Web Hosting and SEO

Doing an SEO Review When You are Not the Webmaster

If you are the President of an organization or a business owner with a web site that was constructed by someone else, you need to make sure that the site is up-to-date in how it appears to Google, Bing and the other search engines; if you do not, you risk customers and potential members never finding you when they are looking for your organization or business. The process of designing a site to be found by users doing Google, Bing, Yahoo and Duckduckgo queries is called “search engine optimization” or SEO. Setting the site up for this can be quite technical, but testing to make sure that it was done is well within the capability of a non-technical organization officer or business owner. For most of these tests, all you need to do is cut and paste one of your web site’s links into a testing page and then look at the output. Figuring out whether or not you have a problem is pretty easy. If you do have a problem, you will need to recruit someone with the necessary skills to update your site.

Query on the Organization Name

Using the major search engines (Google, Bing, Duckduckgo, and Yahoo), query your site’s name; your web site should be the first item for each of the search engines. If it is not, you have some work to do. If the universal record location (URL) that the search engine shows is something like mydomain.org/?page_id=290, you need to do some work to turn on “search engine friendly” URLs for your site.

If your site is the first one and has good-looking URLs, you may have some work to do, but for you, some of the basic stuff has already been done.

For this test, Firefox is the easiest browser to use; enter the name of the society in the search bar and then click on the magnifying glass icon to choose which search engine to use.

Query Likely Search Terms

Next, query likely search terms like “german genealogy society st. louis” to see how you rank; if you are not the first, you definitely have work to do by doing the following:

  • Increasing the use of keyword and description metadata
  • Increasing the use of structured data
  • Writing more frequent articles.

Test Your Site for Structured Data

Structured data is a way that websites tell Google and other search engines exactly how the search engine should classify the information on a site for people, places, events and numerous other things. Schema.org gives a complete listing of all the different types of structured data. To see if your webmaster has installed and configured the right plugins to do structured data on your site, go to Google’s structured data testing tool and paste in the URLs for the following:

  • Your home page. Either this or the “about” page should have structured data for the “organization” tag. For an example, use the home page for this site. You will see some errors listed for articles; Google “requires” some attributes that may not necessarily be appropriate for some pages.
  • Your officer’s page. This should show structured data for the “people” tag, with one for each officer. For an example, use the “people” page for this site.
  • Your calendar page. This should show structure data for the “event” tag, with one for each calendar entry. For an example, use the “Events” page on this site.

Test your Facebook Images

When someone shares a link to your site on Facebook, there are several types of Facebook-only structured data that Facebook uses to come up with how it displays a link to your site–an event perhaps. To see how Facebook looks at your site, go to Facebook’s Sharing Debugger and see how things look. If it does not look good, talk to your web-master about adding the necessary markup and/or creating additional images specifically in the sizes that Facebook likes.

Test your robots.txt File

Every site should have a robots.txt file that tells the Google, Bing and other robots what links and directories on a site to crawl and what links not to crawl. It should contain a reference to the sitemap, which gives a directory of the pages on your site and when they were updated. The robot should look at the sitemap and then crawl only the pages that are new or were updated since the last crawl. See the robots.txt file on this site as an example. Check to make sure that your site has an entry for sitemap. If it does, your webmaster has probably configured it and you can move on to the next step.

You should test the robots.txt file using Google’s robots.txt tester. If this does not work, have your web-master add you as a read-only user to Google Search Console.. If your webmaster has not registered your site with Google Search Console, make sure to do that, as the Search Console will tell you about problems on your site’s configuration.

Look at Your Sitemap

The sitemap shows Google, Bing and other crawlers what pages are new and what pages have been updated since your site was last crawled. See the sitemap on this website as an example. If your site does not have one, your webmaster will have to install and configure a plugin to create the sitemap. On Wordpress sites, Yoast is one of several SEO plugins that creates a basic sitemap, while on Joomla OSMap is a plugin that creates a basic sitemap.

Ask your Web-master to Add You as a Read-only User on Google Search Console

Finally, ask your web-master to add you as a read-only user on Google Search Console. First, this will show you whether or not your site is registered with Google, and second, the Search Console has several tools that will tell you about SEO problems on your web site. You should specifically look at the sections on

  • Crawl problems. If your robots.txt file is mis-configured or your sitemap is broken, this will tell you.
  • Sitemap configuration. Make sure that you have a sitemap and that Google is using it.

Bing has a similar registration service; make sure that your site is registered with Bing as well as Google.

Summary

Testing your website for good SEO is both important and easy, even for a non-technical organization officer or business owner. A hour of work can make a big difference in how well your organization appears in search–a critical part of your marketing program.

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