Do You Know Your Webpage Response Codes?

Busy, busy, busy here at Summit Online Marketing/SEO Liverpool. We’re currently working on a large project that requires the use 301 redirects to new webpages.

So we thought a good post would be to run over the rest of the response codes. I feel this will be of particular benefit, if like me you’ve approached SEO from a marketing background rather than coding or a webdesign perspective.

200 OK

How Is It Used - You request page X and then page X is shown. Gives you the page you’ve requested.

Who Uses It - You probably thought you’d never seen this one! Well you’re wrong, this is the status code of a return a good page. Everybody uses it.

301 Moved Permanently

How Is It Used - We know you want page X, Page X has been moved and I’ll take you to the new location.

Who Uses It  - This is probably most used with SEO. We do so as it’s a good way to keep the value associated with a URL and its content.

302 Found Moved Temporarily

How Is It UsedPage X requested, we’ve temporarily moved page X here, let us take you its temporary.

Who Uses It – It’s useful if you’re temporarily moving a webpage around a site. If you have a product under ‘new’ or it’s seasonal and will move back in the near future.

401 Unauthorised

How Is It UsedPage X is password protected. You haven’t entered your login or you’re trying to move past a protected page…. So you can’t

Who Uses It - Useful if you have restricted access content that you only want to serve to select visitors. Remember, content beyond this page will not be indexed.

403 Forbidden

How Is It UsedYou’ve requested page X. You don’t have permission for page X, under any circumstance, so no!

Who Uses It - This page is for special people, usually administration or very limited to a few people

404 Not Found

How Is It UsedPage X has been requested, but page X is not available to you.

Who Uses It – The page usually doesn’t exist. These pages are mainly roadblocks for users and Google. Create a custom 404 and add some links back to the key-pages and you may keep hold of the visitor or two.

410 Gone

How Is It UsedPage X. We know page X but we’ve taken it down permanently.

Who Uses It – SEO’s use it to remove penalised pages. It’s a good page to say we’ve removed this page deliberately and forever.

500 Internal Server Error

How Is It UsedRequest for page X, but we’re not sure what has happened to page X.

Who Uses It – Nobody, this is an error.

503 Service Unavailable

How Is It Used -Page X is requested, response when trying to find X is ‘We have a big problem not going to show anything to anyone today’.

Who Uses It – The website is down. Who knows why.

Thanks for reading and I hope the response codes are clear.

We’ve put a little SEO spin the explanations of those you’ll commonly need. 301 is a great SEO tool. We use this as a way to transfer value from one URL to the newly constructed replacement. Personally, I wouldn’t use a redirect unless it’s an absolute necessity. You’ll always initially take a hit, but if you’ve done everything right, you’ll get almost all the value back.

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Three Classic Onsite Website SEO Mistakes

I’ve been contacted by a few companies in the last few months regarding our SEO basics posts. A common question we’ve heard centers around which SEO elements should they implement on-page (on the website)

It’s important to remember that you’re not trying to game the system. SEO and Google have the same goals. To get the top listings you just have to fulfill the criteria that Google uses to rank you… Google is very much customer focused. Build for the customers then you’ll build a site the search engines like.

Classic Website Mistakes

Number 1

Fresh content – I’ve stated this on many occasions but fresh content is a key-factor and a mainstay regarding the Google algorithm. This hasn’t changed and probably never will.

Why Google Likes It – The simplest indicator of a useful website is fresh content. Fresh content means the site and information is up to date and most importantly more than likely you’re still trading. This is done by the Google spiders revisiting the website.

e.g. You’re a HR company that has no fresh content or news on the website. Alternatively, you update the site with the latest HR information and proactively provide good content that adds to the readers experience.  Which version is Google going to want to refer? Google knows you’re still trading and most importantly you’re probably more relevant. The more the search engine spiders analyse a website, and you’ve added to it, the better you’ll rank.

Number 2

H1 Tags  – You should have a h1 tag on each page that gives a good description of the service you offer. Great for placing keywords but better for telling the customer what the page contains.

Why Google Likes It – Simply, it enables clear navigation and direction to customers. Search engine wise, it very clearly categorises each page and adds context to the meta data.

Number 3

Over optimisation of homepage text. You’ve seen those sites, lists of keywords that are hyper-linked to internal site pages. Their is no context to them. Most of the time, they’re not even written in constructive sentences, just placed in lists.

Why Google Hates It – Google not only looks at the keywords, and those that are linked, but it uses the text around to provide context. Lots of hyper-links and sitelinks is indicative of linkfarms and untrusted sites.

