Category: Guides

Why you should be using video to attract and retain customers

Video views have surged in the past few years, which is largely due to the advances of smartphones, social media and improved connectivity speeds. However, it is only recently that businesses have capitalised on the emerging opportunity, with 65% of businesses who aren’t currently using video planning to do so in 2018.

But why should businesses invest in video production?

Despite what you may think, it’s not just cat videos that gain high engagement on the internet.

Ask yourself, would you be more likely to buy a product if you are delivered a long blurb about how great a product is or if you had watched an informative video? If you would rather watch a video, you are probably in the 74% of people who have bought a product after watching a high-quality explainer video. In addition, if you are able to create a video which is engaging, informative and relevant to your audience, you are placing yourself as a thought-leader which increases trust and the likelihood of a user converting on your website.

On the other hand, if you are not currently seen as a thought leader in your industry, a great way of gaining exposure is to collaborate with publications and influencers in the industry. Doing this will help increase the audience reach, add unique insights and improve the perceived quality of your video content.

23andMe partnered with Buzzfeed to showcase their product through video

Another benefit of creating videos for your business is the ability to use them across your marketing. For example, you could place an explainer video on your product page, while also using it to attract engagements on social media and improve click-throughs for your email campaigns. A recent study from Hubspot found emails that include videos experience 200-300% increases in click-through rate compared with those that don’t. So by ignoring video, you’re potentially losing a considerable number of customers.

If you want to successfully deliver your message and ensure it sticks in the memory of your audience, you may need to incorporate video in your content strategy. As our brains evolve in this ever changing digital landscape, only 10% of information is retained from text, whereas studies have found that 95% of a message is retained through video. Therefore if you want to improve your awareness, there is probably no better way than creating branded videos.

“I have created a promotional video but it isn’t receiving any views”

Many businesses create outstanding videos but fail to get them viewed by their target audience. This is why it is imperative to have a clear purpose for the video prior to creating it, with measurable goals and a strategy in place to achieve them.

If you are creating a video for promotional purposes, we would recommend hosting it on YouTube, which is the site with the second highest traffic in the world after Google. Not only does this provide an opportunity to reach your audience through the platform, it also provides an opportunity to gain visibility through Google in a video carousel, which has started to appear more since an update in June.

Google SEO video carousel

Improving your search visibility through video will result in a higher possibility of reaching people who are researching for products or services, and allow you to educate a user on why they require your product or service. Plus, once your video is live on YouTube, it is easy to use the video as part of your overall marketing strategy, reaching as relevant a target audience as possible.

In addition, high-quality videos are a great way to engage your existing customers and we would highly recommend publishing videos across your social channels multiple times to reach and engage with as many existing customers as possible. This may result in increased repeat purchase and increased confidence in your brand.

What does the future look like for video?

There are huge opportunities for businesses to capitalise on in an ever-changing digital landscape, not least with Facebook launching 360 degree video functionalities last year, and the growth of Instagram stories and IGTV.

A 360 degree test video in the CandidSky offices

We are also able to create videos which are more creative than ever with tech such as drones and easy to use video editing software. As a result, there is no longer space in the market for poor qulality videos and consumers demands are expected to increase further in the next few years. A recent study showed that 61% of users were put off buying a product due to a poor quality explainer video, which shows the power that video has on a users journey in 2018.    

In addition, there are huge opportunities emerging from advances in AR (augmented reality) technologies, which we expect to have an impact on how we interact with customers in the future, and will undoubtedly have an impact on what customers expect from your business.

Finally, we have witnessed the attention span of users decrease in recent years and millenials are demanding video content that grabs their attention in the first 5 second of a video. As such, when creating a video, we need to ensure it has a powerful message which is delivered in an engaging manner – quickly. This is why we recommend concentrating on quality over quantity when it comes to all content created for business purposes, otherwise, you could be setting yourself up to fail.

