Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

SEO Blog

Why Did Your Nice, New Website Destroy Your Search Rankings?

Loss of RankingsIt’s sad to say, but we see this all too often. An old website gets a facelift, and the new site looks great. But it’s not long before the website owner notices that they’re no longer getting any business from people finding them on the web. What happened?

We’ve written before about why good SEO consultants make lousy web designers, and vice versa, and there are just some SEO techniques that great web designers don’t really think much about.

The two mistakes that kill your online visibility

There are two main factors that govern where you rank in the search engines: Relevance and Reputation. A significant problem with either one of them will cost you rankings in the search engines.

Keyword relevanceRelevance

During the website redesign, the text copy on your pages may be updated. Certainly the HTML code behind the pages is changed. It’s not at all uncommon for the new copy to fail to use some of your essential keyword phrases or for them not to be included appropriately in the code. This makes it difficult for search engines to recognize that your page is an appropriate match for those keyword phrases.

The solution to this is to go back to your original optimization recommendations and re-apply them to your webpages.  (You do have optimization recommendations to reapply, don’t you?)

Reputation

This accounts for 40-50% of where you rank in Google. It’s important in other search engines as well, but Google weighs it more heavily than the rest of them. Your reputation (sometimes called  “authority”) is measured by your link popularity:” the number and quality of other websites that link to yours. Over time, the pages on your website have earned significant link popularity, helping them to rank well in the search engines.

URL changes can hurt your rankings

Unfortunately, most website redesign projects result in new URLs for the pages on your website. Without explicit action, all the link popularity earned by you or previous page URLs is simply lost. This is related to the issue of canonicalization we discuss in the SEO portion of our website, as well as in our blog.

The solution is to do the proper kind of “redirect” from the old URL to the new URL so that the new URL can inherit the link popularity and reputation earned by your previous version of the page. There are multiple kinds of redirects that will ensure that anyone who tries to go to your old page will be sent to the new one. But only one kind, the 301 permanent redirect, will also redirect the link popularity value from the old URL to the new one.

Don’t Panic

Don't Panic!

Obviously, if this happens to you you need to jump on it as quickly as possible and get things fixed. Better still would be to anticipate this potential disaster and deal with it before your redesigned website even goes live.

If this has happened to you and you need help recovering from the loss of search rankings, Rank Magic can help.

Has this happened to you? Share your experience in the Comments below.

WE hope you’ll  Like, Tweet or +1 this post if you found it helpful.

Rethinking Title Tags for SEO

The Title Tag is perhaps the single most powerful place for your keywords to appear for SEO purposes. It’s weighed heavily by all search engines in their ranking algorithms, and it also appears as the headline of your listing in the search engines.

The Old Rule of Thumb

Note how much larger the headlines are than before. Those headlines are the title tags for the pages listed.

The old rule of thumb was that your title tag should be limited to about 70 characters. Some people misconstrued that as a “limit” but it’s really only a guideline. Its origin lies in the number of characters that are visible in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), which is approximately 70 characters. That varies from one search engine to another, and as a result of variable pitch fonts it can be significantly more or fewer characters depending on the prevalence of narrow or wide letters in your title.

Beyond the Visibility Issue

SEOs have tested and proven that search engines register and index the words the get truncated from a long title tag, so the 70-character “limit” didn’t really apply to the search engine rankings for your page. It does, however, limit what people see in he SERPs. The words in the search phrase are typically made bold in the SERP listings, so listings with more words that match  a search query stand out from the rest and are more likely to be clicked. We don’t want great rankings for rankings sake; we want them for the sake of the traffic they bring. So having your most popular keywords in the first 70 characters of your title tag means you’re more likely to stand out as a match to the query and get clicked.

Google logo

Google Throws In a Monkey Wrench

Google has been testing a change in the appearance of its SERPs, which involves an increase in the font size of the headlines (title tags) it displays. That change is being rolled out to more and more users and we expect soon will affect everyone. Peter Meyers at Moz wrote about that recently, and has screen shots to illustrate the impact.

What this means is that it’s now more important than ever to have your critical keywords at the beginnings of your title tags. If you can limit your title tags to about 55 characters (down from 70) you can expect 95% of then not to get cut off.

Want to Test Your Title Tags?

Well, you can. There’s a title preview tool at Moz. Just enter your title tag and your keyword phrase and it’ll show you what will appear in Google and what will get cut off.

Are you significantly affected by this? Let us know in the Comments below.

Please don’t be afraid to Like, Tweet or +1 this post if you found it helpful.

Need help with your SEO? Contact Rank Magic and let’s talk.

Combat the Bounce

The Dreaded Bounce  — What Is It?

Visitors who bounce like this are bad for your rankings.

We’ve all done it. Clicked on a link to a web page somewhere and realized it’s not what we were really looking for. So we click the Back button in our browser and move on. That’s a bounce: we bounced right back to where we came from.

Is a Bounce Bad?

Clearly, a bounce isn’t exactly good; that visitor didn’t buy anything. But is it really bad? Or just … meh?

Actually, it’s pretty bad. It’s not just a “so what?” matter.

When someone bounces, especially when they landed on your site from a search page, that tells the search engine that (at least to that visitor) your page wasn’t a good match for what they were searching for. And if your page isn’t a good match for whatever keyword phrase was searched, the search engine probably won’t want to rank your page as highly next time.

This can hurt you no matter how well your on-page keyword optimization has been done, and no matter how many relevant pages on other sites are linking to your page. Bouncing is a negative ranking factor.

How Do You Prevent Bounces?

This is where you need the skills of a copywriter. You need to make your page uniquely informative  — or fun  — or surprising  — or outrageous  — or provocative. And unique. SEO techniques can’t help you with this. Nothing done with search engines in mind can help you with this. You need to craft each web page with your visitors in mind. What do they need? What are they looking for? What will they like?

And you need to ask them to do something. “Click for more.” “Sign up for our newsletter.” “Tell us what you think.” “What are your questions about this?” “Buy now.” These are calls to action, and their efficacy is undisputed. Why do you suppose when you order a fast food burger they always ask you “Want fries with that?” It’s because they sell lots more fries that way. It can work for you, too.

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Need help with your own website’s rankings? Rank Magic can help.

 

Do You Need an SEO?

Maybe. Probably.

Google has an excellent post that answers this question and more. Here’s how they start:

SEO is an acronym for “search engine optimization” or “search engine optimizer.” Deciding to hire an SEO is a big decision that can potentially improve your site and save time, but you can also risk damage to your site and reputation. Make sure to research the potential advantages as well as the damage that an irresponsible SEO can do to your site.

So how do you tell an “irresponsible SEO”?

We’ve addressed some of this before with posts that can all be found here. The recent article by Google overlaps a bit with that, and here are the main points Google stresses:

  • Avoid Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.
  • No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.
  • Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do.
  • You should never have to link to an SEO.
  • Choose wisely (our posts can help).
  • Be sure to understand where the money goes (organic or PPC?).
  • What are the most common abuses a website owner is likely to encounter?

Like this post? Please say so with the Like button above or the +1 button below. Or tweet it with the button up top. Thanks for sharing.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below.

We encourage you, after reading what Google has to say, to put us to the test.

Do AdWords customers get special treatment?

If you buy Google Ads, can you get special treatment?

Google has long said that buying AdWords ads doesn’t help your rankings in the search results. But someone recently asked why his AdWords rep couldn’t help answer some questions about his organic rankings.

Google’s Matt Cutts answers the question.

Need help with your organic rankings? If Google can’t help, Rank Magic can!