By Sean Bucher, Senior Digital Marketing Account Manager, Bayshore Solutions
As someone who has focused on SEO within the digital marketing space for some time, very few questions surprise me. Having said that, I still find it interesting what type of questions find their way to the top of the funnel most often. A typical question going around right now is, “why don’t my traditional optimization strategies seem to be working?”
Many times, businesses are bombarded with messaging from agencies, whether they are full service or specialty SEO shops, with promises that often don’t match up with tactics. Unfortunately, it’s easy for agencies to over-simplify an SEO strategy. When issues become more technical, or require more attention than the traditional common “best practices,” many agencies falter because they sold the service before understanding the client.
Businesses are frequently sold on the idea of traditional SEO tactics – the basics of keyword optimization, Meta data improvements, and the good old “CONTENT IS KING” approach. This results in brands pumping out several posts and pages per week, without any understanding of how the algorithm views these habits. A good SEO firm or agency will always ask you to pause and really think about these tactics in relation to your business goals and the audiences that you are trying to attract.
Good SEO experts will do a check to make sure your site is in order before starting any new initiatives. One example I like to use with clients is to have them think of their website as a house. A good contractor would never let you begin making renovations on your home without first knowing the year it was built, the people who have worked on it before, work done by the previous owners, and what the “guts” of the house look like. For example, is the wiring up to date? Is the plumbing from 1950? When was the last time that the foundation has been inspected?
Adding additions or making “small improvements” may make the house appear better, but if there is a deep underlying issue that you or the contractor haven’t realized is lurking below the plaster and siding, your improvements are simply cosmetic and could be ignoring critical foundation issues. In some cases, the issues may be stemming from off site. Like in the case of Flint Michigan’s current water crisis the problem was with aging pipes and, as we’ve found out, the corrosive river water at the source. I use this analogy to explain links, and how some agencies will often overlook this aspect, and swear more links are the answer – i.e., more “tainted water!” When the real answer may be the need to gut the plumbing and find a new water solution, blocking the decay at its source.
While Google will explicitly tell you via Webmaster Tools that you may have a penalty, what many people don’t realize is that your overall online presence may be tainted. Not necessarily tainted from a reputation management standpoint, which is definitely a big part of the online ecosystem, but from the standpoint that Google may be warning you that something is bad when it’s already too late. The cure here is prevention. Does your site have a strong backlink profile? Not just based on the amount of links, but the quality of links as well? Have you been hacked or attacked via some sort of spam spider? Often times these attacks go unnoticed and aren’t remedied until a major drop in traffic is noticed.
A good SEO partner will take a look at the whole picture. They will resist the urge to be quick to market knowing that the tactics executed won’t be nearly as effective if your site doesn’t function technically well. If the site doesn’t function technically well or is a magnet for bad signals, an SEO expert will understand that no matter how much content you produce, your SEO tactics won’t work as effectively and efficiently as they otherwise could.
A few ways to test your site to see if whether your SEO fix is truly just some new content and keyword targeting, or if something bigger may be at play that is jeopardizing your site health are as follows:
Check Your Domain
- Can you enter both your domain with a “www” or a “non-www” in front of it and get to your homepage? If so, you may be suffering from content duplication, for which the engine will definitely penalize your site.
- Can the same be done with adding an “https://” in front of your domain? Some engines view the existence of what we call secure (https://www.yourdomain.com) and non-secure (http://www.yourdomain.com) domains as separate sites.
Check Your Pages
- A common technical SEO issue is having versions of your site with the existence of a trailing slash versus non-trailing slash. For example, you can test this with your homepage: simply enter “Yourdomain.com” and then enter “Yourdomain.com/.” Can you visit both? If so, then you may have configuration issues with your site. Try this with a sub-page or a blog post as well.
- Can you rewrite your URLs with capitalizations? For example: “yourdomain.com/we-are-awesome” may be the way the page is listed in search engines and on your site, but can it be written as “Yourdomain.com/We-Are-Awesome” or even “Yourdomain.com/We-ARe-aWeSomE?” If so, you may have some configuration errors allowing duplicate content to exist as well.
Know Your Site
- How is your site organized? Is it flat, or do you have strong categorization and depth built around context? Site organization is a major factor in how search engines crawl and display your site. Poor organization is an indication of poor site maintenance to search engines. Are you creating pages to grab terms, or have you built authority based on building context around the themes you target?
- Was your site set up for eCommerce, thought leadership, and branding? If so, common issues can arise across different platforms and configurations that may not be easy to identify…
- Many platforms, ecommerce or not, can create duplicate product pages or sub-pages: one page on a blog post that lives under the category you’ve selected, and one with a stand-alone page. For example, “com/mens/shirts/super-cool-t-shirt” could be one URL that exists for that product living under a categorization, but does that product also live under “yourdomain.com/super-cool-t-shirt?” Both can be seen by the engine unless indicated otherwise by tagging within your code.
- Another common error on eCommerce platforms is when both search pages and filtering pages get indexed by search engines. For example, when a user visits the page “com/mens/shirts” and then the user begins to filter the view for more products, priced high to low, with a color filter. The URL may then become “yourdomain.com/mens/shirts?squery=view60+high-low+blue.” This can also happen with blog posts or searches on a blog. For example, if you’re not blocking search result pages on your site from indexing, you may see instances of an article and search page showing up in search, and based on tagging or the amount of articles you have on a given subject, this could cause major issues. For example, if your blog has a tag for “home improvement tips” you may get a predefined sub-category page of: “Yourdomain.com/blog/home-improvement-tips” as a category section. But if someone enters that term in search, your site may also return “yourdomain.com/search?=home+improvement+tips.” This could be a problem if both are being indexed.
Obviously, we’re just scratching the surface here. There are plenty more instances where improper configurations on your site can kill your SEO. If you see these or other issues that you think may be harming your site, take corrective measures immediately. A strong SEO partner, like a good contractor or any other service-based business that relies on their ability to deliver results, will never say that implementing SEO tactics will be an easy fix. Nor will they start their work without taking a good look at your website before they start making solid recommendations.
Contact Bayshore Solutions’ SEO experts today for comprehensive and effective website optimization.