Personally, you shouldn’t optimise a homepage for more than three keywords.

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SEO Basics – Meta Tags

The importance of the Title tag.

Meta data is probably the first port of call for most new SEO’s. If you get it right, then you can see a large gain as far as your optimisation efforts are concerned. I’m sure everybody understands what a title tag is, but lets make sure.

Lets examine them in more detail…

Title Tag = <title>This is what it looks like</title>

So as we’ve already stated the tag is a very effective tool for SEO. Almost every Search Engine Optimisation Consultant will have a slightly different way of using it. So how can we see it? Well, it is usually visible at the top of each browser once a website is open.

The established Rules

1) 70 Characters – This is the generally accepted wisdom, the title tag should be no longer than 70 characters. Any longer can be detrimental

2) Important Keywords  – The first keyword you place in this tag will be considered most important – If you write any content, own a website or pick up a product off the shelf. The first word/s will generally set the tone. e.g. If the most important content of a website is written at the bottom, then it’s obviously not the most important, think headline! A search engine generally uses this as a rule with all content.

3) What It Should Say – Every single page of your website should have a different title tag and this should reflect the content within that specific page. So if you’ll probably want the name of page, business name and a keyword. As above place the keyword first, page second and the business name third.

e.g. The Main Keyword Here | The Page Contact Us | Business Name Goes Here

On a side note, the piping (|) is used so we don’t waste characters… unless the keyword/phrase you’ve previously researched calls for it.

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The Law Of Diminishing Returns

90% Is Good Enough

I discussed this with a variety of SEO Liverpool clients, and in the past I’ve devoted entire talks on this topic. The focus is usually in relation to link-building vs. on-page SEO, but the message is the same.

What we’re discussing in this post is the need to get everything absolutely perfect and concentrating your efforts on a tactic that just isn’t worth the fuss of hitting 100%.  People naturally get comfortable with one aspect of the search marketing mix (link-building, on-page, social, etc.) and then want to ‘perfect’ it, but at best they hit diminishing returns fast.

Why focus your resources on attaining the last 10%, when you’ll get a much higher return by concentrating those efforts on other tactics that will provide much more SEO benefit.

I’ve seen sites with spotless on-page SEO that have been stuck for months suddenly leap through the rankings because they’ve acquired a few good links. On the flip-side, I’ve seen sites that were a total mess but had solid link profiles miraculously improve when their on-page problems were fixed.

We understand the perceived value that optimising each aspect of your SEO to 100% efficient, but often, you focus a vast proportion of your time on just one aspect. If the focus was to shift to another related to the central pillars of SEO, the rewards would be much greater.

Be Tough and Patient

Our SEO Agency Liverpool can only stress patience. This could be the toughest skill any good SEO eventually has to learn. There are times when you’ll need to react quickly to a problem, especially a technical problem (like a bad redirect or site outage). There’s a fine line between reacting and over-reacting, though.

The common technical SEO mistake we see is when organisations and SEO’s make a change, if it doesn’t immediately improve their rankings 24 hours later, and so they revert it or make another change on top of it. Even if it doesn’t make the problem worse (and it usually does), you’ll never be able to measure which change worked. Make sure your changes went live, that Google has acknowledged them (i.e. crawled and cached), and that you can measure the impact or lack of impact. Don’t change your strategy overnight based on bad information (or no information).

 

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Lets Talk About Microsites

Microsites, What Are They Good For?

SEO Liverpool have had a fair few meetings in recent weeks relating to this subject. Clients want to know why microsites or mini-sites have been used for different SEM (search engine marketing) strategies. Let’s examine the possible reasons to create a microsite.

1) You’ve a new product/offer you’d like to promote.

  • You’ve a new product or offer you’d like to promote. You don’t want to change your website just yet, and you may feel that this offer or product is outside your normal remit of business.
  • Changing a website and moving elements around can be difficult.  Maintaining a cohesive structure alongside your user experience design principals could mean you’ll potentially harm sales.
  • You may be forced to tuck away valuable information as adding new content requires a massive investment to recreate the site with the new product/s in the appropriate placements.
  • Sometimes, with the amount of internal teams having a vested intest in a large website e.g. webdesign, web-development, SEO and marketing, creating a microsite is often a quick and easy short-term solution.
  • The offer might be a limited addition, or may only be available or tailored to another market/country.

2) You’ve a new product/offer and you don’t wish to cannablise your own market

  • If you’ve an updated version of a product that could decimate your current market. E.g. Gillet are the masters of upgrading their razors and blades… whilst still selling older versions of their products.
  • You may want to create an offer in a different market and therefore wouldn’t want to upset your current customer base. Special introductory offer microsites are becoming ever more popular.

