Posted by Aaron Wheeler
Howdy mozzers! This week we have a very special guest on Whiteboard Friday – me! That’s right, after filming these videos and posting them on the blog for the past six months, they’re finally putting me in front of the camera for your viewing… pleasure… (Well, my mom’s viewing pleasure at least. Hi mom!). I’m joined by Cyrus Shepard, another member of the Help Team here at SEOmoz. Our team of six handles all of the account and technical support questions sent in by everyone who uses the site and tools, so as you can imagine we see a lot of the same questions week after week. The Help Team cannot answer SEO questions over the tech support lines, but we do our best to help customers figure out why their site may not be working with our tools.
On this week’s Whiteboard Friday, Cyrus and I will walk you through some solutions to 5 of the most common SEO problems we see on the Help Team, and I’ll also let you know how to change your profile picture (we get asked how to do this a lot!). A word of caution: this video will not be about advanced SEO topics and will, at times, pertain particularly to SEOmoz’s site and tools. You may learn a thing or two, but if you feel like you don’t need to know why only one of your pages is getting crawled or links aren’t getting indexed, please feel free to skip this week! We’ll get back to more advanced and general topics next week.
Cyrus: Hi, everybody. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Cyrus. This is Aaron. We both work on the Help Team here at SEOmoz. Today’s special topic is "Top 5 Questions from Customers." Aaron and I answer hundreds of customer questions every week from SEOs all over the world. So we thought it was important to talk about some of these issues. So just so you know, a lot of these questions that we’re going to be covering today may be considered beginner to intermediate, but even if you are an advanced SEO, you might find some gems in here. So we’re going to get started. Aaron will be back in just a little bit to talk about some of these other topics.
The first question we get a lot of is www or non-www? How do you choose what to include in your domain? This is kind of a fun one, right, because everybody starts their new website, they buy the domain, they are getting it set up, and which one do you chose? Or if you have a client, the website is a little bit more established, and they have some canonicalization issues some duplicate content issues. Which one do you chose?
Well, some things you might want to consider is, is it a brand new site, or is it a more established site? If it is a brand new site, it is really up to you. You play around with it in your head. Should I go with RedShoes or www.RedShoes.com? But if it is a more established site and you have a lot of incoming links, you have some things to consider. So, some ways to decide if you should use a www prefix in your subdomain or not, first what subdomain has more links coming into it? Now a good way to determine this is using Open Site Explorer. You can type in each version into the search query and see which one has more incoming links, which one has more domain authority, and pick the one that is more powerful and redirect the other one to reflect that.
Another way to see is what is the website already ranking for? Now a good way to do this is to just type in your brand name into a Google search box. Example, let’s say you’re Adobe, so you type "Adobe" into the search box. What comes up in Google search? Is it www.Adobe or just Adobe.com. That’s a good way to see what you’re already ranking for, and you might want to chose that all things being equal.
Finally, this doesn’t really determine which one you want to chose, but you might want to look in Google Webmaster Tools and chose your preference. There is a preference in there, set my preferred domain as www or non-www. If you are taking on a new client, you might want to check in their Webmaster Tools to see what that is already set for.
Number two. "I has all the 404s, what now?" Now, first off, that’s not how our customers talk, except for maybe a couple of them and we love those customers. But the question is, what do we do about 404s? We get this question all the time, every single week. Well, the most important thing you want to do when dealing with 404s is make sure you know where they are coming from. There are many ways to find the source of 404s.
The idea is you have these incoming links. They are coming into your website or they are internal links, and the pages just aren’t there. So one thing you can do, if you have important 404s, the most important 404s you want to fix, is look in Open Site Explorer top pages. It is a tab in Open Site Explorer. You look. These are the pages with the most domain authority coming into them from different sources. If any of those are 404ing, those are probably a priority that you want to address.
Other ways of finding 404s, at least within SEOmoz, is using the web app. If you are running a campaign and it will list 404s in your list of issues, you can actually export your CSV and find the referral link to those. It’s a new feature we just added just last week.
