Technical SEO blog

Weekly writings on the more technical aspects of search engine optimization. Not written for beginners but for other online marketeers.

Free tool to check HTTP status codes

For a potential clients website I wanted to check the XML sitemap for errors. I had a suspicion the file contained links to that no longer worked (301 redirects and 404 errors) but without having access to the Search Console I had no quick way to check.
SEO tool HTTP headers
To solve this I wrote some PHP code to get the HTTP request headers of an array of URLs. I thought someone else might find it useful so after polishing it a bit I published it online.

Free SEO tool: Bulk Check HTTP status codes

Tracking mailto: and tel: links in Google Analytics

Tracking mailto: and tel: links with Google Analytics

You probably have event tracking set up for filling out a contact form but many websites also contain direct mailto: and tel: links. Customers that pick up the phone and call are usually very valuable but can be hard to track. With some Javascript you can very easily track these conversions in Google Analytics.

I’ve found this to be a great metric to track on sites that contain site-wide (e.g. footer) links with direct contact methods. With client work it’s become default to set up conversions for these mailto: and tel: clicks. Here’s how you can do it as well.

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Extensive /robots.txt guide for SEOs

/robots.txt extensive beginners guide
This is a “from beginner to advanced” guide to /robots.txt. Each instruction contains advice on common mistakes and pitfalls. Written for beginning SEOs and marketers but full of helpful info for people from all knowledge levels.

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Experiment: Does Google do OCR on images?

To test if Google does any Optical Character Recognition (OCR) on images found on websites and uses that information in it’s index I wanted to run a small experiment. So I published an article with new images contain some simple text and waited to see if the page would rank for the words on the images.

 

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Google SERP Counter (Extension for Chrome)

I’ve developed a teeny little extension for the Chrome browser called Google SERP Counter. It does only one thing: It adds the position of a result next to the search results on Google.

google serp counter
Google SERPs with the counter showing

Download Google SERP counter

Want to try it out? Download Google SERP Counter on the Chrome Web Store. The code is also freely available on Github.com/MartijnOud/SERPCounter if you want to run it as an unpacked extension.

The extension supports custom results per pages* and keeps track of the current page to display the correct position.

Best way to use it?

Google SERP counter hide optionIn your Google Search Settings you can change how many results display per page. I have it set at the highest of 100 per page. In chrome://extensions/ you can also tick the “Allow in incognito” box (Extension contains no tracking scripts) so it work in new Incognito Windows. Lastly you might want to right click on the extension icon in the Omnibar and click “Hide in Chrome Menu”.

Now that you are all set up you’ll never have to count again! This is especially useful when analyzing SERPs and you’ve jumped halfway down the page with a “Find” command.

* Due to the way the extension works if you set a higher “results per page” the count is incorrect on the last search result page.

Here is why every CMS needs a Snippet Preview

The first plugin I install on all my WordPress blogs is Yoast SEO. It’s one of my favorite plugins and frankly indispensable because it automatically generates a beautiful XML Sitemap, takes care of your canonical tags and allows you to configure you titles and meta descriptions. But hands down my favorite feature is the live Snippet preview. Here’s why every CMS needs a snippet preview like the one in Yoast SEO.

Lets say you manage SEO for an Ecommerce client and you’ve done all you can to optimize the product pages. You set up rich snippets, optimized the default template of the title tag and interlinked products to build some solid internal links. You added some great custom titles and meta descriptions for the most important products. The trouble comes with scalability: you can’t give all products the same amount of attention and new products are being added all the time!

How a Snippet Preview can help

By adding a snippet preview in your CMS you can tackle this problem because you get everybody who works on content involved in optimizing a page (or product) for SEO. Unlike a standard input field this preview instantly reminds people of Google and the importance of SEO.

snippet preview in cms
A basic snippet preview (Source: Horlogebanden Specialist CMS). This product still has the default automatically generated content. The preview encourages customization.

Besides being a constant reminder of SEO a tool like this can help you make your search results eye-catching. If you hate seeing ellipsis ( … ) in your meta description and want everything to fit perfectly you can encourage a min- and maximum length by showing a progress bar. You can even bold keywords you want to rank for really — you can go as advanced as you want.

google serp preview in CoSchedule
CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer shows you how a headline would look like in Google search.

Convinced? Here’s some links to get you started

You can go as crazy or as simple as you want with this. You can go all in and make it update automatically with JavaScript, add a mobile view, work in a published-on date, bold the keywords you want to rank for and incorporate your rich snippets.But to begin I’d advice you to keep it simple: a desktop view with a customizable title and meta description.

Since Google’s source code is so optimized it can be tricky to copy/paste their styling so I’ve prepared some code snippets for you:

Go on, give this a try. It’s a relatively small improvement that can work wonders!

Here’s how you do Ecommerce Image SEO if you have lots of products

Theoretically ecommerce image SEO is not very difficult: your images need to be high quality, need descriptive file names and contain alt tags but in practice this can be very difficult if your store has thousands of products with multiple images.

Is it worth it to add unique and high quality alt tags to all your images? You can probably find a better way to spend your time. Yet you want to avoid situations where your product images all have too generic (or no) alt tags.

The Solution? Tag your images.

Tagging your images is the ideal combination of quick and effective. Here is what you do: when uploading new product images you tag your images based on what kind of photo it is: is it a photo of the front view of the product? Is it a close-up product shot or just the back side of the box? This can simply be a implemented with a dropdown menu in your CMS.

inktweb image upload demo
The upload screen of Inktweb.nl contains multiple image types.

Depending on your products you can describe your image types in roughly 5 types.

  • Front view
  • Close-up
  • Side view
  • Atmosphere image
  • Other

You don’t need a SEO copy writing training to be able to use this. Anyone from the intern to the content manager can easily select on of these options when uploading a new image. It’s straight forward and takes minimal amount of time. Now that you have this data, how do you use it?ecommerce image seo template

Combine this data, the “type”, with your current product name (or “title”) as a fallback if no custom alt tag is given.

<img 
    src="<?php echo $product->src;?>"
    alt="<?php echo $product->title . ' ' . $product->image_type;?>">

 

It’s a simple as that. This method is especially effective if you have multiple product images. Sure, not as great as custom alt tags for all your photos but considerably better than nothing or something generic like “[title] photo 1”.

Why do I recommend this method?

  • Takes minimal effort
  • No spammy alt tags by well meaning interns
  • Easily translatable for your i18n needs
  • You can still add custom alt tags