How to get started

Video should be a small piece of your overall marketing strategy and should align with your business’ goals and objectives. If you are new to video production, we strongly recommend speaking to an expert, such as CandidSky, to ensure you deliver your message effectively, make sure it aligns with your wider marketing strategy and reflects your brand voice.

Example of some short animations CandidSky created as part of a content marketing strategy for Peninsula.

 

Technology is about to change your business forever. Yes, again. (pt.2)

In part one of this post, we established the majority of UK small businesses are already struggling to keep up with digital technology; 82% of these firms still do not have a mobile-friendly site, even though the majority of web searches have been conducted on mobile devices since 2015.

In other words, nearly all of the country’s businesses are already three years behind their customers.

That’s a far, far bigger problem than businesses seem to understand; every year, more and more browsing is done on mobile, and more money is spent using mobile devices. That’s not standing still – that’s going backwards.

But it’s nothing compared to what’s in store. Because the next explosion of technological innovation is already underway and it’s frankly terrifying. Bear in mind that every type of technology mentioned in this video is already in use or at least in development:

Ultimately, markets will decide which of these innovations will take off and which die. And markets are people. Markets are customers. Markets are your customers.

What’s certain is technology has proven to be instrumental in shaping consumer habits – so at least some of these innovations will change the way your business operates forever:

Your customers may not want to speak to you

National Australia Bank’s “virtual banker” can already recognise 13,000 variations of 200 common questions from its business banking customers. And in terms of artificial intelligence (AI), that’s nowhere close to its full potential. In fact, many renowned futurists, like Ray Kurzweil, believe AI may become indistinguishable from human intelligence within the next 30 years.

Despite AI’s infancy, a recent Salesforce study found 69% of customers already prefer AI chatbots to human interaction for simple queries. And who wouldn’t? Nobody likes long call queues. And when you do get through, you often end up speaking to a robot-like operator with no knowledge of how to answer the simplest questions.

Even a small technological improvement in AI – fuelled by customers wanting a richer experience – will see an even greater number of people preferring to interact with a robot, which will further fuel innovation, and the cycle of development will repeat. It’s why companies like Google have invested heavily in organisations such as DeepMind (who they acquired for $500m in 2014), which teaches computers to think and learn like humans – including teaching new skills to themselves and then to other computers.

In short, the ability of machines to understand human language and behaviour may change the way businesses interact with customers forever.

There will be no such thing as “using a computer”

This is what a quantum computer looks like:

Well, kind of. That’s just what houses it. You can’t really see a quantum computer, because it works by shining lasers at atoms. Yep, a quantum computer is just a bunch of invisible atoms.

While the technology is too young to be particularly useful, the method it uses to solve equations means these computers could soon be almost infinitely faster than existing computers – while being so tiny, they’ll occupy virtually no physical space.  

Now, are you ready for your head to really hurt? This is what a carbon nanotube looks like.

They’re made from a material called graphene; with a width of just one atom, graphene is technically two-dimensional. It’s so light, even the mildest air current will make it float. It conducts light, electricity, and heat extremely efficiently, and it’s 200 times stronger than steel.

Now, imagine the potential of quantum computers combined with graphene. It would mean everything and anything could be a supercomputer. Your shoelaces. Powerlines. False eyelashes. Literally anything.

So, as much as the computer and the smartphone changed consumer habits, that technology looks seriously antiquated by comparison. You won’t have to make a conscious decision to use a computer, you’ll constantly be using a whole network of computers for everything all the time.

It’s likely that the combination and mass adoption of quantum computers and graphene could completely reshape the physical world as we know it – opening up mind-boggling new business opportunities and challenges.

No more middlemen

Have you heard of Bitcoin? No, we’re not going to try and explain how it works – that’s not important, but you have to understand that blockchain development services for supply chains is important.

What is important is the technology that powers it – the blockchain. No, we’re not going to explain how that works, either. All that matters is to understand which parts of your business it could affect – which is absolutely every part of it.

