Most websites don’t start off large – they grow … and grow … and grow. But large websites present their own problems from an SEO perspective. All those pages being indexed puts quite a burden on the search engines’ crawling abilities, so many pages can be missed or run into indexing issues if optimisation isn’t perfect.
There’s no hard and fast rule about what constitutes a “large” website. It could be one with hundreds of pages, but that wouldn’t be all that unusual nowadays, so large is more likely to mean websites with tens of thousands or even millions of pages, such as the major ecommerce sites or news resources.
What is true, however, is that getting into good habits from the start can only be advantageous, so here are some key things to make sure you focus on.
Google wants to fully index every website, but it has to impose certain priorities to ensure its crawlers don’t spend too much time going down every blind alley every site has. That’s why you need to give it a helping hand – and you can do that by prioritising your own pages.
A simple way of doing this is by using robots.txt, a small file that tells the crawler not to bother with a certain page. Put it on your less important pages and your priority pages and categories are more likely to be indexed.
Also, make sure your site map is always up to date. This can be done automatically, but it’s still a good idea to check it’s being updated.
Keep your page speed as high as possible, so human visitors and crawlers get the information they need, and faster. Keep those images optimised, make sure your host is doing its job, and keep unnecessary code away from your pages.
If Google doesn’t have much to go on, it won’t know how to categorise your pages, so won’t appear when people search for the categories of things you sell. A brief sentence might make most sense to a human visitor looking for a very basic product, but it has no context for the search engines.
This is particularly important if you sell many types of things. Try and provide at least 200 words of copy on each page, but aim for 300–500 if possible. You can always design it so it’s below the fold if your customers don’t need the information.
When you’ve got thousands of pages with similar content, it’s inevitable that a bit of duplication creeps in, especially when pages are auto-generated. Ideally, you should get rid of them altogether, but since they might already be linked to, use canonical tags and redirects to send the crawlers to the one you want to be indexed.
Unique headers and meta data
Finally, keep all your pages unique right down to the headers, titles and meta descriptions. If you sell chocolate cakes and chocolate fudge cakes, make sure they each have their own page, with separate titles and tags describing what’s on that page.
It helps the search engines categorise your pages, and helps customers when they see your pages on the search results pages.
Grow with confidence
If you’re starting from scratch, these techniques will stand you in good stead as your site grows. If you’ve already grown and your site has become a haphazard collection of disjointed pages, you need to start getting it organised.
Start with your most important, or profitable, pages, and work down through the structure to individual products and less visited categories. It can be a big job, but it’s worth it.
Don’t forget, we can help you build WordPress and Magento sites that always use best practice for SEO, so whether it’s a new build or remedial work, why not get in touch to see how we can help make your big site more visible?