Microformats, Broken Links and Other Important SEO Factors
November 15, 2017//3,583 words
It’s no secret that the list of possible SEO factors goes on and on and it’s nearly impossible to keep up with it all. In fact, I spend most of my day in SEO and I’ll be the first to tell you how much I don’t know! I want to begin to go through a series covering over 200 of the top factors – some confirmed by Google, others speculative based on research. In this first post I am going to cover some more mainstream SEO factors such as microformats and broken links as well as some lesser known influencers that include parked domains and link title attributes.
I trust that this will help to educate, inspire, and give you the tools to succeed. It’s not always easy and convenient, but you will begin to notice the positive effects on your site.
PAGE LOADING SPEED
Making your page lightning fast is a big project – especially if the website has been around for a while. To get you started, refer to my article on how website speed matters more than you think. In brief, here are a few factors affecting page loading speed:
- Images Over 100KB – If the image is secondary to the content on the page, the file size should be reduced. Again, refer to the post linked to above but there are multiple ways to do that and you will likely not notice the difference at first glance.
- Images not Scaled – Often, an image is loaded and then resized to fit the layout of the page. This doesn’t reduce the file size however, as the browser will first load the entire image and then refer to the CSS code used to shrink the image. A tip would be to determine the specifications needed for the site and load the image in those predefined specifications.
Links both inbound and outbound are great for your SEO. However, what’s great one day can destroy you the next. Over time, these sites that you have linked to have changed. They have either expired and gone offline, or they have been rebuilt and contain a different sitemap then they once used to. This means that the relative pages you previously linked to as resourceful, now link to a dead page or a 404 error page. As Google crawls your page and comes across these broken links, they assume that your website is not being kept up with. They assume that it’s not active and producing up to date content but rather the site is outdated and no longer relevant.
Fortunately, there’s a better way to test your links than to click on them one by one. There are many online tools that will check the links for you. One of them is brokenlinkcheck. Let’s go through a brief test with my site:
Now, fortunately at this point, my site is only 8 pages so there is not much to crawl, but you can see how easy it is to check for broken links. To see how broken links would show:
As you can see, you can view the specific URL, page source, and the error code that shows when the link is activated. Bottom line, if any part of your SEO can be this easy, you need to do it!
Parked domains are perhaps common to some people on the internet but not others. In fact, I’d like to bet that 95% of you have used a parked domain in the past without realizing it. Parked domains refer to domains that are purchased but do not have their own unique site content. These typically point to a landing page or advertising page. You’ve used a parked domain before if you have started to set up a website on WordPress, but purchased the domain name first and then pointed it to a page that simply states that the “website is coming soon” or something such as that.
Perhaps the more common way they are actually used is by site owners who have purchased additional domains for websites they want to build in the future. In the meantime, they are all set up to duplicate the content of the site that is in fact live until the new site is created. This setup is going to deduct the SEO for the website for 2 reasons: parked domains and duplicate content. The parked domains are going to be in the negative column before they are actually used for their desired purpose, and all of the sites (including the live site) are going to be deducted for duplicate content.
You know what’s an even easier method to do this that won’t hurt you? Just put a 301 redirect on your new domains to have them direct to the site that is live.
LINKING DOMAIN AGE
The linking domain age of other sites pointing to you can positively affect your SEO rankings. Consider this a factor that, in and of itself, could tell Google that your webpage is relevant. This is a response to a technique that is popular among blackhat marketers –paying for links. For more information on verifying the quality of your backlinks, refer to this post about protecting your website by Neil Patel.
Google gives a bump to sites that have been around for a long time and are therefore considered legitimate. Your website can feed off of the domain age of another site if your content is quality enough to generate a backlink. There are many ways to strategize this, but perhaps the most common is guest blogging at another site who will then post a link to your site in return. This is perhaps the best way to generate traffic to a young blog.
LINK TITLE ATTRIBUTION
Another less popular and debated SEO factor is a link’s title attribute. This is the text that appears when you hover over a link. The link title is different from the link anchor text. See the example below:
<a href=”/marketingtrailblazer.com” title=”SEO and Website Optimization Strategies“>Marketing Trailblazer</a>
In the code above, the text in green specifies the link title and the orange text is the anchor.
The link title attribute has been suggested by some as having no effect, however, I have included it on this list to be a best practice for your SEO efforts going forward. It doesn’t take much time to insert this into your links – whether adding it to your code like I did above or inserting it easily using a platform such as WordPress. Keep in mind, however, do not just duplicate the anchor text. Regardless of any effect this may have on SEO, you should be more focused on user experience.
Refer to this great article by Search Engine Journal in regards to the link title attribute. And keep in mind this snippet of information from the article:
Microformats are probably mid-tier as far as popular SEO ranking factors are concerned. I come across many sites who do not have these installed as well as a few that do. Microformats are important because they bring life to your page. I know – that’s vague. Let me explain. When Google crawls your site, it reports back the content and structure of the page. What it does not do automatically is determine what the content is or what it means. For example, my name Tyler Willis will be seen as 2 words, “tyler” and “willis.” What I want Google to understand is that those 2 words are my name. Microformats give meaning to the text on the page.
Let’s look at a few examples:
<a class=”url” href=”/example.com”>Example</a>
In the example above, “vcard” indicates that a microformat is included within the div tags. And then the class name of “url” is given to the link tag indicating that the URL included is the home page. Biggest thing to remember here is that the “vcard” class needs to be assigned to the parent tag of the tag including the microformat.
