Fast Five in Search – Week 15, 2014

fast-five

 

Google’s head of spam fighting – Matt Cutts – posts regular videos on the Google Webmasters YouTube channel. His posts can make waves in the SEO industry like no other because they often preview upcoming changes to the Google algorithm. So this week’s Fast Five is a collection of Matt Cutt’s most popular webmaster videos of all time.

Here’s this week’s Fast Five:

1) How Does Google Search Work? – In this video, Matt explains how Google’s ranking and website evaluation process works from the crawling and analysis of a site, crawling time-lines, frequencies, priorities and filtering processes within the databases. With over 380,000 views, this is Matt’s most popular video in the Google Webmaster channel.

2) Does Google Use the Keyword Meta Tag? – After years of webmaster confusion over whether Google does or doesn’t index the content of the Meta Keywords tag, Matt put the rumor firmly to rest with this post by confirming that Google does NOT index the tag.

3) What Should We Expect in the Next Few Months in Terms of SEO for Google? – After months of Panda and Penguin algorithm tweaks, Matt thought it was time to set a few things straight and reveal a little more about what we might expect from future algorithm updates.

4) Canonical Link Element – When Google launched support for the Canonical Link Element, Matt took to video to introduce the element and the way it should be used for SEO benefit.

and finally…

5) What Are Some Effective Techniques for Building Links? – The fifth most popular Matt Cutts webmaster video involves the consistently difficult subject of link building. In this video post, Matt discusses several effective ways of building organic links that many webmasters overlook.

Happy reading!

*Image courtesy of Threadless.

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Q and A: Why Doesn’t Google Rank My Site Higher?

QuestionHi Kalena,

My website has been up and running since 2008.

I regularly add new content & update my blog & facebook pages and yet 5 years on, I am still only attracting 30-40 visits per day and it has remained at this level for 5 years.

I believe my website is user friendly, visually pleasing & provides useful information for the visitor looking for the product I offer, so why doesn’t google rank it higher? I only have 83 pages indexed out of 1,400 – please help!

Natalie

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Hi Natalie

Assuming the website you are referring to is the one associated with your email address, I can provide a few recommendations immediately:

1) I couldn’t find a XML sitemap in the expected location of http://www.[brandwitheld].co.uk/sitemap.xml. Now maybe you have one in a different location, but if not, you’ll want to create one as soon as possible.  An XML sitemap is a file that contains a full list of indexable pages on your web site. It is the preferred method of lettting search engines know about all pages on your site that you want indexed. More information about the protocol and format required is available at Sitemaps.org. You can upload your sitemap via your Google Webmaster Tools account. Haven’t got one of those either? Read on…

2) If your site doesn’t seem to be as visible as you’d like in Google or large chunks of it are not getting indexed, make sure you create a Google Webmaster Tools account and check it for any obvious issues. Google provides an exhaustive amount of insight and advice in Webmaster Tools in terms of technical issues, indexing issues, SEO issues and visitor activity related to your site. If there seems to be something wrong, that should be your first stop.

3) Check your site against these 10 Most Common SEO Mistakes to see if you’re guilty of any of them and address the issues quickly.

4) You claim your site has 1,400 pages, but most of those are product and category pages consisting of dynamically generated versions of the same URL, plus a huge number of pop-ups. The site only has a small number of static HTML pages and therefore only a small amount of content that is visible to search engines.

For example: http://www.[brandwitheld].co.uk/fabrics.html is your main curtain category and then you have 11 different sub-categories under that, such as:

a) http://www.[brandwitheld].co.uk/fabrics.html?cat=browns

b) http://www.[brandwitheld].co.uk/fabrics.html?cat=reds

c) http://www.[brandwitheld].co.uk/fabrics.html?cat=golds

However, the content for each sub-category is dynamically generated from a product database, based on the category parameter indicated after the *?*.  To a search engine, a), b) and c) are seen as the same, single, page, with everything following the *?* generally ignored or treated as duplicate content.

Even worse, those sub-categories then break down into individual styles, but the style information is presented as a javascript pop-up dialogs, which can cause their own issues.

I’d put money on your URL structure being the spanner in the works preventing most of your content from being indexed. No wonder you see so few pages ranking well! I would suggest learning more about how Google treats URL parameters and reworking your site content to create flat, indexable HTML pages for each product, category and style.

Natalie, without having access to your Webmaster Tools account, I can’t really give you more advice at this point. However, if you’d like to invest in a full web site audit, I can certainly take a much closer look. Just contact me to get started.

Hope this helps!

 

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Q and A: How Do I Prepare for a Large Site Migration?

QuestionHi Kalena

I work for a medium sized hospitality chain (in the marketing dept) and our leading chain of hotels is about to undergo a brand change. I’ve just found out that management has approved a full domain name change for each of these hotels and scheduled it with our IT department to happen next month. My General Manager bought the domain name without consulting IT or marketing.

