Before we dig into some of the nuts and bolts of tweaking  your website to avoid Google penalties, SMS Web Designer, Melissa McDermott, responded to my post about secure transfer protocol with two additional pieces of information regarding HTTPS and Security Certificates that I felt were important to share:

1_ Some hosting providers charge you per year for dedicated hosting (your own IP, instead of a shared server), which you need for an SSL.

2_ Some browsers give the full page warning now when accessing an unsecured site, asking the user to continue if they understand the risks, which can scare visitors away.

This underlines in red the importance of switching to HTTPS sooner than later and finding a hosting provider who can affordably and reliably keep your site secure. SMS sets our hosting fees based on bandwidth usage and continuous tech support with access to an onsite professional. And while ongoing web maintenance and development may never be an exact science, we understand the importance of keeping websites functioning as intended and well protected with a dedicated team. For more info, contact us via our team email.

So what is a website audit? In brief, an audit involves crawling a website’s content and code using sophisticated software to learn if it is compliant with Google search algorithms. Google is the Internet’s top search engine and wants to stay that way, so it runs algorithms to ensure that its users receive the best results possible for their searched keywords and terms. To do this, it uses an intensive and always growing set of criteria to boost useful, user-friendly and information-rich websites and penalize those sites that appear to Google bots as “spam” sites or low-quality web destinations. A site of low quality may not have new or updated content, or its design could be confusing to navigate. Google bots don’t have eyes like you and me, but there are coding clues that tell them if a site is full of ads, poorly written, or contaminated with broken links and they’re getting more sophisticated by the day.

When SMS runs an audit, we get a trove of information that explains a website through the eyes of a Google bot and it’s our job to analyze it and see what needs immediate fixing. Those areas that need fixing first are called errors, and the more errors there are the greater chance a website will be hit with an algorithmic penalty. Penalties punish websites by pushing them down on search result pages (SERPS), leaving room at the top for their competition. In this series we’ll examine the most common error areas that may be putting your site in SEO danger, and offer suggestions on how they can be fixed and even improved for better rankings.

Meta Descriptions. These bits of content and/or coding are vital to getting clicks on results pages. They are generally defined as an HTML element, 160 characters long, that describes and summarizes the contents of your page to search engines. Basically, these are the little paragraphs of text that one uses to determine if a result is worth exploring. If each description isn’t customized to represent its individual page, Google gets confused as to how to reward relevant search terms by sending traffic to the correct information. If they’re missing (becoming loaded with random content), duplicated or poorly written, expect a search result beneath those pages that target users with enticing and relevant copy complete with calls to action. In a very real way, meta descriptions are “mini-ads” for each page on your website. Everyone sees them and uses them to direct their next move. It’s well worth the time to polish them.

Next up: content, and why simply loading up with keywords or copying company literature may be hurting your rankings.

– S. Norton

For more info on obtaining an audit on your website to avoid Google penalties, send an email to [email protected] and/or reply in the comments below.

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