Target’s Mobile Site Shows The Value Of An SEO Spring Clean (Sorry, Target!)

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Top performing SEO campaigns are all about aggregated marginal gains built on a solid technical platform. Over my first few posts in 2015, I’ll focus on different areas to check to get your site performing with its best.

Let’s start our spring clean by kicking the tires for a classic SEO issue.

Use Google Operators To Perform An Index Creep / Duplication Audit

Easily the most important site element to stay on top of, inadvertent duplication can kill a site’s SEO performance entirely. So how do we know what Google thinks of our site? Simple: We ask Google.

Use a site operator, and chain in a few “inurl” modifiers to dig through the key directories for your site content (see sample searches below for operator examples).

When you run these searches, look for any major discrepancies between the number of indexed URLs and the number that should be there. Dig into the causes of that for actions to resolve. Also, you’ll likely find a few structural causes of duplication that can be tidied up.

I’ll be using different example domains for each post in my series. This week it’s Target, viewed from the U.S.

In the screengrab below, you can see that Target’s mobile platform is creating tens of thousands of pages that are entirely duplicate (actually, substantially more… but we’ll come to that later).

Target Duplicate Mobile Pages

As noted in the image above, adding a canonical tag to the template used to generate this functionality, pointing back to the product page, would tidy this issue up and boost the performance of the product pages.

That’s a fairly minor impact change, given Target’s 13 million plus indexed URLs, but usually issues like this are the tip of the iceberg. For example, even just staying on the mobile subdomain (which itself has ~4.2 million indexed pages), here’s a few thousand store locator URLs that redirect but remain in Google’s index due to the redirect being JavaScript based.

Usually, that’s a sign that Google’s dropped listings rather than the listings being redirected to pass SEO value. In essence, Target is throwing away huge quantities of SEO value on its mobile domain.

So, how much value is Target throwing away? Well, let’s check. Run a search chaining negative “inurl” operators to see how many indexed URLs are left in Google’s index after removing those caused by the two listed issues above and we get…

Target Mobile Actual Unique URLs

Yep, just 330,000 results — which is more like the number that should be there. So, we have 3.9 million duplicate URLs, just on their mobile platform. That’s an 85% duplication ration for the site. Ouch!

Hopefully, the importance of duplicate hygiene is becoming apparent now!

BTW, if anyone from Target’s team is reading this, you might also want to revisit your “SEO-Browse-Results” landing page strategy. URLs with “SEO” in them make Google nervous at the best of times (and you’re inevitably duplicating your actual category listing pages anyway, so why build them?).

But more importantly, if you’re using JavaScript to populate the unique parts of the page content (and you are), then you’re going to end up with a lot of duplicate content.

Half a million pages, in fact.

Target SEO Pages

Time to get the spring clean started, guys! Taking a site down from the millions to leave only the core unique pages in the index using canonical tags and server redirections should drive the performance of the remaining pages into the stratosphere in time to catch the end-of-January sales.

Next time around, we’ll look at different fundamentals you can check to gain an edge against your competition in 2015.

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