Lesson Five: Optimising Your Website
Lesson five guides you through the entire process of optimising your small business website.
We cover a lot of ground in this lesson, sharing a variety of live examples, introducing a selection of helpful – free – tools and providing a wealth of handy tips along the way to ensure you can optimise your website as quickly and efficiently as possible.
As ever we aim to keep it as jargon-free as possible, although once or twice we do go a little “techy” as we have to in order to explain what we’re talking about.
Watch the next lesson: Lesson Six: Website Health Check
Hello and welcome to lesson five of module one, where we’re going to take your newfound, on-page, SEO knowledge and combine it with a keyword research we did earlier in this module.
We’re also going to look at duplicate and thin content as these can cause real problems on your website. We’re going to look at how to find and how to correct any duplicate and thin content issues. We’re not going to get into some of the more technical website optimization stuff until lesson six. So for now, this is where we need to focus.
Firstly, let’s talk about duplicate content. What is this exactly? Well this could be one of many different things from duplicate page titles, headings, or message descriptions, all of which you now know what they are, through to whole pages of duplicate content.
The bottom line, we want as little duplicate content as possible, and I’m going to show you a few ways in which to check for and identify duplicate content issues. Right now, you don’t need to worry about duplicate page titles, headings, or message as we’ll be improving those manually, soon enough. Instead, I want to focus on whole page duplicate content.
Regardless of the CMS you’re using, whether that’s WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, if you’re E-commerce and you’re using Shopify, or Magento, or Bigcommerce, it really doesn’t matter. Even if your website’s custom built. You run the risk of having whole page duplicate content and there’s a quick and easy way that we can find out if this is possibly happening for you.
So, I want you to go on your website and quickly scan over and look and try to calculate, get a rough idea of the total number of pages on your website. So that you’re looking at the menu, maybe the photo menu, the sub pages on your menu, calculate how many blog posts you have on your website, just to get an overall sense.
Maybe you have 50 pages and posts, or 100 or 200 pages on your website in total, you get the idea. Now, copy and paste your website’s URL and go onto Google. I want you to enter site, colon, your website name. Search that and look for the total number of pages indexed.
It will say it at the very top of the page. Do the numbers that you’ve worked out on your website versus what’s indexed on Google even remotely correlate? I wouldn’t expect them to be the same, but if they’re vastly different we may have a duplicate content problem. I’m going to hop onto my computer and walk you through this process of how to check, and how we can take it one step further.
So, the first thing we need to do, is go on to our website, and count up, approximately how many pages are on the website. Now, I know from my agency website I’ve got half a dozen pages or so in the menu, I know there’s around a dozen service pages, I know one of the areas of my website with the most pages is the blog. Often, that is the case, it may be for yourself as well. I can go through here, and I know there’s six per page and I’ve got twelve pages, which means I know I’ve got about seventy individual posts, which effectively are pages on my website. I’ve probably got 100 to 120 pages on my website, so you just need to get a rough idea.
Then what you’re going to do is hop on Google and do a site colon search. Which is this, where you put in site, colon, your website URL. Then you’re looking for the number of results, now you’re hoping and you’re looking for this result to roughly correlate. It won’t be exact and you probably have 20-30% leeway which will be absolutely fine, but what you don’t want to be seeing is hundreds more than you were expecting. I’m going to give you a couple of examples of the most common reasons why this happens in just a moment. So I can see I’ve got 128 results and this just lists all my pages that’s absolutely fine. Now, if you’ve done this search and you’ve got way more pages than you thought you might have, there’s a few reasons why. If your website has a blog this is one of the most common reasons why. A blog by default will generate a lot of duplicate and thin pages.
Let me show you what I mean. Just prior to recording this video I jumped onto Google and I just literally picked a couple of websites at complete random. I have affiliation to these websites whatsoever, no connection to them, I’ve never been on them before, I don’t know them. I just picked them out of Google Search and if we take their URLs and do the same thing, a site colon search, I can look at the website and again count out the rough number of pages. I had a quick look through, and they probably have a hundred or so pages, quite a lot of blog posts, you know its a fairly small site in the grand scheme of things. Yet, were looking at 858 results. So straight away I’m thinking well that doesn’t make sense.
