Index Bloat: Why Deleting Website Pages Is Great for SEO in 2018

You might have dozens, hundreds, or thousands of low-quality pages on your site — in Google’s eyes — and might not even realize it. We call this index bloat.

Gone are the days when you could easily hack SEO by loading a page with keywords and creating artificial backlinks.

Today, Google is consistently rolling out changes to its algorithms to reward quality.

Unlike the past, if you have low-quality pages on your website, it can negatively impact your overall ranking.

What’s a low-quality page?

It’s one that isn’t used or visited, is full of duplicate content from other pages, has thin content or very low engagement in the eyes of Google.

Here’s the thing:

It’s entirely possible that you have dozens, hundreds, or thousands of low-quality pages on your site — in the eyes of Google — and you might not even realize it.

We call this problem index bloat.

It happens when Google has indexed a lot of URLs for your website that it views as low-quality.

In this article, we’ll show you:

  1. An example of index bloat
  2. Common causes
  3. The exact steps you can take to see if you have a problem

Note: We can help you spot and fix issues on your website that are harming your overall ranking.  Contact us here.

Index Bloat: A Real-life Example

We recently started working with an eCommerce client and discovered something fascinating (and troubling) as we did our standard checks to evaluate their site.

After talking to them, we expected the site to have somewhere around 10,000 pages.

When we looked in Google Webmaster Tools, we saw — to our surprise — that Google had indexed 38,000 pages for the website. Find this chart here: Web Tools > Search Console > Google Index > Index Status.

A real-life example of index bloat.

That was way too high for the size of the site.

We also saw that the number had risen dramatically.

In July of 2017, the site had only 16,000 pages indexed in Google Analytics.

What happened?

How a Hidden Technical Glitch Caused Massive Index Bloat

It took a while to figure out what had gone wrong with our client’s site.

Eventually, we found a problem in their software that was creating thousands of unnecessary product pages.

At a high-level, any time the website sold out of their inventory for a brand (which happened often), the site’s pagination system created hundreds of new pages.

Put another way, the site had a technical glitch that was creating index bloat.

The company had no idea their site had this problem, which is common with a site that has a technical glitch.

For eCommerce sites that automatically generate new pages for products, brands, or categories, things like this can easily happen.

It’s one common cause of index bloat, but not the only one.

Other common causes include:

  1. Pages with too little original content
  2. Old blog posts, news releases, or case studies that get little to no traffic
  3. Search pages that get accidentally indexed by Google

Don’t think you’re safe just because your list of indexed pages looks like this:

Even if the overall number of pages on your site isn’t going up, you might still be carrying unnecessary pages from months or years ago.

Even if the overall number of pages on your site isn’t going up, you might still be carrying unnecessary pages from months or years ago — pages that could be slowly chipping away at your relevancy scores as Google makes changes to its algorithm.

The good news is: it’s relatively easy to identify and remove pages that are causing index bloat on your site.

We also have a free tool you can use that will help.

How to Identify and Remove Poor Performing Pages

Here’s the step-by-step process we use with our clients to identify and remove poor performing pages:

(1) Estimate the number of pages you should have

Estimate to the number of products you carry, the number of categories, blog posts, and support pages, and add them together. Your total indexed pages should be something close to that number.

(2) Use the Cruft Finder Tool to find poor-performing pages

The Cruft Finder tool is a free tool we created to identify poor-performing pages. It’s designed to help eCommerce site managers find and remove pages that are harming your SEO ranking.

The tool sends a Google query about your domain and — using a recipe of site quality parameters — returns page content we suspect might be harming your index ranking.

Mark any page that:

  1. Is identified by the Cruft Finder tool
  2. Gets very little traffic (as seen in Google Analytics)

These are pages you should consider removing from your site.

(3) Decide what to keep and what to remove

For years, you’ve been told that adding fresh content on your site increases traffic and improves SEO. You should be blogging at least once a week, right?

Well, maybe.

If a blog post has been on your website for years, has no backlinks pointing to it, and no one ever visits it, that old content could be hurting your rankings.

Recently, we deleted 90% of one client’s blog posts. Why? Because they weren’t generating backlinks or traffic.

If no one is visiting a URL, and it doesn’t add value to your site, it doesn’t need to be there.

(4) Revise and revamp necessary pages with little traffic

If a URL has valuable content you want people to see — but it’s not getting any traffic — it’s time to restructure.

