Recently, we had a client come to us for some search engine optimization advice. They had been working with a web development company for over one and one half years with a completion date nowhere in sight. The client had suspicions that their web development company was not complying with their needs to protect their current rankings. Over 500 of their keywords and keyword phrases resulted on page one in the Google Search Engine Results Pages. In addition, over 3,000 keywords and keyword phrases resulted in the top 100 results in the Google Search Engine Results Pages.
Most of these keywords were pretty spot on as to being relevant for the resulting pages, however, some were not. The client’s suspicions were confirmed and concerns were escalated when they asked their web development company what they were doing about their search engine optimization and protecting their rankings. Their answer was: “just put some keywords in the meta keywords and then some on the page.” We were then tasked with reviewing the simple basics of search engine optimization as provided by the current developer.
At this point, one must understand why a new site was under development. The current site was purchased from another company. This purchase did not come with ownership of the source code. No changes could be made to the site other than items in their shopping cart. The site was not mobile-friendly and we could see from their Google Analytics account that their mobile visitors accounted for over 50% of their overall traffic, but only accounted for less than 4% of total sales. Desktop traffic conversions were over +90%.
A Serious Reason to Redesign Your Site For Mobile Users.
When we first logged in to the development server the first thing that we discovered was that none of the dev-server URLs were anywhere near the existing site URLs.
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For example, an existing URL may look like “www.healthydogfood.com/medium-dog-food-pork-vegetables-12oz.html
However, the dev-site URL looked like: “www.healthydogfood.com/templates/product_ProductBasic.aspx?ProductGuid=6NWB&GroupGuid=46
The dev site ‘should’ look similar enough to what the live site should be for evaluation of go or no-go decisions. After questioning the client, it was made known that they had created a 301 redirect file from the old URLs to the new. Further questioning revealed that the developer had informed them that the new URLs, which were entered by hand by the client in an undefined area, would no longer be the “/templates/product_ProductBasic.aspx?ProductGuid=6NWB&GroupGuid=46” structure, but would convert to the URLs that the client had entered. The client confirmed that these ‘new’ URLs that they created were copied from the current site.
This area that the client had spent the last year in resources creating and entering new URLs was never clearly defined or even if that was the correct area to be entering URLs. Understand that the developer, as made known to us by the client, had, on occasion, gone missing for months at a time. This was one of those times.
Still No Clarification On Where The URLs Should Be Entered?
Keep in mind we are trying to preserve the existing keyword ranking results knowing that we expect a -15% loss in ranking results due to redirects, html code changes, layout changes and linking structures. All will need to be re-crawled and re-indexed and ‘hopefully’ return to the existing ranking results within a few months’ time.
You simply cannot change your structure if you want to try to preserve what you have. On the flip side, if your site is not ranking, you can and should change it all following know guidelines. We then examined their metadata side by side. None of the existing Meta page titles were carried over word for word. Boom! Google is going to consider this an entirely different page. Your number 1 prime piece of realty and relevance has been changed from what was previously indexed and ranked for.
That page that ranked no. 1 for the keyword phrase, “healthy pork vegetable dog food” with the meta page title, “Healthy Pork Vegetable Dog Food 12oz | Medium Dogs” (maximum 50 characters in length), now read: “12oz. Pork And Vegetable Dog Food For Medium Dogs | HealthyDogFood Online Shop” (too long at 78 characters). Unfocused from the keyword phrase.
We saw the same exact issue with the Meta descriptions. Totally different from the existing and in most cases either too short or too long. Many dropping the keyword phrase altogether. In addition, we examined the existing menu linking structure and found the existing menu anchor text was changed as well, disrupting the already indexed and recognized pages/link structure in the search engines. As a result, the client attempted to contact the web developer with no response, nor a satisfactory explanation for the findings above. With little to no response, the client begin a search for a new vendor, but, this time, with the knowledge that they know what to look for and ask of the vendors in consideration.
To assist our client we put together a simple list of ‘must have’s for the client to use as a guideline in their evaluation and qualification of a new vendor. Seebelow:
Client Side Capabilities
- Ability to change Meta title tags (page <title>> in the <head> area) at the page level, including the home page
- Ability to change Meta descriptions at the page level, including the home page
- Ability to change on page copy
- Ability to create links with title text in the copy at the page level (through use of a fully functioning WYSIWYG editor would be preferred as the client is not an .html coder)
- Installation of Google Analytics (GA) code so that it appears on every page of the website – if needed, update from old GA urchin code to new GA asynchronous code. See below
- Installation of Google Search Console (SC) code – created with installation of new GA asynchronous code. See below:
- The site MUST be mobile friendly/responsive
- Ability to apply heading tags (h1, h2, h3, etc…) at the page level (through use of a fully functioning WYSIWYG editor would be preferred)
- Ability to place images and add alt/title text (through use of a fully functioning WYSIWYG editor would be preferred)
- Access to a media database
- Ability to add new pages
- Ability to remove and unpublish existing pages
- Ownership of source code!
The client has kept us in the loop with product demos and we look forward to updates on the vendor selection and will keep you posted in future blogs about this clients success and what you can expect from That! Company.
– Mark Gray, Senior SEO Manager