Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2013 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
You’re reading up on search engine optimization (SEO), sitting through educational webinars, and link building like a pro…but you’re still not seeing improvements in your website’s search ranking.
So what gives? The culprit could be your website’s structure. No matter how diligent you are with link building and social media efforts, if your site structure stinks, search engine bots will likely pass you by.
Poor website “hygiene” is not unusual in the world of web development: over time, on-page errors have a tendency to simply build up. But if you don’t go back and scrub them up sometimes, what starts as a trivial issue can grow into something much bigger. Eventually, it can be toxic to your web visibility. It’s important not to neglect website cleanliness, particularly in the following areas:
(Note: This blog post is not written for SEO beginners. But even if you’re a novice web marketer, you can save yourself a lot of frustration by knowing the questions to ask and the answers to seek. For a more introductory look at SEO, check out this blog post.)
If your website is hosted on a server that is too slow, too crowded, or poorly organized, your pages will take too long to load. Your website needs to load quickly to keep both storage users and search engine bots happy. Ideally, search engines prefer a sweet-spot speed of less than two seconds, but they’re okay with anything less than four.
You can use tools like Pingdom to check your website’s general health and server load times. If you discover sluggish performance, reach out to your web provider and consider moving your site to a different server or a better-controlled environment. A good server can be higher priced, but it’s worth the added expense.
You can also increase your page’s speed by reducing image sizes and widgets, cleaning up code, and shrinking scripts. A good rule of thumb is, “less is more.” Just a few small changes can make a major difference to your site’s speed.
All web users have experienced the frustration of clicking on a link, only to see a “Page Not Found” message. Worse than that, broken links also thwart Google, too. On-page broken links leech vitality from your landing pages and undo the trust your website has established with search engines. And establishing trust with search engines is tough to do - just check out any of our blog posts on link building.
Unfortunately, broken links are common on both large and small websites. They can happen during provider changes, page updates, and changes in site architecture, or even from a simple typo. Google recognizes this, so it suggests some relatively painless solutions. Good web developers will be super diligent about these fixes.
If a page is removed from your website or if a URL is changed, you can use a 301 redirect to inform Google bots that the page is gone. The 301 status code means the page has moved permanently to a new location.
You can use Google Webmaster tools to see if your links stink. Xenu’s Link Sleuth is another nifty tool that quickly assesses link structure. Just download a copy, unzip it, add the URL, and stand back as it crawls around your website.
Regrettably, there is a teensy bit of loss of PageRank through a 301 redirect. So, try not to overdo it with the unnecessary redirects.
Another option is to keep the original page where it is and put a duplicate page in the new place. Google dislikes duplicate content, so it’s important to use a canonical tag to suggest that it focus on only one of the pages. Canonicals tell search engines that one page is a copy of another page, thus all metrics should be applied to the canonical page.
It’s smart to schedule regular site audits—especially when you change web marketing providers. If your web marketing provider balks or won’t show you the data source, it may be time to shop for a new vendor.
Thanks for reading! If you like this blog post, you may also like: What the heck is SSL & why does my self storage website need it?, How to create and maintain your self storage website, and Top 10 blog posts that will help you improve your self storage SEO.