SEO Checklist with Vanessa Fox

Ms. Fox Knows Things You (Probably) Don't

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When you are evaluating your website from an SEO/Indexing/Crawlability perspective there are a few things to keep in mind and some important questions you may not be asking yourself. What questions are you asking yourself? Share with WebProNews readers.

I managed to catch up with Vanessa Fox at the SMX Advanced show in Seattle last week.  We talked at length about some of the things you need to keep in mind in terms of assessing the search viability/index status of a website.  You can watch the video obviously to get the entire scoop, but I thought I might bullet point some of the more important topics in a separate article.

Important point number 1:
A traffic problem is not always a ranking problem.  Many of us are too quick to assume that a drop in traffic is an indicator of some sort of issue with our search rank. 

You may not have a ranking issue at all (per se).  You could have a crawling problem, there could be parts of your sites getting crawled but not indexed, you could have some sort of extraction issue…  any number of things. 

The thing here to keep in mind is that you need to develop some sort of infrastructure to diagnose problems.  Start with some ranking report benchmarks.  Generally speaking, you want to be able to know about where you stand in the rankings for some of your top queries.  Know about where you stand in the SERPs for those queries and that will give you a general idea of any significant ranking movement.

Important point number 2:
Organize your pages into categories.  Analyze your server logs for search engine bot activity on a per category basis. This will help you have a better idea about how well the bots are spidering/indexing your content.  You may find that categories ‘A’ and ‘C’ are being actively crawled by the search bots, but ‘B’ is getting very little attention from them.

These various category pages may also have significant variation in terms of their crawl rates.  Some of your category sections may be crawled at a rate of 10 pages per day, some at 100 pages per day.  Being able to see how many pages the crawlers pick up from the individual categories gives you a good idea about how long it takes the bots to get through your whole site.

Important point number 3:
Vanessa Fox Search Engines aren’t going to spend all their time crawling all your content.  Crawl efficiency is the name of the game… If you have a lot of pages you need to be able to let the crawlers know what pages are the most important for them to crawl around on.  If you don’t want registration pages, error pages, things like that -all non productive pages.  So you would want to keep the engines off of things that are not productive for you so they can spend more time dealing with the ‘good stuff’.

Important point number 4:
Create comprehensive, canonical .xml sitemaps for each of your categories (the categories have to be declared canonical before you can do this).  In other words, you can create a sitemap index file that links your multiple sitemaps and submit it to Google Webmaster Central. 

This gives you a very granular and accurate assessment of how well Google is crawling the various parts of your site.  Better yet, you get access to all the cool little graphs and tools in Webmaster Central sitemap reports.  This will allow you to identify not only how much and what areas of your content are being crawled, but also how much of that content is being indexed.

So if you see that Google is crawling everything you have in category ‘A’ but only indexing 20% of it, you have a solid spot to start looking for reasons why. 

Important point number 5:
Make sure you actually have a problem before you start running around trying to fix a problem.  Seems like it should go without saying maybe, but as Vanessa points out, a decrease in your overall indexed pages for example, doesn’t necessarily mean you have a problem.  Google may have simply de-iindexed some of your ineffective or duplicated pages for example. 

If you haven’t had a drop off in search traffic, then you probably don’t have a significant search problem.  Changes are not necessarily problems.  Seems like quite a folks in this business have a little trouble with that distinction.

So there you have it.  5 pretty solid tips from one of our favorite former Googlers.  I would of course urge you to check out our video to get it right from her – she says it all a lot better than I do. 

Let us know what you think of the video. Did you find Vanessa’s advice helpful? Discuss here.

SEO Checklist with Vanessa Fox
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  • http://souravs.corexprts.com Sourav

    Awesome post.
    Really got some new points to learn and that also from former Googler.
    But I have one question.
    How can I solve the localization problem which Google has introduced recently.For example I am based in India but I want to target clients of Canada then how can I optimize my website?

    Thanks to Mike and Vanessa Fox

    • http://spidermarket.wordpress.com Top Keyword Search

      In your meta title tag and description is where you need to add the local areas. Then get links for those local terms.

  • http://websearchmaven.com search blogger

    A very good article on some of the dos and don’t. There can be a lot of overkill in this area. Thanks for the info

  • http://www.india-designers.net/ India Designers

    Useful Tips. Thanks for sharing

  • http://www.writtenbysumer.com Spencer Spellman

    Glad to see some points that go beyond the typical SEO pointers. Especially some good remarks about not only monitoring traffic, but monitoring to make sure your site is “crawl-friendly”

  • http://sankar.info Sankar

    Hi Mike,

    Vanessa fox and mattcutts are the right persons to help SEOs. Whenever i have doubt in SEO, I will first directly go to the Mattcutts and vanessa fox blog and search for the relevant information. If something i can’t find over there then i will look for alternatives.


  • http://makemoneyeasyhome.blogspot.com/ Mccullum

    good information.I especially liked the point on categories.

    • http://www.ultralog.net Webmaster Ultra

      I agree, the point on categories is a good one.

      Nice tips overall.

  • http://www.homesteadusers.com Homestead User

    This article and video are very helpful in understanding that SEO is so much more than having some good keyword phrases and getting your content organized well.

    I also had a thought that good SEO takes work.

  • http://ripsychotherapy.com Mike A.

    The article says: “If you don’t want registration pages, error pages, things like that -all non productive pages. So you would want to keep the engines off of things that are not productive for you so they can spend more time dealing with the ‘good stuff’. ”

    Is this best accomplished through “no follow” in robot.txt?

  • http://www.cluey.com.au cluey

    Just more proof that proactive SEO will achieve better results than being reactive.