Could you consolidate pages? Could you promote the content better through internal linking? Could you change your navigation to push traffic to the page?

Also, make sure that all your static pages have robust, unique content. When Google sees thousands of pages on your site with sparse or similar content, it can lower your relevancy score.

(5) Make sure your search results pages aren’t being indexed

Not all pages on your site should be indexed. The main example of this is search results pages.

You almost never want search pages to be indexed because there are better pages to funnel traffic that have better quality content. These are not meant to be entry pages.

This is a common issue.

For example, here’s what we found using the Cruft Finder tool for one major retail site: over 5,000 search pages indexed by Google.

Examples of how the Cruft Finder tool can help you find index bloat.

If you find this issue on your own site, follow Google’s instructions to get rid of search result pages.

The Results and Impact on Traffic and Revenue

What kind of impact can index bloat have on your results?

And what kind of positive effect have we seen after correcting it?

Here’s a graph of indexed pages from a recent client that was letting their search result pages get indexed — the same way we explained above. We helped them implement a technical fix so those pages wouldn’t be indexed anymore.

Index bloat can impact both your traffic and revenue.

In the Google Analytics graph, the the blue dot is where the fix was implemented. The number of indexed pages continued to rise for a bit, then dropped significantly.

Year over year, here’s what happened to the site’s organic traffic and revenue:

3 Months Before the Technical Fix

  • 6% decrease in organic traffic
  • 5% increase in organic revenue

3 Months After the Technical Fix

  • 22% increase in organic traffic
  • 7% increase in organic revenue

Before vs. After

  • 28% total difference in organic traffic
  • 2% total increase in organic revenue

Remember that not all pages on your site should be indexed.

This process takes time.

For this client, it took three full months before the number of indexed pages returned to the mid 13,000s, where it should have been all along.

Note: Interested in a personalized strategy to reduce index bloat and raise your SEO ranking? We can help.  Contact us here.

 

15 eCommerce SEO Tactics to Implement in Mid-2018 (Research-backed)

Here are 15 specific eCommerce SEO strategies for mid-2018 — based on research we’ve gathered from some of the top experts in SEO.

SEO is an always-changing game.

At Inflow, our SEO team is constantly researching cutting-edge tactics to drive organic traffic and conversions to eCommerce websites.

What you’re about to read are specific strategies we’ve gathered from some of the top experts in SEO — including several strategies we picked up at the SearchLove Conference:

  • How to rank in YouTube searches
  • How to rank in local searches
  • How to use data sets to improve rankings
  • Data sets you can safely ignore

While these tactics are applicable for many websites and industries, we think they’re especially practical SEO tactics for eCommerce.

Note: Interested in improving your SEO ranking this year, but need some help? Contact us here.

Mat Clayton: 4 Ways to Speed Up Your Website

From Mat Clayton, cofounder of mixcloud.com, we learned these four quick strategies for speeding up a website that he’d tested on his site.

Here’s Mat’s full presentation deck for reference.

1. Reduce the number of queries per page

According to Mat, this is the most effective thing you can do to speed up your website.

By starting at webpagetest.org, you can see all the scripts that load on one of your pages.

Ignore the page load times in Google Analytics, which can be misleading since Google Analytics looks at how long it takes to load the full page. This can make your average loading time look worse than it actually is.

Instead, use webpagetest.org to see the average load time for the majority of your content (which is what’s important). You can also see what content loads the slowest.

eCommerce SEO: Page Load Time

2. Implement HTTP/2

Updating your server protocol can result in major speed improvements, which, in turn, can help your rankings.

HTTP/1.1 can only load batches of six connections in parallel at a time. When those are finished, the next six can load. This process slows down page loading.

With HTTP/2, an infinite amount of parallel connections can load.

One thing to note is that HTTP/2 requires HTTPS. Most content delivery networks (CDNs) support it, and it’s as easy as flipping a switch in your settings.

3. Cache static files and remove dead code

Cache the static files on your site that never change — such as images, JavaScript, and CSS files.

If you’re running HTTP/2, you can split your CSS and JavaScript into multiple smaller files so they all load in parallel.

You should also use GZIP or Deflate compression. Aside from removing dead code, most of this can be accomplished with a CDN.

4. Optimize images

If you’re not already optimizing or compressing images, doing so can make a huge difference in your page loading time.

You can also consider lazy loading content — waiting to load content on the page until the user scrolls far enough to see it.

