This sounds techie but it doesn't need to be. However its essential we go there first because for a number of people using this guide they may have major issues, and that could include you!
There's an easy way to find out. Open a page on your website and make a note of some text content which appears in the main content. Not the title but a sentence from somewhere in the main body of the page.
When you visit a page your browser (Firefox, Chrome or whatever)
When a search engine visits your page they just read the page source code. They don't render the page. Later when they have some free time they will render the page. This secondary action is the second wave indexing.
Further down the line when you make changes you might have to wait weeks again until search engines like Google actually acknowledge your edits.
Search engines aren't sticklers for good coding. They'll do their best to root through your content no matter how many errors there are ... but why make like difficult for them?
Websites are usually made up of two main elements:
You can check both of these online very quickly using the following free tools:
The chances are your website is not going to pass with flying colors because very often plugins like a Facebook like button throw errors. All you need to check is your side of things and reduce errors down to a minimum where you can.
To do so you might need some help from a programmer but don't sweat it too much. If your page just has half a dozen or so errors its not the end of the world.
I do get clients come to me who have hundreds of errors and it really is a lot of noise that the search engines could do without.
Coding errors can also create another issue. They can cause your website to display poorly in some browsers and there are so many different browsers out there that you can't possibly test them all.
However if your website is already getting a fair number of visitors and you know your code has errors you can look for clues as to which browsers struggle with your content.
For every user who finds you in a search engine but then backs out because your content does not display correctly, the search engine takes note. In their eyes your obviously not answering the question very well so perhaps you shouldn't be ranking there ....
Most websites are on platforms like WordPress which make it really easy for you to create content without flaffing around with code to make it look great. However when work is regularly edited invisible issues in code can start to gather.
Here's some code I recenly saw on a client's website:
Users will see the word Traffic just fine but search engines might not!.
Usually your platform will have a way for you to check this. In WordPress, open a post or page to edit and at the top right of the main text entry area you will see two tabs: Visual and Text.
Click on the Text version to see much of the underlying code and check for issues like the example above, especially where words are being physically broken apart.
If you are not on WordPress have a search or ask on a relevant forum to see if a similar option is available for your platform.
I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.
If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.