Cleaning Up Your Website
for SEO Improvement
By David Caputo, Positronic Design, The SEO Company
I was reviewing our company’s web site development portfolio, and I was struck by how many sites we developed long ago and are still going strong, but are out of date for today’s requirements, especially with regards to Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Google has moved the goalposts significantly in the past year with new requirements for secure hosting and mobile compatibility.
The secure hosting issue is part of Google’s “War on Hacking” that they declared, and as part of this they don’t want their search results directing people to sites that could potentially be hacked and contain malware links. The mobile friendly part is because at least 25% of all searches nowadays are done on phones, and Google doesn’t want to give “bad results” to people, aka sites that won’t work properly on their phones. So, if you’re interested in good search rankings on Google, you should make sure that your site is both securely hosted and mobile friendly.
Secure hosting is pretty easy to implement, and relatively affordable as upgrades go. Our regular hosting charge is $20/month, and secure hosting is only $35/month, so not crazy different. If you’re doing things that require PCI compliance, like taking credit cards over the internet, then a $149/year secure certificate is also required. If your ecommerce is processed off-site, like with PayPal, or you just have an informational site, then this isn’t a
One advantage of using our servers or someone set up similarly, is that we are now utilizing the new HTTP2 protocol, which allows for multiplex downloads of your site, significantly increasing download speed. Download time is also a ranking signal, so this is good for your SEO too.
As for mobile-friendliness, there are two ways to approach it. One costs more up front but is only a one-time charge, the other is less expensive, but becomes an ongoing expense.
The long-term and “complete” fix for the situation is to upgrade your site to a responsive WordPress template and presumably move it to secure hostings. This costs between $600 and $2,400 for most sites, but is a one time charge that will leave your site set up and good to go for the next five years at least.
The “quick fix” is to use a service that utilizes the cloud to convert your site to mobile-friendly on the fly from whatever you’ve got set up now. There is less control of how your site looks doing this, but it’s usually good enough. This costs $300 per year ongoing, which includes setup and support. We will embed code into your site so that when a person visits it from a phone, it goes to the cloud and sees the mobile version.
No matter which course you take though, it’s very important for both Google rankings and your customer’s enjoyment of your site that you upgrade to mobile-friendly if you need to. When people who are used to good sites go to an old-fashioned site and have to pinch and zoom and hunt for things, they get annoyed, and annoying potential customers is never a good sales strategy. Google doesn’t want to annoy people on phones by sending them to sites like that, because Google gets their cachet from always providing the “best answers” to search queries. “Dude, you sent me to a crappy site” doesn’t make them look good.
After your site is mobile friendly and securely hosted, then it’s time to look under the hood and see what kind of hidden flaws your site has that you can fix to improve your search profile. Again, Google likes to give people the “best answer” to their search queries, so sending them to broken sites is not part of their plan. Google is very good at detecting things that are sub-par, so you have to be even better at your inspection and repair of problems.
At Positronic Design, we typically use the software PowerMapper to do this kind of site inspection. It give you excellent reports showing you where you have broken links, W3C incompatibilities, handicap access issues, and other things on the site proofing checklist.
Broken links are the most important thing to fix, because they have the biggest detriment to your search rankings. Google doesn’t like to send people to low quality sites, and having a lot of broken links totally lowers your quality score. The W3C, or World Wide Web Consortium, publishes standards that all web sites should ascribe to.
This ensures the maximum cross platform compatibility and makes websites consistent from country to country and web host to web host. The US Government also publishes Web Standards, and these are good to observe as well. PowerMapper is good because it cites chapter and verse for both the W3C and US standards when it detects a deviation. You can click a link and read the chapter that they are referring to in the error report.
It also detects problems with privacy issues, browser and device compatibility issues, and overall site quality. Once we have created and reviewed this report with our clients, we can usually fix most of the problems in just a few hours. With our ongoing SEO Programs, you get an hour a month of free work on your site, and with a four month minimum that gives us four hours to work on issues, so most of the time there is no extra cost to get everything fixed. If we’re doing SEO we want everything on the site to be fixed anyway, because having it that way makes us look good because the SEO results will be better.
Once these things are all cleaned up, then a steady and consistent program of SEO including link building, content development for the home site, content development for satellite sites, and a regular and meaningful and engaging presence on social media will have the maximum chance for getting good rankings on Google and the other search engines. Talk to a qualified company if you need help doing this, because it’s usually way to much to accomplish on your own. Consider all search marketing to be part of your regular marketing efforts. Customers are to be found online nowadays, and that’s a totally new development in the world of business, relatively speaking. Twenty years ago, nobody was online, and even ten years ago, Yellow Pages salesmen didn’t get laughed out of the room.
They do now though. What used to be The Gold Standard of local marketing, the Yellow Pages, now isn’t even a blip on the radar. If you were an electrician or a lawyer or a printer or anything like that who served a local market, if you weren’t in the Yellow Pages for hundreds or thousands of dollars a month, you were invisible and would go out of business pretty quick. Now NOBODY looks at the Yellow Pages for information like that anymore, they all go online, and mostly to Google. Hence, SEO and PPC (Pay Per Click Marketing, usually Google AdWords), are absolutely critical like being in the Yellow Pages used to be. In competitive markets that can get expensive, but in those markets the Yellow Pages were always even more expensive, so it’s actually a break to local businesses.
For national businesses there was no equivalent to the Yellow Pages, but reaching people usually meant large expenditures on TV, Radio, Newspapers, Magazines, and other media. Nowadays, with SEO, and in some cases PPC, you can reach an acceptably large number of potential customers for a small fraction of the cost of traditional national media buys.
But it all comes down to having a buttoned down, mobile-friendly, securely hosted site, with proper graphical presentation and useful, engaging information. If you built your site more than three years ago, then you need to take a good hard look and make sure you’re giving yourself the best chance with Google and your potential site visitors. It will be time very well spent.