Creating an SEO Redesign Launch Plan

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “SEO: Launching a Redesigned Site.”

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series on identifying, assessing, and mitigating the risk of site redesigns on organic search traffic. Part one, “SEO: Identifying the Impact of a Site Redesign,” we published last week.

Launching a redesigned site is filled with potentially high risks and rewards for organic search traffic. Regardless of whether the risks outweigh the rewards in the end, the weeks following a redesign typically produce unstable organic search traffic patterns and may include some nail-biting days. In “SEO: Identifying the Impact of a Site Redesign,” part one of this two-part series, I discussed how to predict which areas of the site were most likely to be impacted in the redesign.

In this second installment, I will focus on how to identify the scale of the risk to organic search traffic as well as how to create a plan to mitigate that risk. The full article includes the following sections:

  • Organic Search Risk and Reward
  • Calculating the Risk
  • Mitigating Organic Search Risk
  • 301 Redirect Plans
  • Closely Measure Afterwards

Read the article in full at Practical eCommerce, “SEO: Launching a Redesigned Site.”

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

47% Smartphone Penetration, Better Start Mobile Search Optimization

Excerpts from my latest article at NBC Chicago’s Inc. Well: “How to Ride the Mobile Search Wave.”

With smartphone penetration in the U.S. at 47 percent as of Q2 2012, more Americans have smartphones than feature phones according to comScore. Smarter phones with their always-on connections enable quicker access to information, which is what mobile search is all about.

With more than 110 million smartphones in hand, many of the searches conducted are increasingly local. Advertising experts firm BIA/Kelsey estimates that while searches today are three times as likely to happen on a desktop computer as a mobile device, mobile devices will dominate local search by 2015.

That’s good news for businesses with optimal mobile presences, and an opportunity for those still thinking about setting up a mobile site. Already, Pew Internet reports that 74 percent of smartphone owners use their phone to get real-time location-based information, and 30 percent use their phone to decide whether to visit a business. So how can you ride this surging tide of mobile searches? Here’s how:

  • Mobile Site Structure
  • Mobile Keyword Research
  • Mobile Optimization

Read the full article with all the details at NBC Chicago’s Inc. Well >>

Image courtesy of SurferToday.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

SEO: Identifying the Impact of a Site Redesign

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “SEO: Identifying the Impact of a Site Redesign,” part one of a two-part series on identifying, assessing, and mitigating the risk of site redesigns on organic search traffic.

Site redesigns can create a period of intense instability for organic search traffic. Predicting which areas of the site will be most vulnerable to that instability and creating an SEO launch strategy to mitigate the risk in those areas decreases both the length and the intensity of the disruption to organic search traffic.

Hasbro’s anxiety-laden board game “Perfection” comes to mind when I think of redesigns. The game features a spring-loaded playing surface and a variety of plastic shapes. To begin playing, you push the blue, spring-loaded tray down and set the embedded timer. Then you have 60 seconds in which to accurately place all of the little yellow pieces into the matching holes in the tray. If you fail to place them all in 60 seconds, the tray springs up with an awful suddenness, spraying plastic pieces all over the place. I hated that game.

A redesign is not unlike that moment of sudden change at the end of the game Perfection. When a site redesigns, a number of elements that search engines use to determine the relevance and authority of the pages on a site tend to change suddenly and all at the same time. The world of a site as the search engines know it is suddenly different and must be carefully reindexed and analyzed algorithmically to determine its place in the rankings.

URLs typically change as pages are added and deleted, content is merged or split into new pages. The URLs that existed previously had some amount of authority and link popularity associated with them. When the URLs change, how that change is handled matters a great deal to the search engines, and thus to the organic search traffic the pages will drive after the redesign goes live.

Navigation is another major disruptor when a redesigned site launches. In addition to the URL changes that tend to accompany navigational changes, the flow of link juice throughout the site can be dramatically altered by just a few changes to the links included in the navigation. Categories may be merged together or split apart. Links to subcategory pages may be added or removed based on design constraints. Navigational labels may change so that the anchor text for the navigational links is different, sending different keyword signals across the site post-launch.

Keep in mind that not all navigation is found in the header and footer. Cross-linking features like tagging and related products also serve as navigation. Be sure to analyze changes to these features as well.

Finally, content that was plain text may be reworked into a less indexable format like images or video. Text is a dying component in modern web design, much to the detriment of organic search traffic. Designers and brands prefer the clean look of image-based content where fonts and other design elements can be controlled more easily. Unfortunately, without space in the template for a couple of lines of plain textual content, many sites risk becoming nearly mute in the redesign process, unable to send strong keyword relevance signals.

All of these changes, very common in site redesigns, send extremely disruptive signals to the search engine. The marketing and development teams have been planning the redesign for months, but literally overnight Googlebot and Bingbot are surprised with an entirely new site without any advanced warning. Helping the bots understand the changes quickly is the secret to mitigating the risk to the site’s organic search traffic.

Read the full article for tips on what questions to ask designers and developers, how to identify the SEO-critical changes in a redesign project and more at Practical eCommerce: “SEO: Identifying the Impact of a Site Redesign.”

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Measure What Matters in SEO

Excerpts from my latest article at NBC 5 Chicago’s Inc. Well: “How to Measure What Matters Most for SEO.”

What matters in SEO most when measuring the performance of an SEO program is the bottom line: conversions. All other data – including rankings, quality and quantity of backlinks, bounce rates – merely serves as tools to diagnose issues and opportunities in driving organic search conversions.

A lot of people become obsessed with rankings as a key performance indicator. I understand. It’s easy information to acquire after all, you just Google your favorite keyword and see where you rank. Unfortunately, using rankings as a key indicator has two primary issues.

First, all searches are personalized these days. That means that I may see my favorite keyword rank number one ranking on Google, but you may see it rank number seven. Depending on the location, log in status, cookies, search history and a number of other factors, the search engines customize the search results to each individual searcher. The days of saying with confidence that any one page ranks number one for all searchers is long gone. As such, rankings are an unreliable performance metric.

Second, even in the best circumstances ….

Read the article in full at NBC 5 Chicago’s Inc. Well >>

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

14 Excel Tips for SEO and Beyond

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “SEO: Using Excel for Keyword Analysis.”

Excel is without a doubt the SEO tool I use most frequently. Excel helps me organize my thoughts, decide which keywords or pages to focus on, illustrate key concepts, and even draft rudimentary content. Of course you can use these tips for far more than SEO analysis. Unfortunately, some of these features are only available in Excel 2010. For full descriptions of each item and how I use them in my daily SEO work, please click through to Practical eCommerce: “SEO: Using Excel for Keyword Analysis.”

Favorite Excel 2010 Formulas


Favorite Excel 2010 Menu Items

  • Freeze Panes
  • Remove Duplicates
  • Manual Calculation

Favorite Excel 2010 Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Highlight Range: Ctrl+Shift+Arrow Key.
  • Move to End: Ctrl+Arrow Key.
  • Filter: Ctrl+Shift+L.
  • Delete: Alt+E, D.
  • Insert > Cells: Alt+I, E.
  • Paste Special > Values: Alt+E, S, V.
  • Transpose Rows and Columns: Alt+E, S, E.
  • Escape.

These are some of the commands, formulas and shortcuts I use day in and day out in Excel 2010. Sometimes it’s ugly, sometimes it’s kludgy, but it always gets the job done. What are your favorite time-saving Excel shortcuts?

Read the article in full at Practical eCommerce »

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