Busted SEO Campaign? Fix It With 3 Easy Checks!

seo-campaign-fixes

You’ve sold an SEO project to a small business customer, targeted the right keywords, optimized the Web design, promoted the site, and earned quality links – but 90 to 120 days into the campaign, things aren’t going so well.

Now what should you do?

Here’s a simple checklist to review campaigns and find roadblocks that might be impeding success. This month the focus is on-site issues. Next month’s post will cover off-site issues.

The Initial Client Check

First things first. Check the work that has been done against what’s going on in the industry. Mistakes may have been made somewhere in the process. Google might have come out with an update that hit the client harder than expected. Worse, the competition might be fighting back and winning.

Review any changes to the site’s ranking and traffic, and then compare the results with the dates of the known algorithm updates.

Identify who the client’s competitors are – the sites that are ranking above the client on target terms – and figure out if they’re doing anything to be king of the hill. Do they have a higher domain authority? What about their links?

Double-check the keywords that the client’s targeted. Are they highly competitive? You want your clients to aim high, but not too high! They need have realistic expectations. The client should consider some alternatives to the super hot industry keywords.

The Tech Check

After assessing the current situation, check to make sure everything is technically copacetic with an SEO index check.

Find out whether or not Google has indexed the client’s site using the search command, which would look something like “site:clientdomain.com.”

client-domain

Determine whether Google’s crawlers are indexing http and https versions of the site. It doesn’t matter which the client’s site uses, but it shouldn’t have both. There should not be a page that begins with the domain http://www.clientdomain.com/example1, and another on the site that begins with https://clientdomain.com/example2, for example.

Then, check to see if duplicate home pages are being indexed. Search Google again for “site:clientdomain.com,” but include a search for common duplicate file extensions. Some common examples we use include:

  • clientdomain.com/index.html
  • clientdomain.com/index.htm
  • clientdomain.com/index.shtml
  • clientdomain.com/index.php
  • yourdomain.com/index.php5

The root domain might also be a problem. Check to make sure that the site is only using a www. and some other, non-www. version of the pages.

Next, check to see if the website has a page of content about the target or topic keyword phrase. The best way to check this is by searching “site:domain.com intitle:””. If the target phrase isn’t in the title of a page on the website, add a page and make sure that it is well written and useful to a prospective customer looking for information about that keyword.

intitle-image3

The Webmaster Tools Check

Once the canonization issues have been addressed, open Google Webmaster Tools and check to see if there’s a manual action being reported.

Are there HTML improvements being reported? There might be a problem with duplicate title tags, meta descriptions, or some other HTML issue.

Is it an issue with mobile optimization? If the website hasn’t been optimized for mobile users, the bounce rate may be higher than average.

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Use Webmaster to see what’s really going on with the site, too. See which keywords are being reported in the “search queries” section and check out which sites are linking to the client.

Check to see if there was a sudden increase or loss in indexed pages being reported. Any abnormal change needs to be investigated further. A site change might have done something to hurt the rankings; URLs might not be indexed normally; the robots.txt file might be blocking important pages; and the client might have unknowingly removed pages.

index-image5

Perhaps the problem is with the crawlers. Were there a high number of 404 (not found) errors reported over the course of the campaign? Were server responses, such as 403 (hidden) or 5XX – 500 errors reported? If the Googlebot has trouble communicating with the DNS server, there might be an issue with the hosting company.

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Failing that, see if the client’s site can be fetched and rendered, by a crawler such as Googlebot, checking both the Desktop and Mobile:Smartphone Googlebot types. If there’s an error in either case, investigate it on the double, because it means that Googlebot can’t see the site.

Lastly, there might be a security issue. This is typically the result of malware or a hack. To resolve such problems, check here to read up on cross-site malware, and here for resources on hacked sites.

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In Closing

SEO is a complex machine. A lot of things can go wrong in a lot of different places, and that can make fixing things difficult. With a systematic approach, it is possible to figure out what’s wrong, and not only get the campaign back on track, but also make it even stronger. In the column next month, the post will cover off-site checklist factors.

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