Bigcommerce made some SEO “improvements” back in June. Problem is they actually had some very negative SEO impacts. Thanks to “Dylan” who saw one of my posts on Twitter. He forwarded me their newsletter from June where they discuss their improvements and also have a free SEO eBook. For an ecommerce platform, their SEO ebook lacks some key advice such as using structured data for all your products as well as a bunch of other basic stuff. Maybe I’m being too harsh but the ebook is very basic and sadly some of the things that are omitted, like using structured data for addresses (Google my business) is not possible on their CMS.
Bigcommerce SEO email
This video though is a last ditch attempt to get BigCommerce SEO to use robots.txt on mybigcommerce.com . This is a change they made in June. Basically they are duplicating all their clients sites at subdomains. If you use bigcommerce, do a search like this. site:mybigcommerce.com “brand name” you will then see your site in the results. As I point out in the video, they do use rel=”canonical” but they are using it from one domain to another. Now whilst Google will tell you that you can canonicalize across domains if you really have to, it doesn’t work. That is our experience anyway.
SEO & Canonical across domains
Over the years after working on thousands of sites we have found it a good idea not to use rel=”canonical” across domains, even though Google has a whole page telling you how to do it. The reason we don’t is that Google still crawls and indexes content even though it as the canonical tag AND Google webmaster tools sees it as a backlink. Wait, what? Yep, if you canonical from one domain to another Google will see that as a backlink from another domain.
Bigcommerce is the biggest backlinker
Bigcommerce Inconsistent Canonicals
So digging a bit further since I made the video I can see that there is some real inconsistency in the way Bigcommerce applies the canonical tags to their sites. For instance the site below has it’s content indexed at both the sub domain and their real domain. In this case the sub domain is canonicaled to itself.
Bigcommerce inconsistent canonicals affecting SEO
Whilst it’s lovely to have an intellectual discussion on whether canonicals should work like this, here’s what we know;
- The sub domains are getting crawled and their pages indexed even though they are canonicalled
- Google sees these canonical URLs as backlinks from the subdomain to the main domain (spammy much?)
- Bigcommerce application of this technique seems inconsistent.
If you need these sub domains just BLOCK THEM FROM GOOGLE so we can all get on with our lives!!
Last Wednesday it was reported that long time SEO “ranking” or “awards” company was absolutely smashed by Google and removed from the index. According to the story over at Searchengineland Top SEOs has being using a couple of domains since their deindexing by Google including topseosglobal.com and topseos-global.com. As you will see from today’s video they have since moved on from those domains and are now employing a sub domain strategy.
What was Top SEOs
I use the past tense as it looks like their business model has just been ended by Google. Top SEOs has been around since 2002 according to a media kit I have from 2010. In that they claim the following;
Top SEOs Research Claims
We regularly were “awarded” Top SEOs gongs or rankings and I can tell you that none of the above happened. In fact in 2009 we were awarded the “Best Link Popularity” firm. I don’t even know what that means. Below is part of the email notification we received at the time.
Top SEOs award from 2009
In that notification they claim to have contacted our clients and they list 3 “clients”. Only one of those listed was a client the other two were sites that belonged to mates. The reason they assumed they were clients is that I was linking to them. It was at that point it was confirmed for me that the “awards” were questionable to say the least. Mind you over the years a lot of people have put a lot of stock in them. So what was their business model? Advertising essentially. From the same 2010 media kit they offer different levels of membership for $1000, $2500 or $3500 per month. Amongst other things the membership includes a backlink from a PR5 page. Or as you and I would call it; a paid backlink.
Top SEO Paid Links
In addition to that you can also sign up for their “lead generation” plan for an additional $10,000/year. A quick search of Google news reveals that SEO companies, including Australian ones are still touting their Top SEOs awards as recently as Saturday AFTER they had been removed from Google.
SO why has Google smashed them now? Surely they have known for years they were selling backlinks. Who did TopSEOs piss off at Google? This is no algorithm adjustment, this is TopSEOs been hunted down and obliterated. It’s only taken Google 12 years to work out what the rest of us have known for years.
Even though you are not using three of them. Several weeks back we brought you the story of setting up HTTPS for a ranking boost. In that video and accompanyingblog post I take you through the steps. This week Google has started sending messages in webmaster tools about setting up all the different versions of your site in webmaster tools and setting up the preferred domain as well. What Google does not tell you is that you should redirect (301) three of those sites to one version.
