It’s easy to see a problem when it’s right in front of you. It’s even relatively easy to see a problem when it hovers on the periphery of your vision. Yet what about the problems you can only see if you know they’re there? In search engine optimisation, sometimes it’s the things you can’t see that are holding your rankings back.

There are a surprising number of invisible areas on your site. I’m not talking about the code that sits behind your pages, which is easily visible to a site owner. However, things like the spaces between pages, the hidden sink holes in your navigation and the undetectable activity on your server are all factors that many business owners overlook during their SEO campaign for the basic reason that it’s almost impossible to know they’re there. Each of these areas can drag your rankings down.

What you can’t see can hurt you

Site architecture is a common problem area for SEO, and one that most site owners think to look at. What may not occur to some is how easily search engine spiders can become distracted. For example, many sites place important pages three or four links in. Google’s experts have indicated from time to time that placing important pages deeper than one link in is a bit of an unnecessary risk.

An idea that some SEO experts discuss is ‘crawl budget’. It’s essentially the idea that each particular site will get a limited amount of attention from Google’s spiders, and this attention therefore should not be wasted. The amount of attention will differ from site to site, descending from page to page depending on how many links and how much PageRank each page has.

What this boils down to is that any gap between the pages that are doing well and the pages that you want to do well is a bad thing. While a gap doesn’t mean those pages will never be crawled, pages deeper within the site may not be crawled as often.

Good fences make good neighbours

When it comes to a server, the ideal definition of a ‘neighbour’ website is ‘someone whose server sits in the rack above mine.’ The less attractive, but sadly more common, definition is ‘someone who shares my server because I’m on a cheap hosting plan.’

Shared servers aren’t desirable in SEO for a few reasons. If you happen to share a server with a spammy website, your security is threatened so if you must share a server, then being sure your server is only shared with other quality sites or at least sites who also have quality SEO will help. This isn’t the worst of the situation, surprisingly. A neighbour who is perfectly pleasant but experiences the same traffic patterns as you could do just as much harm.

The problem comes from connections. Servers can only provide so many connections at any given moment, and if yours is busy when Google comes to call, you lose out. Google’s Matt Cutts has talked about how connectivity affects sites, and it’s yet another issue to be aware of when sharing a server. While many site owners are aware of the crawling problem above, the problem of connections tends to go under the radar.

In summary…

It’s not just a site itself that contributes to rankings, but also the structural supports of that site. When optimising your site, it pays to think a little outside the box, and look for things in the periphery that may cause problems. An analysis of how the search engines access your site could be more profitable than you’d expect.

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