Don’t Sabotage Your SEO Ranking

Search Engine Optimization concept on blackboard.

Technology keeps progressing. And so do surfing habits. And so must website design. To keep up, companies are updating their sites more often, which usually means changing the backend code. Site visitors never see this code change, but search engines do. As a result, a site update can be a great opportunity to boost your search engine optimization (SEO) ranking, or it can eliminate years of work put into accumulating your rank.

Our digital team has put together four key principles to understand so that you can impart the best resources available to manage your migration.

Understand the Language Barrier

As far as the primary search engine, Google, is concerned, changing your site’s code can be like going from speaking in German and then suddenly switching to English. Content management systems (CMS), like WordPress or Squarespace, are designed to use Google’s “native tongue,” so to speak, so it will find relevant content on your site faster.  As a result, it will boost your rankings incrementally over the long haul; however, it’s important be mindful of how to code and link the new information to minimize the initial shock to search engines in the short term.

Know Your Site

Review the framework of your site by crawling it as a search engine would. Free tools like Screaming Frog and Woorank offer a fairly detailed analysis of things like missing or duplicate page titles, H1 tags and meta descriptions, broken links and image alt text. All of these items are digital markers for search engine bots and critical for every page.

Use a keyword research tool to identify the most effective keywords for your audience, location and industry and make sure these keywords are found in key locations on your webpages. Free tools such as Google Adwords’ Keyword Planner, Google Trends and Keyword can help you identify these words or phrases.

Perform an inbound link analysis to identify all inbound links and attempt to retain as many as possible, or make plans to notify the site displaying the link. The inbound link, also known as trackbacks or backlinks, is one of the most successful tools for improving search engine ranking. If the web address used for an inbound link is deleted or edited, the link will be lost and search ranking can diminish. Free tools like Open Site Explorer and Magestic’s Site Explorer can help you identify the most popular inbound links that you might want to consider migrating to the new site.

Keep What’s Working

Maintain your current web address, if at all possible. Over time, those URLs have built up valuable ranking equity and can contain priority keywords in key areas, such as the title, header or body. Of course, sometimes a website can simply become ungainly and be due for a little cleaning up. If URLs do change, in order to maintain search engine rankings, the website developer can set up 301 page redirects that will inform search engines of the new page that needs to be crawled and maintain prior page ranking. If this step is skipped, new page site rankings will be reset and drop to the bottom of the search pile.

Wireframe organization matters. Site organizational changes can also impact ranking – pages once linked to high-value pages can become linked to lower value pages and lose optimal ranking. Ideally, site structure, category labels and internal links are consistent with the old site, where possible, while still maintaining the integrity of the new site’s organization for an excellent user experience.

 Keep the right words in the right place. Copy changes in key locations such as titles, headers, top-of-the-page content and alt text can also cause search engines to re-evaluate page ranking according to high-traffic keywords – be sure not to remove those.

Track Progress

Utilize webmaster accounts like Google and Bing that assist with search recognition, such as listing with Google Maps, Google+ and providing access to useful analytics. With these accounts, you can also notify the search engines about an upcoming domain move and check in on performance before, during and after the migration.

Updating your site on a new platform can be a great opportunity to boost your site’s search engine optimization (SEO). Or, it can be a disaster by removing years of work put into accumulated search engine rankings. For best results, make sure someone in your organization understands the above general concepts and can act on them, or contact our digital team to help you.

Gerard Marketing Group recently expanded their capabilities to include SEO planning and implementation. Contact us to guide you through your SEO challenges.