My last blog outlined the main SEO tools that businesses need. Tools like Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, when set up correctly, help you monitor both the positive and negative factors that affect your site’s SEO.
Positive signals to watch and improve include:
Mobile friendliness – The degree to which your site is mobile friendly will affect your SEO. In April 2015, mobile friendliness became a significant ranking factor for Google in determining a page’s position on the SERPs for Google visitors on mobile devices. Use Webmaster Tools (WMTs) such as Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools to monitor and improve your site’s mobile friendliness. As a separate tool, Google offers a quick test that reviews your URL and reports whether the page has a mobile-friendly design.
Keyword rankings – When your site contains relevant, quality content related to search phrases frequently used by visitors of Internet search engines, then these are positive signals for your SEO. Use WMTs to see which keywords and pages rank highest; use this information to determine which content on your site is most influential. Avoid the temptation to pack more of those high-ranking keywords into every page of your site – this could backfire and send out negative signals. Instead, use the keyword data to guide your content development and focus.
Links from other sites to yours – The links you naturally earn from sites with high domain authority (like when you’re mentioned in an e-commerce industry article) equate to positive signals that increase your rankings. However, resist the urge to outright ask publications or associations to add a link to your site – Google has mysterious ways to discern whether a link is simply requested or actually earned. Instead, create standout blogs and provide valuable industry news through social media and PR efforts. When you deliver information that others want to share, you truly earn links that boost your overall SEO efforts.
Structured Data – Structured data improves the bots’ understanding of the entities (products, organizations, blog posts, video objects, etc.) referenced on your site. You can improve the visibility of your pages by marking up the main entities and ensuring organizational markup is present on all pages. Check that structured data used on your side is understood correctly using the tools provided by Bing and Google. Keep in mind that incorrectly implementing structured data might do more harm than good.
Negative signals to watch and minimize include:
Crawl errors – A common crawl error that triggers a warning from WMT is a soft 404. If search engine bots pick up on pages that no longer exist and a no-results page is shown but not accompanied with a 404 http return code, this is a negative quality signal against the domain. To be clear, showing no-results pages is not a bad practice in itself – there are even possibilities to engage with visitors on them. However, they always need to be accompanied with a 404. On spotting soft 404s, you should immediately engage with your web designers to ensure the no-results page behaves as expected. Once the fix is in place, you might choose to “fetch” or “fetch and render” the no longer existing page to ensure it is returning the desired 404 response.
Large number of URLs on site – WMTs will send you warnings if you use too many URLs on your site, which could negatively affect your SEO. To correct this problem, you need to take a hard look at the pages that are already found. The WMT warning message will contain some example URLs; go through the list and confirm whether you want all of these URLs to be indexed. In addition, check for canonicalization issues. Ensure you have blocked access to your site search so that the bots cannot crawl your search. Even if someone links to a result page of your local site search, you don’t want Internet search engine bots crawling the page and adding it to their indexes.
Also think about indexation depth within your site navigation so you can avoid too many pages getting indexed. Generate an impressions/clicks report from the top pages to understand how much attention your deeper pages generate. Limit access to deep pages and consider not allowing all navigation refinements to be indexed.
HTML signals for missing, duplicate, too long or too short meta descriptions or title tags – Meta data still matters, and it’s easy to add any missing meta descriptions or title tags. WMT offers HTML improvement suggestions to show you any meta data that needs correcting. Simply add a description or title that is relevant to the topic and content of the page, within the provided character limits, and then you’ve resolved your problem.
If these tips were helpful, feel free to download our SEO Guidebook, “How to Get the SEO-Driven Revenue You’re Missing.”