3) To maximize your PPC revenue in relation to quality score.

  • The most common reason for a microsite that we happen upon. If you want to reduce your PPC costs, quality score is key. Creating a microsite that displays all the relevant information and has the appropriate conversion points are key.
  • Measurement and multi-varient testing can also be much easier using a microsite. You can change and update pages and gather strong data about how customers interact with the brand in relation to keywords and information they want.

Hope this information is useful, as we’ve a lot of clients that either set them up for the wrong reasons, or don’t understand why you would ever need a microsite. If you want to discuss microsites with our SEO agency Liverpool, drop us an email.

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Google Sitemap

As a Liverpool based SEO company, sometimes you need to get a little bit of perspective in regards to tried and tested techniques.

This week I’ve been talking to my friends over at SEO Manchester about Google Sitemaps. Is there still a value in submitting a Sitemap to Google?  In our opinion, if a site has very poor navigation and on-page SEO, submitting a Sitemap might be your only alternative. But for well optimised sites, is there a benefit in submitting a Sitemap file to Google?

Here are some important points

  • The Last modification date field in the sitemap file can aid Google in quickly locating the actual change in the page. John at Google explained that Google might not have time to crawl all the pages you said changed, so if you specify the actual change in the Sitemap file, it will be easier for Google to pick up on those changes.
  • The Priority, Change frequency is a lot like the last mod date. If you give Google data that “makes sense”, i.e. don’t list 100% of your pages as the most important page on your site, then it can be useful to Google.

Googles Advice States;

   * Yes, please send us Sitemap files, preferably sitemap.org XML files!
   * Work on good URLs & use them to double-check your site's navigation
   * Optional: Date or change frequency? depends on how you work.
   * Also optional: Priority

In conclusion, if you have good solid navigation, you may not need them. But why take the risk! Webmaster tools is an incredibly valuable tool that enables you to check any issues with each indexed page.

 

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How Many Links Would be Too Many?

When I’m reading over notes for SEO Liverpool and Summit Online Marketing, I feel it’s quite important to revisit important information, especially if I’m receiving questions around the subject.

I received an enquiry about a website that had lots of links and believe they’re getting penalised for it. The copy seemed succinct, keyword rich and the meta data looked good.

A few years ago I remember reading that over 100 links on a page can be considered a link farm.

My quick bit of advice revolved around PageRank sculpting to enhance search engine ranking. The classic way to negotiate lots of links is in changing them to no-follow links. This is a quick and easy way of not passing on your hard earned ‘juice’ to unnecessary third parties.

Although how much juice still gets through is debatable.

On closer inspection they had gone with the classic ‘ball’ linking structure (Every page links to every other page). It’s not very effective at conserving and spreading the link juice (PageRank, link reputation and link popularity).

I wasn’t saying this was a bad thing, but with SEO, testing is key. I advised changing the structure to what is known as a ‘pyramid’ linking structure.

A pyramid linking structure

Typically all the links leaving the home page are no-followed, except the one leading to the sitemap. The sitemap has normal links to everything, except the home page. With internal pages, everything is no-follow except the link back to the home page. It creates a feedback loop, concentrating all the link love back to the home page. This could mean you’ll be getting a lot of traffic from your internal pages… depending on your content!

Food for thought.

 

 

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Page Speed Loading Times

As I’ve mentioned many times here at SEO Liverpool I get lots of questions via email. A frequently asked question and something I’d like to talk about today, is the importance of web page loading speeds. Basically, page loading speeds can be important!

Just for clarity, we’re talking about when you click on a website and it takes longer than expected to bring all the elements to the page. This isn’t a broadband problem, you may end up with a page that has no real elements and lot’s of white space.

I’m going to tell you why it’s important from two important perspectives

Human point of view

0.1 load speed – this is instantaneous a 1 second load will also seem very smooth. If you take between 5-10 seconds then you’ll lose potential visitors who’ll click off. There is not a definitive number as some of us are ‘children of the dial up’ and may have more patience. Another person may have less patience or assume the webpage is broken.

Search Engine point of view

About 4 years ago online marketing consultants became aware that page load speed is a part of the Google algorithm. This is important, but I wouldn’t get to hung up on it.

If you use Google Adwords for your PPC then page load speed takes on a more important role. In fact a very important role! It will be part of the landing page (web page) quality score.

This means that you could reach the positions you want and conceivable pay less per keyword.

