I was humbled today and it brought a reminder that is valuable and applies to more than just web development.
The story goes like this… A user posts on a common web master forum and their complaint was simple; they have location specific landing pages built out to target specific cities and up until recently they were working fine, but now google has decided their homepage is a better canonical and removed their local specific landing page from the index.
I quickly look at their landing page, and their homepage. I don’t see anything outstanding about their landing page other than they’ve got the location name in all the headers, but otherwise thinner content than their homepage, so to me it seemed perfectly reasonable for google to choose their homepage as their landing page seemed to be a simple location database and template to switch out the location names. Google doesn’t care for that type of “doorway” pages, so that’s what I reported back, slam dunk right?
Well my quick synopsis seemed legit but was quickly trumped by another webmaster offering their opinion of the potential problem and something I had overlooked entirely. The landing page in question was missing the title tag and meta description tags entirely! While I had quickly viewed their source to do a quick compare of the code to see how much content was actually different, I gave up as it was super cluttered with scripts and I decided it wouldn’t be worth the time, not even considering that the actual page structure was technically incomplete, thus throwing google bot for a loop I imagine.
While I’m not sure if that’s the end of this story yet, as their website issues are ongoing. It was a good reminder to start with the basics, the simple things. “Are the lights on?” type of questions, don’t immediately jump to the latest search engine algorithm update or “negative SEO” lol, chances are someone forgot a critical closing tag somewhere.
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