Other ways of finding 404s, you can look in Google Webmaster Tools again. They will sometimes list the source of 404s. A great tool that a lot of webmasters know about, Xenu Link Sleuth. It runs on your desktop. It’s a free program. You run it and it just gives you lots of fun data about all the broken links on your site and you can make site maps. It’s really exciting.
But then, after you know where the 404s are coming from, what do you do to fix the problem? Well, the most obvious thing you can do is fix the source link. If you have a link coming in pointing to a page that doesn’t exists, maybe you can reach out to that webmaster and get him to link to the right page. Or if it is on your website, just simply fix it.
But what if you can’t control those external links coming in, or you have hundreds of links on your website and they’re all broken and it’s just too much to fix? Well, in that case, why not just fix the page? You can create a page where the 404 is supposed to be and redirect it, or create a page with all new content. These are really common solutions and will help you take advantage of all that page juice and authority coming into your page.
Third question, "My links aren’t indexed." This is a question we get all the time, especially when people are looking at Open Site Explorer, they’re looking at Linkscape data, or Google. "I have these links. Why aren’t they in the index?" It’s not just a problem with SEOmoz. It’s Yahoo, it’s Google. A perfect example that we hear all the time is, "I built a link. I am in the Better Business Bureau, but you’re not showing my link. Google isn’t indexing my link."
Well, there are three real primary reasons that this will happen that we address all the time. The first problem is the link is buried in deep layers of navigation. The Better Business Bureau is a perfect example. Huge site, lots of domain authority, right? Dr. Pete wrote a post about this recently, about finding links under lots of deep navigation. If it is buried, if you have to go like 15 layers down to find the kink, a search engine might not go that far down no matter how much domain authority there is. If this is your own site that links aren’t getting indexed, you might want to put those links a little higher, have a flat architecture with maybe more links, more categories, so that you can get to that link a little faster. A general rule of thumb is, if it is an important link, you want to have it two steps away from the home page. Skip, skip, and search engines are going to be more likely to find that link.
The second common problem we see is very few or low authority links linking into that page. Again, going back to the Better Business Bureau, take a look at some of those links, and sometimes we find there is only one link coming into that page and that’s from the Better Business Bureau. If you want search engines to discover your links, you need to build high authority links coming into those, and by high authority I mean links with high domain authority or Moz rank coming in.
Third, you want to think about your link quality. Imagine two different pages, one page all things being equal has three links on it and you know your link is the middle link and it is really clickable. People are going to want to click that link. The second page has 250 links on it, and your link is the bottom in the footer somewhere. If you were a human, which link would you want to click on? Well, obviously, you’d click on the first page. That is the way search engines sort of think. So when you are building links or you are looking at links coming in, use the "would a human click on it" question. If a human would click on it, it is more likely that a search engine will find the link. But if a human probably wouldn’t click on it, then the link may not be indexed.
That’s all I have for now. We’re going to have Aaron talk about a couple more questions in just a minute.
Aaron: Hi, I am Aaron, and I am with the SEOmoz Help Team as well. You saw me earlier. Cyrus introduced me. I would love to talk to you about a few more questions that we get asked a lot over on the SEOmoz Help Team.
First off, why is only one page getting crawled? I see this a lot with the web app. I also see it with Google and other search engines. I am going to go through all the different reasons that that might be happening. If you see something else though, feel free to shoot us an e-mail. Remember that all of these questions are regarding issues or other things that might crop up with the web app or the site or tools. They are definitely SEO related, but we don’t answer SEO questions as a general rule over in the Help Team. If you see this in the web app, definitely send us a message. But if you think it is an SEO related question, definitely visit the Pro Q&A.
First off, one thing that we see a lot is robots.txt is overblocking a lot of crawlers, including Roger. Probably not explicitly Roger, but we do see robots.txt blocking. So we might just crawl the homepage and that’s it. Another thing that might be happening is the homepage is www or not www as Cyrus talked about earlier. The homepage is www, but all of the links going off of the homepage would actually be to non-www pages. So, you’d end up with one page crawled because there is only one page in that subdomain in the www or whatever subdomain that you’re using in the web app.
