Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

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How to Protect Your SEO During a Website Redesign

Protect Your SEO

Google rankings drop after a website redesign.Your website search rankings have been earned through time and a significant amount of effort. There are a number of situations where a change to your website runs the risk of jeopardizing those rankings.

  • A redesign of your website
  • Changing your website to be responsive and mobile-friendly
  • Changing your domain (e.g. BobAndJohnsPlumbing.com becomes BobsPlumbing.com)
  • Changing your top level domain (e.g. from .net to .com)
  • Switching to a secure HTTPS website from an insecure HTTP website

Any of these changes involve a very real risk of losing your hard-earned search rankings. When the URL (the website address) of any of your pages changes, all of the links that pointed to that page still point to the old URL. That means the new URL suddenly has no external links pointing to it, and link authority (domain authority, page authority) drops to zero. That link authority is a critical part of your search rankings. When it drops to zero, so does your Google ranking.

When you begin any website maintenance that’s going to change your URLs, you need to pay special attention to protecting your SEO by protecting your inbound link profile.

How to Protect Your Link Authority

301 permanent redirects are used to protect link authority during a website redesign.A 301 permanent redirect is something your web designer should be well familiar with. It tells anyone looking for an old URL where to go to see that information in its new URL. Unlike other ways to redirect people, the 301 redirect also allows the new URL to inherit the link authority that had been earned by the old page.

So the first step is to compile a list of the URLs of all the pages on your site before you switch over to the redesigned version. Next to each one, annotate the URL of the new version of that page. If any of your old pages are disappearing, annotate the URL of the closest matching page in your redesigned website. If there really isn’t a matching page in your new website, then use the URL of your home page.

Each of those pairs of URLs represents a unique 301 permanent redirect which your web designer needs to create. Those need to go into effect at the same time as your redesigned website goes live. If you want to test any of your 301 redirects to make sure they’re working properly, there’s a redirect testing tool here.

The inheritance of link authority isn’t instantaneous, so expect a loss of rankings for a few weeks. But there are some things you can do to combat that.

For any of your inbound links with whom you have a personal or professional relationship, contact them and ask them if they would change the target of their links to point directly to the new URLs. that can work to speed up how quickly your rankings will return. And as always, link building should be an ongoing activity. New links to your new URLs are very important after a website redesign.

More information:

This is an update to our original post from 2007.

Your perspective adds to the value here. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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Frightening News about Page Speed and Bounce Rate

Page speed and bounce rate – a couple of definitions

  • Page speed: the time it takes to fully display the content on a specific web page.
  • Bounce rate: the percent of visits to a site that look at only one page.

Measure your page download speed and keep it under three seconds

How page speed and bounce rate are related

Impatience drives visitors to leave a web page that doesn’t display on their computer or phone as quickly as they want it to. That’s a bounce. The rule of thumb currently is that you begin to lose significant numbers of visitors when your page speed exceeds two seconds. Pingdom says:

… the average bounce rate for pages loading within 2 seconds is 9%. As soon as the page load time surpasses 3 seconds, the bounce rate soars, to 38% by the time it hits 5 seconds!

Graph showing the relationship between page speed and bounce rate

This graph illustrates the bad news. As page download time increases beyond 3 seconds, bounce rate increases dramatically.

A high bounce rate represents lost business.

If your goal is for visitors to take an action on your site, such as filling out an information form, contacting you, or buying something  — then bounces  represent lost customers.

But it’s actually worse than that.

Ranking factors on Google

It’s been well known and reported here that page speed is a ranking factor at Google. We began warning about it way back in 2009. All else being equal, a fast downloading page will outrank a slow page.

We’ve also pointed out that a high bounce rate is a negative ranking factor on Google as well.

Update June 2018: If your market is international, it may help to know what your page speed is overseas. I recommend a test at DotCom Tools that will test your page speed at over 20 international cities.

Why it gets really bad

The frightening thing about all this is that these two negative ranking factors compound one another. It’s bad enough if you suffer a ranking penalty because your page is slow. But that slowness raises your bounce rate, resulting in a double-whammy to your ranking in Google search results.

Our recommendation is to work to make sure your pages all download within three seconds at the most. Two seconds is ideal, but three seconds is usually tolerable.

We always welcome your perspective. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

We offer a free SEO review of your website, including page speed and many other factors. Call us and let’s set it up.

 

Local Business: Get Found and Get Chosen

You need to get found — and chosen

Local listings on Google: the Local Pack or 3-Pack.

Getting found on Google

When someone is looking for what you do, you need them to find you. Typical SEO is great for getting you to show up prominently in the search engine results. But Google has been changing and you have additional opportunities to get found.

The Local 3 Pack  on the right often displays near the top of the page when a local search is performed. Whether you show up here is a function of three things:

  1. Your SEO
    This includes on-page optimization for the keyword phrases customers use most when looking for what you do, and off-page link building to improve your website’s online “authority”.
  2. Proximity to the searcher
    This is what it sounds like: how close your location is to wherever the searcher is searching from. Clearly you can have no influence over this.
  3. Prominence of your business
    This relates to your online citations: how broadly across the web your location data is listed and how consistent it is across dozens of local search engines, directories, maps and apps.

At Rank Magic, we’re experts in Local SEO for small and very small local businesses. And we have a simple solution for ensuring your prominence across the most important locally focused sites across the web.

Reach out to us for a free SEO and prominence consultation about your business.

The Moz Blog calls location data and review ratings “The 1-2 Punch of Local SEO”

Image courtesy of The Moz Blog

Once you’ve optimized your location data and customers can easily find you, the next step is to get them to choose you.