  • http://officialsafetyandsecurity.com Official Safety and Security

    I’ve had some very bad experiences with less than legitimate SEO companies in my short experience as a web site owner of safety and security products. I really don’t trust any SEO person now so I do a lot of it myself. Thanks, Mike, for the great information.

  • http://adigrahito.blogspot.com Adi Grahito

    I have a problem my old page is not index anymore on search engine. What shoud I do? and Why can happening like this? How to prevent this condition, in order my article can stay on search engine?

    • http://seotools.kreationstudio.com SEO Tools

      Sitemaps the best way to get your pages index again.
      Get some quality backlinks to the page that has dropped. Quality does not mean PR but from a source which is often crawled by search engines..

  • http://www.firmalatter.dk/latterkurser-og-workshops/latterkursus.htm FirmaLatter

    You guys are taking it to a new level here! Wonderful to have the description of something I go around wondering “what if…” Great stuff that made me smile :-)

  • http://www.linkedin.com/companies/166519/TSL?trk=pro_other_cmpy Neo

    Atlast got some new points to learn to optimize my website.
    All over the internet I found only same information each and everywhere.
    And this information from Fox can be relied upon too.


  • http://www.appgiveaway.com Al


    I have just launched a website 2 weeks ago (www.appgiveaway.com), its doing very well. I am not relying on Google for traffic at this moment in time as I understand it is early days for Google to recognise the website being there!

    I am focussing on PR and building links as well as content on the website.

    Can anyone say whether the website will score well eventually in Google i.e from the way is is constructed?

    I look forward to hearing from you Guys :-)

    • http://www.sweetpixels.co.uk Sahus Pilwal

      For site content I would have between 4 – 6 keywords per page as apposed to 1 keyword per page which you for some pages. Plus you have made no use of H1 and H2 headers. Just having a quick look I found those possible improvements you could make. I’m sure there are many more improvements for site content/structure/link building etc.

  • http://www.ninebyblue.com Vanessa Fox

    Swamped this week but will post some answers to the questions here early next week. If you’re in San Francisco, come by my seo/dev summit tomorrow and get answers in person!

  • http://www.PowerHuntersOnline.com Link building strategies

    Great video, would love to see what your audit report would look like for a sample site. We have great link building strategies for sites and always love to visit webpronews for more ideas.

  • http://www.playingcardsandmore.com Tom

    Good advice regarding doing research to identify if a problem exists before panicing.

  • http://mittalseo.wordpress.com Sangeeta Mittal

    Good Points!!!

  • http://www.sweetpixels.co.uk Sussex SEO

    When page copy and site structure are not available directly to the company providing the SEO consultancy/strategy. I often see advice being given by benchmark or analytical reports which the client is supposed to action with the web developer or whoever deals with site maintenance i.e. fix broken links, make changes to page meta tags, blog on certain keywords etc etc. The problem is 99% of the time the client is unable to digest the benchmarking report thus unable to discuss with their web support people what adjustments are required to improve rankings or search results all whilst the client is paying a healthy retainer to a SEO company for pretty much nothing. People need to collaborate better before sites are maintained and structured better for search.

  • http://www.dulyon.com/ Loose Gemstones

    Not to offend Vanessa, who is a fantastic SEO, but the video and points outlined are available, and have been available as tips in most SEO blogs for years.

  • http://www.absoluteinternetmarketing.co.uk/web_marketing Simon Colley

    Always useful to be reminded of going back to basics to check traffic issues etc. In addition, as usual Google try and make life easier as they offer an xml Sitemap generator tool (http://code.google.com/p/googlesitemapgenerator/) that you can then submit through Google webmaster tools, helpful to those who aren’t very technical etc.

  • http://seotools.kreationstudio.com SEO Tools

    Though the suggestions are excellent what we need to understand is when Google bots crawl a site they generally crawl the content of it not the design but when a visitor is on your site frankly speaking he wants a site which is well presented and not a html page with content or blue links all over it.
    So it is very important to keep your site open for both of them.. if you miss either of it.. you are at loss.

  • http://www.spiderwebsites.com.au Guest

    Hi, I have spent a fair bit of time reading about SEO, and I have come up with a checklist for people starting out. I would love to know what you think of it. I am getting a few hits on a pretty new website, and have managed to get a google rating of 2 within a couple of months, so it seems to be working for me. I also think that Google local business is great. I have done all of my research and work on my site for free. Sure paying for SEO would get better results, but you can get a lot of stuff for free if you have the time to search etc. I also have links to a lot of free SEO tools on my website. The address is www.spiderwebsites.com.au and the seo checklist is on the home page.

  • http://www.beltatex.com Guest

    Vanessa is hot in my point of view, sorry for posting an out of subject post like that, but I felt I must say it.

  • http://www.relaxinggardens.com/planters.html planters

    Nice 2 hear from you

  • http://www.homesteadusers.com SEO Homestead

    This is an excellent video. I am coming away with a greater understanding of SEO that is out of the normal box we see online. Most people talk about content and backlinks.

    It was good to learn things about how to handle a traffic drop and trouble shoot a site. As my website is growing, I see how there are many fluctuations, but the big picture is that search traffic is constantly increasing.

    The greatest thing I learned here is that when Google removes some of my similar pages from the index that it could be a good thing because they may be placing greater importance on one page in the SERPS.

  • http://www.wordsofvalue.com/ Nikki May

    Hi Mike! Just wanted to say thanks for this very valuable info. Great interview!

    I will be a “regular” here – I have learnt so much on SEO!

  • http://www.pugetseoservices.com Seattle SEO Company

    Lots of good advice here. Will definitely have to share this with some of my clients.

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