Is Your Website Search Engine “Friendly”? (Part I)

6 Questions to Ask that Will Help You Determine Whether Your Website is Search Engine Friendly

You have to crawl before you run, as the saying goes.  And before your website can be “optimized” for search it must be “friendly” to search engines.  That’s where “Search Engine Friendly” comes in.

Most of our business consulting clients have heard of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and some of them have heard of SEM (Search Engine Marketing), and I’ve blogged about those terms before.  However the one term that very few businesses have encountered is SEF, Search Engine Friendly.

Think of a store as an analogy.  If you want your store to encourage visitors, you’d better have the door unlocked and the lights on, right?  A nice window display and a flashing “open sign” would be nice as well.  I recently shot a brief video to make this point.  Watch the video to get the concept down, and then look below the video for 6 questions you can ask about your website and how to answer them (this post will deal with 2 of these questions, and we’ll deal with the rest of them in part 2 and part 3).  These questions and answers will help you make a quick determination about how friendly your website would be to Google, Bing, Yahoo, or any other search engine.

 

Question 1 – Can a Search Engine Crawl the Pages of Your Website?

To show your pages to searchers, a search engine first has to have your pages in its “index” (i.e. it’s database of web pages).  They use programs called robots or “spiders” to visit your site and find all its pages.  To determine whether the automated programs the search engines use can find your pages, here’s a quick method that is very effective.  Go to http://www.xml-sitemaps.com or a similar site (you can also use a program like Xenu Link Sleuth or Screaming Frog to do this step).

Enter your website homepage (see screen capture below):

screen capture of entering a url to a sitemap generator to check search engine friendliness

 

Once the program does it’s thing it will report results.  Here are the results for the test site I entered (by the way, I have no connection with this site, I chose them randomly for the example):

 

another screen capture of a sitemap generator that only found a single page

Notice how the spider only found 1 page.  This is a big problem.  It means that the site architecture (i.e. the way it’s navigation is structured) creates a huge barrier to search engine spiders.  There are ways to get around this, but they require a fair amount of effort and are always a class b solution.  If you have this problem, you need to find out why and get it fixed immediately.  Consult a developer if you need help, but get it done.

A few possible reasons a spider can’t crawl your website

  • poor url structure
  • flash-based navigation
  • a robots.txt file that is discouraging spiders

Question 2 – Does Your Home Page Load Extremely Slowly?

What do you do if you go to a site and you have to sit there about 10 seconds watching a spinning wheel on your screen instead of seeing the website you want to visit?  If you’re like most people, you hit the back button.  So do the search engines.   But sometimes a page can load slowly for you because you have a lousy internet connection or your computer is loaded up with viruses and malware.  Here’s how to tell if your site is slowly just for you, or for everyone.

Go to http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/ and plug in your website URL, but don’t hit Enter yet.

Click the “settings” link below the URL field (see below):

screen capture of pingdom to show how to check the load time of your web page

Set the checkpoint to the geographical location nearest you.  Now you can hit Enter or click the submit button.

If your site takes more than a few seconds to load (I would consider anything above 4 to be pretty slow) you have a slow loading site.  You may want to repeat this test several times during the day to make sure it wasn’t an unusual load condition at your website host (although if they regular periods where your site is slow to load you need to get a better hosting provider).  Again, correcting this problem is going to take a developer.

A few possible causes for slow web page load times

  • extremely large images
  • lots of javascript
  • poorly written javascript
  • a poorly configured or overloaded server
  • a web host with too little Internet bandwidth

In our next blog post we will give you two more questions to ask yourself or your developer to determine whether your website is open for business and a friendly place for Google and Bing to visit.

If this post is useful to you, I’d appreciate you giving it a Plus One, a Like on Facebook, or a Tweet!

 

Ross Barefoot

Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.       

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