On the journey from HTML to SERP, a Web site may face a number of potential pitfalls. Pinpointing the obstacles on the path was the focus of the first Jane and Robot meetup in Los Angeles last Tuesday night.
Nathan Buggia and Vanessa Fox, the pair behind search and search-friendly web development site JaneAndRobot.com, held the educational networking event at the Yahoo! Center in Santa Monica. Buggia, lead program manager at Live Search, and Fox, a former Googler best known for her role in creating webmaster Central, gave a presentation on identifying a site’s SEO setbacks.
Nathan Buggia & Vanessa Fox. Photo by Wm. Marc Salsberry – Entrepreneur/Photographer.
“The L.A. tech scene is more vibrant than people know,” Fox said. “If you look at San Francisco and to a lesser extent Seattle, the networking itself makes the community stronger. I think in L.A. that’s starting to happen, and as that happens more there’s a lot of untapped potential to be realized.”
Focused on one piece of the SEO and web dev relationship, Buggia and Fox outlined the steps in diagnosing ranking and indexing problems. Fox noted that SEOs sometimes look at ranking as the goal and a lack of rankings as the problem. But she compared a site’s rankings to the tip of an iceberg—merely the surface appearance of a larger hidden structure. From crawling to indexing to ranking, the process of getting a site to rank in a search engine follows a path.
To that end, Fox identified a flow chart to help locate a clog in the pipeline:
- If you have a traffic drop: Verify that the drop is due to search traffic. If so, is it a crawling problem, an indexing problem, or a ranking problem?
- If you have a crawling problem: Are the site pages being crawled? Is there a pattern to what’s not being crawled? Do you have crawl errors in Google and Microsoft webmaster tools?
- If you have an indexing problem: Are pages being crawled but not indexed? Are fewer pages indexed than before? Is the entire site de-indexed?
- If you have a ranking problem: Has there been a drop for all keywords or just some? Are the same pages ranked as before or are there different pages ranking?
Fox said that she will be writing a post on her site NineByBlue.com about a more complex and comprehensive flow chart soon.
Other technical recommendations shared at the event include:
- It can be easiest to get site data before you have a problem. Gather benchmark data such as pages crawled, pages indexed, web traffic and other key ranking metrics. This way if a ranking drop does occur, you can compare new site data to the benchmark to help identify the problem.
- Most web analytics don’t tell you about bot traffic. Use a script to see when bots come by. Some scripts allow you to filter data to see the kinds of pages that are crawled most. This way you can see the type of content the spiders give preference to.
- What factors really matter? Accessibility, discoverability and conversions. Accessibility covers how well the site is indexed, if site errors are decreasing, and if linking improves. Discoverability pertains to how well the site ranks for branded and non-branded terms. Conversions are the goals of your site.
- Buggia admitted that while he could tell the audience all the factors in the Live Search algorithm, it would be in vain. The factors change because they try to follow the factors that people care about. Instead of focusing on the algorithm and ranking, focus on your audience and goals.
According to Fox, she and Buggia were inspired to hold educational events aimed at both search marketers and developers after observing a gap in communication and understanding between the two groups. Approximately 50 people attended the event Tuesday, with about half the crowd made up of developers and half identifying as search marketers. Following the presentation, Buggia and Fox answered audience questions ranging from nofollow use to image optimization to the canonical link element.
Yahoo SEO manager Tony Adam planned and organized the event and was pleased with the outcome and attendee enthusiasm.
“They did an excellent job covering the technical topics and attracting the web dev, search and marketing crowds,” Adam said. “It would be great to have more Jane and Robot events in L.A. to keep the conversation going.”
More photos of the event can be found here.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.