Now if we go into settings, and search settings, and just quickly never show instant results, you can moves this up to 100. It just means you’ll get 100 results per page, save that, it just means as we work through this process, we can see 100 results per page rather than 10. And if we scan through this what were looking for is were looking at the URLs to see why. Straight away certain things jump out at me, and, this is what you should be looking for as well. Is have you got category pages indexed? Have you got tag pages indexed? Because these pages, let me show you what they are; these are also generated pages, that are created by your CMS. Whether it be WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, Mangento, whatever it is, and they’re just pages that are purely duplicated in content. So for every blog post that you write that you tag, give certain tags to, or that you put into a given category or multiple categories, every one of those categories, everyone of those tags will be a page in it own right. This is just serving as masses of duplicate thin content that you don’t need and it will be hampering this website’s overall performance. Its on page SEO won’t be as slick as it could and should be.
So, all of this content will be found elsewhere on their website. It would just be this category is just duplicated, all of it. Ultimately every one of these posts will click through to be its own URL. This is where the actual post is, but its been found right here and if they’ve tagged this post in various other categories; which you can see al the categories here. That’s a lot of duplicate content, same for this, its exactly the same principle. The tags work in much the same way, any and all tags will serve as duplicate content.
So, let me give you another example. This is another website, again completely random, no connection to this website whatsoever. I did the same thing for this website. Site, colon, put the URL in and I just started scanning down. Again, they’ve got 267 results, so a much smaller website, not as much, but again same problem. Tags, category pages, tag, tag, tag, tag, there’s a lot. This is an easy fix and its something that can slipstream and improve your on page optimization and reduce the amount of duplicate and thin content, almost overnight. Now, if you have WordPress installed, there’s a great plug-in, that I’m going to show you, which I personally use. Whatever CMS you use you’ve only got to do a quick Google search for reducing duplicate content, removing category pages, removing tag pages and you’ll find a wealth of options. If you can’t find anything and you’re not sure speak to a developer, your content manager, or as I say as ever get in contact with me at support at the Evergreen Academy and I will gladly see if I can find something for you.
There’s too many CMSs and plugins out there for me to cover them all so we’ll just quickly show you the one that I personally use in a moment and just how easy it is to turn of these category pages. This same principle what were looking at here applies even if you’re an E-commerce store. If you sell lots of products. Because if you sell for example, T-shirts, you may have that same T-shirt in lots of different sizes, you may have that same T-shirt in lots of different colours. Now depending on how your websites setup you could run the risk of that one T-shirt could be indexing Google 20 times. If you have 10 different sizes and 10 different colours its endless in terms of the number of pages you could have indexed for that one product. Ultimately that is only one product. Yes, you’ve got lots of variants of that product with regards to size and colours and whatever else, but its still only one product. So you only want it indexed once. This is where there are tags called canonical tags, which form part of the reduction in duplicate and thin content.
Ill quickly show you the tags. So this is the Yoast SEO plug-in, which I use. I’m back into my website now. This has simple options. You go into the titles and Metas under SEO and you can click through here. It just simply gives you select check boxes for what you want to index, and what you want to not index. The simplest way to remove duplicate and thin content is simply to say no indexes. That’s basically a tag that tell Google, please do not index this page, effectively ignore this page. I do not want this page in for whatever reason. So, posts, I obviously want indexed, pages I want them to be indexed. Then we get into the categories. No I do not want categories indexed, no I do not want tags indexed. Depending on how your websites setup, I’ve got portfolio categories, no I don’t want them indexed, portfolio tags, again same thing. Testimonial categories, I don’t want them indexed.
Essentially almost any category pages I don’t want them indexed. Archives again are a common cause of duplicate content. If you have lots of authors for your website, lots of users on your website, every one of those authors will have their own author page. Again, duplicate content. Simply disabling this will prevent those pages from being indexed and significantly reduce the amount of pages that can be indexed on your website. Sub pages of archives there’s lots of options in here so its just a case of reading what they are and just no indexing all those that apply. So there you have it. That is how you look for and identify duplicate and thin whole page content.
So, did you find any potential whole page duplicate content issues? If yes you’re going to need to speak to your web developer or whoever manages your website. If you get stuck or don’t have any one to turn to then by all means shoot me an email to [email protected] and I’ll see how I can help. It is a relatively easy fix and simple to do but there’s too many variables to cover in this lesson as all the different CMS systems all need to be configured in a slight different way.
If you point out the type of whole page duplicate content that you find any web developer or website manager should be able to very quickly help resolve that for you. On the other hand, if you’re a little bit techy and know what you’re doing, if you’re running a mainstream CMS such as WordPress there are a lot of plug-ins such as Yoast SEO, that can once installed with a few check boxes can remove the vast majority of potential duplicate whole page content.
Moving on to thin content now. What is thin content? Well, quite simply its pages and posts on your website with very little copy, very little content on them. Google doesn’t like thin content for the very reason that often its a bad user experience. Google wants to serve its users the very best content on given topic or subject and very rarely is, or can that content be summed up in just a couple of lines of copy on webpage.