Note: We can help you increase the speed of your site and drive more traffic to it. Contact us here.

Wil Reynolds: Better Ways to Use SEO Data

From Wil Reynolds of SEER Interactive fame, we learned where to look for better SEO data and how to use that data to bring insights and improved performance across digital channels.

5. Ignore the search “average” click-through rate curve

It’s tempting to benchmark your click-through rate (CTR) against the global average data compiled by sites like Advanced Web Ranking.

But those charts ignore the effect big brands such as Amazon, BestBuy, and Wikipedia have on the CTR of the remaining listings.

eCommerce SEO: Ignore the "search average"

They also ignore Google’s many other properties in the search results, such as search ads, shopping ads, local listings, “people also ask,” etc.

6. Use paid keyword advertising conversion data

When selecting SEO keywords for paid campaigns, AdWords conversion data can:

  • Cross-reference organic rankings and identify gaps where there are paid conversions but little to no organic rankings. You know this delivers real value, after all.
  • Provide SEO data even if AdWords isn’t a big part of your lead generation strategy. Don’t have a paid account? Set up a budget and run a test account for a month or two to collect this data.

Justin Briggs: How to Rank in YouTube Searches

YouTube (and videos in general) are often overlooked by businesses as rich multi-use tools to promote your brand.

As Justin Briggs from Briggsy points out, YouTube is a BIGGER search engine than Bing.

  • YouTube has 1.5 billion users
  • Average session duration is one hour

If video is something you are currently doing or are planning to do, it’s important to understand how to rank well in the space.

To better understand YouTube’s search algorithm, Justin’s team looked at “3.8 million data points across 100,000 videos and 75,000 channels.”

Here are some of their insights…

7. Use short, keyword-rich titles

Briggsy’s analysis found that titles using keywords performed better, and exact match could help, as well.

Exact match keywords help but aren't required.

Image source: Briggsy

Titles that are shorter than the allotted amount tended to perform better. This all makes a difference in the ‘Suggested Videos’ section, which only shows 35-45 characters of a title.

8. Write 300-350 word descriptions

According to Justin’s research, there is a positive correlation in rankings for videos with descriptions in the 300-350 word range. Longer descriptions tend to perform more poorly.

9. Longer videos perform better

For video length, Justin’s team found:

  • Videos that were longer than 10 minutes seemed to have a bump in likes
  • Videos that are less than two minutes had a much lower performance than longer videos
  • Videos longer than 4:30 were the most effective

Their takeaway?

A longer video means higher possibility of a longer ‘watch time’ while a shorter video needed to get substantially more views to make up for the loss in watch time.

Focus on maximizing watch time.

Image source: Briggsy

Rob Bucci: How to Rank for Featured Snippets and Voice Searches

Featured snippets are more prevalent than ever.

Between January 2016 and November 2017, the percentage of organic search results featuring snippets rose from 9% to 31%.

Featured Snippets: How Does Blockchain Work?

Featured Snippets are also beginning to pull from results that are in the first few positions instead of just the first position.

One reason featured snippets are more important than ever is that Google is searching featured snippets for natural language queries. This means any tool that uses voice search — like Siri, Alexa, or Google Home — are using snippets to respond to questions.

Optimizing for things like local and voice search are becoming imperative for quality SEO.

Here are three ways to optimize your site to appear in featured snippets according to Rob Bucci, founder and CEO of STAT Search Analytics.

10. Optimize for voice queries using long-tail keywords

Search engines have evolved to understand many natural language queries, but it’s still not a perfect science.

The best way to optimize for these voice searches is to create featured snippet content that focuses on long-tail, natural-language queries.

Search engines have evolved to understand natural language queries.

11. Make snippets with small lists and tables, not just paragraphs

Paragraphs still make up a large chunk of overall featured snippets.

Even so, we see more and more lists and tables appear as featured snippets. Expect this trend to continue.

 Make snippets with small lists and tables, not just paragraphs.

12. Look at different snippets from competing URLs

To see the featured snippet from a competitor, add &num=1, &num=2, &num=3, or &num=4 at the end of a search URL that returns a featured snippet.

If Google is pulling featured snippets from any of the other sites in its listing, this will let you see them.

Look at different snippets from competing URLs.

Look at different snippets from competing URLs.

