This is the 3rd video in the RIDE THE WAVE series.
In this video we look at website errors and issues, and how they affect a website’s visibility on search engines.
Even if you aren’t keen on the tech side – the explanations will still clear up many mysteries and help you to understand the process for future development.
Websites ought to advance and grow, always changing and being added to according to the business needs.
As a website evolves errors and issues arise.
These glitches can damage a website’s credibility.
A website owner must find and correct them quickly.
Before spending valuable time building pages and blog posts to help a site gain good search engine rank, check there are no errors or issues.
The list that follows sounds a little technical, but I will endeavour to explain them adequately.
In this video we will cover:
- Crawl errors – what they are.
- 500 errors.
- 400 errors.
- URL too long.
- Redirect chains.
- Meta-data issues.
- Content issues and
- No index.
1. What are crawl errors and website issues and why should you be bothered?
Search engines use programmes – known as bots or search engine crawlers – to scour the web.
Bots are used to search for new websites to list (or index) on the search engine result pages.
They also examine existing websites to check for new content and changes.
Bots scan through the code of websites and check that they provide clear information for us humans.
To get from web page to web page bots follow links.
When adequate links are provided, bots can discover more and more content.
Links let bots dig deeper into the pages and sub-sections within the website.
The bots read the page code – which consists of page titles, sub-headings, text on the page which is divided into paragraphs, images, video and more.
Search engines recognise when something is not working properly on a web page.
This could be a missing image or a dud link.
Search engines also love words.
They will acknowledge inaccurate spelling or grammar
Or if a page is short of words – something we call ‘thin content’.
They are policing the internet, really. Looking out for unmaintained websites.
Search engines set out quality guidelines.
When a website does not abide it doesn’t have much chance of doing well online.
Fix any errors that arise before you start to evolve the site itself.
2. A major error we might come across are 500 Errors
These can be very damaging to a website’s rank.
We’ve all seen a 500 error
When you click a link and see a message which states “This page isn’t working”.
This major error means the website is offline.
Causes are often human errors like failing to update the domain name or the hosting package.
Maybe the files have been moved or there is an update error.
Sometimes a 500 error is caused by computer errors.
The server where a website lies is just a big powerful computer.
They do get restarted, they do go through software updates.
If a website is down too frequently or for a long time it will damage the website’s credibility.
And that means search engines rank will drop.
Search engines do not send visitors to a website that is unavailable.
It damages their own credibility.
Search engines give a little leeway but we are not fully sure how long a website needs to be offline before it gets penalised.
I would say that fully depends where the Google bot is in the crawl process.
Keep the website running well, choose a good hosting provider and build a good online reputation.
3. 400 errors
400 errors are seen when you click a dud link – or a link that leads no-where.
Links change because websites get updated.
When someone changes a page name or a category, the path changes and links break.
The search engine bot comes to follow the link, there is a dead end.
Dud links on your website are a sign to a search engine that you are not maintaining the site.
And that means you are not looking after your visitors.
So of course, for dud links, a website would be penalised.
WordPress websites can be scanned using a plugin called Broken Link Checker by WPMU DEV. I will put a link in the comments section.
The plugin flags up any broken links and emails you. So you can fix them quickly.
If you have a small website or are not confident about installing a plugin, simply check your links manually.
Note down any that don’t work.
4. URL too long
A URL is simply the page name as well as the folder or category.
In the video above you can look at it on screen. You can see the URL – which is known in WordPress as a permalink.
The page name is sometimes called file name, or slug in WordPress.
The folder that the page sits in is also displayed. In WordPress it would actually be the top level page name or the category.
The whole line is called a URL.
When a top level page name or category name is very long, plus a page name is very long this URL becomes enormous.
Search engines like well thought out, clear URLs that can be understood by humans.
They also look more inviting when scrolling Google search results.
Let’s hop over to Google and you can see how they display the URLs.
A person is more likely to click if they understand a URL. People are drawn to familiarity – a URL should be easy to decipher.
For this reason, search engines prefer shorter URLs.
This is something to organise before growing a website.Then stick to the format.
Video 4 goes deeper into URLs and redirecting.
PLEASE watch that before editing URLs. A lot of damage can be done.
5 Redirect chains
When the name of a web page has changed, a vigilant website owner will redirect the old page to the new one.
And then, maybe in the future the page name gets changed again. You redirected it again.
This is a redirect chain.
It can happen with external links too, when website owners move pages.
Check all links to be sure they go directly to the final version of the page.
So, the very oldest page should also be directly linked to the very newest page.
6. Meta-data issues
Meta-data is a fancy name that encompasses the meta-title and meta-description of a page.
Neither of these are seen on the design of a website. They are included in the back end, or the code of the page.
The only place the meta-data is seen publicly is on a search engine.
The meta-title of the page, and the is the meta-description.
Search engines will only use the meta-data that you’ve entered, if they deem it fit.
In video 7 I am going to look at how to utilise these in WordPress.
For now, know that the meta-title and the meta-description of each and every page should include the key phrase it is targeting.
The meta-tags must relate to the core content of the page, don’t try to fool a search engine.
The title should not be more than 54 characters.
The description should not be more than 164 (155 is optimum).
Different search engines have different character counts for meta-tags
Use your key phrase at the beginning of the meta-title or description.
That way the key phrase is visible, no matter which search engine it is found on.
7. Content issues
Web pages need to be informative to be successful.
Fruitless web pages won’t rank well – visitors would quickly leave them and you’ll lose a customer forever.
You’ve spent time and money getting that one person onto your website. Each one is important.
Don’t acquire a horrible online reputation – or become a non entity – by wasting people’s precious time.
Pages with thin content won’t rank well unless it is really good and truly helpful.
Be careful duplicating content.
I’ve seen website owners write 4 or 5 pages of a website with the same first two paragraphs, using exactly the same words.
They’ll change a minimal amount of text to apply to a product.
This is duplicate content. It is also very boring.
Penalties for duplicate content can also occur when a website owner copies text from another website.
It is okay to copy and curate content, but change it and reword it to become your own.
The H1 tag is also very important when talking about content issues.
A H1 tag must be included on each and every page and post.
It is the first tag a search engine bot looks for in a page.
Make the H1 tag descriptive but to the point.
Let the visitor know exactly what they are going to unearth on this web page.
The H1 tag should include your targeted key phrase.
There is a lot of information on my blog if you’d like to know more about writing a good page or post for search engines.
8. No index
Last, but not least is a NOINDEX error.
This is basically a piece of code on a file on your host that tells search engines not to index the website, not to index images or not to index certain pages or posts.
At this stage you really want everything to be indexed.
On WordPress, Wix and SquareSpace it is possible to NOINDEX the whole website, or an individual page or post.
If you find you have ZERO search results it can be that you’ve got the NOINDEX setting ticked.
To find the setting on WordPress go to settings >reading.
Scroll down until you see a checkbox next to the words Discourage search engines from indexing this site. This should not be ticked.
Using WIX go to the SETTINGS then click the SEO tab.
Scroll down to SEO Status and be sure you ALLOW search engines to include your site in search results.
In SquareSpace I believe you can NOINDEX individual pages if you have premium features.
There could also be a file on your server called a .htaccess file. This file can be coded to prevent search engines listing your website.
So if you are really having trouble it is worth asking a webmaster about that.
Do understand that it takes a while for search engines to index a new website. Up to 6 months in some cases, but I have seen websites listed within weeks if they are full of good content.
This is Kelly at Kaydee Web, in the next video we look at Changing URLs and Redirecting in the next video.