One of the checks that you can do is to go through your website and check that each page and post on your site is worthy of being indexed. Have a look through, because if you’re seeing lots of pages and posts with only 20, 50, or even 100 words, then it might be worth asking yourself do I really need that page? Is that page or post adding value to my website as whole? Or, could I possibly consolidate one or multiple pages into a single given resource? And maybe section that page page out with sub headings. So you maybe consolidate 5 thin pages with only 20 or 30 words into one resource, that then has 200-400 words, couple of images. Straight away it becomes a better webpage adds more value for the user and creates a better page on your website. Google much prefers this and often when I’m auditing client’s websites I will do this on scale for their entire website. I have been known to cull 60% of a client’s webpages across their entire site.
You can take the thin content process one step further by simply raising the minimum content bar to maybe 150 or 200 words. The more quality content you can put on your website the better. The key way I like to assess thin content is; imagine if you went on to Google, you looked up whatever it was, and you arrived into that page or website. Would you be satisfied with that page as the result that Google has given you? If you cant confidently turn around and say yes, this a fantastic resource then look at how you can make that single page better. Like I said, do you consolidate resources into a single page to make one more in depth guide? Or, do you add images? Do you maybe create a short video? Whatever it is to make that page so much better for the end user.
Okay, I hope that all makes sense regarding duplicate and thin content, as were now going to move on to the optimization of your website pages themselves. To do this accurately, I have created a checklist for you which you download just below this lesson.
Essentially, every page or post on your website needs a page title, Meta description, a heading tag, which is a H1; we just want one of those; informative and well structured content, subheadings at least one, these will be H2s, 2-3 internal links within the copy of the page and with optimised anchor text, one or more external link out to an authority trusted website, that is related to your page’s content, a short optimised URL string which is as short as possible, and lastly an image with an optimised follow name; and when you upload optimised anchor text. Remember you’re going to use your keyword group template to help with the structure of the various on on page tags. But you need to use a little bit of common sense as well and just be sure that every link that your optimising makes sense, it reads well, and is of use to the end user and to Google. In addition to the checklist which you download beneath this lesson, we’re going to use a very handy tool which you can download for free and it will help us organise and structure your website order.
The tool is called Screaming Frog and I’m going to jump onto my computer right now and show you firstly how to instal it and then how we go about using it to audit your website.
Right, its time to get into the fun stuff of optimising your website. Now, depending on the size of your website this can take a little bit of time but is absolutely worth it. So don’t skip over this and make sure that you get this part right.
If your website is only small and only has maybe a half a dozen or a handful of pages, then what you can do, and what I would recommend is to just log int your website and work through on a page by page basis. Have the back end of the website where you do the updates into the content in one tab and in the other tab have the front end of the website use firebug. Work your way through page titles, meta descriptions, headings and make sure all of those things are optimised using your keyword groups and using synonyms and making sure everything reads well, but all the content is built around those key terms and those key word groups. If, on the other hand your page has say more than 10 or 15, 20 pages as most websites tend to do, then I’m going to show you really handy way of organising your audit so that it gives you a little bit of structure and gives you a template to work through. Its what I do when I’m auditing my websites.
So we need to download Screaming Frog. Its a bit of a random name, but go with it. If you just Google search Screaming Frog download you will get the option to download the tool. Its a completely free tool you can download it here, follow the instructions, within a couple of clicks you can have it installed. It’ll put an icon onto your desktop which will look like this little frog icon down here. When you click into the tool it will look very similar to this.
Now what this tool does is essentially scrapes your website. It goes on and it indexes and collects all the website pages from your website. Now the free version of this tool does up to 500 pages, if your website has more than 500 pages you’ll very likely run into the duplicate content thing. Which if you go and sort that issue out, and then come back you’ll very likely have fewer than 500 pages, unless of course your website has just hundreds of products or services. In which case there are some other tools that we can use. You may need to get the paid version of this and maybe just email me with your questions and I can help on that basis. But I would imagine 9 times out of 10 you can have fewer than 500 pages so this tool is more than adequate for what we need.
So I’m going to show you how I would do an audit and I suggest that maybe you just run through this and then come back, maybe watch it again, just til your happy with this entire process. I’m going to try to keep it as straightforward and simple as I possibly can. Now I’m going to use this website as the example I want use to work through it. So you copy the URL and you paste it into this bar and then you press start. Now what this does is this will pull Google and it will go out and find all the pages that are on the website. Its generally pretty accurate, its always worth just looking over the pages to make sure that it has pulled everything in. Once its finished and its 100% what I like to do is click, and you can ignore some of this, click into pages titles.
