Chris Raines: Hi, welcome to Episode 53 of the Dodgeball Marketing Podcast, where we talk about all things digital marketing, digital advertising, and such. My name is Chris.
Michael Utley: Hey, I'm Michael.
Chris Raines: And today, Michael, we're going to talk about site maintenance items, five site maintenance items that you can do to improve SEO. We talk a lot about SEO on this podcast. And a lot of it has to do with creating content, changing content on the page. A lot of things that users see on the website. These, or some of them are people that can see. But a lot of them are just what I would call maintenance items, just cleaning up things where they need to be cleaned up. So, that's what we're going to talk about today. And Michael, let's take the first one here.
Michael Utley: Yeah, sure thing. So some of these are kind of a lower priority. But they're important for user experience, but also important for how search engines see websites. So number one, make sure your site is ADA compliant. So the Americans with Disabilities Act also influences how people can access information on a website. And it's important. And this is a signal for search engines. Can people with disabilities use your website? There are a lot of different tools for folks with either hearing impairment or vision impairment to use the internet. And so, if you use accessibe.com, they have a way that you can run your site through a tool and get a checklist and start to resolve problems. And then of course, after you make changes, you can make sure those are propagated to the internet and then re-run the test.
Michael Utley: And so these things, they're not always things that we see. Sometimes something like having alt text on an image, it's not something that if you just go look at your website, you're going to necessarily notice, oh, we're missing that bit of extra code related to this image. So it's really important to have a true testing protocol to understand whether or not your website is in good shape, and you're doing everything you can do for search engines. Because this is not something where if you go look at the website and it looks okay, you're going to catch it. And there are a lot of improvements to SEO that fall into that category of things that you don't see when you go to the website, but they're totally broken from the point of view of a search engine. When search engines are indexing your website, they're using hundreds of different factors. And ADA compliance is one of these. Plus you just don't want to be a bad citizen of serving all your community.
Michael Utley: One of our folks who does a lot of writing for GoEpps and even helps produce this podcast, her name is Beth and she's awesome. And she uses a wheelchair. And it's not something that comes up day-to-day, but she's very aware of how disabilities can affect usability of a different company and their offers and services, whether it's their facilities or the way they're just handling the way they do things. So putting on the glasses of saying, hey, we're going to go through and run this tool and see it from this perspective can be really helpful. And you just want to be a good citizen of this thing too, and make sure that you're not involuntarily cutting out a portion of your audience.
Michael Utley: Another way to refer to handicapped people is "customers". So if you want to get politically correct and say "differently-abled", that's fine. The phrase I like is customers. And so, this is like a little joke Beth and I had is, “These are customers. Don't cut out your audience.“ So we think that's a good way to think about it. So again, number one, ADA compliance.
Chris Raines: That's good. So I'm going to take number two here. Make sure your site is W3C compliant. So W3C, check me, Michael, World Wide Web Consortium. So this is the, I might bumble here. It's a governing body that. . .
Michael Utley: Yeah, I'll help you.
Michael Utley: Yeah, that's right. So, a lot of the internet is very "Wild West" when it comes to defining how everything should work. For the internet, there really is not one central planning committee that makes decisions for everything about the internet. It's really a number of different groups of organizations. But one of the choke points is the world wide web consortium. And they're basically creating a little bit of a common system for how a code should be displayed to browsers so that browsers can work.
Chris Raines: And that's how we get updates to CSS, like style sheets, right?
Michael Utley: Oh, sure. Yeah. And how stuff gets retired.
Michael Utley: Yeah. It's one of those things where, if you're not careful, you can overemphasize this point and start to fixate on it. So every website has some of these little problems. And it doesn't necessarily mean that it breaks for everybody. But it's just, if you're trying to do everything that you can for search engines, this is a good one to do.
Chris Raines: Good, good.
Michael Utley: Yeah. Next up remove duplicate meta descriptions. Meta descriptions are a bit of text that are associated with each page on your website. And it's quite common for us, so GoEpps, parent company of Dodgeball Marketing, works a lot with BullHorn Media, Chris's company. And when we take in a website to do SEO at GoEpps, it is often the case that we will run it through a handful of initial scans. And we'll often find, on a website that has, say, a thousand pages. We'll often find that a hundred of those pages have letter-for-letter, pixel-for-pixel, the same description of the page.
Michael Utley: Well, that's not true. You don't have a hundred pages on the website that do the same thing. What's happened there is a website got launched or migrated at some point. And there was a good clean look at meta descriptions. And then, over the life of the site, people started to publish new pages and they would depend on their eyes instead of a workflow to decide if the page was good and done. And when they were doing that, they might have gone to the page, looked at it, and said, yep, the page is looking good. And in the back end of their CMS, their content management system, or somewhere in there, there was probably a field for a meta description. And they might have duplicated a previous page to get a little bit of a headstart on creating the new page, or they might have just left it blank. And the system may have generated something that is essentially placeholder text. But those duplicate meta descriptions mean that you've missed an opportunity to tell the internet what that page is about.
Michael Utley: Meta descriptions are a little bit of text that search engines are looking at to say, what's this website about? The meta description can include important keywords. It can also tell search engines a little bit about how relevant the content of the page is to the page title and the page URL. So along with the text of the page that a user sees, the meta description is another bit of text. And so, if these things are all wonky, and they're not in sync with each other in terms of the keywords that are used, it's a signal to search engines that maybe this one's not done cooking yet. Maybe we don't know what this page is about.