Put simply, blockchain technology’s strength is that it removes the middlemen from virtually everything that involves data. It’s an unhackable system that anyone can use to directly send any type of data anywhere. Document storage, the transfer of money, and sending contracts could soon be facilitated by blockchain on a mass scale – all of this data could be securely exchanged from person-to-person (or business-to-business) without the need for anyone to manage that process.

Blockchain has the potential to do to the internet what Napster did to the music industry. And early adopters like American Express, BHP Billiton, and Apple are already capitalising on blockchain’s power.

In just a few years, your customers may expect to book, pay for, and receive your goods or services via some kind of blockchain-powered solution. Why? Because it will be quick, secure, and cheap for them – three of the key reasons that drive huge numbers of people to adopt a new technology.

Your competitors will be literally everyone – including the big players

Even if quantum computing hits some kind of wall, the internet will still become far more powerful and far-reaching than its current iteration. Companies who’ve been quick to capitalise on its potential have an enormous head start, and now have the potential to control the space completely.

Take Amazon, for example. Within the next 10-20 years, the idea of the “local business” could be dead – all thanks to Amazon.

Amazon already demonstrated its ability to transform consumer habits (contributing to the demise of the traditional high street) while it was merely an online bookstore. That’s a problem for two reasons:

  1. Amazon is now way, way bigger than you could possibly know
  2. By their own admission, Amazon wants to compete with every business in the world.  Yes, even yours:

Think of literally any product or service. If Amazon were to take its strategy of aggressively acquiring businesses, and combine it with automation, people-less delivery systems (like drones and self-driving vans), and home 3D printing, there would be literally nothing Amazon couldn’t supply to a customer anywhere at any time.

Again, Amazon’s plan is already in full swing, and all of this technology already exists. When they combine, the impact on small businesses around the globe could be profound.

Should you just give up?

Never give up! Don’t be scared of technology, and don’t be intimidated by the big boys like Amazon. Every challenge is also an opportunity, so arm yourself with a future-proof strategy:

  1. Embrace and adopt the technology your customers would benefit from (start by asking them what that is!)
  2. Declare guerilla warfare on big players like Amazon by exploiting their weaknesses (there will always be something you can give your customers that they can’t). Find out what that is, and get in first.
  3. Prioritise the “human” element. Even the smartest machines will never have emotional intelligence – so make sure that’s central to your operations and marketing.

Ready to explore chatbots, future-proof strategy, and emotionally-intelligent marketing? We’re already there! Call 0161 660 6735 to speak to a human being.

Technology is about to change your business forever. Yes, again. (pt.1)

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”

Lewis Carroll wrote this line in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland roughly 135 years before the dawn of digital marketing.

But the sentiment behind the phrase couldn’t be more relevant to modern marketing. Because as technology progresses and markets shift, businesses must continually work harder just to ensure they are not left behind.

However, there are two common obstacles that often prevent this from happening:

Obstacle 1: Humans are inherently terrible at understanding how quickly technology progresses

Technology’s rate of change is constantly accelerating. This means we hit developmental milestones ever more quickly, with society having less and less time to adapt at each milestone before the next one arrives.

Unfortunately, humans have a really, really bad habit of using the past to predict the future.

That’s because our brains stopped evolving around 10,000 years ago, when we were still hunter-gatherers. Back then, the rate of progress was far slower, steadier, and more predictable. These days, however, society-shifting breakthroughs are coming along more-and-more frequently:

The unfortunate result is our primitive minds expect technology to develop over the next 30 years at around the same rate as it did in the 30 years prior. But what actually happens looks something like this:

Credit: waitbutwhy.com

It makes complete sense when you think about it. In the 30 years since 1988, we’ve gone from corded home phones to mobile phones, to smartphones; the new Samsung S9+ has 10,000 times more RAM than the Tandy 100 TL, a popular PC in 1988. It’s also a camera, a music player, a personal organiser – and a whole lot more.

