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My website's dreadful search performance has always been a mystery. It could just be short, concise content but I believe it's something bigger.

My site is a crowdsourced map - people contribute images and add a short description. I noticed though that the html of the description is not contained in any html tags. For example:

<!-- start report description -->
<div class="report-description-text">
<h5>Description</h5>
Welcome to Ushahidi. Please replace this report with a valid incident
<br/>
</div>

The example description here is the sample report that comes with the platform that I use. It could be an oversight but surely the text "Welcome to Ushahidi. Please replace this report with a valid incident" should be in a <p> element.

Most of the content on the website is made up of hundreds of pages with these short descriptions. But if they are not contained in any html tags will that impact things?

Attached is a screen shot of how Google Chrome's inspect element sees the html - simply as plain text.

enter image description here

Does having "HTML" of this nature impact search?

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I do not think this is your problem exactly. I remember reading somewhere that Google, while parsing HTML, makes the assumption that text in your case is a paragraph. However, I would bracket the text with HTML anyway. Google likes valid HTML because it is hard to parse otherwise. I would fix the HTML to be as HTML 4 compliant as possible at least.

We do know that Google does somewhat grade the HTML structure of a page. What the effect is, I am not entirely sure. It is rather fuzzy because Google's seems so forgiving. People swear by certifying a pages HTML. I am sure this is a factor to a point, but I have seen many high performing websites with pages that would not pass certification and contain a lot of room for clean-up. Google does say, as long as it is valid HTML 4 code, it will figure things out okay and not to worry.

Having said that, I would look at the Headline Read Order. This is: inbound backlinks, page title tag, page description meta-tag, first H1 (and only one) header tag, and first paragraph. Make sure that your most important keywords are reflected through all of these and that supporting keywords are reflected in the description meta-tag and first paragraph. Make sure that the description meta-tag and H1 header tag support the title of the page. And last, make sure that inbound backlinks vary as much as you have control over, and that they support all of your keywords. Remember that this is on a page by page basis. This means that titles should be unique, though they can be similar. The unique keywords of each page should be used in your title first if possible. Also, make sure that the remaining header tags are in sequence, H1, H2, H3, etc. And you are done. There is actually more, but this is the bulk of SEO basics.

  • Useful info @closetnoc. Because I'm on a CMS (A niche and less well known one) it's tricky to edit the html int his way. Good to know though – Doug Fir Apr 12 '14 at 14:58
  • Good luck with everything. I would look at any SEO tuning options there are for your CMS. I rolled my own, and I have to admit to constantly tuning my code in small ways that I never thought of before. – closetnoc Apr 12 '14 at 15:21
  • It's a little clunky and I don;t think they thought about SEO from the outset. Shame because I've had awesome coverage by titles such as Wired, Fast Company and lots of others but these high authority links have not really helped: tinyurl.com/o8wkovh – Doug Fir Apr 12 '14 at 15:28
  • I have to admit that most of my code changes these days are SEO related and the rest performance related. I did not think too much about SEO at first either. But I did not write my system for primetime, but convenience. It is primarily an relational HTML shorthand tool that was designed to save development time and HTML code/disk space on my intranet sites. Now it performs rather well, but I have more code changes coming down the pike that are SEO specific. It is an effort worth pursuing. – closetnoc Apr 12 '14 at 15:42

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