I was a judge this year again for the SmartCompany web awards in the search category. It was a very strong field this year, with a very diverse group of sites. I immediately disqualified one as when I went to look at it, it was down. For the others I put together a score sheet of sorts to create a level playing field. I have no knowledge of how the sites are faring in search but my guess is the winner and runnerup are doing pretty well compared to the rest.
Here are the elements I marked against.
This is where I started. If your Google sitemap is radically different from what Google has indexed you have a problem. Either you have neglected your sitemap or Google is crawling things you don’t want it to. I was amazed that all the sites pretty much failed in this area. I checked out their sitemaps by simply surfing to them and then compared the URLs in the sitemap with ones Google had crawled. I simply divided the volume of URLs crawled by the URLs in the sitemap and made it a percentage. No one got 100 in fact one got single figures and it was a big site. As a starting point for SEO you need to get these two numbers as close as possible.
I crawled each site and looked at the number of 404s and on page 301s. Broken links inside the site are killer for SEO. On page 301s certainly don’t help. Both are symptoms of a possible low quality site.
Both of the winners used these well and were consistent with their keywords across the following elements.
The winners matched them up with the page titles.
There was one clear winner in that area. Not only were their H1s a clear match with Page Titles and SEF they carried through to their H2s as well.
The Winner & runner up did this perfectly.
Not a ranking signal but still important for search. It is what will usually appear in the search results. It is your call to action for the user.
I marked down anyone that was obviously trying to get artificial one. In one case they only had paid backlinks. I disqualified that site.
Once again not necessarily a ranking signal but important for users in search. I used the actual score that Google gave with their page speed test tool.
I used this more as a tie breaker. If all other elements were equal HTTPS would give the edge much the same was as Google would use it.
So important these days I was amazed that one site I looked at took 17 seconds to load. I pretty sure I didn’t even wait that long in 1995.
Make sure you check out all the winners in the various categories.
Jim’s been here for a while, you know who he is.