Darren Shaw: How to Rank in Local Searches  

In a recent presentation, Darren Shaw, founder and president of Whitespark, broke down six main areas of local search in which SEO efforts should be focused to boost local rankings:

  1. Google My Business
  2. Citations
  3. Website
  4. Links
  5. Reviews
  6. Behavioral Factors

His simple tips and tactics reveal it’s quite easy to outsmart your competitors and make the most of local search opportunities for your business or organization.

13. Include all phone numbers in your GMB listing

Depending on the listing, having different or multiple phone numbers for your business can have bad consequences for local search.

The way WhiteSpark explains it, all of these listings get collected by data aggregators. If one of them is wrong or a less important number, it can lead to duplicate listings or — worse — it can override your primary listing. Having bad data can harm your rankings in Google and Bing as well.

If you have alternate phone numbers for your business, make sure to list all of them in your Google My Business (GMB) listing. For more information on why this is an issue and how to fix it, check out WhiteSpark’s more detailed explanation.

That’s why it’s so important to have all your information up to date in Google My Business — so the contact information that shows in your search results is accurate.

14. Get star ratings in organic searches

Gold stars in organic listings = more traffic to your website.

To add these to your site, use microdata/schema markup on your site’s pages.

eCommerce SEO: Get star ratings in organic searches

Darren has a handy quick list of items to check off when you’re working through this to ensure you’re doing it right.

15. Find sponsorship/backlink opportunities in your city

Sponsorships that offer links back to your website are great for many reasons.

They help improve your local SEO and, of course, you’re helping out your community!

Find quick and easy sponsorship link opportunities for your business by searching:

Intitle:sponsor “Your City”

The at the end of the query, add:

&num=100

Find sponsorship/backlink opportunities.

The results will give you a list of organizations you can consider sponsoring — while earning a high-value backlink in the process.

Find sponsorship/backlink opportunities.

Note: The best SEO strategy will be personalized for your site and industry, and Inflow can help. Contact us here.

The 9 Best Free Keyword Research Tools for Startups

Many startups begin with an idea but lack deep financial resources. As a result, they’re often reluctant to spend money on anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. If there’s a way to accomplish a task for free, they’ll find it. If this sounds like yo…

Many startups begin with an idea but lack deep financial resources. As a result, they’re often reluctant to spend money on anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. If there’s a way to accomplish a task for free, they’ll find it. If this sounds like your approach, you’re probably reluctant to spend a dime on something as basic as keyword research. While there are plenty of tools that offer advanced features and functionality, the essential keyword research process is fairly simple. And if you’re just looking for the basics, it’s possible to find keywords without spending a cent. This still holds true...

The post The 9 Best Free Keyword Research Tools for Startups appeared first on The Daily Egg.

You’re Probably Overspending on Branded Search Campaigns in Google (and Don’t Even Know It)

Many businesses inadvertently get in their own way and overspend on both branded search campaigns and general campaigns. The good news is: finding and fixing this issue is a straightforward process. In this article, we’re going to show you how to see if you’re accidentally overspending on campaigns (and how to fix it).

If someone searches for your brand in Google, you want to dominate the results they see.

Like Jeep:

 

 

Branded Campaigns vs. General Campaigns

If you’re familiar with branded campaigns, you can skip to the next section, but otherwise let’s level-set some terminology and the why behind branded campaigns.

Those paid ads at the top of the search results for Jeep?

We call that a “branded” campaign. It displays when someone searches Google specifically for your brand or company.

(As opposed to general campaigns where Jeep might compete for terms like “SUV” or “new car financing”.)

There are two main reasons any ecommerce brand has to have branded campaigns running at all times:

(1) If you don’t buy this ad space, your competitors will. For example look at Infiniti showing up when I search for Lexus RX — If Lexus didn’t buy this ad space, Infiniti would be sitting in the top spot:

(2) You can control the message. Yes of course your pages will likely appear for branded terms in organic results, but you can’t as easily control those results. On your ads, you can play with different landing pages, products, deals, and more.

Now, brand campaigns should have the highest relevance and click-through rates of any campaign you have in AdWords.

Many businesses inadvertently overspend on both branded and general campaigns.

When setting up brand campaigns, however, we find that many businesses inadvertently get in their own waycausing themselves to overspend on both branded and general campaigns.

Most of the time, they don’t even realize it.

$240k in Revenue: The Financial Impact of Fixing this Problem for One of Our Clients

The good news is: finding — and fixing — this issue is a straightforward process.