I’m freaking out a little because I’ve been given the task of making sure the change goes smoothly and doesn’t impact our Google rankings or traffic, which I’ve spent years building up. There are 3 different regional hotel properties that will be affected and the content will be transferred over to a single domain! What should I expect? Is there anything I can do to make the transition go smoothly?

Regards
Belinda

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Hi Belinda

Oh boy, I don’t envy you. Yes, you are right to be freaking out – at least a little. Site migrations are a royal pain in the you know where and can result in masses of lost traffic and lost search engine rankings.

By the sound of things, your site migration will be complicated by the fact that there are multiple domains shifting to a single domain. Now before you start hyperventilating, there are some things you can do in preperation:

1) Read this terrific presentation about site migration by Aidan Beanland of Yahoo and then read it again. Create a plan for your own migration situation.

2) Go spend some time with the IT department. Hopefully you get on well with them because you’ll be spending a lot of time talking to them over the next few months. Provide them with a copy of Aidan’s guide so they know what to expect. You’ll need to find out their strategy for the roll-out, including pre-switch benchmarking, 301 redirect integration and testing, specific dates for content transfer, the big switch and final DNS propagation.

3) Consider shifting the content of each individual hotel into distinct region-based sub-domains on the new site e.g. Dallas.HotelBrand.com, Austin.HotelBrand, Houston.HotelBrand rather than trying to combine all content into a single site. This way, you can optimize the sub-domains as distinctive sites and retain the location-related Google rankings you have spent so long building up. If you can prove large traffic losses will occur if you don’t do this (and they will!), it should be easy to get IT and management onside.

4) Take an active role in the pre-migration benchmarking process, particularly in relation to site analytics, most popular content and search engine rankings. Ensure your company keep ownership of the old domains and keep all sites live until the new domain has fully propagated.

5) Be prepared with other online/offline marketing activities to promote the hotels in case of sudden traffic loss.

6) Make sure your manager and stakeholders know what is within/beyond your control! Make it very clear what can go wrong during the move and protect yourself by warning them ahead of time of the potential negative outcomes.

Good Luck!

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Struggling to get your site higher in Google? Download my Free SEO Lesson. No catch!

 

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Q and A: How do I get started with Google Webmaster Tools?

QuestionHello Kalena

I’ve just take over the role of Online Marketing Manager for our company but I am learning on the job. I’ve got a very basic understanding of SEO and I know AdWords ok, but my focus is really social marketing, Facebook in particular.

The person I am taking over from left suddenly and I don’t have any of her files or records, so I am basically starting from scratch. My boss has asked me to do a full site assessment by next week!

My colleague suggested I start by finding out how many of our sitemap pages we have listed in Google. Now I have heard you can do this using Google Webmaster Tools, but to be honest, I’ve never used it. I’m a bit embarrassed actually, because I know I should have been using it before now, but I’ve never really had to.

Can you recommend a tutorial online somewhere about how to use Webmaster Tools, or perhaps give me a quick overview for getting started?

Thanks
Aaron

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Hello Aaron

Your colleague has given you some good advice about Google Webmaster Tools. That is definitely the best place to start. Get your site verified in Webmaster Tools and then grab the sitemap URL for your site and upload it via the console.

In terms of a tutorial, this Beginner’s Guide to Using Google Webmaster Tools is probably your best bet. There is also Google’s own Webmaster Tools documentation to help you out.

Once you’ve got the feel for the console, you can generate lots of reports that will help you put together a full site audit for your boss. Have fun!

Kalena

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Struggling to get better search rankings? Download our Free SEO Lesson. No catch!

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Q and A: Does Ask.com Accept XML Sitemaps?

QuestionHi Kalena

I have uploaded my XML sitemap to Google, Yahoo and more recently Bing, thanks to your blog post about the Bing Webmaster Center.

However, I’m wondering if Ask.com accept XML sitemaps and if so, how do I upload mine to Ask?

thanks
Georgia

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Hello Georgia

Yes, Ask.com DO support XML Sitemap submissions. Here’s a blurb about it from their Webmaster Help area:

“Yes, Ask.com supports the open-format Sitemaps protocol. Once you have prepared a sitemap for your site, add the sitemap auto-discovery directive to robots.txt, or submit the sitemap file directly to us via the ping URL”

The ping URL is as follows:

http://submissions.ask.com/ping?sitemap=http%3A//www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml

To add your sitemap to your robots.txt file, simply include this line:

Sitemap: http://www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml

Actually it’s not just Ask that supports the addition of sitemaps in robots.txt. Did you know that both Google and Yahoo also support that method of sitemap delivery?

You can either submit your sitemap via the search engine’s appropriate submission interface (e.g. Google Webmaster Tools, Yahoo Site Explorer, Bing Webmaster Center) or specify your sitemap location in your robots.txt file as per the above instructions.

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