We recently had a client launch a new site in Wordpress. It was appropriately in a staging area before launch. Instinctively upon hearing the news of the launch, we decided to look for a robots tag. Sure enough, every page was marked as “noindex, nofollow”. The client was able to make the change before Google crawled the new site. Above I said “instinctively” because, well, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen a site launch set to block search engines. It’s probably not even the 50th. I worked on an eCommerce platform where many sites launched with this issue. Wordpress – as fine a platform as it is – makes it super easy to launch set to noindex. Since developers often build sites in staging areas, they’re wise to block bots from inadvertently discovering their playground. But, in the hustle to push live an update or new design, they can forget a tiny (yet crucial) check box. I’ve gathered up three different ways you can monitor your clients’ sites, or even your own, without the use of server logs or an education in server administration. There’s different kinds of website monitoring (e.g., active, passive), but I’m keeping it simple and applicable for anyone. I wanted to pick a few that were diverse, free or affordable
The reason Google doesn’t accept the canonical tag as a directive is probably because they know many webmasters will screw it up. If you have a massive database driven eCommerce site, and you’ve tried to get a developer team to implement, you’ve seen how it can ultimately launch with a ton of unexpected results. Examples I’ve seen: via templates, products were suddenly “canonicalizing” to the homepage. Page 4 of a collection suddenly canonicalizing to page 1 of the collection. Crazy, random results are always likely if not implemented and QA’d properly. When the tag was announced in February of 2009, I worked for one of the largest eCommerce platforms at the time. We wanted to be first to offer this, and we rushed it out – with many, many problems. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with this tag.
You put a robots.txt on your site expecting it to keep Google out of certain pages. But you worry – did you do it correctly? Is Google following it? Is the index as tight as it could be? Here’s a question for you. If you have a page blocked by robots.txt, will Google put it in the index? If you answered no, you’re incorrect. Google will indeed index a page blocked by robots.txt if it’s being linked by one of your pages (that do not have a rel=”nofollow”), or if it’s linked from another website. It doesn’t usually rank well because Google can’t see what’s on the page, but it does get PageRank passed through it.
Google gives you a few ways to “deindex” pages. That is, kick pages out of their index. The problem is, despite some serious speed improvements in crawling and indexation, they’re pretty slow to deindex and act upon canonical tags. This quick trick can help you isolate and remove pages en masse.
If a website is a mess of URLs and duplicate content, Google will throw their hands up in the air out of frustration. This is a bad spot to be in. You’ll find your traffic and rankings drop while your indexation becomes bloated. Your crawl rate (which we’ve found correlates with traffic) will be curbed. It could seem all very sudden, or it could be gradual. Every case is different – but it’s always a nightmare. Keeping track of website changes is critical with SEO. The other day I peaked into our own Google Webmaster Tools indexation report, and saw something pretty alarming in the “index status” report.
HTTP2, the new Web protocol slated to go live any day now, aims to be a faster, more efficient protocol. HTTP1.1 is the current predecessor and has been around for about 15 years. The problem with HTTP1.1 is that can only load requests one at a time, one request per one TCP connection. Basically, this made browsers run parallel requests to multiple TCPs for the same Web asset. This clogs up “the wire” with multiple duplicate data requests, and can hurt performance if too many requests are made.
The “official rollout” of HTML 5 in October 2014 ignited renewed interests in an old SEO debate: whether or not using multiple H1 tags on a single page is bad for SEO. Depending on the school of thought, some designers debated the true use case. Likewise, some SEOs had a similar debate. We know H1 tags have value, to which some SEOs try desperately to insert several H1 tags on a page (usually with target keywords). I’ve seen H1 tags in breadcrumb trails, hidden behind wordless graphics, and pushed to the margin with CSS. But other SEOs, who worry about being seen as spammy, go with the “one H1 per page” rule of thumb. When one of our clients recently asked this question, we found ourselves reevaluating and realigning our multiple H1 best practices. We had to establish where we stand on the answer.
Last year I introduced The Simple SEO Site Audit Tool to quickly get a sense of your entire site’s tags, complete with a schema audit – right out of Google Sheets. It’s a glorious invention between Sean Malseed (of RankTank) and myself. Check out the newest tool for checking out how your SERPs look.
A rose by any other name may smell just as sweet, but good luck trying to find good results for “thorny red flower” on the first page of the SERPs! Until Google gets even better with their relationship-mapping (thanks Hummingbird, you’re a great start!), long-tail optimization will be a huge part of SEO. Whether your goal is to optimize content for the search engines or getting fresh new content ideas, using the right keywords and phrases is a big factor for success. The trick is knowing which keywords to incorporate in your content. If you’ve done a Google search for “keyword research”, then you probably know there are tons of methods, some using hardcore SEO tricks or simple keyword research tools. The most popular keyword tool by far is the one and only Google Keyword Tool called Keyword Planner. Conceived originally for AdWords, this once external keyword tool is loved by SEOs for the metrics it provides. It’s biggest shortcoming? It mostly reveals only head or body keywords, and you have to wrestle it out of an Adwords account. But what about those times you need more detailed, long-tail keywords?
Last week our team attended a local (Philadelphia) SEO meetup where there was a presentation from local wiz Sean Malseed of Circlerank. The presentation was called “Build Your Own Damn (SEO) Tools With Google Apps.” He showed us how to use Google Sheets for scraping and pulling API data to build your own custom tools. He also shared his own site that has some really incredible tools ready for free use: http://www.ranktank.org.