Find Major SEO Issues Like a Pro
Learn one of the first, and most revealing steps we perform anytime we are auditing a website.
There is no faster way to expose obvious search engine optimization issues than performing a Site Search in Google. Doing a test search on your own website is a very important step for anyone concerned about how their website appears in search results.
How do I perform a "Site Search"?
To perform a site search on a specific domain is pretty easy. Simply go to Google.com and append the word "site" followed by a colon with no spaces, then the root domain in which you would like to search like this:
When should a site search be performed?
There is no bad time to perform a site search but one of the most important times is before and shortly after launching a new website. Before you launch your site have a look around at your indexed pages in Google. Take note of how many pages you have indexed with Google, how the titles read and any content you might have missed. After the new site has been live for a few weeks, the same site search should begin to show the new pages in search results. Old pages that still hang around in SERPs, (search engine result pages), should now either redirect to their new versions or return a clean 404 error page and will likely be removed automatically.
If you have recently launched a new website and have seen a large drop in traffic or organic ranking for a specific term it is likely that a detailed plan for redirecting those old, high-ranked pages was not implemented or the new site may not conform to Google standards. We have upgraded hundreds of websites over the years and performing a site search is a crucial step in our post-launch process.
What are we looking for?
What we are looking for within our site search depends largely on the situation. In the case of a new website launch such as our recent update to Sans Terra we are looking for any poorly formed page titles or descriptions, duplicate content, unexpected content in search results, as well as typos and other search engine optimization issues that may be costing us search engine rank and customers.
Too Many Pages
Look for the number of pages indexed for your website in Google. If there are too many, it's likely that unexpected content has been indexed. WordPress especially is notorious for allowing the indexing of content we would never want showing up in Google. Don't believe me? Just search "Hello World Uncategorized" in Google. Tens of thousands of websites whose webmasters did not remove the default post added to every new WordPress site return for this search.
If there are 0 pages indexed for your domain, don't panic. First, double check the spelling of the domain. Second consider the age of your domain and new website. If the site is brand new, you will want to go to www.google.com/submityourcontent and request Google index the site. If the site has been live for some time and shows none or only the homepage, it is likely your site is blocked from Google. WordPress administrators often neglect to uncheck the "hide this site from search engines" feature once the site has gone live.
Titles and Descriptions Too Long
Watch for ellipsis at the end of your titles and descriptions. Ellipsis indicate the content is too long to be indexed properly. Consider a shorter title and description for the page.
Poorly Formed Page Titles
When we look at our sub-page titles ideally we will find a brief, concise description of the page followed by some separator, then the global title of the website. For example this page will render the following title in SERPs:
"Performing a Site Search in Google - Sans Terra, Websites Done Right"
The first part of the title above is the title of this post, the second part is the title we have given our website. This structure serves most pages, products, product categories and blog posts quite well with the exception of the homepage. The homepage is typically the top result for your business in Google and just leaving the homepage title to render as "Homepage - Sans Terra, Websites Done Right" would work, but the use of "homepage" here is somewhat redundant so we drop it
Incorrect or Confusing Descriptions
Sometimes we have important pages in our website that simply have very little "descriptive text" such as a product category. If no description is provided, Google will do its best to "scrape" content from the page and use whatever it finds. This can lead to many common problems including confusing or incomplete sentences or in cases where a page has no text Google may just scrape your footer or menu and use that. Not ideal. WordPress is especially problematic in this area but easily corrected.
Take a close look at your descriptions and consider authoring a custom description or excerpt for each page, blog, product, and product category you publish.
My personal favorite issue to expose when looking through a prospective client's search results in Google is unexpected content. We have seen everything from simple things like ex employee profiles to major problems such as thousands of pages of Viagra ads.
To find unexpected content you have to dig. It's never enough to just skim the first page of results.
I hope you found this post helpful and please, if you have any questions about your results or would like to to perform a full audit of your new or old website, contact us here.
Subscribe to receive exclusive web tips and tricks from our web design team.