Could you honestly have predicted owning a pocket-sized device so powerful within 30 years back in 1988? Or in 1998? Or even 2003? Well, over the next 30 years, technology will develop far more quickly than that.

And when you look at how quickly the smartphone changed consumers’ online habits, it’s clear many businesses have underestimated the rate at which modern technology affects marketplaces…

Remember when Google announced that more searches would soon be done on phones than computers? Well, that milestone already came and went way ahead of schedule, back in 2015. That’s why, since around 2013, Google has made a series of well-publicised changes to heavily favour mobile-friendly websites in its search results. Despite this, a 2017 PayPal report found only 18% of UK small businesses have a mobile-friendly site.

Unlike Alice, 8 out of 10 of small business stood still as their world moved around them; between 2016 and 2017, the annual spend on mobile nearly doubled from £13.5 billion to £27 billion. And it’s estimated to hit £43 billion by 2020. If those businesses continue to stand still, will they survive the next 30 years? We’ll take a closer look in part 2 of this post next week.

Obstacle 2: Businesses are awful at reacting to change

Big business has a reputation for struggling with innovation. And when you consider examples like Kodak, Blockbuster, and Woolworth’s, it’s easy to see why. Those companies failed to keep up with marketplaces changed by technology – and they suffered the consequences.

As innovation changed consumer habits, many of these businesses got bogged down by internal red tape, slow decision-making, bureaucracy, and in-fighting while more nimble startups emerged to take their market share.


Credit: New York Times

So does that mean the “agile” approach of startups and their ability to “pivot” is the way forward for business? If we’re talking about the ones that succeed, sure. But aside from being a buzzword-hater’s nightmare, startups have a failure rate of 90%.

So while startups can often react quickly to change, most of them fail for far more basic reasons – the top one being that there is no actual need for what they’re offering. As it turns out, innovation is useless if nobody wants your product.

If big business is slow and archaic, and most startups make stuff nobody wants, who does that leave? It leaves the local plumber. Mid-sized manufacturers. The neighbourhood restaurant. The family hairdresser. And this is where nightmare stories of inadequate online presences are rife. Out of date opening times, disconnected phone numbers, incorrect addresses, unanswered emails – the list is endless. In fact, a 2017 study by Approved Index found that two million British small-to-medium businesses have no website at all – a confronting statistic in an increasingly digital economy.

How you can catch up

Is your business running very fast to at least stay still? If not, it’s impossible to understate how important it is to start – because technology is about to change business again. And that change is coming far quicker than most businesses realise. We’ll explore that in more detail in next week’s post.

For now, focus on getting your online presence up to speed using this checklist (ordered by level of importance):

DIGITAL CATCH-UP CHECKLIST

  1. Get a mobile-friendly website.
  2. Keep your website as simple as possible so you can easily update it.
  3. Do some basic SEO – Google’s webmaster guidelines explain the fundamentals really well.
  4. Sign up for social media – even if you hardly ever post – and keep your business info updated.

Tick these off your list and you’ll be back to running fast to stay still. If you’re more ambitious and want to start overtaking your competitors, be sure to read part two of this post next week. We’ll look at some of the big technological changes we may see in the next few years – and how your business can take advantage of them.

Need a little help checking off your list? Call 0161 660 3827 and we’ll be happy to help.

Local SEO Guide – The Ultimate Checklist

Search marketing shop front and mobile

Introduction

Whether you’re a small, medium or large business, it is essential that you understand Local SEO.

By ignoring it, you are not only losing out on local demand for your products or services, but also missing an opportunity for increased visibility in the SERPs.

Throughout this guide we will discuss key factors and techniques to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of Local SEO, which will help you generate more website traffic, enquiries, physical visits and boost your company’s reputation. We have also put together a comprehensive Local SEO Checklist to ensure that you can audit your website performance for local search and strategise accordingly.

So, what is Local SEO?

Local SEO isn’t all that different from traditional SEO, however, it focuses solely on generating exposure for searches with local intent.