Getting chosen

Once you’ve been found, it’s very likely that some of your competitors will also show up. You want them to pick your listing in preference to the others. One of the best ways to do that is to demonstrate that you’ve got a very strong positive review profile. Inc Magazine says

Research shows that 91 percent of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84 percent trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

The impact of online review ratings is clear in this Google local 3-pack.With that in mind, take a look at the Local 3-Pack on the left for someone looking for an Indian restaurant in upstate New York. Which would you check out first? Most likely you would choose the one with 4.5 stars rather than the one with 1.6 stars. And if one of the restaurants listed had no reviews at all, odds are that would be your last choice.

It’s pretty clear that your online star ratings can have a significant impact on your business.

If you don’t have a strategy for encouraging positive reviews from your customers, now is the time to start one.

At Rank Magic we have a simple  program to generate positive reviews and balance them across the top rating sites like Google, Facebook, MerchantCircle, Yelp, and more. Contact us to learn more about how our solution can drive more customers to your business.

In fact, we have a free scanning service. Now you can see how good your own location prominence and reviews are. There’s no obligation, and did I say it’s free?

Just click here to run a free scan of your local listings.

Join the conversation with your opinions and experience in the Comments below.

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Does Your Site Use Intrusive Interstitials? Better Not!

Why you need to avoid intrusive interstitials

What’s an Interstitial?

An interstitial is an ad that appears in between two pages. Sometimes they can appear before the home page on your site. Often interstitials are pop-up ads, but sometimes they will be helpful, like an offer to chat with a live person. An interstitial ad is a form of interruption marketing used by advertisers who want their ads to be more like broadcast ads.

Many interstitials are just fine. But you want to be  sure your interstitials aren’t intrusive.

Examples of intrusive interstitial's that can generate a Google ranking penalty.

What’s wrong with an intrusive interstitial?

An intrusive interstitial or pop-up ad is one that annoyingly blocks all or most of a page. This is more problematic on mobile sites where there’s much less screen real estate. With less room on the screen it’s very easy for an interstitial to be considered intrusive.

One thing intrusive interstitials do is that they annoy your visitors. That’s a bad thing in and of itself, especially if it’s annoying enough to drive the visitor away. They also slow down the loading of your site because it’s extra material to download into a phone or browser.

Why is it important to avoid them?

It’s been well known for years that Google favors fast sites. If your interstitial is slowing down the display of your pages, that might hurt your ranking. But even beyond that, Google hates them. Google announced about a year and a half ago that at the beginning of 2017 intrusive interstitials would negatively affect your ranking. And here at  Rank Magic we are always concerned about the health of your rankings.

A few exceptions

Google has identified three types of interstitials that “would not be affected by the new signal” if “used responsibly.”

  • Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.
  • Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, this would include private content such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.
  • Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. For example, the app-install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.

Please join the conversation and share your observations in the Comments section below.

If you’re struggling with your online visibility, please call us. Because at Rank Magic, we can fix that!

Make Your Small Business Website Secure with HTTPS

HTTPS padlock icon

What is HTTPS?

Many normal website URLs start with HTTP:// which specifies the standard language for a browser to download a website.

Unfortunately, that’s not secure enough to protect things like your login to your bank or any other site where you share important information like credit card numbers.

A secure site begins with  HTTPS://. HTTPS encrypts all the data between the browser and the website, protecting it from prying eyes. You should always check before filing out forms with sensitive information; the easiest way is to look for the green closed padlock symbol to the left of the URL.

What if my site doesn’t take credit cards?

It feels like it shouldn’t matter for a small business website that never asks for anything sensitive like a social security number or credit card. Therefore, why bother? Why spend money to change your site?

The Google logo.Because Google cares! As far back as 2014 Google said they were using it as a ranking signal and that they would weigh it more and more heavily as time went on.

Moz reported in 2016 that the portion of HTTPS sites on the first page of Google results had increased from about 5% to about 30%. Surely it’s even higher now.

Why small businesses need HTTPS

As a small business owner, you understand how tough it is to compete with larger, more established competitors. Every little thing that helps you rank better against them is critical to your business. Even though HTTPS is not yet one of the half dozen strongest ranking signals on Google, it’s getting more important day by day. I believe now is the time it’s become important enough that it needs to be addressed, and earlier this year I converted this website to HTTPS.

Even your local small business competitors may be getting the jump on you by securing their own websites. You don’t want to be late to the party. Just see how widely this has become a “best practices” tool for you.

How tough is it to do?

Here are the three steps involved, thanks to Amy Gideon at TAG Online, Inc.

Step 1: Obtain a secure certificate.  The type of certificate can vary depending upon your hosting company and the level of security you want and need. So make sure to first check with your web hosting company on what type of certificate you need.

HTML coding may be required to make your site secure.Step 2: Once the certificate is installed, update your site to ensure that all links within the site are relative That means if your site displays an image called photo.jpg, the code that makes that image appear should be (assuming the image resides in the main directory): <img src=”/photo.jpg”>  as opposed to <img src=“http://www.yoursite.com/photo.jpg>. This is good practice for many reasons, but it also prevents the site from loading non-secure images, as the “http://” prefix will no longer work and would be insecure. Also update your site to ensure that there are no links or references that display content (PDFs or images, for example) linked from outside sites that are not secure. Here is a link to a tool that will scan your website for non-secure content: https://www.jitbit.com/sslcheck/.

Step 3: Test your site using HTTPS: if the green lock appears in the browser, then you can ask your web hosting company to redirect all requests to HTTP to now go to HTTPS.

Whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or have your webmaster  do it, it’s time and effort well spent.

Comments, opinions, and disagreements are all welcome below. Join the conversation!

Need help with this or other aspects of optimizing your website? Give us a call.