Of the many things we do with Inflow’s eCommerce clients, this is often one of the first things we check — because the financial impact can be tremendous.

Recently, by fixing this problem for one client, we increased their annual return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) by 1600% — a change that amounted to an additional $240,000 in revenue per year.

For the same client, these steps lowered cost-per-click (CPC) for branded terms by $.21 per click, dropping costs by 19%.

In this article, we’re going to show you two things:

  1. How to see if you’re accidentally overspending on campaigns
  2. A simple way to fix it

Note: Want to see better performance from your branded campaign? Like results that add up to 6 figures? Let us evaluate your campaigns. Contact us here.

Step 1: How To Check If You Are Competing Against Yourself  

If you’re running both brand and general campaigns, the first step is to identify if your campaigns are competing against each other.

To do this, identify what search terms are triggering your branded and general campaigns in AdWords.

A search term is a search word or phrase that triggered the campaign to display on a user’s search.

You can find these search terms using the Search Terms Report in AdWords.

To find the report:

  1. Open your branded campaign
  2. Click the Keywords tab
  3. Click Search terms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


From there, you’ll see data on which search terms triggered impressions and clicks.

Repeat the process for any of your general campaigns.

Most people never check this — and overspend as a result.

The only thing that should trigger a brand campaign is the name of your company, your services, or your products.

Sometimes though, Google will trigger your brand campaign for general terms.

This can happen with any branded campaign. But it’s especially likely to happen when:

(1) The name of your product or service is similar to your brand name

Brand name: “Best Costumes Co”

Service: costumes

In these situations, search terms like “costumes,” “best costumes,” or even “best costumes in New York” will naturally trigger both campaigns.

(2) Your company name is similar to a competitor’s name

Your name: “Best Costumes Co.”

Your competitor: “Better Costumes Co.”

When someone searches for your competition, you might want them to find you, but not through your branded campaign.

That’s what general search campaigns are for.

By examining which keywords are triggering your various campaigns in AdWords, you can see if you’re accidentally competing with yourself.

If you see the same keywords triggering branded and general campaigns, you’re hurting your results for both types of campaigns.

Step 2: Use Negative Keywords to Clean Up Your Branded Campaign

If you are accidentally competing with yourself, the fix is both simple and straightforward.

Use negative keywords to clean up your branded campaigns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


To use our earlier example, if your company is “Best Costumes Co.,” there’s a very good chance the keyword “best costumes” is triggering your branded campaign.

If so, simply remove “best costumes” from your branded campaign by adding it as a negative keyword.

Use your general campaign to compete for “best costumes” or any other general keyword that was triggering your brand campaign.

Why Does This Matter to Google?

Google estimates the cost and relevancy of a campaign by estimating the likelihood someone will click on a certain result.

If someone searches “Best Costumes Co.,” it’s likely that the person is searching specifically for your company.

If they search for “best costumes,” they’re much less likely to be searching for you. Instead, they’re just looking for a place to buy a costume.

That’s the difference between the two types of campaigns:

  1. Branded campaigns target people searching specifically for you
  2. General campaigns target people searching generally for the things you sell

Branded campaigns should have very high relevance scores, very high click-through rates, and — as a result — lower costs.

When you purify your branded campaign, you’re increasing the relevance of branded keywords.

You’re informing Google you are the company to return for these brand-specific keywords. By doing this, you become the most relevant site for your branded terms.

Brand Campaigns Should Be Cheaper

When it comes to search, Google first and foremost wants to provide the most relevant information.

To return to our Jeep example, when users search the keyword “Jeep,” Google knows they’re looking specifically for a Jeep — not generally for a new SUV.

Even if Ford or GM runs a campaign targeting “Jeep” as a keyword, Jeep’s result is still — by far — the most relevant result, which is why Google is likely to list it first.

Not only will you be listed first, but Google will reward you for being the most relevant result with a cheaper CPC.

This is why, if you’re doing it right, your branded search campaigns should be among the cheapest — if not the cheapest — ad campaign you run.

However …

If your branded campaign is being triggered by general terms like “SUV,” the click-through rate is likely to go way down, lowering the relevancy score for the ad — and raising the price of the campaign.

That’s why you want to ensure that only your specific brand terms are triggering your branded campaign.

Leave everything else for your general campaigns.

Note: Looking to uncover other new ways to increase your ROAS and maximize your brand exposure? Contact us here.