July 20, 2016

SEO Initial Steps

Once or twice a week for the past several years I get the same spam email. They usually start out with a bit of flattery “We found that you have excellent services and products and your business has a great potential” before diving into the point “The issue on which I would like to bring your attention to is, the inadequate traffic and visitors on your website which is affecting your ranking and in turn the revenue.” They then list a couple of reasons why my site might not be ranking well in the search engine.

Being a believer in focusing on good content first (if you build it they will come), I’ve never really been on board with the whole search engine optimization concept. To me, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) always felt like a shady short cut. I realize now that that’s a pre-2000s way of thinking about it. Content is still king, but with trillions of pages out there, there’s a lot of good content out there to get lost in. (And really, the importance of SEO should have been obvious to me given my issues with search result descriptions, but I digress.) Here’s what I’ve been working on.

Validation

The easy first step was HTML Validation which probably doesn’t matter much, but is a good practice anyway.

To WWW or not to WWW

Some search engine experts recommending choosing to express all your links with the www (e.g. “http://www.datayze.com”) or without (e.g. “http://datayze.com”). The theory goes that using both forms of the URL can make a domain appear to have twice as many pages, and consequently, half as many backlinks to any one page. I am not sure how much I buy this argument. While it’s true that “http://www.domain.com” and “http://domain.com” page contents could be different, it’s standard practice that they are the same, and an easy enough for a search engine to verify. Anything that is common practice really shouldn’t hurt you much when it comes to ranking. Google’s stated goal is to serve you the best content, after all, not the most technically correct sites.

Then again, what do I know? I’m the one with the site not ranking well. It’s a simple fix, and “http://datayze.com” looks cleaner and more modern to me.

Sitemaps

This one ended up being a non-necessary headache. I expected Google to find the new pages relatively quickly since there was a 1-to-1 correspondence with the pages on the previous domain that google already knew about. When google didn’t index the new pages after a week, I decided a site map couldn’t hurt. Only I forgot about my ‘www’ prefix choice. My site map included the ‘www’ prefix on all URLs, which meant it was including only URLs that were 301 redirecting.

It appears that as google detects a 301 redirects it removed the redirected URLs from its index in favor of the new target URL. On the webmaster portal it showed me the ratio of indexed pages from the site map to the number submitted. As the URLs with the ‘www’ prefix got pulled from the index, that ratio of submitted to indexed pages grew more and more unbalanced. It wasn’t until the sitemap view showed 0 pages indexed that I finally realized the error of my ways, adjusted my sitemap to include the non-www URLs instead and everything returned to normal.

At least This mistake doesn’t appear to have negatively impact my rankings.

As I checking the google index for my domain, I noticed that google had opted to index more than just the pages I had requested. It was also indexing some paramaterized URLs.

nameuniqueness

The above search results are for the paramatertized Name Uniqueness Analyzer where the name is set to Carolynn and Lydiah. Most likely google discovered those paramatertized URLs through the Name Generator, which, when generating rare names, creates a link to the Name Uniqueness Analyzer. Carolynn and Lydiah were given to 46 and 16 babies respectively.

Google can’t discover a URL it’s never seen. Thus google does not know Carolyn is also a valid parameter to the Name Uniqueness Analyzer, because there is no link to it anywhere on my site.

I updated my sitemap to include common parameters to the more popular apps. Maybe this will generate some more traffic for me.

Next Steps

One of the things I need to work on is a responsive, mobile friendly design. It’s good timing. Along with my viewpoint on SEO, I think my splash page is also looking a bit dated.

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