SEO Triage – Redirection – a Fat Free preview

Ian Lurie Apr 1 2010

As I’m working on the Fat Free Guide to Internet Marketing, I’ll be rolling out little bits and pieces for preview purposes. Here’s part of the SEO Triage section. It’s not as pretty as it will be, since it’s shoehorned into my blog, you should be able to get the idea.

This is a huge project for me. If I didn’t occasionally publish a little of it here and there, I’d probably go (more) insane.

The SEO Triage is a quick, 10-step review of a site to find and diagnose any oh-my-god-are-you-serious type problems. This is just one of those steps:

The SEO Triage

The Triage should take no more than 90 minutes. Anyone at Portent can perform an SEO Triage. To perform SEO Triage, you need:

A typical Triage finds 5-10 simple, easily-executed SEO tweaks. Note that these triage items are in priority order. #1 is more important than #10. Got it? Here’s how you do it:

Step 1: Check for Redirection problems

Roadblocks

  1. In the Web Developer Toolbar, click ‘Disable Meta Redirects’ and ‘Disable All Javascript’ under the ‘Disable’ menu:
    disabling javascript and meta refresh in the web developers toolbar
  2. Then visit the site’s home page.
  3. Do you get a blank page?.
  4. If no, then move to cloaking. If you answered ‘yes’, the site has a major problem. Chances are, the redirect that’s set up is preventing search engines from entering the site. To fix the problem, do the following:
  5. While viewing the blank page, click view>source or the equivalent. That will show you the page source code.
  6. Look for something like
    <meta name=”refresh” url=”some web address here”
    The key is the meta refresh. Those two words together mean you’re using a meta refresh tag (clearly). Search engines don’t like meta refresh, so it could be hurting you.
  7. If you don’t see that, look for something like
    <script type=”text/javascript”>location.href=”some web address here”
    If you find something like that, chances are you’re redirecting using javascript. The key is the location.href, which is a javascript command that tells a visiting browser “Go here instead.” Search engines will typically ignore javascript. That means, when they hit this page, they stop dead, and your site doesn’t get indexed.
  8. If the site is yours, remove the refresh or javascript and make the target of the redirect the home page, instead.
  9. If the site is not yours, you’ll want to write/communicate something like this (You can cut-and-paste the message below, if you want – be sure to edit to suit):


Note: Some sites use this kind of redirection to display an interstitial ad that shows up before you can see the site. That’s fine, but there’s a better way: Use DHTML to put the interstitial in a layer on the normal home page. When someone visits, use javascript to show the layer over top of the page. Same effect, but no redirection, and search engines will ignore the interstitial.

Cloaking

  1. Keep your browser set as it was in the previous step. Go to the site’s base address.
  2. Do you get stuck on some form of ‘gateway’ page that isn’t the home page?
  3. If no, then move on. If you answered ‘yes’, the site has a major problem. Chances are, the redirect that’s set up is putting the site at risk for penalties from the search engines. To fix the problem, do the following:
  4. If the site is yours, remove the cloaking/redirection. Make the home page that most visitors see the true home page, so that search engines will find the same thing if they go to www.mysite.com.
  5. If the site is not yours, you’ll need to communicate the problem to the client.


This section is strictly meatball surgery, meant to keep your patient alive. You can read a lot more about redirection and how search engines (mis)handle it in SEO and redirection.

What do you think? I’m very interested in feedback as I pull this together – leave your comments below:

 

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tags : conversation marketing

6 Comments

  1. Good stuff. Keep it up! Looking forward to the next installment.

  2. Laurent Perrier

    Laurent Perrier

    Can’t wait for the next step! I’ve been wanting to read an SEO from scratch guide from you for a while now.

  3. Laurent Perrier

    Laurent Perrier

    I’ve been wanting to ask you about apache redirects. You don’t mention it here so I’m hoping it’s ok to use them but I’ll ask anyway.
    I redirect http://mydomain.com to http://mydomain.com/home to keep the URLs uniform between every page of the website.
    Is this bad practice?

  4. Ian

    Ian

    @Laurent I think it’s always better to point right at mydomain.com, because even 301 redirects will lose pagerank over time.

  5. Ian, under cloaking #1, does “base address” mean the same as “home page” (used in #2 above)?

  6. Ian

    Ian

    @Dale yes, sorry – consistent vocabulary is always my biggest problem.

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