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Diagnosing Technical Issues With Search Engine Optimization


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If your site is having trouble ranking well in search engines such as Google, you've lost ranking, or you've having trouble with a site move or migration, the trouble could be with the site's technical architecture.

View checklists to help diagnose issues with crawling, indexing, and ranking your site's content.

Published in: Technology, Design

Diagnosing Technical Issues With Search Engine Optimization

  1. Tools and Tactics for Diagnosing Technical Search Issues Vanessa Fox
  2. Diagnostic Checklists and Resources • Search Accessibility Checklist • Search Discoverability Checklist • Diagnostic Tools
  3. Search Engine Tools Google Webmaster Central Microsoft Live Search Webmaster Center Yahoo! Site Explorer Google Analytics Google Search Created by
  4. Ranking and Diagnostic Tools SEOBook Rank Checker Firefox Web Developer Toolbar Firefox Firebug Firefox Live HTTP Headers Google Search Created by
  5. How Search Engines Work
  6. Crawling Indexing Ranking Discover links Canonicalization Relevance Check robots rules Context extraction Value Bandwidth considerations Topic association Uniqueness URLs Web-wide value Display
  7. Search Engine Crawlers Haven’t Quite Grown Up Yet
  8. Crawling Indexing Ranking Lack of discovery Duplication Display issues Crawl inefficiency Extraction issues Lack of quality links URL issues (infinite, Lack of exposed Guidelines violations redirects, dynamic) content Non-focused content Inaccessible links Non-optimized media
  9. Step 1: Get the Data Pages crawled Pages indexed Web traffic Key ranking metrics
  10. Crawling Which pages have the search engines crawled? What kind of pages are they? Has the search engine Indexing indexed all of the crawled pages? How’s the search engine Ranking traffic?
  11. Benchmarking Top ten queries that bring search traffic Search results position URL that ranks
  12. Crawl Issues
  13. Crawl Log Example: Apache Log Analyzer 2 Feed All Pages Google’s Crawled 1 /** 2 * @see ApacheLogAnalyzer2Feed All Profile Pages Google’s Crawled 3 */ 1 /** 4 require_once 'ApacheLogAnalyzer2Feed.php'; 5 2 * @see ApacheLogAnalyzer2Feed 6 //3 create a new instance, parse access.log and */ 7 //4 write test.xml'ApacheLogAnalyzer2Feed.php'; require_once 5 8 $tool = new ApacheLogAnalyzer2Feed('access.log', 9 'test.xml'); a new instance, parse access.log and write test.xml 6 // create 10 // $tool = entries matching Googlebot useragent 7 select new ApacheLogAnalyzer2Feed('access.log', 'test.xml'); 11 $tool->addFilter('User-Agent',Googlebot useragent with a regular 8 // select entries matching 'Mozilla/5.0 9 expression pattern 12 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; 13 +');'regexp:Googlebot'); 10 $tool->addFilter('User-Agent', 14 // run select entries with Request matching a regular expression 11 // 12 // pattern 15 $tool->run(); 12 13 $tool->addFilter('Request', 'regexp:/site/profile.php'); 14 // run 15 $tool->run(); 16
  14. Communicating with Search Robots
  15. Extractable Link Issues: Flash
  16. Extractable Link Issues: Images
  17. Extractable Link Issues: AJAX
  18. Extractable Link Issues: URL Errors
  19. Extractable Link Issues: URLs That Expire
  20. URL Discovery Checklist  Comprehensive external links  At least one internal link to every page  XML Sitemap referenced in robots.txt with the comprehensive list of canonical URLs  Comprehensive HTML sitemap  Ensure links load without JavaScript, images, or other rich media  Ensure robots.txt and meta robots tag is used correctly
  21. URL Structure Checklist Keep number of parameters in dynamic URLs short Don’t use temporary URLs that expire  Ensure redirects are 301 and are short Use dashes rather than underscores when separating words Use keywords in URLs for higher click through and better anchor text
  22. Canonicalization Checklist  Have only URL for each page  Put all unneeded details in cookies, rather than URLs (session IDs, tracking parameters)  Don’t allow infinite parameters  Use 301 redirects for any URL changes  301 redirect www/non-www  Use absolute URLs for internal links  Ensure canonical version is in XML Sitemap  Use rel=canonical attribute for optional parameters  Block print and other versions with robots.txt
