Making It Easy For Google

This piece of content is about selling up your house. It seriously is! Read on and you will discover a few worthy tips to help you secure a profitable sale – and how you can apply this to SEO.

In the world of Search Engine Optimization, consultants are often asked questions about keywords and rankings. Clients want to rank quickly for competitive terms, which is completely fine and understandable – and why we are here!

Usually, when someone comes to us and requests our services, they know we will be involved in changing and updating many different elements on and off-site. Creating content, acquiring links, helping develop the brand online – this all makes sense.

If there is one thing however that always seems to be getting low levels of publicity, it truly is technical SEO. Eyebrows being raised when requesting access to the Content Management System, new plugins being questioned, changes in navigation structure… Why would we need that?

Let’s go back to the fundamentals.

The core principles of SEO rely on 4 distinct pillars:

  • Branding: how Search Engines identify you, your company, your products and services; and tie everything up as a brand. Which branding elements are found and where they are found on the web. How often people relate to your brand. How important your company is and how important is is perceived online and offline.
  • Content: What is being said on your website, and on content items across the web. How well do you contribute towards a “better web” by creating and posting interesting, relevant and/or thought provoking pieces. How readers react to those pieces.
  • Links: and shares. And mentions. Where are you getting those from, how do they look, where are they pointing to, how often do you get new links, what is the overall sentiment towards your business, products and services on pages linking to them?
  • Technical SEO: how well built your website is. Is it maintained regularly? Are you driving around town with worn out tires and no brakes and wondering why no one wants a lift?

When those key elements are in place and well aligned, then you can expect some serious SEO uplift. It’s vital to tackle them all and not leave anything aside.

This is great, says the reader, but why on Earth has this something to do with making it easy for Google? Thanks for asking!

Google regularly crawls your website. It does so to assess its value and relevance to any future search query. However, Google only allocates a defined amount of its resources to your website; which is why you should make the most out of it.

Let’s use an analogy – you are putting your house for sale. Hopefully, people will flock and have a look at it. Interested buyers. Before the open house, you spend time preparing everything, to give yourself the best of chances of securing a sale. You want your house to be:

  • Clean
  • Uncluttered
  • With a focus on its best assets

Well, it’s exactly the same with your own website before Google’s visit!

A clean website

Let’s start with cleaning up the floor. Any broken links on your content? Make sure you regularly check your own links and update the ones not resolving. To do so, you can either use a desktop tool such as Screaming Frog and run a crawl of your website. The tool will emulate a crawler (such as Google’s very own Googlebot) and provide you with a report. Sort them by Status Code and look for any 404 errors. Then simply head off to those pages where a broken link has been uncovered and update it to a valid page.

Google Search Console also offers a Crawl Report (under Crawl > Crawl Errors) where you can find if you have broken links on your pages. Obviously, this is data coming from Google so it’s definitely worth checking what Google has to say about your website…

Then focus on any dead ends. You wouldn’t want Googlebot to get stuck on a page with no way of getting out; or no options for following its crawl process. Make sure there is some sort of navigation on all your pages, or a few links to be followed. Even landing pages, if worthy of getting indexed, should have a couple of links out.

Finally, look for infinite loops. Those are caused by either improper href formatting (meaning the destination page URL is not properly labeled) or ever ending 301s (redirections after redirections). Do not trap the crawler!

Your first step towards a sale is now over. You have eliminated any major unwanted element from your property, removed any important road block for Google’s next visit. Let’s now focus on making sure everything is where it should be.

An uncluttered website

As in everything, less is more. Think about it. A birthday cake… A wedding dress… A house for sale! Everything should be at its right place on D-Day. Same goes for your website.

Start with an easy to understand navigation. All your website content should fit in your navigation. Each piece of content should be accessible under its own URL located at www.yourwebsite.com/folder/subfolder/ – nothing more. If your website has 4 sub-navigation levels, this is probably too much. And it’s certainly too deep should this content holds any significant importance for your business, like a crucial service of yours.

Use breadcrumbs. Not only are those facilitating your end users visit, on a website they might access for the first time, but they also offer a way for Googlebot to understand content hierarchy. Obviously, make sure your most important content is located higher in your website navigation and not buried somewhere dark where no one ever ventures…

Apply this navigation structure to your HTML sitemap. Yes, you need one. Your end users might find it useful when looking for specific information. Google will find it useful to assess the whole spectrum of your content.

Well done! Every single bit of your house sits where it should. Your website is now cleaner than it ever was. Your content follows a logically established structure and is readily accessible. Let’s now work on the lighting aspect, focus on your property’s best elements: let’s aim the flashlight at your most important content items for Google to see.

Focus on your website’s best assets

Not only should your property be as inviting as possible, it needs to make a durable great first impression. How about Googlebot coming to your website, looking around, and liking what it sees?

Start by prioritizing your website elements. Your most important items should be easily accessible, not only through navigation (see above) but also internal linking. Do not over link to them, internal links have to be meaningful.

Then work on your robots.txt file. Mark down folders and pages that should not be visited. You will save Googlebot’s time.

Fine tune your XML sitemap. Prioritize elements by allocating them priority factors. Yes, Search Engines do not strictly take this into account when crawling a website but still, it gives them a clear picture of what you think is more important. If you have too many URLs, then create a main XML Sitemap and multiple sub-sitemaps (categorized in pages, posts, product types…).

Wrap this up by structuring your data. Above all, your business location and products need to be “marked up”: you will do so by applying standardized code elements to the most significant items of your website. Thus, you might obtain a better visibility in the Search Engines Results Pages but you will definitely make Google’s life easier.

Everything ready? Now comes the final step: work on your signage. All those efforts would be vain if no one (understand – Google) comes to your open day. Obviously, links will help a lot. However, submitting those items (notably -but not solely- your XML Sitemap) to your Google Search Console account will go a long way. You will also be able to monitor Google crawl rate of your website and assess the impact of your recent changes.

Taken in isolation, each of the above technical issue can be detrimental to your website success. When combined, any given website will greatly suffer in getting decent rankings. Even with the most astonishing content, a remarkable link profile and a well recognizable brand, if Googlebot has all the difficulties in the world in getting to your key website elements, you will not reap the benefits of your online presence.

Don’t waste Google resources: optimize them! Work on your technical SEO, transform each of Googlebot crawls into a breeze – your website rankings will thank you for it.

Hopefully, those open day tips will help you finalize a profitable transaction! Treat your website like it were your property and invest in making Google’s life easier for a swift, stress-free understanding of your company’s best online assets.

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