Tuesday, April 12, 2011
We recently hosted our second site clinic, this time at TechHub in London, UK. Like last year, here's our summary of the topics that came up.
- Title tags and meta description tags are easy ways to improve your site's visibility in Google search results, yet we still see webmasters not fully utilizing their potential. We have a bit of help available about writing good page titles and descriptions which you can read to brush up on the subject. That said, you can ignore the meta keywords, at least as far as Google is concerned.
- One way Google's algorithms determine the context of content on a page is by looking at the page's headings. The way semantic markup is used throughout a site, including h1, h2, and h3 tags, helps us to understand the priorities of a site's content. One should not fret, though, about every single H tag. Using common sense is the way to go.
- Just as we recommend you structuring pages logically, it is similarly important to structure the whole website, particularly by linking to related documents within your site as necessary. This helps both users and search engine bots explore all the content you provide. To augment this, be sure to provide a regularly updated Sitemap, which can be conveniently linked to from your site's robots.txt file for automatic discovery by Google and other search engines.
- Duplicate content and canonicalization issues were discussed for many websites reviewed at the site clinic. Duplicate content within a website is generally not a problem, but can make it more difficult for search engines to properly index your content and serve the right version to users. There are two common ways to signal what your preferred versions of your content are: By using 301 redirects to point to your preferred versions, or by using the rel="canonical" link element. If you're concerned about setting your preferred domain in terms of whether to use www or non-www, we recommend you check out the related feature for setting the preferred domain feature in Webmaster Tools.
- Another commonly seen issue is that some sites have error pages which do not return an error HTTP result code, but instead return the HTTP success code 200. Only documents that are actually available should reply with the HTTP success result code 200. When a page no longer exists, it should return a 404 (Not found) response. Header responses of any URL can be checked using Fetch as Googlebot in Webmaster Tools or using third party tools such as the Live HTTP Headers Firefox addon or web-sniffer.net.
- Users love fast websites. That's why webpage loading speed is an important consideration for your users. We offer a wide range of tools and recommendations to help webmasters understand the performance of their websites and how to improve them. The easiest way to get started is to use Page Speed Online, which is the web-based version of our popular Page Speed Chrome extension. Our Let's make the web faster page has great list of resources from Google and elsewhere for improving website speed, which we recommend you to read.
And as we mentioned in the site clinic, sign up at the Google Webmaster Help Forum to discuss any further questions you might have and keep an eye on our Webmaster Central Blog.