If there is one thing you can never have enough of it’s time. This counts double if you’re in charge of keeping a website running smoothly and ranking at the top of the search results. With that in mind, I spoke with our in-house experts and asked them what their direct recommendation was for something that you could do to improve you site’s rankings. The catch was that it couldn’t take more than 15 minutes to do it! I narrowed it down to these 8 easy and quick to implement optimization tips.
1. Improve Your Google Bounce Rate Analytics Accuracy to Identify Thin Content
This tip is straight from Google’s Analytics Team and will give you a much clearer idea of what your true bounce rate is. This is an important metric to track, because high bounce rates along with low time on page are used by Google as indicators of low quality content, which can trigger both bad search engine rankings as well as a dreaded Panda penalty.
Now, before we get into how to track this properly, let’s clarify things a bit. A bounce is recorded when a visitor comes to your page and does nothing on the page (like click a link), which causes Google Analytics to record just the single page view. There are a couple of different reasons why this happens that you need to consider.
Pogo-Sticking: The visitor hits the back button, returns to the search engine and then chooses another result from the list. This is called pogo-sticking and is something you really want to avoid because it’s a VERY clear indication your content did NOT satisfy the users needs. Google and Bing both track this and it will negatively impact your search rankings.
Regular Bounce: A bounce is also recorded if someone visits a page, stays a while reading the content and then hits the back button or clicks away. So, in general your content satisfied the users needs but they did not continue on into your site. This type of bounce is not a critical problem. Of course you want the user to stay longer, view more pages on the site and so on – all resulting in a longer time on page. However, the reality is that this doesn’t always happen and you need to able to identify the difference between a pogo-sticking event and a regular bounce.
Measuring bounce rates in the past (before this tip) could be misleading. For instance, let’s look at a page with a high bounce rate, but very good time on page.
This particular page we’ve singled out has a very high bounce rate, something you need to focus on with Google’s recent algorithms and penalties. However, it also has very good time on page. Between 3 and 5 minutes from search traffic sources and then it hits as high as 8 minutes on page from direct sources. That’s an eternity in today’s standards, which means it’s certainly NOT an off topic or bad page.
So, in order to more accurately track the high bounce rate pages that actually matter– those with an on page duration under 15 seconds – just add this additional statement to your Google Analytics Tracking code (highlighted in yellow).
The section added has a value set for 15 seconds and you can alter that time setting to whatever you prefer. Google used 15 seconds in their post and that’s what we use here at SEN. However, Bing has stated they use 8 seconds so you may want to use a shorter time duration.
Remember! If you’re cutting and pasting the entire code posted above then you NEED to replace the example tracking code UA-XXXXXXX-1 with your own tracking code from your Google Analytics account. Also, this is a site wide Google Analytics code change so don’t just change it on one page!
If you’re using a WordPress Plugin like Monster Insights for your GA code, you can add that highlighted code to the Custom Code settings.
Implementing this solution won’t take you long, but it will take a while before the updated data starts showing up in Google Analytics – remember that the default report is thirty days.
You’ll very likely see a significant drop in Bounce Rate percentages after you implement the change, but don’t stop there. After implementing this change, come back in a few weeks and review the traffic coming to your content pages to see which ones still have high bounce rates. The ones that stand out will need to be improved for higher ranking or even removed from your site completely.
2. Review Your Sites’ Index Status for Duplicate Content Early Warning Signs
Google’s Search Console service has the ability to review how many of your pages are indexed graphically over the last year using their Index Status report located under the Google Index menu listing.
This report is a quick way to gauge your overall site health and detect issues, hopefully before they become big problems. The screenshot below is a perfect example of what to look for. Note the sudden spike in indexed pages where the arrow points.
That huge increase in number of pages indexed is indicative of duplicate content or other problem. Of course it could be that you’ve added some new feature, like letting Google index a Forum for example. However, if it wasn’t intentional then it’s a clear sign something is getting indexed multiple times and warrants in-depth examination.
If you click the Advanced button above the graph, you’ll get a detailed look at how many URLs are blocked by robots.txt and how many have been removed manually via Google Search Console.
This example below is for a small, brand new domain. You can clearly see when Google started indexing this new WordPress Site.
The index status report is a report that should be added to your weekly site review to watch for trends and spikes. Reviewing it only take seconds and can help prevent major disasters from happening undetected. The number of pages indexed and how that changes is a great early warning system for major problems.
If you’re not checking how your pages are ranking in the search engines then you’re ignoring one of the typical weekly tasks of an SEO. Monitoring where your URLs are ranking for your search phrases for a small business is a relatively quick affair. You can check a hand full of terms in both Google and Bing manually, but for anyone serious about SEO a reliable Rank Checking Software or Service is an absolute necessity.
Unfortunately, Google’s Search Console Search Queries report is not very detailed and can be a bit misleading, especially if you’re attempting to track improvements closely.
For our projects we depend on an online rank checking solution such as the Web CEO Rank Checker, which comes FREE as part of your SEN Pro Support membership. This tool quickly tracks as many as 200 different keywords for up to 15 different websites.
As a time saver, we really love the filtering ability to see a report only on the keywords that have had a ranking change to quickly find where we have gained or lost position. This is our “First Cup of Coffee” report that we like to start each week with!
Google Alerts tends to get overlooked, but is an excellent resource from Google for monitoring search queries via email or RSS Feed.
