In the process of continuously optimizing for search and searchers, sometimes basic areas get ignored, overwritten or overdone leading to entire sections of the site being blocked, duplicated or rendered useless for search engines.
Here are ten quick checks to ensure your site has not stumbled into the no or low visibility zone.
1. Check robots.txt on every sub-domain
Are you blocking sections of your site in the robots.txt file? If so, check to make sure that you are not inadvertently restricting the search engines from accessing product listings or related content because the entire directory is accidentally blocked in robots.txt.
2. Check noindex rules across your site
If you have implemented the noindex meta tag on large sections of your site based on certain guidelines, revisit these guidelines to make sure they are still relevant and do not conflict with other rules on the site. Do not submit pages with a noindex meta tag in your XML sitemap to search engines or shopping feeds. Make sure that rules in the robots.txt and noindex tag are consistent.
3. Don’t embed HTML in the code of your feed
When submitting feeds to shopping engines, embedding html or stuffing promotional text in the product titles and descriptions will lead to messy and truncated titles and descriptions. Do not stuff promotional text into the product description as it could end up truncating oddly or even worse be removed from shopping engines.
4. Miscategorizing listings in your feed
Shopping engines have algorithms to determine relevance and ranking based on the product type and category. Miscategorizing products in hopes of attaining a lower CPC can result in low visibility and virtually no traffic.
If you have recently relaunched a section of your site and redirected old pages to new ones, make sure the redirects are 301 (permanent redirects). If the pages have 302 or temporary redirects implemented, the new pages will not get indexed because the search engines will continue to think that the redirect is temporary.
6. Duplicate Meta Titles
If you are generating meta titles dynamically based on the changing content of the page, make sure to check the rules and ensure that the meta titles and descriptions uniquely identify a particular page and are not so broad that they lead to duplicate content. Check your webmaster tools to check pages on your site that have duplicate meta title tags and/or duplicate meta description tags.
7. Avoid duplicate product URLs in the feed
Don’t provide multiple URLs or landing pages for the same product or item. This will lead to duplicate content and will risk down ranking of all URLs due to this issue.
8. Out-of-Stock products
When you submit your product listings to search engines or shopping engines, do not provide landing pages (URLs) that are broken, redirected or contain out of stock products. This will affect the CTR (click through rate) to your site as well as user perception with regard to the quality and consistency of your site. If the engine has a quality score in place, your site could be down ranked based on high bounce rates.
9. Update product price, stock status, product description and best uses
Content has a shelf life and needs to be updated regularly to maintain its value. Outdated content when not monitored and evaluated can get out of control and lead to negative perception about the quality of your site. With the increased focus on quality content and value add pages in the search index, it is important to keep content current and clean. Updated content will keep conversions high and will also attract new users based on.
10. Encourage external links to product specific pages
Don’t rely on external links to your homepage or domain. Analyze the distribution of quality external links to your home page vs. deep links to product specific pages.
Both search engines and shopping engines are advertising platforms for your site. Good, clean feeds are a requirement and not just a nice to have anymore. Optimizing and updating the listings you feed to search engines will help your site compete for a higher share of visibility as well as perform better from a conversion and revenue stand point. Put your best foot forward to share in the spotlight.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.