Live from SMX Advanced Seattle: Complicated Technical Issues That Sabotage SEO Efforts

By Amanda Sides | Jun 11, 2013
More Articles by Amanda

technical seoTo round out the day before the You & A with Matt Cutts, this panel discusses technical issues that mess with your SEO efforts and how to combat them correctly. From site launch problems to the proper uses of canonical tags and their alternatives from Maile Ohye of Google, you’ll learn some things to watch out for and fixes to get the right content indexed and showing in the correct SERPs.

Matt Ruud, Director of SEO, Rocket Clicks (@mattruud)

With a lovely zombie-themed presentation (thanks to some help from his brother-in-law), Matt discusses issues causing SEO problems and how to avoid them. So how do you know if you’ve run into a search engine penalty? One client Rocket Clicks had ranked out of the top 200 results for their brand name, and at position 9 for their own domain name. That’s a pretty good indication that something’s wrong, especially if you used to rank well and now that’s what you’re facing.

When faced with a new site launch including new subdomains, an auto parts company saw a $30,000 drop in revenue from organic search, starting on the day they launched the new content.

Some of the root issues were as follows:

  • Every time an edit to a product page was made, it created a new URL
  • There were no automatic 301 redirects put in place

How do you avoid technical issues? Test everything you possibly can, and roll out a small portion to ensure there are no errors. Don’t test a brand new process with your bread and butter products, start with something smaller to correct anything that might go awry before it shoots you in the foot.

 Tom Conte, Senior Strategist, SEO & Emerging Technologies, Morpheusmedia

Tom Conte from NYC starts off with funny mustache photos, but jumps right into site and browser usability. Stop building web pages and build we states. A lot of people resort to AJAX or Flash to help create more user-friendly chunks of the page. While it makes it pretty, it does add to issues that arise with the page.

When working with new content development, ensure that you aim to improve the following:

  • User Interface – Be sure your gallery works with Javascript turned off, and that the javascript is only a value add, and not detrimental to the page in any way.
  • Relevancy – Be sure that any change you make to the page is going to be a value-add, making everything more aligned with users’ needs.
  • Accessibility – Be sure the content is indexible and includes proper mark up to help it show more prominently on SERPs

Maile Ohye, Senior Developer Programs Engineer, Google Inc. (@maileohye)

I love Maile and find all of her presentations to be fascinating although most of it’s over my head, and today she’s covering complicated link relationships, how Google processes structured mark-up, and best practices for creating great mobile user experiences.

The purposes of link relationships (link rel) and structured mark-up are mainly to tell the search engines more about that content and to accurately represent that content in SERPs. One page could technically have 5 types of link rel mark up:

  • rel=author
  • rel=next/prev
  • rel=alternatehreflang
  • rel=alternatemedia
  • rel=canonical

Also, instead of just over-using canonical tags, be sure to use the appropriate link rel tags instead. For instance, if you have the same content on a desktop page and a mobile page, instead of using a canonical, be sure to use the alternatemedia tag, which will help Google index both but to better know which to display in mobile vs. desktop SERPs.

Another example is to not use a canonical tag for the same content in a different language, instead use then hreflang tag. There are even separate hreflang types for different types of the English language, engb for UK, enus for us, so on and so forth. So if you have two sites, same content but one is tailored to the UK and one to the US, using the hreflang tags you can tell Google there are other formats of the content out there, in a different language type, and it will help engines figure out how to process it and where it should be indexed and shown in SERPs.

Improving Mobile User Experience

The average load time for mobile websites is 7 seconds. There’s plenty of room for improvement.  1 additional second in load time on a mobile site results in the following:

  • 9.4% decrease in page views
  • 8.3% increase in bounce rate
  • 3.5% drop in conversions

Keep in mind also that when a searcher clicks on a mobile search result in Google, there will be at minimum, a 0.6 server connection period, so server processing time adds onto that.

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