What I’m looking for are the most important tags as we previously discussed. Which is things like page titles, meta descriptions, you can ignore meta keywords, H1s, H2s, they’re the most important tags. We tend not to worry about images and all this sort of stuff at this point, nor all these internal, external links. So with your page titles what I want you do is just export these. Now this is just a list of all the pages on the website. So I want export this. We’ll just pop it on to the desktop we can save that. Then we’ll do the same thing with the Meta descriptions, just export that as well, save that. Then I want to do the H1s, export. So I’ve now got three. For now I’m not going to worry about H2s, but you can do the H2s and maybe H3s as well.
So we now have have several spread sheets on our desktop. Here’s the first of those spreadsheets which is the page titles. So if we just move this column along we can see this is a list of all the URLs and crucially this column contains the page titles. We can remove this, actually I’ll keep those for the time being. I’m now going to move into the second, keep that one open, and we’ll move into Meta descriptions. Now everything exports in the same order, so you need not worry. All I’m going to do is I’m going to copy this column, the meta descriptions, which is this is the meta descriptions for these pages. I’m going to copy that and I’m going to paste it into this one template here. Then we don’t need that anymore. What I’m going to do is then move it into the last one which is again the H1. Now again all were interested in is the first H1, sometimes it will say there’s more than one H1 more than one H2, don’t worry about that right now. I will actually be removing them. The first column with the H1s copy that and paste them over into this column over here.
So instantly what we’ve now got, I’m going to remove those, just quickly. What we’ve now got is a list of the URLs on the website, we have the page titles for each, the meta description for each, and the heading for each. And this straight away gives us the hierarchy and gives us the structure of all the content on the website. What I tend to do then, is quite simply, just create spaces beneath, each row. Then once I’ve done this I will then work my way through on a page by page basis and optimise the tags. So it would be a case of if the order needs changing I will put it here. Which obviously the homepage it wouldn’t be the case. Then the page title I’m going to evaluate what it is right now, and then does this need to be improved? How am I changing this? You’re going to then at this point have your URLs and lets assume they’re not very well optimised. You’re going to then take in everything we’ve learned far, and the keyword knowledge, and you’re goin to write the improved page title here. The improved Meta description there, and improved heading.
You do this for every single page that you’ve found that Screaming Frog has provided for you and straight away you’ve then got a spreadsheet which details every single page and the improvements. Once you’ve completed this spreadsheet for all the pages, its in a much quicker and easier process and a more organised process for you to then just log into your website and go through and just select each title and replace the page title, the meta description, the heading tags, the subheading tags, etcetera , etcetera .
This just ensures that when you have your keyword groupings and you create a template to hand that your not over optimising at anytime, that you’re getting a good mix. Once this is all filled out, I like to put many different colours so maybe red or green so you can the difference. You can then look back over and think have I got enough mentions of my target location? Have I got enough mentions of this particular service? Have I got enough mentions of my products name or whatever it is. Its just nice organised way, otherwise if you got more than half a dozen or 10 or so pages it can get really confusing. What have I optimised? What did make this tag? What did I make that heading? So this is how I optimise my websites and how I recommend you optimise yours.
There is no single right or wrong way to go about optimising your website, its about trial and error and experimentation. Let me give you an example of what not to do. Lets say you run a cake shop in Manchester, say it called, Piece Of Cake. What you don’t want to be doing is writing a page title that is Cake Shop, Cakes for Sale, Cheap Cakes, Buy Cakes, and just have it one long page title. That just looks spammy its awful and you’ll be amazed by how many people still think that is the right way to go about optimising their website and writing tags for their site. It isn’t about cramming as many key word variants into that page title, or that tag as possible. Instead, its about creating a distinct few words that accurately describes what that page is about. So using that same example a much better tag might be, Cakes for all Occasions by Piece of Cake, which is the company name, in Manchester. Its short its sweet, it says exactly what it is it features the company name, the location, and what they’re all about. Simple, but effective.
There are many ways to write a good page title, meta description, or a heading tag. Its very much down to your interpretation. Just keep it natural, be mindful of your keywords, and if applicable, your location and target area. Now, depending on the size of your website this may take a little time. Its really important that you get this right, so don’t rush and if you have any questions you can email support. Remember you have access to this course for life, so there really is no need to rush or skip over some pages. Google values on-page SEOs very highly and rightly so. Because the better your on page optimization is the better the user experience, and if we have happy users we have a happy Google, and that’s what we want.
In the next lesson, the final lesson of Module 1, were going to take a look at the more technical bits and pieces. Again I will keep this basic so you can easily follow along, and I’ll see you there.