As you may already know, search engine optimization involves the use of many different techniques to increase the ranking of a website. Perhaps the easiest way to start to optimize a site is to break down the process of doing SEO into two phases.
The first phase is on-page/on-site SEO and the other is off-page/off-site SEO. Both phases involve the use of many different techniques to achieve the desired outcome of obtaining higher rankings in search engine results and ultimately more visitors to your site.
Although on-page and off-page SEO are both important, I believe that it is more important for anyone who is setting out to optimize their website to start with on-page optimization first. The reasons for this are as numerous as the list of on-page factors is long.
After all it doesn’t matter how great of a job someone does with their off-site techniques if, for example, they implement a “noindex” meta tag by mistake. The magnitude of that mistake would be tremendous for anyone that wants their webpage to be seen, as the use of a ‘noindex’ tag would mean that their webpage is not indexed by search engines, and therefore will not be displayed in search results.
To make it simpler to understand why you might want to start with on-page SEO techniques first as you prepare to optimize your site, let us start with a definition of what on-page SEO is.
On-page SEO is the process of search engine optimization in which one uses different techniques and procedures to setup a website in a way which ensures it is properly indexed, accessible, and that it contains relevant content that utilizes all proper tags.
Now that we have our definition, let us tackle indexation as our first on-page SEO factor. I am going to use The San Diego Zoo’s website as an example to better explain this concept.
Whether your website is brand new or it has been up and running for years, you always want to make sure all your webpages are indexed as quickly as possible with the search engines.
For new websites you want to be proactive and not just wait for googlebot or any of the other search engine spiders to crawl your site. The same holds true for existing websites because every time you create a new page or post you want to make sure it gets indexed right away.
To get started with your website’s indexation, simply follow the steps below:
The first thing to do is make sure you are not blocking the search engines from crawling and indexing your site with your robots.txt file or a noindex meta tag. If you have a robots.txt file you can find it at “yoursite.com/robots.txt”. The noindex meta tag if it exists will be in the head section of your site’s HTML code.
Example of a robots.txt file blocking everything on your site from being is indexed:
Example of a noindex meta tag:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>
Once you make sure you are not accidentally blocking your website from being indexed, go ahead and check whether or not it is indexed by doing a simple search for your domain. Simply type “site:yoursite.com” (without the ” “) in the search field of Google or Bing. For example if I want to check whether or not The San Diego Zoo’s website is indexed with Google, I would go to google.com and do a search for site:sandiegozoo.org.
Looking at the results we can see that www.sandiegozoo.org is returned as is indicated by the red arrow. This means the site has been indexed by Google.
We can also get another important piece of information from this results page. If you look below the search bar you can see that 68,000 results were returned (indicated by the blue arrow). This number is important because it is supposed to be the number of pages from a site that Google has in its index.
This number is not 100% accurate, but you can use it to give you an idea of how many webpages you have indexed. For example if the number of pages returned is far less then what you expect it to be, you might have a problem with some of your pages not being indexed. If you realize there might be a problem you can then proceed to look into why some of your pages aren’t being returned.
If your site is not returned at all after you do a site:yoursite.com search then it is possible that it is not indexed.
There are several ways to get Google, Bing, or any other search engine for that matter to index your site, but to keep it simple I am going to discuss what I think is perhaps the best way.
Go to Google to create a Google Webmaster Tools account and visit Bing to create a Bing Webmaster Tools account. When you create or sign up for a webmaster tools account you establish a line of communication between you and the above mentioned search engines.
In addition to being indexed you also gain more information about your website such as health and traffic sources straight from the search giants themselves.
Another important step to take after you create your webmaster tools account is to create and submit an XML sitemap to Google or Bing to ensure they get all your pages indexed. If you don’t know how to create XML sitemaps, there are free tools that help you make one that you can download and later submit to a search engine.
Your new webmaster tools account is very important and you should use it frequently to gain more insight about your website and important messages about possible spammy links and other issues.
I hope you find this information helpful. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.