August 6th, 2010 Add Your Comments Bookmark and Share

Considering how much effort goes into getting backlinks and traffic for your websites it never ceases to amaze me just how much “free” traffic people are chucking away. It’s not their fault, I just don’t think they are aware of how a few small changes can make a big difference. I’ve recently bought a new website, to be honest it’s the first website I’ve ever bought so the whole experience is a new one. These are some of the essential checks I’ve already done.

Broken Links With Webmaster Tools

This is one of my favourites features of Googles Webmaster Tools. It allows you to see where somebody is linking to a page on your website that doesn’t exist. Those links can be both internal or external, either way though the links are pointing at something that is turfing out a 404 error. This is bad in 2 respects, first of all the search engines hate being pointed at content that no longer exists, it’s just about enough to stop them crawling the rest of your site. Certainly if you get a reputation and don’t have good inbound links expect very shallow crawling. The other downside is that I don’t know many users who stick around when presented with a 404 error. This is especially true if you don’t have a nice 404 error page that perhaps gives them some alternative pages. Page views are almost as important as unique visitors. When I checked on my new website there were literally hundreds of links pointing at pages that no longer existed.

Broken Links

The easiest way of dealing with this is to 301 redirect the missing page to one that does exist. Depending on how much time you have the ideal solution would be to redirect it to the “best fit” page on your site but if you’re in a rush then I’d just send them to the home page.

301 Redirect Broken Links

Once those 301 redirects are setup the search engines are happy and it’s no more error screen for potential visitors.

Outbound Links With WebCEO

Now we’ve sorted out the broken links pointing at us it’s time to sort out the broken links we’re pointing at other websites. In an ideal world we don’t want any links coming from our site pointing at content that isn’t there anymore. WebCEO can help with this. It has a cracking little Website Quality tool that flags up all sorts of problems with your website, from missing title tags to images without dimensions. The report we are interesting in is the “Broken External Links” report. When I checked I could see 13 broken external links – this is low. Kudos to the previous owner. To fix these it’s just a case of going back through the posts (WebCEO provides a list of pages that contain the broken link) and editing them. It could be the best 10 minutes you spend on your website this year 😉

Pointing at content that doesn't exist

At this point we now have a nice solid linking platform on which to build new content. New content is great. However, if you’ve bought an old website don’t ignore the existing content. The new improved webmaster tools has a brilliant feature in the “Search queries” option. It allows you to see how many impressions your website is getting for a keyword compared to how many clicks it is getting. IF you see a search getting hundreds of impressions and no clicks I’m willing to make a bet with you. I bet you that the author didn’t write an optimised meta description tag. With WordPress and any number of SEO plugins it’s too easy to leave the description to autopilot. This is why your search result isn’t getting clicked! Your description is the same as your advert in Adwords, make it compelling and relevant. I know Google may ignore it sometimes but not giving them the option of an optimised description is just chucking traffic away in my book. So that’s my next job, it’ll take a while. No longer than keyword research, writing and link building new content though – and I suspect the results will be a little quicker. I’ll report back in a week or so with how I get on.