By focusing on local searches, your aim is to appear in both the organic listings and local pack, therefore generating a higher SERP real estate. For example, if you’re a local Chinese restaurant, you will want to appear in both the organic listings and map pack whenever somebody enters a query such as ‘Chinese restaurant in…’, ‘Chinese restaurant near me’ etc.

If you aren’t running a Local SEO campaign, you’re missing out on over 56% of mobile searches, which is only set to increase further with advances in technology.

Let’s get started…

Whether you already have a thorough understanding of Local SEO factors or you’re a complete novice, this guide aims to help increase your knowledge.

Some of the factors are backed up with facts, whilst others are controversial and arise from influencer speculation. As with everything in this industry, nothing is set in stone, but let’s get started…

External Factors

  • Authority of inbound links to the domain: Links have always been the primary trust signal that Google use and local rankings are no different. The authority of inbound links are still the number 1 ranking factor. You can take a look at your backlink profile using Ahrefs, which is arguably the best software for backlink analysis.
  • Authority of inbound links to Google My Business landing page URL: Google places particular importance on the Google My Business landing page (usually the homepage), therefore the quality of inbound links to this URL should be prioritised. You should aim to gain authoritative links with a high domain authority (DA) for the best results.
  • Diversity of inbound links: Since Penguin, a domain’s link profile has had increased importance, with Google favouring diverse link profiles. The days of having thousands of guest posts or reciprocal links have long gone, your SEO strategy now needs to acquire links from multiple sources in a natural manner.
  • Inbound links from locally relevant domains: Many SEOs overlook the importance of links from locally relevant domains, meaning that this is an area to exploit for many local businesses – for example; an inbound link from a local church could be just as valuable as a high authority link when it comes to local visibility.
  • Topical keywords used in anchor text of inbound links: Whilst exploiting keyword rich anchor text links will result in a penalty from Google and land you in a messy situation, it can still be extremely powerful if done correctly. Your link profile should include a mixture of keyword rich, branded and generic anchors from a variety of sources.
  • Distance between address and search location: If your business’ physical address is in close proximity to that of the searcher, you’re more than likely to appear higher in the SERPs.
  • Business Address is in the city of search: Many businesses have struggled with Local SEO due to being located outside of a city’s borders. As a result of the Google Possum update, this has changed and many businesses outside of borders have seen an increase in local rankings, however, it still seems that Google favours those based within a specific location.
  • Branded search volume: A recent study from Tom Capper outlined that branded search volume has a higher correlation with rankings than domain authority. As a result, increased social media advertising and PR could have a positive effect on your Local SEO strategy.
  • WHOIS information: Ensuring that your WHOis information is consistent across the web can cause a slight ranking boost for both local and non-local searches. Research shows that if your information is inconsistent, or even worse hidden, your rankings could suffer. You can read more about this here.
  • Authority of third party reviews: Whilst acquiring reviews on Google should be the primary objective, third-party reviews on websites such as Yelp, Yell, and Trustpilot can also boost your local visibility. Third party reviews can also act as a trust signal, provide referral traffic, and be marked up using Schema to display rich snippets.

