The “Penguin” algorithm update from Google has certainly taken web spammers down a peg (or SERP ranking) by dishing out penalties for things like overused anchor text and duplicate content. However, it’s not just nefarious websites receiving a penalty. Many well-meaning companies can have spam elements on their site specifically targeted by Penguin. In many cases, these problem areas of a website are a matter of taking some shortcuts with content development. But, there are no shortcuts in quality SEO! If you’re concerned about Penguin penalizing your site, devote some time to these areas:
Titles — To be effective for both user experience and SEO, title tags need to be informative and descriptive. Google has only gotten more critical of title tags — often changing them entirely when a page ranks for certain search results. The title tag is not the place to cram keywords and branding — exactly the kind of thing Penguin is frowning upon. Make sure your titles are true to the theme of their respective pages.
Internal Links — Out of all SEO elements, internal links have probably drawn the most ire of Penguin. When building site content [https://www.morevisibility.com/services-seo-copywriting.php], you are totally in charge of what pages to link to and what anchor text to use. It’s all too easy and tempting to over-link to certain pages and/or continuously use the same anchor text — often a perfectly optimized keyphrase. The same goes for giant page footers filled with internal site links. Overdoing this type of optimization will raise a red flag. Include variety by blending synonyms for your keywords and calls to action in your anchor text.
Back Links — While you have less control over your back links, you should be discerning about them when you can. For your company link building efforts, shoot for variety (with different types of sites, content, and anchor text) and quality (by creating original content for sites that are reputable and relevant to your business).
Content Layout — Of course, your site should be content rich. But when you start repeating yourself, you’re treading on thin ice. Two pages meant to target slightly different versions of the same keyphrase are not helpful to the user and could be flagged by Penguin as being duplicative. Read through your site and ask yourself whether a page really provides new and useful information, or if it just retreads information from another page of your site.
Making up the foundation of search engine optimization are four key concepts on which you should build your SEO strategy. The four cornerstones are: content, keywords, linking, and architecture.
What is content? Why is it important? Content is all of the words that appear on a page or in the code of your website. Think about your business and what you wish customers knew about your product, service, location, or team. Do you have special promotions or certain offerings you would like to feature? Writing about these different subjects fills your site with content. Adding new content to your website in a timely manner helps search engine spiders recognize that your site is active. Additionally, websites can develop an onsite blog as a place for announcements, information, and other pieces of new content that could embellish the website.
What is a keyword? What is a keyword phrase? What are long tail keywords? You may have heard or read about keywords when trying to develop an SEO strategy. Keywords are words that represent the main topic of each page of your website. For example, if you have a business like an Italian pizzeria in South Florida, your main keyword will most likely be “pizza.” Since you are not the only (theoretical) pizzeria in the world, you will want to have pages on your site that have more specialized words describing your specific pizzeria. These combinations of keywords are called keyword phrases. Keeping with the pizzeria example, three keyword phrases could be “Italian pizza by the slice,” “Theoretical Pizza by Juan Carlo,” and “pizza delivery near University of Miami.” Very granular (and often long) keyword phrases are called long tail. An example for our pizzeria could be “New York style pizza with garlic bread crust near University of Miami.” Choosing your keywords carefully and monitoring to see which bring in customers can help you grow your online presence and your business.
Why do you want related sites linking to your webpage? Why is proper internal linking so important? Related sites linking to your webpage (not just your homepage) show search engines that your site is relevant to your industry. A webpage’s ranking potential is partially determined from the quality of relevant sources that link to the website. When structuring the links of your website, make sure that there are no dead ends. It frustrates users and search engine spiders alike. Use proper sitemap syntax. This will tell the search engines which pages to index, in case they missed any when crawling the rest of the site, and how to prioritize the pages they have found. Additionally, a large push to increase the number of links coming into your site all at once could have an adverse affect. Search engines know that it is a slow process and understand that as you add new pages and additional content to your site more people will link to you.
