404 and the more

23 October 2019

 In this blog post we’re getting a bit more under the bonnet of the website mechanics and looking at some of the things that cause problems that are often unseen.

23 October 2019

In the first blog (404 and more) post we focused on some of the fundamentals of SEO and some technical tips and tools to help improve your website. In this blog post we’re getting a bit more under the bonnet of the website mechanics and looking at some of the things that cause problems that are often unseen. These are by far the more damaging as if you don’t know what to look for; your site could be actively sending visitors away quicker than you can say URL.

Under the bonnet…

4. Site speed

It’s no secret that our patience on the web gets thinner with every new development. This is especially prevalent in mobile users. Studies show that most users won’t wait much longer than 6 seconds for a page to fully load, Google agrees – it clearly favours sites that load faster.

·  You can check how Google rates your site by using its site speed checker

·  If your site is scoring under a score of 50 there are some technical adjustments that you need to make: Look at how many ‘plug-ins’ your site is running. Social media feeds (Twitter for example) are sometimes a culprit here. These kind of programmes often serve up from a different location, which slow the overall experience, examine if you really need these elements

·  Compress any large images. You can also buy image hosting services that will do this

·  If you are on shared hosting, it may be worth looking at single hosting. It’s more expensive, about twice the cost, but it has the advantage of normally offering more robust guaranteed against downtime as an extra benefit

·  If single hosting isn’t an option, look at services like Cloudflare. It is compatible with hosting packages. When you sign up it serves your website to the user via a more local ‘cached’ server, meaning it loads more quickly

5. Embedded videos

As every good schoolboy marketer knows, YouTube is the world’s second biggest website. If you have video on your site in various locations it pays to create your website in a way that allows you to embed the YouTube version into your site. Many sites use hosting or streaming packages like Vimeo or other bespoke ‘players’ I’d advise against that.

Using YouTube embedded you can:

·  Ensure your YouTube channel (which helps your search performance) maximises views

·  Encourage sharing from your site as well as within YouTube

6. Broken links (internal)

If your site has evolved over a long period of time, or has many sections that have been changed on a regular basis, it’s likely that somewhere along the line you have internal links you put in; keen as you are to help users navigate to other sections of the site to increase engagement; check the links to pages haven’t expired. Search engines don’t like broken links, it reminds them of the bad old days, where bad practice was to manufacture links on sites automatically to make it look important.

7. Broken links (external)

Remember that SEO backlink that you cheered about so enthusiastically that you got from an important media partner or referral site? Well if that link is broken because that website page expired; it’s now harming you as opposed to helping.

It’s really important that you do an automated SEO tool scan of your site for all broken links. Use a tool like Moz or Raven.

This will pull up a detailed report of links that are broken. These must be either deleted or fixed. So for the external links, it may require some old fashioned ‘shoe leather’ as you go round contacting them to re-establish the link.

8. The abominable 404 errors – pages missing

Ever got to the post office/bank and after queuing, you get to the teller desk and they go off to lunch with a shrug and point you elsewhere? This is the bad experience you are giving your users who hit links that take you to a page that isn’t there with a big ugly piece of code – ‘404’ – slapped across it. Most of it of course is about the lack of service that an empty page gives you, but the shrug and lack of direction, adds to the chagrin.

404

Firstly a search via Moz or Raven Tools can find any missing pages and these URL’s can be deleted. This is key – missing pages are a black mark on SEO score. However, it’s also marked down even more if the page has no clear message and doesn’t have a redirect. It is very hard on a busy site to guarantee that broken pages won’t happen, so be prepared. Create, or get your web page to create a template and a default instruction to serve it when it happens. It’s a chance to keep ‘on brand’ even when you are on the back foot. There are some great creative ideas – click here.

Looking ahead, to a ‘secure’ future

Google, since late 2014, has been giving search favour to sites that are ‘secure’, meaning their web address contains HTTPS, not just HTTP. It won’t be long before HTTPS is the standard (although you can still jump the queue) so this one is a bit of a zero sum game. In order to not get left behind, talk to your web company or hosting agent about making the switch.

So there we are some advice that can help you with some very important major fixes and other bits of minor ‘gardening’ on your site to support all that great web copy you have written.


Author: John Fenna Head of Marketing, Communications & Digital at Tavistock Relationships


Disclaimer: Please note that this blog only contains general information and insights about legal matters. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such. Kompass.com

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