Michael Utley: And so these meta descriptions, what you want to do is you want to go through those and make sure that each of them are good. And there's another important thing that meta descriptions do. These are the text that will show in the search results page for a search result. So, if you have a page on your site, maybe it's a services page or a sub-service page or a localization page or a blog post, or your homepage. It's that bit of meta description copy that is encoded with the web page that is going to show in the search results page. So you can think about the content that you want to have there that's more likely going to get clicked to improve the user experience and the performance of the page. So yeah, meta descriptions, removing duplicates, really big deal for SEO and for being very thorough with how you present your website to search engines.
Chris Raines: Yeah. Great. Number four. And it's actually quite similar to what you said, Michael is removing and renaming duplicate page titles. So the page titles. We're not talking about the text at the top of the page that would be the headline. We're talking about the page title, which is what shows up when you do a Google search when you see the blue link. That's the page title that you're seeing. So, it's really bad practice to have duplicate page titles. A good, free way to check your page titles is go to screamingfrog.com and download that free piece of software. And it'll suck all of your page titles into a spreadsheet. And you can just sort by page title and see if you've got duplicates.
Chris Raines: Another thing you can do with your page titles is anywhere if you're a local business that services a specific geography, if you have page titles that are about that geography, or if it's your homepage, let's say you're a chiropractor in Portland, you should have Portland inside your page title of your homepage. So every page that's relevant to a geography, make sure you have those geographic modifiers. And also, remove outdated or draft versions of content that has really similar page titles. So you might have duplicate posts, maybe two blog posts that are really similar, maybe two location pages that are really similar. You want to make sure that if there's only one page representative of one piece of content or one geography. Would you say anything more about that, duplicating?
Michael Utley: Yeah. I would say doing a scan. What you suggested, doing a scan's really easy way to pick this up. A lot of duplicate page titles come about because of a little missed opportunity in the planning of large batches of content. Often, what we'll do when we have a new website come in and we're looking for opportunities to build a more robust online presence, we'll often take the major services and identify the sub-services. And then once we're rolling those out, it's easy to make a mistake or to build this content in a spreadsheet first, and to have something like the service name and forget to edit and make each of these unique. So you end up with someone who's just punching tickets, doing their job, loading this content to a website. And they're loading 10, 20, 30 pages with the same title. And then that same old problem. You go to the website, you don't see anything broken because you're not noticing in maybe the browser bar.
Chris Raines: You have to look at a scan.
Michael Utley: Yeah. You have to look on a scan to see this stuff. And you're not seeing pages together when you're bouncing around on the website and saying, do I see anything broken? No, must be okay. In other words, a non-robust testing protocol. The hunt and peck version of website testing. You're not seeing multiple pages side by side and catching this. So really, that scan is really critical for getting above the human point of focus being so limited with somebody just hunting and pecking around a website. So, yeah, it's really key to start with that scan.
Chris Raines: Cool. All right. Last one.
Michael Utley: Yeah. Last up. And I'll take this one. Remove or update duplicate content. This one's a little tougher because sometimes duplicate content can hide out inside of pages. This doesn't mean that you should never have bits of text that appear in multiple places on your website if there's a reason. What it really means, we come down in a very moderate position on this. What it means is you don't want to have any pages that are so similar to another page on your website. You don't want to have any page on your website that's so similar to another page on your website that it looks and feels and presents itself to search engines like it's about the same thing, about the same topic.
Michael Utley: However, the balance to this is, we often are building large batches of content in a spreadsheet with 50 to 75% of the page being unique, and 25% of it being duplicate or boiler plate so that we can roll out content en masse when it's appropriate. I'll give an example. I've mentioned previously in this episode, if you're listening to the full episode you'll know what I mean, that we often will stage up content and slice and dice it in a spreadsheet first. So URL page title, first paragraph, second paragraph, third paragraph. And then often, we're creating sections on the page. So if we have a set of sub-services for a company that we're building out standalone pages, what we'll often do is have a unique page title, a unique H1, a unique introductory paragraph. And then we might drop in a slice on how we work with clients and have a 1, 2, 3 section. And that may be the same on all these sub-services pages.
Chris Raines: Another common one is an appointment block-
Michael Utley: Yeah. An appointment block. Yeah, that may be the same on every page. So we generally try to make sure that we never cross that border of 50% of the content on the page being the same. And the way to measure this is just to scrape the text of the entire page, throw it into a word counter and see how many words you have for all the text. I think about text for this more than I do pixels. But scrape it into a word counter, and then just see how many words there are. Say, there are a thousand words, and then go through and delete everything that was unique to that one page, and then hit refresh on your word counter. And if 50% of your words are unique or more, you're good to go. But that slice and dice method for us is a very cost-effective way to create appropriately unique, but easily produced pages.
Michael Utley: And we've never gotten dinged in an SEO program for that approach. We do this with localization pages, with sub-services pages, and we've gotten good results. But our line in the sand is 50% of the content being unique to the page, and no two pages on the website trying to do the same thing.
Chris Raines: Yep. There you go. All right. That's all for this episode. Five maintenance items that can improve your SEO. Hope that was helpful for you. Go ahead and follow us on social. We're on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, under Dodgeball SEO. We're also on Friendster and MySpace.
Michael Utley: Yep. Dodgeball Marketing.
Chris Raines: Actually we're not on MySpace or Friendster.
Michael Utley: We're not on MySpace or Friendster.
Chris Raines: Follow us on all the social media sites that matter.
Michael Utley: Thank you