Do you know how to communicate with the search engine spiders? The robots.txt file contains information of where you would like search engines to visit (such as a link to your sitemap), but also information on where the search engine spiders should not go. Making sure search engine spiders can find all of your pages that you want indexed and none of the pages you don’t should be a part of your strategy and not left to chance. How your website is designed is also important. Search engines have a hard time reading Flash along with some other fancy design features. Users visiting your website may also complain of slow load times and music they can’t figure out how to turn off. Simple, user-friendly design is often better for SEO.
Additionally, structuring your site so a majority of your content is contained in images is troublesome for search engines. Other than the image’s file name and alt tag (if there is one) the search engines see empty space. Paying careful attention to site architecture when designing your website can save you from a costly redesign down the road. If you did not have a strategy in place during the formation of your current website, a redesign may improve sales and show a significant return-on-investment.
These four cornerstones make up the foundation of a solid SEO strategy. They work together to increase the number of indexed pages on a website and to increase the chances those indexed pages will show up in search rankings. All can be optimized for placement of your website near the top of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
Search is vital for all businesses, whether B2C or B2B, big or small, eCommerce or service based. Any industry can benefit from search engine optimization. Having a sound SEO strategy in place is increasingly important as more and more consumers rely on search engines.
Welcome back to my series on fixing un-canonical URLs. To date, we’ve looked at a variety of areas that could potentially cause the same content to be accessible from multiple URLs on your site, which is very problematic from a search engine perspective:
Let’s talk about the last item in my list:
7. Combinations of any or all of the above
It is possible, for example, to have the same content accessible from both protocols (http and https) as well as both the www- version and the non-www- version. This scenario provides four URLs that display the same exact content:
Any combination of the issues (numbers 1 – 6) may be lurking on your site. In addition, one section of your site may be suffering from one combination of these issues while other sections may be suffering from another combination of issues. I usually find that the simplest way to fix a combination of issues is to first test for one issue and fix it and then move on to the next issue.
All of the six potential problem areas I discussed were caused by efforts to make the internet easier, more forgiving to use and reduce the amount of work a web visitor or web site administrators had to do. The underlying design of web servers was created before search engines like Google or Live existed and before duplicate content issues were a problem. Since web servers weren’t really designed with search engines in mind, you should keep in mind the above list as you comb your site for canonical URL issues.
Perhaps the easiest way to avoid un-canonical URLs is to build your site (or section of your site) from the ground up with these potential problem areas in mind. Granted, that may be easier said than done.
I also suggest that any new pages/files/URLs you create on your site have a file extension appropriate to the scripting language on your sever (.php, .asp, .aspx, .cfm, etc.) as opposed to .html or .htm (which are normally assumed to be file extensions of a “static” page). The reason is that if you need to redirect, for instance, from example.com/mypage.html to www.example.com/my-new-page.html and your web server limits or doesn’t support the use of tools like URL rewriting, you may have to take an SEO hit after renaming the file. This is because an html file normally cannot run scripts. (Redirecting to another page is a script function.) So essentially, creating new files on your website with “dynamic file extensions” allows much more flexibility in the future.
What’s even better is to build your site or section using a CMS that was designed to be SEO friendly.
Remember to watch out for misspellings in your URLs, that includes the path name (the part of the URL starting with the first forward slash up to, but not including the question mark or fragment) and the query string. Also keep in mind that everything in the URL except the fragment can affect canonical URL/duplicate content issues. Another point is that a phone call or email to your hosting company may be able to resolve some canonical URL issues when you can’t seem to resolve a particular issue yourself.
Also, be on the lookout for the new anything-goes top level domains (the “police” in traffic.police would be an anything-goes top level domain, for example, while edu, com and org are traditional top level domains) which could offer a few more URL canonicalization challenges in the near future.
I hope this series was helpful, time saving and useful. Best wishes to you and yours on all your URL canonicalization efforts!