “parameter handling” under the “configuration” tab and click on “configure URL parameters.” This will lead you through the steps necessary to keep Google from crawling your paginated pages. Make sure that you know exactly what parameters are being appended to your website’s URLs which are causing the pagination issues. Finally, it is also recommended to implement the rel=canonical element on each page which is not the first page in the series. Each canonical element should point to the first page in the series. More on parameter handling from Google can be found here.

Once again, it is very important to make sure you have the technical knowledge to implement either of these suggestions. If you incorrectly implement parameter handling, it can keep Google from crawling and indexing important pages. If you implement correctly, it can save Google from crawling unimportant pages and serve them only the pages you wish do well in the search engines.

September 10 2012

Increasing Click-Through Ratios with Better Looking Search Results

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Better search rankings are an admirable goal for any website. But the best rankings aren’t very useful if no one is clicking on your listings and helping you meet your conversion goals. The landscape of search engine results pages (SERPs) has changed dramatically over the years — a trend that’s likely to continue. When your listing is competing with images, maps, Google Knowledge Graph, and other dynamic SERP elements, it helps when your listing stands out from the crowd. To get an edge, use these tips to improve the appearance of your SERP listings:

Improve your Metadata — Oftentimes, your metadata is a user’s first impression of your site. You may have optimized your metadata while implementing your SEO strategy. But, it may be worth revisiting — especially description tags. Description tags don’t carry weight for determining SERP ranking, but they are critical in convincing users to click-through to your site. Write compelling descriptions that include a call to action and one or two keywords (if a user searched for these terms, they will be bolded in the description tag and draw the user’s attention). Many sites let Google pull text from the page to create a description, but this is usually unhelpful for users. Get a leg up and increase your click-through rates with punchy description tags.

Use Rich Snippets — Although rich snippets have been around for more than a year, adoption has been rather slow among websites. Rich snippets modify your description with relevant information and images. Not only is this very helpful for users, but it also makes your search listing pop on the page. Google has useful information for understanding and leveraging rich snippets on your website.

Optimize for Site Links — Site links appear under your listing and direct users to your most useful and popular pages. They are perhaps the best way to maximize a listing’s real estate on a SERP:

As you can see, a listing with site links gets nearly three times the space as a regular listing. Unfortunately, site links are an automated feature, so there is no code you can add to your site to generate them. But, if your site is well optimized, you increase the likelihood that Google will display them. Set up a Google Webmaster Tools account and submit your URL and site map for starters. You’ll also want to rectify any site errors you have.

By following these tips, you probably won’t increase the position of any of your pages, but you’ll attract more attention and clicks to for your listings; so it’s worth the effort.

September 5 2012

The Benefits of Responsive Design

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“Responsive design” has become a bit of a buzz word these days in the marketing world, with many webmasters speaking its praise for providing an optimal user experience for browsing on mobile devices. And there’s no greater advocate to make the case for responsive design than Google. On June 6, 2012, Pierre Far, Google webmaster trends analyst, announced clear guidelines and recommendations on mobile SEO, which also addressed responsive design. While Google still recognized device-specific HTML as a viable alternative, they recommend responsive design, when possible, for the following reasons:

  • Maintaining one URL for your website, regardless of whether it’s being viewed on mobile devices or a desktop, makes it easier for users to respond to calls-to-action on your site, such as a user sharing one of your product pages on their own Facebook page or linking to an article on your website from their own website.
  • By eliminating the need for redirects, responsive design allows users to easily navigate back and forth between pages on your site, with minimal load time.
  • Googlebot user agents only need to crawl your responsive web design pages once to retrieve your content.

While the rationale behind Google’s recommendation is sound, there’s still one critical component to consider before deciding if responsive design is the right solution for your company: Content length. While responsive design takes into account how the design should look, it doesn’t take into account how the page will read. This means that if you have lengthy content on your web pages, your site may fit proportionately on mobile device screens, but users will be scrolling … and scrolling … and scrolling to read it all.

In addition, a mobile user is typically interested in different content than a desktop or tablet user and responsive design may inhibit your ability to tailor content specifically to mobile needs. Mobile users are looking for resources on-the-go, such as finding coupons to use at a store they’re currently shopping in or finding directions to a nearby restaurant.

According to Google’s CPG Blog, tablets are still primarily being used while at home. For example, Google’s research identified that some of the most frequent tablet uses were leisurely activities, including checking email, playing games and social networking.

Below is a graph that illustrates some of the top reasons why SmartPhone owners use the Internet on mobile devices, according to Google.

Although this shouldn’t deter you from taking advantage of the many great benefits of responsive design, it is something to consider before jumping on the bandwagon. You want your site to provide the best experience for users from a design – and a readability – standpoint.

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