We’ve talked a lot about SEO in this blog. Articles named ‘why Google hates you’, leaky websites etc. Google provide tools to help, plus there’s also superb third party tools too. One we’ve recommended a lot is SEOProfiler which instantly checks your page ranking – Where you will rank in a Google search page.
Another more sophisticated tool we use a lot is from SEOMoz. This provides us more specific feedback on the website domain and page authority, as well as links, crawl errors and page structure problems. In other words, it is all very well to know you’re not performing well, but where do you start to actually fix it? Both of these, alongside Google tools provides valuable clues, examining it from on-site and off-site factors.
eCommerce Sites Worst Hit
Shopping sites are inevitably the worst when it comes to SEO problems and errors. It’s common that the cheap sites running systems like Cubecart, Opencart, osCommerce, ZenCart etc offered ‘free’ by web hosts will have loads of hidden issues that adversely affect ranking and traffic. It’s a pity, since eCommerce sites, when properly built, can rank very well indeed.
One clunky CubeCart site we recently upgraded to the latest WordPress shop platform had almost 16,000 SEOmoz crawl errors. After the rebuild it was a better 140, which we quickly trimmed to zero.
Around 90% of the amateur and 50% of the professionally built eCommerce sites we test have similar issues, which means that many of the store items are hit hard, perhaps appearing on page 4 of a search, instead of page 1 which get 95% of search traffic. Errors mean Google may have problems figuring out what the site is about, seeing unfriendly or overly complex urls, no sitemaps, poor semantic structure, no meta descriptions, as well as thousands of duplicate title tags and pages throughout the site.
Most website designers and developers are totally unaware of these problems or their importance to online sales or site traffic. These errors seldom appear to the website visitor and the site usually looks fine visually. The Googlebot is the ‘special visitor’ that is having problems with the site and as such will be less inclined to send it traffic by way of a search page result. Google provides tutorials to help developers, which are often ignored. And fixing these things after the site is built isn’t always easy or cheap.
Suppliers of these low ranking, error-prone sites typically defend themselves by saying these crawl and SEO issues ‘aren’t important’. The site ‘looks perfect’. It’s a bit like saying your car doesn’t need oil changes or a WOF.
Good Content, Good Coding and lots of Backlinks NOT included…
It’s not just bad code and crawl errors that reduces Google traffic. The other number SEOmoz shows us is domain authority. This tells us how much above the noise our website is, mostly driven by how many others like and link to you. This is a huge factor to getting ranked high. Around 56% of the ‘formula’ for a high ranking. (read more)
Certainly it takes time, often years to get this to a respectable figure. Getting traffic to the new website simply isn’t on the build ‘to do’ list for most web designers. They make casual mention of ‘SEO’ but the conversation ends there. The hapless client just assumes that everything that should be done, is being done to get lots of traffic…
Yet if we use these testing tools we quickly find that most small business sites barely rank. A typical site encountered this week was HighEnergySolutions having a zero ranking and a lowly 3/100 domain authority, plus loads of crawl errors. In fact many of the shopping sites from this sites developer, 123online, were in the same boat. I doubt this was what the business owner signed up for. The developer boasted "…Your website is built with clean code that Search Engines love" which SEOmoz crawl analysis indicates was untrue.
In fact this $5,000 [High Energy] shop site ranked no better than some of the free MYOB sites we analysed last week, proving that a higher site cost is never a guarantee of more traffic or sales. It usually just ‘looks better’.
Take Ownership of your Website Authority, Traffic and Sales
To be fair, crawl errors, bad site structure and SEO coding we can blame on the developer. But poor domain metrics and building traffic is another issue. This is more about generating backlinks on third party websites, blogs, social media sites and directories. It’s something website owners need to take ownership of when web designers or developers can not.
Getting website traffic is best considered a separate project.
Getting traffic to a website is best considered a separate ‘project’ with a separate budget and third party taking charge. Personally, I think this is the stance web designers and developers like 123online, Web Partners etc who churn out low budget, low ranking, low authority sites should take. Advise their customers to employ an outside SEO specialist (like ourselves) to help them build traffic and presence.
Businesses need to employ an SEO specialist. Have a plan and suitable annual budget worked out. Often this issue of getting backlinks and raising domain authority isn’t something web designers or developers like 123online want to do anyway. It’s not our job they may say, which I can understand. There’s no ‘design’ skills involved. Most website designers only mention SEO because the customer just expects them to know about it. But honesty is probably a better policy…
A good analogy is to think of your web designer as a car body builder or panelbeater. Their knowledge and craft is usually focused upon what we see visually. Not what lies within or makes the car run and do its job. There are no guarantees that they know much about the engine or transmission. So it is with websites. Note most web design companies here will tell you they are experts at everything. But a quick check of a few of their client sites using both SEOProfiler and SEOmoz will reveal the awful truth.
employ an independent contractor to do the SEO
In most cases a better option for small businesses that have a low ranking and low domain or page authority is to employ a part timer or contractor to do the website content updates, backlinks and related SEO workload. Your web designer has already proven they simply don’t have the skills. Here’s a typical advertisement you could run, or just contact us to work out a suitable package
Handy Tools to Improve your Website Ranking
So, SEOProfiler tells us the end result, being how well you’re ranking. it also helps build up good backlinks, which are key to a better ranking. But the other side is what’s specifically wrong with your website in terms of authority, coding and structure.
To summarise: If Google is having problems with your content, how the site is coded and also discovers that no one of importance is linking to you, then you’re on the road to nowhere. Your search ranking will suck, meaning less traffic and few new customers.
So, visit SEO Profiler and SEOMoz. Check your sites ranking, authority, links, errors and structure. We frequently refer to the SEOmoz articles, but to turn theory into practice, you need to use (or know someone like us that can use) their website testing tools. It all helps keep web designers and developers honest as well as keep business owners focused upon achieving results from their website investment.
p.s. Neither of these tools are free, (although 30-day trials are provided), but the small investment is well worth it, especially if you sell stuff online. Alternatively, for a flat $35/mth, (saving you over $100) we’ll do an SEO profiler and SEOmoz monthly report on your website, using our own account. Just email zn.oc.gnitekramlatigidnull@nivek