Factors that may be detrimental to page load speeds

  • Masses of Java, CSS or Flash
  • High resolution images
  • Hosting your own videos
  • Frames – if you’re still using frames then you need a website update

 Next Steps

If you look at the Google webmaster central blog, it has a selection of tools that will help you determine problems and provide help.

 

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Can long URLs hurt you?

At SEO Liverpool we’ve been having a discussion about long URLs, in the past they have been spammy. I’m sure I’ve read a thread that actually commented on some URLs being a bit too long for comfort (SEO SEM agencies take note!)

Look at my example URL:

www.thisoldsite.co.uk/some-item-like-this-and-another-keyword-like-this-and-sometimes-even-more.42html

I’m all for having descriptive URLs, but …. but on occasion this seems to be taking it a bit too far and most of the time you’ll have trouble identifying anything that matches in the content of the page. Too far? Does that mean a search engine will penalise really long URLs? Or in this case, it does it just looks spammy to a manual review?

Sometimes if you dig deeper, you’ll noticed that you can find the same page as long as you include 42 at the end of the URL. Now, this is a common CMS issue with many sites. We’d deal with this with a 301 redirect from the broken URL to the true URL.

In this illustration, the CMS identifies the page by having the ID (i.e. 42) in the URL and then returns the dynamic content. The CMS should contain a real URL and then 301 redirect any other URLs that have id 42 in them to the real URL.

So, when building a CMS or SEO training staff, you might want to do a couple things in terms of URLs:

(1) Restrict the length of the URL to something normal

(2) 301 Redirect any duplicate URLs to the real URL

Thoughts?

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6 common website mistakes that could be costing you money

As an SEO Company we’re always dealing with clients who seem to have a little bit of SEO PPC or online marketing knowledge. Here we’ve put together 6 really common website mistakes and get they could be costing you money.

1. JavaScript or other crawler-unfriendly navigation that may impede indexing. Most newer sites don’t have this problem, but there’s almost always at least 1 site we review in every class that has its main navigation pretty much invisible to the search engines. If your navigation basically doesn’t exist as far as Google is concerned, then it’s very difficult to get all of the pages of your website indexed.

2. Navigation that buries important pages within the site architecture. The deeper that pages are buried within the website, the less importance they are given. For SEO, as well as usability purposes, it’s often helpful to showcase important sections of the website up an additional level in the site’s hierarchy. This can usually be achieved via a search-friendly CSS mouse-over menu.

3. Duplicate “pages” getting indexed under multiple URLs. While Google has, for the most part, worked out many of their canonical issues of the past and now generally realize that www.example.com/index.php is the same as www.example.com, many content management systems (CMS) take things a step further and provide a whole array of URLs for any one particular page of content. Sometimes this is done purposely for tracking reasons, as with session ids or tracking links appended to the end of URLs; but other times, it’s simply done because the CMS was never designed with search engines in mind. This is not a good thing, as it can cause the spiders to be so busy indexing the same content that they miss the more important stuff.

4. No keyword phrase focus in the content or conversely, keyword phrase stuffing. It never ceases to amaze me when people claim to have optimised a page, but there are no keyword phrases anywhere to be seen within the content. I suppose this might happen because they’ve put them in the keyword meta tag and assume they’ve optimised. (It’s a good thing they’ve come to our class when this is the case!) On the other side of the coin, there are those who seem to think that 4 instances of a keyword phrase in one sentence must certainly be better than just one! The fix, of course, is to provide a balanced focus on the optimised keyword phrases so that a trained SEO would know what the page is optimised for, but the average reader wouldn’t find the copy repetitive.

5. An optimised home page, but that’s it. While optimizing just the home page is better than not optimizing anything, it’s not going to increase the website’s search engine traffic by that much. Without fixing all the issues on inner pages and optimizing a number of them for their own set of keyword phrases, the site will basically be leaving money on the table.

6. Additional domains owned by the company are not properly redirected. In the old days, it was fine to park any additional domains that the company owned as an alias of the main website; however, today it’s much better practice to 301-redirect all additional domains to the main website. This enables the company to control which domain is the one that the search engines index, and avoids any splitting of link popularity between the different domains.

These 6 are by no means the only website mistakes we see. I’m going back through the sites we reviewed, I found tons of additional mistakes which I’ll save for a future article. My hope is that at least one of these may ring a bell to you as something that needs to be fixed on your own website. Once you take the time to correct the issue, you should find that your website will start gaining a lot more targeted search engine traffic, and ideally start making you more money!

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