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How to Weed Your Website: Common Errors Affecting Your SEO Efforts Part 1

We planted our garden early this year. The mild spring allowed us to get a head start. We made sure that we tilled the soil and added fertilizer, we considered how much shade we’d allowed and where to plant the sun-loving plants. We made sure we’d have the biggest harvest we could get. And then we forgot about it. It was such a hot summer that we focused on trips to the coast and floating on the river. Weeks passed before we checked on our garden. As you would expect, we found chaos. The tomatoes were leaning towers of overripe fruit, the cilantro had bolted, the basil had gone to seed, and the carrots were endangered by weeds. We forgot that gardens take continuous care to bloom beautifully.

Websites are much like gardens. We take time in the beginning to carefully select the images and layout. We write content for each page and we hope that the website brings in a giant harvest of customers. But running a business takes time and focus, and sometimes we neglect our website. The question is: when we come back again, how do we know where the weeds are and what needs to be pruned? The most straightforward answer is to run an SEO audit. In this 2 part blog, we will be exploring the most common errors we find in the SEO audits we do. Part 1 will cover broken links and redirects, Image Alt and Title tags, and Meta and Title tags.

Auditing Your SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of making your website as good as it can be so that it appears earlier (or higher) on the list of “natural” or “organic” results that a potential customer receives when they perform a search query. You can affect the visibility of your website in a number of simple ways if you know where to begin. An SEO audit can help you understand where to focus your efforts.

Here at Lunar Logic, we have a set of web tools that we use to evaluate our clients’ websites. With these tools, we can see your website in the same way that search engines do, and we can evaluate what needs fixing immediately for optimum performance. We look at issues like broken internal and external links; image, alt and meta tags; duplicate content; and other issues that don’t meet Google’s best practices and may be impacting how search engines see (or don’t see) your web pages. All of these things are important. Here are some of the most common errors we run across and why they matter.

Broken links/redirects

Websites are made up of thousands of individual web pages that are linked together. Having a clean structure to your links is not only beneficial to customers trying to navigate your site, but also to the search engines those customers are using. Your customers are searching the Internet for the best answer to their query. If the search engine can’t get from one page to another because an internal link is broken, lost or leads to a page that no longer exists, it will move on to a better search result. It’s like when you go to the grocery store and they’ve moved the peanut butter. You have to ask someone where the new location is, but when you get to the new place, it’s not there either. If you have to run around too much, you may decide the peanut butter isn’t worth the hassle. To keep your website in the competition, you should be weeding out pages that you no longer use and all the links that go to that page.

Image Alt Tags/Title Tags

We see this one in almost every SEO audit. If you are using images on your website that search engines can’t define and/or users can’t see, this impacts SEO. Because Googlebot and other web crawlers can’t see images directly, they rely on information provided in the Alt/Title tags in order to understand what an image is about.

The best way to think of an image alt tag is to imagine how you would describe the image to a blind person. Essentially, the bots need that level of description in order to “read” the image accurately. Also, if your image can’t load for whatever reason, an alt tag will appear in its place telling readers what should have been there; in this case, you can consider it to be an alternative information source. Equally important, once your image is searchable, it can appear in Google Images. So if you are a business that sells plants, and someone searches for “rhododendron” in Google Images, a photo of your product can now be in the running to appear at the top of the page.

Title tags are a little different. While the alt tag is for search engine crawlers, the title tag is for humans. In web browsers like Firefox, it is what is revealed when you hover over the image. Title tags should provide additional information instead of a description of the image and they should follow the grammatical rules of writing a title. Title text can be a call to action, an idea for how to use a product, or any other text that relates to your goals for the image and the web page it is on.

In this example from RavenTools, an image of social media icons requires both an alt tag and a title tag. They decided that their alt tag would read: “A dozen social media icons demonstrate reach of social networks.” And for the title tag, they went with: “Learn the Don’ts of Changing Usernames on Social Networks.” The first provides a description, and the second tells the reader what the text on the page is really about.

When writing alt and title tags, include your main keywords in both but don’t make them the same. And remember to keep them relevant to the image and the page it’s on. Keyword stuffing for the sake of keyword stuffing is bad practice.


Meta/title tags:

Each of the pages on your website needs a Meta title tag and a Meta description tag. These tags tell search engine crawlers what individual pages are all about. We run across whole sites that use the same meta descriptions for all their pages, but this creates bad SEO. Make sure you are telling people what each page is about; this is not the place for a description of your company or website as a whole, and each tag should be unique. If you are a florist and you have a page devoted to plants and one to flower arrangements, the individual meta tags should reflect each category. Your title tag should contain up to 60 characters and a Meta description no longer than 150-160 characters, to avoid being truncated in search results.

There are a lot of things that make up good SEO practices. An SEO audit is a great way to check in on your website and make sure things are not becoming unruly. If you have any questions about SEO, feel free to contact us. And be sure to check in next week for part two of this blog.

Image Credit: http://tinyurl.com/jkcao9f
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