Another thing involves links. There are a lot of issues that we see with links. Sometimes there are no links on the homepage. Just none. So we have nothing to crawl, and obviously, that would be the reason why we’re not seeing other pages in the subdomain. If we can’t see it, Google can’t see it. Other search engines won’t be able to see it.
Another problem is that the homepage might redirect. You might have a 301 or a 302 redirect going to another, maybe a different subdomain or any other URL. That can be a problem for our crawler because we’ll get one page and we’ll let you know that it is actually a redirect. There is nothing else for us to crawl there. So, if you get that issue, you’ll probably see a bar that says 301 redirect just for one page. That would indicate that that is the problem.
Another problem is we see sites that are in all Flash. This doesn’t happen as often any more, but sometimes people will make their sites all Flash, especially small businesses. They can look really good, but they are really, really hard to crawl. Search engines are getting better at this, but our crawler at the moment can’t crawl them unfortunately. Usability-wise, you might want to reconsider having your site in something more accessible.
Finally, we do see sites that give a 404 code, but it actually has content. This can happen on your homepage. So we’ll actually go to the homepage. We see content. It’s telling us all about your business or service, but then we look at the http access code and it is 404. So, what you need to do here is go to another tool. We really like using the Moz Bar to find this out. Look at what the code is. If you see a 404, you’re going to need to change that http status code to a 200, or if you need to redirect, change it to a redirect. But lots of times, we’ll see it as a 404 and that’s no good, because then everyone thinks that you don’t exist and that’s no good. Not for SEO. Not for anyone really.
Another big question that we get lots of questions about is how does on page reporting work? That’s a feature of the web app. It is a really cool feature to help you identify low hanging fruit, see where your URLs are for certain keywords. But it can be kind of confusing at first, and it might give you results that you weren’t expecting.
For instance, if you add a bunch of keywords such as cats, cat beds, cat coats, all sorts of cat accessories, that’s all your keywords, we will take each one of those keywords, find the highest ranked URL in whatever search engine you are using in the web app, and we will let you know where you are ranking for that keyword. It might turn out that cat coats, I don’t think I am ranking anywhere for that, but I am actually ranking at TheKittyHood.com/cats. So, if you find out that you’re ranking there, even if you didn’t intend for that ranking, it is kind of low hanging fruit. That’s great. You’re ranking for something you didn’t even know you were. However, we will also grade that URL for that keyword and let you know how you are doing in terms of on page SEO. In this case, cat cats is not well optimized for /cats, so we give you some suggestions about how to better optimize that URL for that keyword. You might want to add more information about cat coats for instance. That might bring your grade up if you follow our instructions to a B or an A, and consequently instead of having this low hanging fruit that is rankled 37, you might end up being able to push it up to the first page or something higher than 37, since you’ll actually start targeting for that keyword. Unexpected results, but very, very favorable.
Finally, number six, the last question that we get a lot of that I thought we might want to touch on is how do I change my profile picture? I know, I know, we all have beautiful pictures of ourselves. I have changed mine several times, not that I am beautiful. I just can never find one that is. The main thing you have to do is go to seomoz.org/users/profile. You can do that from clicking up here and then going to the drop down and saying edit profile or view profile. Then you click the silver edit button that shows up on that page. Then you click the silver edit photo button at the left. Then you click the silver upload button. It is all there on that page, that settings page for your user profile, the public profile. It lets you know, oh you actually need to complete all of these things in order to get extra Moz points. Adding a photograph is a great way to do that. It is really easy. You’ll start having an identity on our site. People will love to see your face. I know I sure will.
Thank you for checking this out. I hope this helps some of our customers and helps you rethink some of your SEO if you’re using our web app, our tools, or just generally out there on the Net.
See you next time on Whiteboard Friday. Take care.
Video transcription by SpeechPad.com