Alerts delivered via email or XML feed are great for keeping track of changes you need to be informed of, such as:
Use the site:domain.com query command to find out when Google has indexed a new page on your site or on another domain you want to monitor.
Track keywords you want to monitor for news, new pages, videos and other content that gets indexed.
Track your company name, brand names, product names and part numbers to find where people are talking about your company. This is great for reputation management and for identifying link building opportunities..
Use advanced search queries, such as How * wine rack, which will match queries such as How do you make a wine rack, How do you build a wine rack and so on.
Google also allows you to subscribe to their Google Trends feed with email delivery of changes in search trends for specific keywords, Hot Searches for any country, or any US monthly Top Chart. Just look for the subscribe button on trending searches, charts and the explore page. You can also setup custom searches, just click the hamburger menu and then Subscriptions.
This is a great way to get an overall feel for your keyword universe and overall market traffic. It may also help explain recent activity on your site changing (for better or worse) and at least help you make sense of why a change may be occurring.
5. Claim a Local Business Listing for Better Local Search Ranking
There are a bunch of resources in our 2017 Local Citation Builder’s Checklist where you can get a free business listing. It’s a great opportunity to increase your local citations and build even more traffic to your site. Most of these listings only take a few minutes to fill out, and the 15 minutes or less invested can be very rewarding.
It is HYPER important to be 100% consistent in the Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP) and other contact data you use when you add your business to these resources, as variations can lead to duplicate listings in Google.
It’s also important to keep track of where you submitted the business, and the username and password used for each listing. That list will be invaluable should you need to change your phone number, address or other vital information in the future.
6. Review your Crawl Errors – Deindexed Pages won’t Rank!
Both Google and Bing offer great reports that show any problems they’re having crawling your site but all that data does NO good unless you look at it. 15 minutes once a week reviewing these reports can uncover anything from mild to massive issues.
Crawl errors typically occur when a search engine spider requests a URL from your server, and it returns a missing page (404) error or a crashing script that is preventing the bot from crawling your site. A quick review of Google’s Search Console Crawl Error report reveals broken links as soon below.
As you can see in the report above, Google’s Search Console breaks out errors specific to SmartPhones as well. We believe this is an attempt to help sites that redirect mobile users help identify redirects that are going to nonexistent URLs. If you have a mobile site and are redirecting users, this report is one you NEED to keep an eye on as it will help you avoid penalties.
Bing’s report above it would seems to indicate a lot of problems on the website in question. However, you need to be aware of the size of the website you’re looking at. The above site is a larger one and errors go along with it. There is little to go wrong on a 10 page website, but bump that number up to 50,000 pages site, and yes the errors will start increasing quickly.
Larger sites also tend to have a lot of URL churn with pages being removed without redirects put into place due to the low priority many URLs have. For example, a larger site wouldn’t bother redirecting an old forum post that was removed. They would let the URL die out naturally going to a 404 and then it will eventually fall out of the index.
Take the time to look at these reports weekly because it will only take a few minutes. Plus the sooner you fix them the better.
While you can do a broken link report using a desktop tool like Screaming Frog, it will only report errors that are found within your site. It will not report errors from broken inbound links. That’s where Bing and Google’s Crawl Reports are invaluable.
Want some links for free? Keep an eye on these reports and salvage those 404 errors – broken links for some undiscovered page rank! And for more tips on how to redirect those broken links using a 301 redirect, read our highly popular guide to 301 redirects.
7. Check your Google My Business Page
If you’re working with a local business, it’s highly important to keep track of what’s going on with your Google My Business page. Google allows community edits and often automatically attaches images to a location, sometimes with disastrous results!
To make matters worse, Google often likes to change place pages themselves based on data from their trusted third parties. For example, merging your listing, changing your phone number, moving your pin marker, changing your address or various other sorts of mayhem.
Log into your Google My Business Account and making a weekly visit to be sure all is well will ensure you detect a problem without it going unnoticed weeks. It’s also a good chance to check out any new reviews, remember to click the More Reviews link to see all of the latest ones. Google will often email you to notify you of changes, but you cannot rely on that to be certain your data is accurate.
While you’re at it – go ahead and do this for your Bing Local listing as well as other important directory listings like TripAdvisor, Apple Maps Connect or Yelp if they’re critical to your business.
8. Are you Making These Mistakes with your Like Buttons?
All too often webmasters make a series of common AND costly errors when they install the Facebook Like button.
The first major error is setting the Like URL to the home page on every page, and not to the URL where the user is clicking the button. This results in plenty of Likes for your home page, but none to the intended product page, service, article, etc.
Another frequent error is when the Like button is setup to point to the business’s Facebook page and not pages on their website. From a SEO perspective, if you want to influence the search results with social interactions then you need these Likes to be for your site and not your Facebook page.
To check for these, go to your page with the Facebook Like button and right click to view source. Look at this section and see if there is a value for data-href= similar to the example below:
If the data-href value is missing, then a Like will give credit to the URL where it is displayed and you’re good to go.
The setting we’re specifically referring to here is the URL to Like setting found within the plugin page on the Facebook Like Plugin Page.
For a parting note on this subject, if you don’t have a Facebook Like button on your product or service page, consider adding it. Lots of companies put the button on their home page, but fail to put it on the product pages missing out on additional social votes.