These days, it’s pretty easy to get a good looking website launched and on the ‘net. That’s a good thing. As I talked about in The Truth Is, No One Cares About Your Website, obsessing over the minutiae isn’t a productive use of your time, especially if you’re a busy entrepreneur. Get the site built, make sure you have a strong call to action, and move on.
Unfortunately, with this ease-of-use comes another inherent problem: technical issues that you or your web designer haven’t considered, may be hindering or completely negating your SEO and online marketing efforts.
I see this all the time. I was even on Blog Talk Radio the other day, and the hostess asked me to tell her the ONE thing that people should do to get started. When she did as I suggested live on the air, we discovered very quickly that her website would never be indexed by Google. It was a simple, small change that hadn’t been done, and her website didn’t exist on Google. (She fixed it right after the call – I checked.)
Listen into the call and hear what happened » (By the way, listen to the end where you can find about a cool freebie.)
Incorrect Instructions to Google
Every website can give the search engines some instructions on what they can do. It’s a simple thing called a robots.txt file. You put some simple instructions in it, upload the file to your website, and the search engines will listen.
First off, check to see if you have a robots.txt file. Go to your browser, and type in:
Substitute your web address for “yourdomain.com” of course. Do you get anything or does it say, “Sorry, not found”? If you don’t have one, ask your web person to creat a simple one that has two lines in it:
This just means, “Hey all you search engines, please index everything!”
If you see something like:
That means, “Hey all you search engines, go away and DON’T index anything!” Sometimes web designers put that in when they’re working on websites that they don’t want live yet, and they forget to change it.
Canonicalization is a big word that actually comes from mathematics. It means essentially that there are several formulae to get to the same solution. In the web world, it means that there are more than one URLs (web addresses) that get to the same page of content.
Google doesn’t like duplicate content. If they find multiple URLs pointing to the same page of content, that looks like duplication to them. Google considers each URL to be a page of content. If two URLs point to the same page of content, it’s duplicate content.
How do you test for this?
Go to your browser and type in http://www.yourdomain.com (again substituting your own). Click around your website and notice if the URL in your browser changes from www. to the non-www. version. Now type in http://yourdomain.com (without the www.). Does it stay that way as you click around? If so, you have a canonicalization problem, because now the www. and non-www. versions both resolve and work.
The best solution to this is to redirect one to the other. In other words, make the non-www. version switch automatically to the www. version (or vice versa – it doesn’t matter). You can see how this works by going to http://searchengineacademy.com. You’ll notice that the URL 301-redirects (changes) to www automatically, so the non-www version is never indexed.
You can also go into Google and type in site:yourdomain.com as a search. Scroll down and look at the URLs. Do you see both www. and non-www. versions? Oops, Google has indexed both, and you have a duplicate content or canonicalization problem. Now you need to set up 301-redirects for the domain. It’s pretty easy to do, but a lot of people don’t know about this step. WordPress is actually pretty good at taking care of this for you, especially if you have an SEO plugin installed.
When I look at websites, I have a checklist of about 25 different things to check for, and more often than not, I check about half of them as problems.
Next time, we’ll talk about the basics of SEO. People say that SEO is dead, but 92% of the websites I look at have it wrong. We’ll show you how you can check your own website and see what Google sees.
If you’d like to learn more, download my free report, 10 Ways To Get Found Online Today ».