A prospective customer types your keywords into Google, but none of the search results are yours. Actually, you’re on Page 11.
You’ve gone through your checklist:
- Relevant content
- Easy-to-read format
- Eye-catching supporting photo or graphic
- Links to reference sites
Everything looks okay. But you’re not getting the traffic you expected. Now what?
1 million fundamental fails
Everyone knows inbound marketing begins with great content. But for search engines to successfully find that content and link it to your keywords, there are some fundamental rules to follow.
We were curious to know how many websites were doing it “right.”
For instance, how many web pages have included acceptable title, H1, and meta-description tags — the three fundamental web page elements search engines utilize for search ranking and display on a search engine results page (SERP)?
Pretty basic stuff.
Typically, meta-description tags are not included in a discussion about SEO. But since meta-description content is often displayed on the SERP under the page link, we think of the meta-description tag as marketing copy for your link — literally helping to “sell” the benefits of clicking on your link.
So we set out to analyze the home pages of 1 million websites (see Infographic) (no kidding). Not some random, bottom-of-the-barrel sites, either. The majority of the sites we evaluated were in the top 1 percent of all 141 million active websites on the internet. We found that just 9.6 percent had all three basic web page elements covered correctly (according to our best practice guidelines, seen in the chart below).
We also wanted to know how many pages were either missing these basic elements, or had duplicate elements. When a title tag is missing, for example, search engines are forced to construct one for you. (If you want to assume they’ll get it right, that’s up to you.) On the other hand, duplicate elements only cause confusion.
Does anyone have a map?
Sitemap and Robots files, both located in the root directory of your website, act like a treasure map to your content.
Sitemaps contain a list of the public web pages on your site. Every time you add (or delete) a page, you should be updating your sitemaps as well. But there’s no need to stress about it — there are free sitemap generators (watch my Sitemap generator tutorial) and free WordPress plug-ins that can automatically update your sitemaps each time you publish a new page or blog post.
You can also edit sitemap files manually using any text editor just by following the example formats at Sitemaps.org/protocol.html. Just don’t forget to upload your new version to your website when you’re done.
Your Robots.txt file is a simple text file that tells search engines which folders have content you want it to index, as well as the web folders it should stay out of.
Surprisingly, the majority of the 1 million sites we analyzed were missing sitemap files.
Are you guilty?
With results like these, it’s possible some of your web pages (or your entire website) may also be unintentionally blocking or confusing search engines.
You can find out for sure by running an instant, SEO self-assessment of any web page at FreeSEOScorecard.
(Full disclosure: I was part of the team that conceived and built FreeSEOScorecard as a content marketing tool.)
Your SEO Scorecard gives an overall score (out of 100) and, using a stoplight color scheme (green=ok, yellow=caution, red=error), shows you which elements on your page need improvement. You can even interactively edit your Title, H1 and meta-description tags to test what changes will improve your score… all the way to a passing grade!
The SEO Scorecard also provides a ranked-ordered list of keywords extracted from the web page. Taken together, these keywords should reflect the intended meaning of the page.
If breaking into the top 1 percent of websites is your goal, given this new research, content marketers have a terrific opportunity to jump ahead of their competitors just by paying attention to SEO fundamentals.
And naturally, if you’re already in the top 1 percent, taking a quick check on your web pages and extracted keywords would be a very smart thing to do.
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