Here is another example:
In this example noted above, notice the “vcard” class which alerts that there are microformats included. The next level down is a span with a class of “n.” This signifies that there is a structured name included within its tag. On the next level down from there we finally reach our microformat information – the “given-name” class refers to someone’s first name, and the “family-name” class refers to an individual’s last name. And then following that is the closing span tag which signifies the end to the “n” class and the closing div tag stating that the “vcard” is ending.
If you are new to microformats, there is a little bit of information to get your head around. I’ve been there – I get it!
They are worth it though and help to bring your search result to life as well.
See this example of an implemented microformat and how it can add to your search result:
You can see above that Google has crawled this page and found that some data had additional meaning that simply text. As Google tries to increase the positive user experiences on the internet, it will take pieces of your site and add them to your result that could possibly help with that user experience. In this case, I notice the recipe is going to take 45 minutes to cook. That will very likely affect my action to click or not click on the result.
USER BROWSING HISTORY
The user browsing history does have an effect on SEO, but I’m sorry – there is nothing you can do about it! I know, what a tease, right? If you are seeking to become educated in the world of SEO, it’s still good to know, however!
It’s very likely that if you search for “hotel” and I search for “hotel” our results are going to be different. Your results will be heavily influenced by where you live where as my results show me hotels primarily in Maryland and Washington, D.C. Location is just one of the ways that Google attempts to personalize search results.
Another way that Google will alter your search results is through personalization. One duo of keywords that I search often is “fantasy baseball.” Everyone can have a hobby, right? Because of that, when I search for the Boston Red Sox it’s likely that I would get a few fantasy baseball links thrown in there as well. I appreciate that – even if I’m not looking for anything fantasy related at the moment I would still probably be swayed to look at it. Your personalized results are also affected by the search results made by your Google+ connections. This one may be a curveball (especially if you’re not choosy about who you’re connected to on Google+) but I can understand how my social media connections can have some influence.
A couple of other ways in which your results can be unique to others is through the many different data centers owned by Google updating (propagating new information) at different times as well as algorithm testing. Check out the great article by Susan explaining a lot of the information I referred to in this section on browsing history.
How many pins on Pinterest your page has will affect its SEO ranking. New or unfamiliar withPinterest? It has over 176 million users in which 100 million of them are active. Pinterest is worth $11 billion and while it’s been known to be primarily female driven, male attendance was up 120% in 2015. 66% of people are inspired by their Pinterest boards. The main thing is that any platform that is as large as this is going to garner attention from Google. Any question about whether or not social media affects your SEO should be thrown out the window. It is one of the clearest examples of how active and relevant your website is. Pinterest is no different. It may be smaller than Facebook or Twitter, but it’s still a bohemoth and should therefore be appreciated.
How do you make sure your website is “Pinterest friendly?” First, have it verified with Pinterest. This involves setting up a Pinterest account and then placing given code inside of the header text of your page. Refer to Pinterest’s website for instructions on how to complete this. Your website also needs to be outfitted with “Pin it” buttons. Similar to a Facebook share button this will allow your visitors to easily share the wealth! The final thing I would do would be to include high-level graphics and images on your page. I don’t mean images with large file sizes (to get my opinion on that, read my article about making your website lightning fast), I mean colorful, vibrant, and interest images.
Pinterest is yet another powerful tool at your disposal!
LINKS TO BAD NEIGHBORHOODS
The one thing I asked of my realtor when we looked for a new home a couple of years ago was that the new house be located in a family friendly neighborhood. You see, I knew this would not only be good for our current health and lifestyle, but also for the future value of our home.
Your website is located in a neighborhood depending on the links to and from your page. To determine what your neighborhood looks like, run a scan on the backlinks into your site and then take a look at those websites. Analyze the following information:
- Bad Links: Think PPC – pills, porn, or casino. If you see any sites or links to these pages, get out!
- Too many links to content: The content on your page should greatly outnumber the amount of links. If you are seeing 50-50 or a worse ratio then count that as a strong negative.
- Spam: Are the pages in your neighborhood cluttered with a large amount of spam? Maybe a sign of the site not being monitored very well.
- A lot of Ads: Some people’s greediness just gets the best of them. I don’t know how many sites I’ve been to with 1 paragraph of text and ads covering the page.
- Poorly Written Content: Now, this has nothing to do with how good of a writer you are, but rather, any site owner who uses “spun” content (taking an article and using software to replace certain words pretending to be a unique piece of content.
If any of your “neighbors” exhibit these characteristics, then it’s time to lock your doors and put up fences. Unfortunately, you can’t move your website, but you can work to replace your neighbors. Visit the awesome page by Neil Patel outlining a lot of this key information about links to bad neighborhoods.
If you are buying or selling links on your site then you most likely are or will soon feel the wrath of Google. Many SEO factors are not 100% confirmed by Google but rather through testing by thousands of marketers. In regards to selling links, Google is not shy as you can see by the articles here and here.
As Google states, this can involve an if I link to you will you link to me scenario as well as simply paying for links. The rule of thumb here is to include “no follow” attributes to your links (rel=”nofollow”). This will insure that you are still able to have and occupy ads without Google crawling these ads and dinging your ranking because of it.
Like all of the tips on my website, if you are trying to buck the system, it won’t work. However, if you’re not trying to buck the system, you’re probably doing okay in the blackhat department. Still good to check though.
This wraps up the beginning of my series of covering over 200 SEO factors – both big and small. Please come along for the ride and sign up to join my mailing list. I will help to both educate you and get your website to start working for you. You already made the large investment to build your website, now let’s start to recoup that investment!