Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

Archive for the redirects Category

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.

That Pesky “www” in Web Addresses

You may realize that if you enter a URL like rankmagic.com into your browser you get to the same page as when you enter www.rankmagic.com. It doesn’t seem to matter which way you do it. But for the search engines, it can make a difference.

WWW in URLBackground

The WWW refers to the World Wide Web, which many people consider to be synonymous with the Internet. Technically, it’s not. The WWW runs on the internet like email, but is not the Internet itself. The “www” part of an Internet address isn’t usually required, though, so you normally can use it or not when typing a URL into the address bar of your browser.

Search Engine Implications

Search engines see addresses with and without the “www” as separate addresses. Why should that matter? Because link popularity is an essential factor in good ranking and use of the “www” can affect your link popularity. Here’s how:

Suppose you have 100 links pointing to http://example.com and another hundred links pointing to http://www.example.com. Search engines will see that each URL has 100 inbound links, and that’s all you’ll get credit for. However, if they all pointed to http://www.example.com you’d get credit for all 200 links.

It can actually be worse than that, as it’s possible to have four different URLS for your home page like this:

  1. example.com
  2. www.example.com
  3. example.com/index.html
  4. www.example.com/index.html

This problem of multiple addresses for the same web page is called canonicalization. We have a full discussion of it on our web site.

What To Do?

You can’t control how other people link to your site and whether they use the “www” in the address or not. But you can set up a permanent redirect so that any time they don’t use the “www”, the link gets directed to the “www” version of your web address. We have instructions on how to fix your home page canonical issues on our web site.

Aside from redirecting external links to the “www” version of your address, you should also make sure your internal links pointing to your home page do the same. It’s very common for home page links from other pages on your site to include the actual page, as in www.example.com/l (there are several possible alternatives to index.html that your site may use). You should make sure that  your own links to your home page don’t include that “index.html” part, and just point to www.example.com.

Read more about that pesky “www” and canonicalization here.

Watch How You Redirect Traffic to Your Site

Redirect your web site properlyIf you change your domain name, you’ll need to redirect all your old pages to their new web addresses. Otherwise, people going to your old domain won’t find it … and may think you’re out of business.

If you restructure your site, you may need to redirect people from old pages that aren’t there anymore to your new pages. Otherwise people get the dreaded “404 Page Not Found” error.

There are several ways you can redirect people from one page to another, but almost all of them will hurt your search engine rankings. Your webmaster or web host is probably familiar with these:

  • JavaScript redirect is a technique sometimes used by search engine spammers to show one thing to people and something else to search engines. Avoid this like the plague.
  • Meta refresh redirect is an old type of redirect that’s fallen into disuse, and for good reason. It won’t pass any SEO value. Don’t use this.
  • 302 temporary redirect has been reported to cause trouble with your rankings in the search engines, so I recommend against it. This seems to be the kind of redirect many webmasters use by default, and they may need to be asked not to use it.
  • 301 permanent redirect tells the search engines the content has been permanently moved to the new location, and as a result the new location should inherit the link popularity of the original page. Always use this kind of redirect.

6 Website Redesign SEO Secrets Your Developer May Not Know

Website redesign considerationsIf you’re redesigning a web site that has decent visibility in the search engines, you’re at risk of de-optimizing it and seeing some of your rankings drop or even disappear. We’ve seen some businesses get their web sites redesigned without consideration of SEO and end up with a site that could never be found in the search engines. About the worst case scenario is having your new design be an all-flash website.

Here are six issues you and your web designer need to keep in mind when redesigning your web site to preserve your rankings.

  • Make sure you have search engine friendly site architecture
  • Avoid duplicate content on eCommerce sites
  • Properly redirect any renamed pages
  • Search engine friendly navigation menus – avoid DHTML and Flash navigation
  • Retain the ability to specify headers, titles, URLs, alt attributes and meta tags
  • Be careful with session IDs – feed only clean URLs to the search engines

You’ll want to know more about each of these. You’ll find a terrific discussion of them all here, along with some specific recommendations..

3 Lines of Code Can Improve Your Rankings

HTML codeMany webmasters and web site owners aren’t aware of this hidden killer of search engine rankings. The problem occurs when multiple URLs can access the same page on your site. For example, all of the following are likely to point to the same page:

  • http://samplesite.com
  • http://www.samplesite.com
  • http://samplesite.com/index.html
  • http://www.samplesite.com/index.html

If other web sites link to yours inconsistently (which will happen sooner or later), different versions of the same pages can get indexed in search engines. This forces the search engines to choose the best URL to rank. Your PageRank will be diluted by the fact that some links are going to different URLs for your page.

Do you have this problem? It’s easy to check. In your browser, navigate to www.yoursite.com (substituting your own domain, of course). Then go to yoursite.com (without the “www.”). If both go to the exact same URL (check the address box in your browser), then you’re in good shape. But if one displays your URL with the “www” and the other displays it without, then you have this problem.

How to Fix This

First, choose which version you want to use — with or without the www. Then, have your webmaster injsert the following at the beginning of your .htaccess file. (Don’t worry: your webmaster will know what that file is. Unfortunately, this only works if your site is hosted on a Unix or Linux server. If it’s hosted on a Windows server, your webmaster will have to check for the proper way to do this on your server.)

To use the with-www version of your site, use this code, substituting your domain as appropriate:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^yoursite.com
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.yoursite.com/$1 [R=301,L]

To use the without-www version of your site, use this (again substituting as appropriate):

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.yoursite.com
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://yoursite.com/$1 [R=301,L]

That’s it! Just test to make sure it works.

Of course, you still need to make sure all the sites linking to yours are linking to the right version, and that if they’re linking to your home page they’re not including the actual page filename after the .com. But this little trick should take care of the worst of things.