As part of our "continuous improvement" reporting on clients' sites, we do some simple error checks using Google Webmaster Tools (GWMT). I think it's a good idea to share those with you because among many of the reasons that websites rank highly is their lack of errors. So, here are some of the simple things you can check to ensure your website has the best chance of being loved by Google.
I'm assuming you have signed up for GWMT and submitted a sitemap, but if you haven't you’ll need to follow the instructions in Jon's post about building SEO into your website.
Web Crawl Errors
The crawl error report shows the URLs in your site that Google tried to crawl but could not access. This happens when a page is no longer there and it needs to be redirected. Error pages create a poor user experience, so Google is unlikely to rank a site with error pages as highly as a site that is error free. Pages that error need fixing quickly.
Short for Malicious Software, malware consists of anything designed to disrupt the operation of your website and can be in a variety of forms of hostile, intrusive, annoying software or program code. Kinds of malware include (but are not limited to) viruses, worms, spyware, and Trojan horses. If Malware has been detected on your site, it is most likely to have been hacked so you should remove the site immediately and seek technical advice.
We love WordPress, but it's popularty as a free Content Management System means it can be particularly vulnerable to attack if it’s not upgraded regularly. Newer versions will have been patched up against known vunerabilities, so check whether you have the most up-to-date version. Speak to whoever installed your blog to find out more.
The HTML suggestions page shows where there is duplication of the meta data on your website. Search engines want each page to have a unique title tag and description, as this provides additional useful information for searches – particularly long tailed searches. If you find you have duplicate title tags or descriptions, these can be changed by your web designer or in your content management system, but make sure you follow Jon's tips to search engine optimise them.
More generally, your site should not have any duplicate content – this is substantive blocks of text that appear in more than one place either on your website, or across different websites. Where Google believes duplicate content is being shown with intent to manipulate rankings, your site may be penalised. Even if you have duplicated your content with the very best of intentions, it’s still not a good idea as it may mean the pages get indexed incorrectly. We think it’s always better to rewrite content so that it is tailored around the point that you are trying to make on that page - see Nicola's post about writing optimised content.
You can use this information to improve the speed of your site. A fast loading page has the double advantage of a better user experience as well as enabling Google to collect as much content as possible and the more content Google can collect in the limited time it is on your site, the more likely it is to add your pages into its index.
The graph shows you the average page load time for pages in your site over the last few months, and some suggestions on how to make the pages load faster. Page load time is the total time from the moment the user clicks on a link to your page until the time the entire page is loaded and displayed in a browser. You can see from our graph that we had some issues in March, but now we're in pretty good shape.... phew!
Sitelinks are the links to a site's interior pages that appear in Google searches; they are generated by Google automatically based on what they see as authoritative links in your site. Here’s our site links:
Follow this link to see those right now on Google.
It’s important to check your sitelinks from time to time, as they are an indication of what Google sees as important on your site. If you don’t like what you see, then you can block a sitelink so that it doesn’t appear in the Google results in GWMT. It’s much harder to get a sitelink listed if it doesn’t appear automatically, but you could try getting links to, social media mentions of and citations of that page... how do you do that? Have unique, useful content on it! There's no SEO magic, just make your site useful.
If you have any questions, get in touch and we'll help.