  23. Crawl Efficiency Checklist Ensure page load times aren’t slow as to reduce number of pages crawled Ensure server is responsive Return a 304 for unchanged content Use compression Return a 404 for not found content Ensure each page has at least one link Avoid infinite redirects and redirect loops Ensure most important pages are linked from home page No JavaScript redirects or meta refresh redirects (if possible) Reasonable crawl-delay setting (if used at all) Reasonable use of Google Webmaster Tools crawl setting
  24. Indexing Issues
  25. Indexing Example: XML Sitemaps XML Sitemap Pages Indexed From Sitemap <?xml version=quot;1.0quot; encoding=quot;UTF-8quot;?> <urlset xmlns=quot; /0.9quot;> <url> <loc></loc> </url> <url> <loc></loc> </url> <url> <loc></loc> </url> </urlset>
  26. Duplicate Content Issues
  27. Partner Content
  28. Indexing Diagnostic Checklist Have the pages ever been indexed? If deindexed, are you sure they are no longer in the index? Is the indexing loss across all engines? What was percentage of loss? Is there a pattern? Check Google Webmaster Tools for errors/blocking Did you change infrastructure/CMS/implement redirects? What’s the linking pattern?
  29. Indexing Checklist: Content Extraction  Ensure content is in text wherever possible  Ensure text isn’t hidden in: JavaScript/AJAX Flash Video Images  Avoid multiple URLs for the same page and very similar pages
  30. Indexing Checklist: Semantic Markup  Use keywords in title tag  Ensure each page has a unique meta description tag  Use keywords in (single) H1 tag  Appropriate use of H2 – H6 tag  Relevant anchor text in a href tags  Put Javascript in .js file (except onclick event functions) and style details in .css  Validate HTML to ensure it renders  Provide focus for each page  Ensure pages provide unique and valuable content beyond boilerplate template and reused content
  31. Optimizing Images  Don’t put text in images  Use descriptive ALT text  Use descriptive filenames  Provide caption and surrounding text  Be cautious about logo images  Consider blocking non-useful images with robots.txt  Don’t provide alternate text using CSS that styles the text off the page (such as -9999)
  32. Ranking Issues
  33. How’s the Search Engine Traffic? Overall Percentage Percentage Non-Branded
  34. Do You Rank For the Right Things? arbor snowboards snowboard Google 1 49 500+ Yahoo 1 80 500+ Live Search 3 128 500+
  35. If ranking loss… Drop For All Keywords Drop For Only Some Keywords Does the site rank for different Do different pages rank highest than queries than before? used to rank before? Did you substantially change the Are the pages that used to rank still site content? indexed? Did you change the underlying site infrastructure? Was there a large change in linking behavior? Could there be a penalty?
  36. Ranking Checklist  Relevance  What is the page about?  Are the pages ranking for the desired query more relevant?  Do the pages use the language of the searcher?  Value  How many relevant links (and how authoritative are they?)  What’s the value of the page? (do more useful pages rank above yours?)  SERP display  Are the title and snippet compelling?  Do Sitelinks appear for navigational queries?  What universal elements appear on the page?  Does the site rank for non-branded queries?
  37. The Webmaster Guidelines Common Definition of Spam On page schemes Keyword stuffing Fake/ stolen content Hidden text Hidden links Cloaking Linking schemes Paid Links Link exchanges Doorway pages Deceptive redirects
  38. Getting Out of the Penalty Box 1. Check if you’ve been penalized – Live Search: – Google: ** maybe ** 2. Review the webmaster guidelines – Google, Live Search, Yahoo 3. Identify the issue 4. Fix it! 5. Request re-evaluation – Google: – Live Search:
  39. Traffic Issues
  40. Traffic Drop
  41. Display Issues
  42. Would you click this link?
  43. Does the Result Inspire Clicks?
  44. First step in diagnosis: find the root
  45. Jane and Robot Developer Summit June 12th, 2009 – San Francisco FREE for SMX attendees!