SEO Messages in Webmaster Tools
Google never used to be this explicit. Now it’s telling you to setup all four versions of the domain and to setup the preferred version to appear in search results. You can do this under “Site settings”. Google won’t let you do this though unless you have previously setup the www version as well.
Setup preferred domain for SEO
Good for SEO
So why is this good for SEO? It ensures you have only one domain that should appear in search (providing you redirect the others). This is interesting as “setting the preferred domain” has never been a big deal before. As far as I was concerned it was more aesthetic than functional. For instance I have never set it up for this site but because I had everything redirected properly Google has never shown the www version of the site.
Finally today I’ll be doing an SEO webinar on the 30th of October at 11AM AEST (GMT+11) https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6070785589126366721 PLaces will be limited so don’t forget to book.
Content duplication – do a site: search look for any results that should not be there and remove them
Broken links – crawl your site with a link checker and make sure it’s not full of busted links.
Unique Content Ratio – Make sure you don’t have lots of pages with only a couple of words of unique content. Typically these would be seen as low quality pages
Last Friday Pierre Far of Google announced on G+ that there had been a Panda update to the algorithm. For those playing along at home this would be update 4.1 . Whilst I have seen some reports of ranking devastation for the most part I have not seen anything like this in Australian results. Some local SEOs are saying the exact opposite and are claiming that it has adversely affected directory sites, I’m not seeing any evidence of that though. In fact I’d even go as far to say that it has not been rolled out in AU yet. John Mueller is saying that it is a global update but it will affect different countries in different ways.
If you think you have been affected by this update then please let me know. From what I’ve read of sites that have been affected in other countries, it’s what you would expect lots of advertising above the fold. However there are a lot of quality issues in addition to too many ads on a page that we have seen sites get penalised for. They include;
Don’t forget to let me know if you have been hit.
I get asked a lot about the SEO benefits of having multiple domain names with keywords in them. There is no benefit to having multiple domains pointed at one site. In fact if it’s done without the right redirects it will hurt your rankings. There is however benefit still in having an exact match domain despite Google making a change to how it ranks them about two years ago. Having a keyword early in the domain is treated as a ranking signal for that keyword. These days I’m getting asked more about the new Top Level Domains (TLDs). Most of these have only recently been released but there is a bit of a gold rush going on to secure potentially lucrative ones. For instance, I have received marketing material proffering that it would be beneficial for me to purchase seo.melbourne, .melbourne being a new TLD . Traditionally Google has not looked at the TLD as a keyword signal. It’s either been a geo signal like .au or an institutional one like .edu or .mil. The lines have become a lot more blurred in recent years with the flurry of alternate TLDs available like .me .co .info etc.
SEO Is About Content
Whilst the keywords in a domain are part of the signal and right now it would seem an important part, they are only one part. A couple of years ago I was offered to buy seomelbourne.com. It was tempting but I declined as I had enough content to create with existing sites and could not justify spending the $1000 for the domain and then throwing additional resources at it to create the content. Having keywords in a domain is not a magic ranking pill, you still need great consistent content and a well structured, well performing site.
TLD & Branding
Whilst I’m not a branding expert I can see how TLDs might be great for a new brand. I’m not sure about existing brands though. I guess you could have grandprix.melbourne but you would still need a content strategy for that site, unless you were just using it in advertising because it was easy to remember. In that situation you would need to 301 redirect to grandprix.com.au. If it simply pointed at the same content you would have a duplicate content issue.
TLDs Not A Magic SEO Pill
Look at this way www.travel.travel does not rank for travel. Why you would even bother setting up the www in that situation is beyond me. You go to all that trouble to have a keyword rich domain then you mess it up with WWW? Keep this in mind, the earlier you get your keywords into an address the better. That has always been a good signal. Guess what www.travel.travel does rank for though? “Travel Travel”. Interesting eh?
SEO & TLDS
The travel industry sorted itself out with SEO years ago, so best practices have been in place a long time as they have gone through a lot of Google seismic shifts. In this situation the keyword rich domain MAY provide a ranking edge in a highly competitive environment, all other ranking signals being equal but the more competitive the space is, then the more important great content is.
Google on TLDs
Google has said it will take time to understand the various TLDs but for the most part it will treat them like other generic TLDs. This means the likes of say .melbourne won’t automatically indicate to Google that the site is Melbourne related. This may happen once Google has several years of data to show that only Melbourne related domains have been registered at .melbourne but initially no geo juice will be bestowed on such TLDs. Here’s what Matt Cutts said about them a couple of years ago.