With Google rolling out its new Penguin 3.0 algorithm - which the company promises will be refreshed more frequently - there's no time like the present to begin fixing the technical issues on your site that could adversely affect you in the rankings. There are many, many ranking factors Google uses to determine where your website fits in its rankings (we'll talk about that below), but here are our top ten most important issues to fix in order to begin ranking well again.
- Lack of unique content throughout the website: In order to avoid taking a hit in the rankings, you need to include unique copy on each page. The more pages on your site that contain copy already found on other sites, the less valuable your website becomes to Google and other search engines. Search engine users are looking for relevant but unique answers. If you were to perform a search in Google and find that the first page of results included 10 links to the exact same article on 10 different websites, it wouldn’t be as helpful. Search engines love diversity, so make sure that your copy is unique! A good tool to use is copyscape.com (10 free searches per month, then $0.05 after).
- Repetitive links: Google’s last Penguin algorithm update really caught many businesses off-guard by devaluing sites whose backlink profiles contain too many links with the same repetitive anchor text over and over again. For example, if your website was bluewidgets.com, you would not expect every link to the website to contain the word “Blue Widgets.” Some links might say “check out this cool website,” or “click here for more information,” or include the domain such as “bluewidgets.com.”
Google devalues websites who had too many links which contained the same anchor text. With the updated algorithm, this is not something you want to get stuck in. Using a diverse set of anchor text when promoting your website is key. If you’re working with publishers, don’t ask them to use a specific anchor text, let it happen naturally!
- Content that isn't keyword-rich: You want to include the keywords or keyword phrases that you are targeting a few times in the copy. In the past, people used to stuff a greater number of keywords on the page, however with today's algorithm settings, that's something you want to avoid. Include synonymous words to help Google understand exactly what your page is about, but don’t overdo it! Having a few occurrences of your keyword phrase is sufficient, perhaps 1-5% density is enough.
- Title tags missteps: Having the same title tag on every page site-wide or even pages with no title tags is a very bad thing. Make sure every page contains a unique title tag up to a max of 65 characters. With a recent style change, anything longer than a certain pixel width will show up in Google with the ellipses, which doesn’t lend itself well to good click-through rates. The title tag is one of the most important page level factors and tells Google what your page is about.
- Uninformative H1 heading tags: Don’t overstuff the H1 tag, but include a keyword or two that you’re targeting on that page. It needs to be something beneficial and actionable to the user that makes them desire to read the content below.
- Too few or too many outbound links: It’s important to have a few outbound links to resources that you consider valuable; however, you don’t want a link directory, a large amount of outbound links on a single page, or site-wide links, as that passes away PageRank value that you have accumulated to your website.
- Bad URL structure throughout your site: Google reads the words used in the URLs throughout your website, so including the keyword phrases in the URLs or what the page is about, and is another signal that helps them and other search engines to determine exactly what the page is about. If the appropriate page on your website is about plumbing services, your website URL for that page might be http://www.domain.com/plumbing-services.php.
- A poor website design: Google measures a form of bounce-rate and how often people are returning to the search engine results after visiting your site. If they aren’t easily finding the information that they are looking for on your website, you rankings will suffer. A poorly designed website will not generate you leads or provide you with a great return on your investment. If you don’t have a website that provides a good user experience, you should seek out a web design company that can improve your look before you even worry about trying to optimize your site. Otherwise, in the end it will only lead to a large investment with no return, and a frustrated business owner.
- No contact information: Google and other search engines build trust when they can verify information. Include your physical business location, phone number, and email address if applicable. This is crucial if your business is providing a localized service. These are factors that add trust to other information that Google can discern from your on-page and off-page factors. They can also easily match it up to the information they collect from Google Maps, and other third-party location services.
- Canonicalization issues: It’s a big word, and it can mean big problems for your website. Basically, search engines can see your website through any URL that serves up content on your website. Make sure that there is ONLY one way and URL that search engines are able to see the content for each page.
There should be a 301 redirect setup to redirect the non-www versions of your site to the www version of that page (or vice-versa, depending on your preference). Also, if SSL is used you should make sure that all http pages 301 redirect to https. If you have more than one domain name, make sure that all of the secondary domain names 301 redirect to the primary domain. These types of issues can be detrimental to rankings if they are not properly resolved.
Don't let all these issues affect your website design and business. Talk with a digital marketing company offering expert SEO services ... one that cares about your business and delivering results. We know this is a lot to process! If you need any help with the above issues we've outlined, feel free to leave us a comment or drop us a line. We're always here to listen and offer advice! Our SEO agency is in Lancaster, PA.