You’ve got great content. The search engines know about it. But can they access it? There’s lots of reasons why search engines may not be able to access the content on your pages.
Are you blocking the bots?
You can keep search engines from indexing particular sections of your site using a robots.txt file or robots meta tag. There are lots of valid reasons for blocking search engines from particular pages, but sometimes sites block access accidentally and then wonder why pages aren’t being indexed. Sometimes, choosing the wrong option in your blogging software (in WordPress, this is under “Privacy”) will do it. For instance, take a look at the Google Custom Search blog. If you look at the source code, you’ll see this meta tag:
<meta name="ROBOTS" content="NOINDEX,NOFOLLOW" />
That’s keeping the pages from being indexed in any search engine. I’m sure it’s accidental, as I wrote about earlier.
Is your server having trouble?
If your server is down or having timeout issues when a search engine comes by, it can’t access the pages of your site. The bots will come back later and try again, but it can be good to know if this is happening, in case there’s a deeper issue you need to look at. You can see any issues Google had accessing the site in webmaster tools (Diagnostic > Crawl Errors > Web Crawl).
Is your content in text?
So how can you incorporate these elements into your site wisely?
- Don’t put large blocks of text in images. Keep text in HTML and use images for, well graphics and pictures.
- Use alt text to describe images. You do this in the source code. For instance:
<img src="http://www.ninebyblue.com/imagename.jpg" alt="My Cute Cats" />. Your blogging software may make this even easier for you. In WordPress, if you use the image insertion button, the wizard first asks for the image URL and then for a description of the image. That description is then used for the alt text. And make sure the alt text really is descriptive. “Logo” may seem descriptive but “Anya’s House of Cheesecake” is a bit more specific.
- Use descriptive filenames. anyas-cheesecake.jpg is better than logo.jpg.
- Give each image a caption and ensure the page has lots of text.
- If possible, post a text transcript of the video.
- At the very least, post a textual description.
- Use Flash sparingly. Put the text in HTML and use Flash for animated objects.
- Don’t put navigation in Flash. Search engines will never get past your home page.
- Do you really need a Flash splash page? Most sites don’t. They only slow down visitors trying to access your content. And search engines think your site is about “loading, loading, loading”.
- Don’t put your product pages in Flash. No one can link to them or bookmark them, and that makes your visitors very sad indeed. It also makes search engines see your site as one big page with one URL.
An easy test
Another thing you can do is check Google’s cache of a page. (The cache is the copy of the page that Google has stored.) You can see the cache of any page by typing in cache: followed by the URL (with no space after the colon).
For instance, take a look at the Nike home page. Since I have FlashBlock installed, I just see the play button. You can see what Google sees by doing a cache query. Google can see a few links and that’s it. (The word shoes is nowhere to be found.) And individual product pages? Here’s what Google sees. Notice that once you drill into specific shoes, the URL doesn’t change? How can I tell someone what shoes to buy me for my birthday? I can’t. Oh Flash, how you have failed me.
And here ends my three part series on using search to drive traffic to your blog. For those of you who were at the BlogHer session, I had a great time talking to you! The important thing is to keep writing great stuff!