Before you start the SEO project for your website, it is important to carry out some critical SEO checks
1. Are search engines finding and indexing all your pages?
Number of valid pages on website vs number of pages showing up in search engines. You can check how many pages show up in a search engine for your website as follows
In Google, Yahoo and Bing: Use the command site:domainname.com in the search box.
You can use Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Webmaster Tools where you can submit sitemap.xml, a file in which you can list urls which search engines can read. In Yahoo you can add your site buy logging in to Yahoo Site Explorer.
But if your website is well structured and all pages have proper internal links and are optimized, the search engines will find them all. There are some additional checks you can do, if you face indexation issues, which are common errors that can cause crawling and indexation problems. These include
Robots.txt configured wrong and leading to blocking crawlers.
Meta Robots tag set to ‘noindex’. Usually done when developing the website but can get left as is after going live.
Your page response is returning 302 or 404 instead of 200 OK.
2. Are all the links between pages in your website correct?
You can use a simple tool to find out if all your links are correct. The less broken links you have the better it is for your website. You can further improve this using custom 404 pages or 301 redirects correctly.
Xenu Link Sleuth is a free link checking tool, easy to use and gives a simple report on your website including broken links information and which pages contain the broken link. If you connect it with your ftp, it also shows orphan pages i.e. pages which exist but are not linked to by any other page on the website.
3. Do you have a duplicate page URL issue?
When you use the site:domainname.com without the www, check the results and see if your pages show up as both http://www.domainname.com/page.html and http://domainname.com/page.html. Search engines consider a URL containing www as seperate from the same URL without the www.
Why is this bad?
Because links pointing to each variation are counted separately so their SEO value gets split. As an example, lets say
www.domainname.com/page1.html has 10 links pointing to it.
domainname.com/page1.html has 5 links.
So your actual page has 15 links but according to search engines, you have one page with 10 links and another with 5 links. So, link value is lost and affects your rankings.
This can be resolved with proper URL redirection.
4. Do you have a unique index page URL?
Continuing from the earlier point, the index page will show twice with www and without www. But it also shows in two more combinations i.e. with forward slash / as in www.domainname.com/ and with actual file name like www.domainname.com/index.html. The home page is usually the most visited and the most linked to page and splitting links here also affects rankings.
Again, this can be resolved with proper url redirection.
5. Is your website slow to load?
Site load speed is important for many reasons. It is good for your visitors and good for search engines. Visitors are more likely to stay on your site when it is loading without noticeable delay. Search engines can crawl and index pages faster.
You can check your site speed and causes for delay using plugins like Google Pagespeed or YSlow. Note first you have to install the Firebug plugin.
Once these 5 key SEO issues are resolved, you are good to go with your SEO project.
This post brought to you by Dharne & Company, an Irvine SEO Firm offering SEO services to businesses across the Los Angeles area.