You never get a second chance to make a first impression. That’s why, it becomes crucial for any company to have an impressive website. A well-designed and structured website is the virtual door that creates a company’s value proposition in its customers’ mind.
However, in today’s Internet-era, creating a great website with fabulous content and graphics does not guarantee desired traffic or online visibility, unless the website is fully optimized and made accessible to spiders or bots.
One of the important factors in any SEO strategy is to attract search engine’s web spiders to access the website and enable maximum crawlability allowing it to index pages and information.
Outlined below are some of the mistakes that can impede website crawlability and must be avoided to have a great, successful, and functional website:
- Disabled Indexing of Robots.txt file: Robot.txt is a file that carries instructions for the search bots to access the website. The file located in the root directory provides information to the bots on the various sections of the website which needs to be indexed and also the restricted folders. The website owner must ensure that the Robot.txt file is publicly available and is allowed access.
- Nofollow / Noindex in Meta Tags: Meta Tags are the codes in thesection of a website, invisible to the user but crawled and indexed by the bots. If the meta tags of a specific page are blocked from indexing; the page will be crawled by the spiders, however, will not be indexed.
The Nofollow parameter informs the search engines to index the page but not to follow the links available on the page. It is important for the webmaster to provide the right attributes to the bots to seamlessly crawl the website.
- XML Sitemaps: Creating XML sitemap, listing down the website structure and all the URLs of the website is crucial, as it enables the search engines to crawl accordingly. A sitemap provides a clear direction to the spiders to index all the pages and allows them to rank the pages in the search results. A consistently updated sitemap allows the crawlers to discover new content and index page driving maximum traffic to the website.
- Poor or No Internal Linking: A poor or no internal linking is like taking the search engine crawler to a dead-end of the website. Internal linking has a huge impact on a website as it quickly connects a page of a website to different pages of the same website.
An internal linking structure enables the crawlers to access all the pages of the website located deep in the site’s structure (including silo pages or blog posts), distributes page authority, and ranks them accordingly. Therefore, it is advisable that a webmaster reviews the website structure thoroughly to create a killer internal linking strategy that aids in smooth website navigation and allows bots to index and find other pages of the website.
- Incorrect Redirects: It is necessary to redirect a visitor on a website to a relevant or an active page. Using incorrect redirects, put the crawlers into a state of confusion and hampers the crawlability of the website and even wasting the crawl budgets assigned.
There are two different types of redirects – 301 for permanent redirects and 302 for temporary redirects. It is a best practice to use 301 redirects if you are permanently redirecting an URL to a particular page.
- Not Using a Search Engine Friendly CSS Code: Most developers use CSS to create navigation elements and page layout on the browser. Using a search-engine friendly CSS codes allows the pages to render faster, linking uniformly with a better control on displaying the pages. thus improving the crawlability. It is advisable to avoid navigational menus that are Flash and Ajax rich as it tends to minimize the crawlability of the website.
- Not Optimizing Website’s Speed: In the age of digital revolution, every business focuses on providing a great user experience. A high performing website that loads faster is the key to increasing engagement and sales; it also allows the crawlers to index the pages, increasing the overall SEO rankings.
- Too Many URL Parameters: One of the fundamental blocks of SEO is to have a clear structured URLs for all the page of a website. It is vital for the webmasters to review and revisit all the URLs to ensure if the URLs are descriptive, clear and readable for the search engine bots. As an SEO best practice, it is wise to have search engine friendly URLs and avoid dynamic URL parameters.
- Duplicate Content: One of the most common SEO issues is having duplicate content on either one or more URLs of a website. Search engines are smart computer programs which dislike duplicate content and eliminates them from its indexes. The crawlers give a higher priority to the fresh content and even de-values the website with duplicate content.
Below are some of the ways an SEO expert can fix the duplicate pages issues and prevent the bots from crawling the website.
Delete similar or unnecessary duplicate pages
Setting a Nofollow / Noindex parameter in the meta tags
Clearly set parameters in Robot.txt file
Assigning a permanent 301 redirect to the URL
Using a canonical tag (rel=canonical)
- Crawl Errors: These are high-level reports that provide complete visibility on the errors of the whole website. These reports have two sections – site errors and URL errors.Site error report highlights important issues and status on three different types of errors including DNS, Server connectivity, and robots.txt fetch for the past 90 days, whereas, URL error reports provides a complete list of URL errors from the bots when trying to crawl through specific mobile or desktop pages. It is essential for the website owner to keep a close watch on these reports and take corrective actions to improve crawlability.
- Soft 404 Errors: Managing a 404 error or “Page Not Found” is tricky. Such an error is returned to a user only when the URL of a website is not active or live. As per the SEO mechanism, to manage the error efficiently, the website owner must ensure that the server immediately returns a custom 404 page instead of an HTTP 404 standard response code. This code informs both browsers and search engine bots about the existence of the page and prevents the bots to crawl or index these pages.
SEO is relatively complex and an on-going process. With a right strategy and an accurate roadmap, you can ramp up website rankings and achieve long-lasting results along by providing a better customer experience to the website visitors. Though a lot of companies focus on implementing SEO best practices, however, most of them, still struggle with the search engine crawlability issues and site rankings. It is imperative for the website owners to figure out the critical issues and take corrective actions by reviewing the website from the beginning to the end. Understanding the above mistakes and correcting them will help companies to drive traffic, engage visitors, and have a competitive advantage over their competitors.