You Could Be Sabotaging Your SEO Efforts
By Lee Odden
Companies invest thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars per month into improving their natural search engine visibility. At times, certain influences or perspectives occasionally evolve to work directly against the efforts of the professional SEO consultant. Here I’ll describe three scenarios and hopefully help companies avoid the unfortunate expense of sabotaging their own SEO investment.
1. Redesigning web sites or changing content management systems without a SEO migration plan. At a recent conference I met a web design type who asked what I do. I replied that I own a SEO consulting company. His reply, “Ah, keyword stuffing”. While this was most likely an attempt at humor, my reply was more typical: “Thanks to web designers/developers, SEOs are busier than ever.” ”Do you do web design?” says the humorist. My reply was common for most SEO agencies: “It’s not our focus, but I have web dev talent on staff to fix issues caused by design agencies that make client web sites nearly invisible to search engines.”
Most web design or redesign projects are executed on specifications. In many cases, those specifications emphasize front end design and user experience elements as well as back end content mangement and adminstration features. What most web design specifications do not include is attention to how search engines will interact with the web site or how a re-design will impact current search engine visibility.
The result for a web site redesign or change in content management system that does not consider implications for search engines can be disasterous. When changes are made to a web site, it can affect overall content organization, navigation, past SEO efforts of content, syntax of file names and a host of other web page elements.
When search engines crawl web sites, they make copies of web pages and links. Changing web pages and links without redirecting in the right way can be confusing to search engines.
When the search engine revisits a web site expecting to find pages and links where there are none (because file names have changed) the resulting “404 Not Found” errors send a signal to the engines that the content no longer exists. That means the pages can be removed from the index and become no longer available to people searching for your products and services.
Time and time again, when I explain the consequences of making major changes to a web site design and/or content management system, web designers and site owners alike respond with, “I never thought about that”. The consequences of having significant portions of a web site unavailable in the search engines can mean a drop in visitors and sales - a potentially expensive situation.
The solution to this unintentional sabotage is to implement a SEO migration plan that will help mitigate any negative effects of a major site change. If a web site and the the links from other sites pointing to that web site have been known to a search engine for any notable amount of time, then there is a certain equity that has been built up. Changing content and links essentially sabotages that equity and can result in plummeting search visibility.
2. Focusing SEO efforts on keyword phrases based on marketing materials. As companies become increasingly aware of the value from being easily found on major search engines, they being to incorporate the advice so easily available online, in books and at conferences.
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About the Author:
Lee Odden is CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a digital marketing and public relations firm in Minnesota that specializes in search, social and online PR consulting and training for companies worldwide. Odden has been cited for his internet marketing expertise over the past 10 years by the Economist, Forbes and U.S. News and contributed a chapter to the book, "Online Marketing Heroes" published by Wiley. For the past 5 years he has also been the editor of TopRank's Online Marketing Blog, a Technorati 100 favorite blog and one of the top marketing blogs according to Advertising Age.
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