The Wpromoter is proud to announce our first official Client Guest Blog, courtesy of Eva Wallace of StacksandStacks.com. We’re happy to have her represented here, and look forward to future posts!
As manager of the StacksandStacks.com web team, I head up some of our research on Search Engine Optimization. Our team has learned about keywords and keyword phrases, Meta titles and tags. We even helped with our pay-per-click ad writing campaign, but I digress. The fruits of our labor definitely paid off: we ranked #1 for many of our keywords in Google, and hit the first page of Google search for dozens more, advancing our business in ways we never knew possible.
Then several months ago, our business website underwent a major overhaul. A new site design, new page layout, all-new category structure – it was a work of art, really – we were all very excited when we launched! But shortly afterward, we realized our search engine rankings were not nearly as high as they had been before the re-design.
Luckily, Wpromote’s SEO division clued us in on a few things we never knew (thanks, guys!!!), and helped us get back on track. Without further ado, here are 5 things we learned about SEO that really had an effect on our rankings.
1 – If you make a site change like we did, every single old cached page must be redirected.
Just because you create a new website doesn’t mean your old site disappears into thin air. Since many people have pages of your old site bookmarked, they won’t know where to find you if their bookmarks no longer function. This can send your organic rankings on a nosedive which is the last thing you want. To prevent this from happening, make sure every cached page of your old website is redirected to the new corresponding page.
Additionally, and most importantly, Google, the most popular search engine, may have already indexed the pages of your old website. When these indexed pages appear in Google search results, any user who clicks on the result will be directed to an error page, also known as a “404” page. As Google becomes aware of the error pages on your site, the pages will go down in ranking, and eventually be removed from the index completely.
2 – Duplicate page content, in any form (except for video), is bad.
Google wants users to be happy. This means providing creative and relevant web content to its users. To that end, when you have more than one version of an article, blog post, or even a basic description of one of your services on your website, it confuses Google, who doesn’t know which version to reference. The result is that Google lowers your ranking, and may give higher rankings other web pages that have duplicated your content, even though your web page is the original.
Once your content is being hosted on domains you don’t manage, you are encroaching upon a very gray area called “reputation management.” This is a complicated arena with many elements to consider, but a good way to police this and make sure others aren’t stealing your content is to use Google Alerts, a service that searches for copies of your content on other sites and emails you links when one is discovered.
If you find your content has been posted without proper citation or flat-out duplicated, the next step is to contact the website administrator and ask them *nicely* to take it down.
3 – Meta Keywords aren’t as important as they once were.
Because many web pages make use of more than one keyword for ranking purposes (and many SEO content writers try to use “keyword stuffing“), Google has begun placing less importance on Meta keywords and more importance on Meta descriptions and page titles (see #5 below). This means you don’t have to waste your time trying to stuff as many keywords as possible into your Meta keywords tag. However, you can still use Meta keywords to keep your site content organized and make it clear to your internal web team and content writers which page is targeting which keyword.
4 – Google’s bots and web crawlers recognize synonyms on your pages and may give more weight to pages you don’t want to be recognized.
While your website may feature several pages with similar, although not duplicate, content, keep in mind which pages are meant to target which keywords. If you aren’t careful, users searching for one of your keywords may be served with a less relevant page in Google’s search results because Google will recognize synonyms on that page. To help mitigate this problem, use internal and external linking with your keyword phrases as anchor text and you’ll have a better chance of users being directed to the right page.
5 – The Meta Title is what shows up as the heading in a web search. The Meta Description is what shows up as the brief description underneath it. If you want to grab people’s attention, you only have a few words in which to do it – so make it count!
The idea that a Meta title and/or description could make or break your chances of a user visiting your website was news to me, but now that we understand their importance, we make sure both elements are pithy, relevant, and up-to-date for every page on our site. When writing own Meta titles, I learned it is important to use the main keyword in the first 65 characters and the rest of the title for branding with your domain name, etc. Likewise, when writing your Meta descriptions, I try to stay within the recommended length of approximately 165 – 180 characters, and include a strong call to action in the text when appropriate. A targeted call to action in your description in conjunction with a well-written Meta title will help users and search engines know they have found the right page.
I hope these tips will help you navigate the tricky world of SEO. If you need more help, you can always get in touch with the friendly SEO department at Wpromote!!