I complete a lot of site reviews. Often times, I give the same exact advice to each customer. Therefore, I thought I would just go ahead and share the 12 most common things that are wrong or need fixed with most sites – from an SEO/marketing standpoint. I usually conduct these site reviews during my initial site audit for client or potential client. I know I posted about the 5 Minute SEO Audit Checklist a while back on Search Engine People, but I wanted to expand on that article with a few other things to look for:
- URL canonicalization and 301s need to be set in place because on 100% of the sites I review they are not.
- Custom 404s – I have seen catchy ones, crazy ones, ones that let you search, but at this point having anything is better then an ugly “this page does not exist” result that takes customers away from your site itself, thereby giving you less credibility.
- Title Tags: “Untitled Document” for Title tag on homepage and sub pages must go, or anything similar to this where you know that it has not been done. Yea I know, it sounds crazy that in 2009 some people are still doing this and it is hard to believe Google would still want to crawl any site that does not have these basics down.
- Meta Data – Most sites forget to include custom meta data (not default) for all their pages or have NONE at all. A quick view of your source will help you determine if you have included, or forgotten your meta data. In my opinion, the meta data does not help you near as much as it once did, but I feel it can hurt you if done wrong. I am still able to obtain better rankings by tweeking the meta data too, so as long as I am able to – I will continue to preach its use.
- Duplicate Content – if you are using a free shopping cart or CMS that sticks custom meta all over the place, and you do not take the right steps to make sure all of your pages are unique as possible it could cause some duplicate content problems. Another thing that I see with duplicate content is on retail sites that are using products from a dropshipper, and they just copy and paste the product info. Doing this will flood the search engines with more of the exact same content. You need to be doing your best to make sure all content and pages are as unique as possible.
- How do you tell someone their site is UGLY – OH, I know – YOUR SITE IS UGLY, and needs some updating and you need to pay to get your site updated. The friend of a neighbor that did it for pennies (or cookies) is not going to cut it anymore. You need to get yourself a real business front online. Your site will not convert if it looks like it was done in the early 90s. Yes folks, there still are some sites out there like that.
- URL Structure – Most of the sites I review need a better URL structure for folders, images and keywords being used in the URLs that relate to what content and information is on the specific page.
- Alt tags – no alt tags on images which is a must for taking full advantage of image search and getting traffic that way. There is potential for huge traffic from sites like Flickr, Twitpic, Google Images and all of the other image search websites, but they need to be able to pick your images up and setting them up properly on your site is the first step.
- XML Sitemap – no xml sitemap (maybe they are not listed in webmaster central)
- What keywords are you targeting? Most sites I review have not identified any keywords they want to focus on for specific pages, let alone their homepage which I feel should include some of your most important keywords. The business owner may know the keywords they want to be ranked for, but unless they go about it the right way on their site, Google and other major search engines will never know.
- Inbound Links -Do most people non SEO type folks even know how to check? I would suggest they go to the Yahoo Site Explorer. The more you get into online marketing, the more you will understand how this is a really big deal, especially when you start to more closely analyze your competition.
- Social Marketing – There is no social presence. You need to make sure and secure the profile user names that match your business on social sites like Twitter.
No doubt there are many other things to take into consideration, but that was not the point of this post. It was to outline what I feel are the most common things that people could do to improve their sites online visibility. These are the things I see people doing wrong, or not doing more consistantly then anything else. If you would like to share some of the things you see, then feel free and include them in the comments and make this a better post for us all!