SEO For Startups #1: Performance, 404 and 500 Errors

Written by remco on May 1, 2011 in Internet - No comments

The Internet is full of SEO experts who continuously watch the latest changes in search engine algorithms and have mastered the art of SEO. Even though I think it’s somewhat overrated, SEO is still one of your marketing instruments which can help you grow your website so time we spend some time on this topic.

In the series “SEO For Startups” I will focus on what we call “low hanging fruit” because in my experience successful SEO is more about discipline and execution than it is about higher technology. Assuming you have unique quality content on your website simply following the steps in these series will optimize your positions in, and maximize traffic coming from search engines like Google. Btw, my focus will always be on Google for obvious reasons.

So, first thing you have got to do is start using Google Webmaster Tools, a service by Google which has become a super tool in SEO. Just go to Google Webmaster Tools, sign up and add your site(s) and you’re good to go.

Which brings us to a true SEO killer, stability, reliability and performance.


Now some might argue that the performance of your site has nothing to do with SEO but more with usability, I disagree. Some treat Google as being different from human visitors which in my opinion is bad practice, when your site is optimized for your target group it’s already for 80% optimized for search engines. Slow sites create higher bounce rates, lower average pageviews and less conversions, people are just not patient in the net. Well, the same goes for search engines like Google in a way, it’s a busy bot so it hates waiting for pages to load. So if your site is slow Google will index less pages per visit and it will impact you traffic from search as well as you KPI’s.

So make sure you’ve got a fast website f.i. by using memcache and make sure the connection between your datacenter and the Internet is fast. To help you analyze the speed of your website and find things to improve use Google Page Speed Lab.

500 and 404 errors

500 and 404 errors are your ENEMIES! Why, again you’re everyday human visitors don’t appreciate them and that’s exactly why search engines don’t appreciate them either. Search engines algorithms are build to score pages and websites in a way humans would do, meaning the more 500 and 404 errors Google finds on your website, the lower your score. Consequently your rankings will go down along with the daily number of visitors coming from Google. Believe me, I’ve had some migrations going wrong resulting a lots of 404′s and some 500′s and even though the problem was fixed in a few days it took 6 months before the organic search traffic was back at the old level. But in any case Google shouldn’t be your biggest concern, you serving crappy pages to real visitors so that should be your major concern.

I can’t tell you how to solve your 404 and 500 errors but I can tell you how to detect the problems using Google Webmaster Tools. Simply login and go to “Diagnostics -> Crawl Errors” and you will see exactly what errors were found and when they were found. Your target should always be to keep this section clean or at least keep the list really short.

Here an example of how it should NOT be…. (just had a migration gone bad)

People might think of this post as being simplistic but I can show you loads of serious websites that simply forget about or underestimate the consequences of having poor performance and errors on your site.

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