On-Site Optimisation – How to Fix Site Structure Issues


Fixing Page Structure Issues
OK, why is this important? 
You have an opportunity to describe your content to the search engines and to users who are looking at the list of sites in the SERPs. You want to make sure your pages are as enticing as possible to both audiences and you can do this by optimising your meta tags and on-page content.
Step 1 – Research
Whether you are redesigning or updating an existing site or building a new site from scratch; the first thing you should do is some keyword research. The easy was to do this is to use Google Ad Words tool or pay for a service like Wordtracker or Wordze. But you can also start with your competitors. Look at their sites and see what they are using on key pages in their site.
Step 2 – Download a list of Meta Tags from your site
You can do this from the “Fix Page Structure Issues” task on the Analytics SEO On-Site optimisation tab. 
This will extract a table of all the pages our spider was able to crawl on your site – this does not necessarily mean it’s a complete list of all your site’s pages as you may have some technical issues that prevent our spider from reaching every page.
For each URL, we display the Title Tag (the most important tag for search engines), the Description Meta Tag (the most important tag for users), H1 Headings (the primary heading) and the keywords on the page. We also present a site structure score based on how well all these different elements relate to each other. Whilst, it might look a bit suspect having every element identical, you do want to try and ensure that they are all relevant to the content on the page. It’s also good to look at the “anchor text” of inbound links to see how others are describing the content on your page.
This is our current advice and represents best practice elsewhere:
Title Tag – less than 65 characters including spaces.
Description – less than 150 characters including spaces.
Headings – We normally only put in one H1 heading a page, and then use H2, H3 tags, etc for sub-headings.
Keywords – less important for Google these days – we normally ignore or only put in a handful.
It is important that every Title and Description tag on your website is unique. Avoid duplicate meta data at all costs. Please note, you can choose not to put in a description tag, in which case the search engines will pull in a snippet and display it in the SERPs themselves.
Step 3 – Duplicate Content Issues & Canonical URLs
If the indexed pages data that you are seeing reported in Analytics SEO indicates that the number of pages indexed in a search engine is greater than the number of pages indicated in our crawl or your sitemaps, then you may have a duplicate content issue.
This can dilute the effectiveness of your search engine optimisation campaigns as the search engines end up with several almost identical pages to rank for a given query and they have to decide between them; and you could also end up with inbound links linking to all of the duplicate pages.
This is often caused by Content Management Systems or e-commerce systems that spit out unfriendly URLs by creating pages with identical content, but with different URLs due to things such as a tracking parameters or a session ID. There are a number of ways of getting this right:
a)     Be consistent in your site structure, e.g. Pick the URL that you want to utilise and use it consistently across your website. Use either [http://yourdomain.com/] or [http://www.yourdomain.com/] not both, and always link the same way internally.
b)     Put in a 301 permanent redirect from [http://yourdomain.com/] to [http://www.yourdomain.com/] or vice-versa as the case may be. This tells Google and others which URL you want to be the Canonical URL. Canonicalization describes the process of picking the most appropriate URL when there is more than one choice.
c)     Use this <link> tag – rel=canonical tag
Using this tag inside the <head> section of the duplicate content URLs.   If your site has identical or near identical content that’s accessible through multiple URLs, this format allows you to exert some control over the URL returned in the SERPS. It also assist in ensuring that inbound links and other factors that contribute towards your link popularity are consolidated to your preferred page.
Example – Say you are selling cardigans in different sizes and your (un)helpful CMS or shopping engine has created several pages for the same cardigan; then you could add the rel=canonical tag in the duplicated pages to solve the issue.
Simply add this:
<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.yourdomain.com/product.php?item=cardigan" />

inside the <head> section of the duplicate content URLs:

[http://www.yourdomain.com/product.php?item=cardigan&size=large] [http://www.yourdomain.com/product.php?item=cardigan&size=medium] [http://www.yourdomain.com/product.php?item=cardigan&size=large&trackingid=1234&sessionid=5678]

Google will understand that the duplicates all refer to the canonical URL: [http://www.yourdomain.com/product.php?item=cardigan]

Please feel free to add any other suggestions as to what to look for or what you do when fixing site structure issues for SEO.

By: Laurie OToole

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