In the course of providing search engine optimization and web site marketing services to companies over the years, there are trends that persist when it comes to reasons why web sites are ranking poorly.
Today I’ll cover several of the most common mistakes along with some solutions.
Problem: Search Engines cannot index the site
If a web site is created in such a way that a search engine cannot index a web site, it has no chance to rank well. Each major search engine offers guidelines for what they can index and what causes problems.
Solution: Make sure your developer is familiar with each major search engine’s indexing guidelines.
Problem: Lack of Text
Remember when just about every new site had to have a “splash” page? You had to wait for a bit for a Flash movie to download and then wait for the movie to play (usually impressive the first or second time) and then finally you would be presented with the company web site.
Thankfully, designers don’t make that mistake very much anymore, but new sites continue to come out with graphic heavy layouts, lots of white space, lots of links and very little actual body copy.
Its part of the age old issue between designers and usability/conversion experts and search engine optimization professionals. Designers want to avoid pages that are too “busy”. SEOs want to include as much text as they can for search engines.
Solution: The answer is very simple. If you want to rank for certain keyword phrases, they must be present on your web pages as HTML text. Plan on 250 characters of text per page or more. Good copywriters and web designers can find a way to create “clean” looking web pages that also include sufficient text for people and search engines to understand what the page is about.
There’s more to text and content optimization, but we have more to cover.
Problem: Repeating Title Tags or No Title Tags
Too many times, web sites are created without search engines in mind. I am not talking about keyword stuffing or anything blatant, just basic considerations. One of the most common items left out is the Title tag. The title tag is what you see in the blue bar at the top of your browser. It’s also the text that appears when you bookmark a site.
For various reasons, web sites are made without any Title tags at all. More often, a site is made to use the same Title tag on every page of the website. This is most common with database generated web sites where there are potentially hundreds or thousands of pages. The question arises, “Who’s going to write all those Title and Meta tags?” Not me! So, the developer is has no option but to hard code the same string of text in the Title tag for each page. Maintenance is easy. Search engine visibility is shot in the foot.
Using the same title tag on every page of a web site is like looking at a book where every chapter is named the same. Our goal is to make it easy for a search engine to index and categorize the site. Using the same Title tag makes it difficult, not easy to discern the meaning of a web page. The Title tag is one of the most important locations for your keywords. It’s a preview for people and search engines as to what a page is about.
Solution: Suck it up and get out those writing skills for static sites and write out unique title tags for each major page of the site. Title tags should reflect the content of the page, not a sting of keywords separated by commas. Proper Title tag writing will be covered in another post. Suffice it to say that unique and relevant title tags should exist for each page of your site.
For dynamic sites, it’s even easier. The name of the category or product is already pulled from a database and displayed on the page in most cases. The developer needs to repeat that information in the Title tag area.
The majority of frequently occurring problems to search engine indexing can be avoided. Make sure your site complies with the indexing guidelines of each major search engine. Include sufficient amounts of real text on your web pages and use unique title tags on all pages of your web site. Just these three things out of hundreds can make a difference for most web sites.
Of course if you need professional assistance, you can always contact a search engine optimization firm.