Give them a map
Google is great at finding things and assessing their relevance to searchers and to other things they are linked or associated with. Even so, you should still blatantly point things out to them where you can. Remove all doubt. They may still make their own minds up but at least you’ve made yours up. Structure/Navigation? Give them a sitemap. Important content feeds – such as news or video? Submit them specifically to Google. Pages moved/moving? Set-up a redirect. Multiple versions of the same content? Tell them which is the original.
Your content is king, but the structure of and access to it are also very important.
Sign-up for Google’s webmaster tools (free!) and submit a sitemap. There’s websites out there that will create one for free (usually up to a certain amount of pages – with the ‘premium’ offering unlocking the full sitemap), a developer may also be able to help you or your CMS (content management systems) may offer it automatically. A wordpress.com blog usually has it at homepage.com/sitemap.xml, for wordpress.org (i.e. self-hosted WordPress) you may need to install a plugin.
Webmaster tools will tell you if your sitemap is ok –vital in checking your navigation. As a bonus, webmaster tools will also hand you lots of other useful SEO troubleshooting information: crawl errors, html issues, basic link information, a selection of search queries etc. You need to use this tool!
We’ve covered this before in universal search – to get featured in News submit your feed (and remember to comply with their rules and guidelines). Got a lot of video content? Do a video-specific sitemap to submit to Google. Make sure to include all relevant meta-data of course!
If you move a page that’s still relevant to the search engines tell them where it’s gone! There’s two major types of re-direct you can implement to inform search engines of a change. 301 Moved Permanently or 302 Moved Temporarily.
You want to use 301 Moved Permanently. This indicates that the content has moved – and may be more up to date at its new location. This will pass on 90+% of the SEO power the page originally had. A 302 on the other hand will pass on 0%.
You may need a developer to help you configure this – but be warned, a 302 redirect is the default on some systems and to a developer not versed in SEO there is no real functional difference.
Duplicate content is punished as Google likes originality and freshness – we know this so why would anyone have duplicate content on their sites these days? Unfortunately some CMSs introduce duplicate content down to the way they work. It may be by introducing a session id to the URL string or it may reflect multiple product choice options.
is really the same page as:
Or in the case of products:
is really the same as the customer choosing the same product via the same options but in a different order.
Clearly in these situations the duplicate page may be necessary, but you only want one version ranked. In these cases you decide which page will be canonical. You then add tags the other (non-canonical) pages to indicate to Google which you would like it to consider the main one.
rel=”canonical” – put this in a link tag in the <head> section of the duplicate pages
NB: Google may disregard this advice, but at least you’ve shown them that you are not duplicating content for dubious reasons.
For help with this sort of structural SEO, contact EBS Marketing – your friendly Manchester based digital/SEO obsessives.