This is the third in a series of posts detailing my work on Photography-Courses.com.au. If you've not done so already, please read part 1, in which we added a canonical URL and redirected all traffic to the www sub-domain, and part 2, in which we added some links to the sitemap and added the sitemap link to robots.txt.
In this post, we're going to look at basic on-page factors such as meta tags, titles and headings.
Meta tags are instructions embedded in the HTML of your pages that provide information to third-party systems like search engines. In the good (?) 'ol days, this is how website owners told the search engines what the page was about. That was before the smart fellas at Google created a algorithm to work that out for themselves, and the birth of SEO. Anyway...I digress.
The four primary meta tags are:
Title tags are the only meta tag that are visible to the end user, as the text that's displayed in the tab in your browser.
They are still considered an important factor for SEO, and should be unique on every page.
Photography-Courses.com.au has a number of duplicate title tags relating to the course pagination discussed in part 2.
I.e. the page title "Search results for Sydney courses - Photography-Courses.com.au" appears on the following URLs:
/courses?page=1&q=sydney&utf8=✓ /courses?page=2&q=sydney&utf8=✓ /courses?page=3&q=sydney&utf8=✓
If these pages had the same canonical link referencing the preferred version of the content, this wouldn't be a problem. But each page holds unique content that we want indexed, so we don't want the search engines to ignore the pagination. But we also don't want to be penalised for duplicate content.
In Google Webmaster Tools (under Crawl > URL Parameters) we could tell the Googlebot about the pagination:
...but this method doesn't appear to be available in the new Google Search Console.
According to Google (link removed), another way of dealing with this issue (which will help non-Google search engines, too) is to add different rel link tags, prev and next.
Like the rel=canonical tag, these tell the search engine bots that the links are for paginating the same data set. In our case, a list of photography courses.
The pagination controls for the courses pages is at the bottom. As you'd expect, visitors start on page 1. On the PC site, this looks like this:
Page 1 doesn't have a 'previous' page, so the Previous link is greyed out - there's no link attached to this button.
Page 2 is the next page, so we need to add a rel="next" link:
<link rel="next" href="https://www.photography-courses.com.au/courses?page=2&q=sydney&utf8=%E2%9C%93">2</a>
These links are added to the <head> section - we're not changing the links themselves, so we don't need to make any additional changes for the 'Next' text link, which links to the same page.
When we're on page 2, the 'Previous' link comes to life, and we add a rel="prev" link:
<link rel="prev" href="https://www.photography-courses.com.au/courses?q=sydney&utf8=%E2%9C%93">1</a>
As above, this covers the link to page 1, too.
Notice that we're not adding a page parameter to the link in this case, because we're linking back to page 1 and the canonical url for that page does not include this parameter.
The website had these applied as attributes on the actual pagination links, but this isn't recognised by Google.
Wow...that made my brain hurt a bit, so I'll close there.
- Add rel="prev" and rel="next" links to course list pages
NOTE: These details have been reproduced with the express consent of the site owner for the purposes of education. We don't normally share our clients' details in this way.