3 Technical SEO Wins for Brand New Clients

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In most parts of the United States, cooler, autumn weather is upon us. For many in the online marketing world, it’s a time to reflect on the past nine months of work and start thinking about your 2015 to-do list.

One of the must items on this list is to perform an annual website audit, especially for new clients because — as many online marketing agencies know — you often inherit a lot of bad code.

It’s a perfect end-of-the-year project and one that will set your clients on a solid business footing for the new year.

How To Keep Googlebot Happy

It makes no sense to recommend a content marketing strategy or social media plan if a website is not running optimally. Googlebot does not like bumping into walls, so to speak, and duplicate content or bloated code will slow it down.

The good news is that with a click of a button, you can evaluate the health of your clients’ website using Site Auditor. This is one of Raven’s most popular SEO tools because it identifies issues, errors and opportunities to improve a website’s on-page SEO.

There are three big SEO issues you, as the expert, can identify and fix, eliminating confusion for both search engines and visitors and demonstrating value to your new client.

Confused Man

1. Eliminate Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is a big SEO no-no and an easy fix once you run Site Auditor. Simply schedule a crawl of the site, and Raven will return a report that identifies major SEO issues. Two mistakes I still see that greatly reduce search visibility have to do with canonicalization.

Similar but different URLs

Canonicalization is the process of picking the best URL when there are several choices, and it usually refers to home pages. For example, most people would consider these the same URLs:

  • www.example.com
  • example.com/
  • www.example.com/index.html
  • example.com/home.asp

But technically, all of these URLs are different. A Web server could return completely different content for all the URLs above. When Google “canonicalizes” a URL, it tries to pick the URL that seems like the best representative from that set.

www vs. non-www hostnames

If a searcher types into a browser http://example.com/, but your client’s website was also set up with http://www.example.com as the domain, Google will see this as two individual websites. Sometimes one URL will be served up and sometimes another. Either way, your client’s losing customers — the confused linking structure leads to reduced search visibility.

Plus, links pointing to their website will be diluted because they are spread over two domains.

The good news is this is an easy fix. Simply ask your client to pick one or the other domain, and assign your developer the task of putting in place a 301-permanent redirect.

That helps Google know which URL is the preferred canonical. Adding a 301 redirect can be an especially good idea if your client’s site changes often, such as with a frequently updated blog. (You are recommending they start a blog, right?)

Using either incorrectly will have Google filtering out much of a website’s content because the search bots read it as duplicate content.

The next task is to sort for duplicate URLs, which are also considered duplicate content. This can be done in Google Webmaster Tools directly. When you find two similar URLs but with different parameters, instruct your developer to

  • Implement rel="canonical" – which signals to Google that some parameters are valuable while others can be ignored.
  • Utilize URL parameter handling – which is used if the URL structure contains name value pairs using standard encoding.

Page titles and meta descriptions

At a minimum, every important page on a website should have a unique title and meta description. That way, none of your page authority will be diluted. Length matters too. Site Auditor will tell you the character length of both and flag those pages with missing or duplicate page titles and meta descriptions, whether they’re too long or too short, and so on.

You can set a baseline for your new client and measure success over time. Looking at this image, I’d say it’s a good thing they signed on with a new online marketing agency. Their website visibility got worse!

Meta Issues

2. Reduce Crawl Errors

Next, Site Auditor checks for crawl errors, which determines if bots are properly accessing your client’s website. Within crawl errors are crawl error sources. 404 errors (file not found) are not good for users and not good for search engines.

404 Error Page

Fixing crawl errors helps your client capitalize on potential customers who originate from other sites. The ability to access pages also helps accumulate Page Rank from external links to the right URL which, in turn, helps with search visibility.

To benchmark your SEO work, add a table highlighting visibility issues in your client report. Then you can send the same report showing the error pages your agency fixed the following month.

3. Improve Speed

A recent State of the User Experience Survey found that a majority of visitors were unwilling to spend more than 5 seconds for a Web page to load.

Performance is the most important expectation for digital experience and can directly affect revenue. — Limelight Networks

Money talks, and customers prove they are willing to walk away from a website that doesn’t meet their expectation for performance. You can generate a performance report with one-click using Raven and know within seconds if load time is an issue.

These are easy wins for any SEO or online marketing agency wanting to make a positive impression on a new client and their business’ bottom line.