Google My Business Factors

  • Verified listing: Not only does verifying your Google My Business page allow you to manage your listing, but studies have also shown that Google gives a small ranking boost to businesses when their listing is verified.
  • Category associations: Correctly selecting a Google category can often be one of the deciding factors whether a website shows in the local map pack; it really is that important. Your category should be what your company is, not what it provides. It is recommended that you’re as descriptive as possible when categorising your business and Google recommend choosing as few categories as possible, however, if you feel that more than a couple of categories are necessary, it is more than likely that Google will too.
  • Google My Business title: It is recommended that your product/service keyword is included in your GMB title, however, it is important that this doesn’t appear spammy. If you over-optimise it can have an adverse effect on click-through-rates and hinder your local SEO performance.
  • Age of listing: Ultimately, the more mature your Google My Business listing, the more Google trusts the company. As a result, Google is more likely to place you higher in the map pack and organic results for searches with local intent if your page is older than that of a competitor’s.
  • Quantity of Google reviews: Google wants users to use their review feature and 90% of customers state that buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. Due to this, Google uses the number of a business’ reviews in their native reviews as a factor in their local algorithm.
  • Quality of Google reviews: “Quality over quantity” is definitely relevant when speaking about reviews. Users don’t want to see hundreds of 4-5 star reviews with no context and neither do Google; therefore Google will prioritise lengthy, topical and contextual reviews. These will carry greater weight when ranking a website and also appear higher than reviews that Google deem ‘low quality’.
  • Including a local area code: Google’s guidelines suggest that you should always include the local area code within your business listing. Tip: this should match your NAP on both your site and third-party websites.
  • Adding relevant photos: Google favour businesses with photos from both the company and (if applicable) customers. Not only this, but new users will also have a better experience when they land on your GMB profile, particularly if there are high-quality images rather than a screenshot from Google Maps. This only takes a few minutes to upload if you already have images and could provide a quick win for your local SEO campaign.
  • Having a visible address: By hiding your address in Google My Business, you’re instantly shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to Local SEO. The primary focus of Local SEO is to gain a local presence, however, if you’re hiding vital information Google is likely to rank a competitor that’s being transparent higher in the local listings.
  • Listing hours of operation: You don’t want potential customers arriving at your premises to find shutters down, so why would Google? By listing your hours of operation you are giving Google more information and providing a better customer experience.
  • Correctly placed map marker: A simple mistake can be costly and that’s definitely the case here. By incorrectly placing a map marker, you could be directing users to the completely wrong location, which could result in a poor user experience, loss of revenue and even poor reviews.
  • Add posts to GMB: An update to Google My Business in the last quarter of 2017 allows you to add posts to your profile; these can be used to promote events, promotions, products, and your general services. The rich content will be delivered to users when they find your business listing on Google and is an excellent way to increase CTR. It is unknown whether Google will give a ranking boost to businesses using posts, but even if they don’t, they can still be a great way to drive interactions.
  • Respond to negative reviews: Although it is not concrete whether or not this is actually used as a local ranking factor, it should be imperative for business owners to interact with, and try to resolve negative reviews. By doing this regularly, you are not only showing new users that you care about customer satisfaction, but you’re also increasing the possibility of resolving the issues with that customer, resulting in the negative review being removed.
  • Duplicate listings: Just as duplicate content has been an issue in SEO for years, duplicate Google My Business listings pose the same issue. If you have two listings for the same location and business, Google will often see this as spam and filter out one of the listings. It is also worth noting that if you are at a shared location where two companies have the same category, Google will often filter out one of the company listings.
  • Legitimate business address: Using a fake business address is something that Google has been tackling aggressively due to it being exploited to gain an advantage in the local search results. They’re tackling this by doing random spot checks on registered addresses and if you’re found to be violating the terms and conditions, your listing could be removed. In the past, fraudsters have registered P.O boxes to receive a postcard from Google, before verifying and changing their location within that geographical area, however, this is much less likely to work today.

Site Factors

  • Domain Authority: As one of the leading contributing SEO ranking factors, domain authority isn’t something that should be overlooked when undertaking a local SEO campaign. Although competition is bound to be less than a national or international campaign, to dominate your local field you need a high DA and trust from Google.
  • Topical Keyword in the domain: The days of keyword rich domains are over since Google tackled the growing issue in 2012, however, a study from Canirank found that keyword rich domains still rank 11% higher than branded domains. The main reason for this is that Google believes that the website has a higher relevancy, combined with inbound links including the keyword in your business name, e.g. https://hotels.com/.
  • NAP address is featured sitewide: If you are a company with less than 10 physical addresses then you should have each address added to your website’s footer. This should be the same as your NAP in Google My Business, third-party websites for consistency and marked up using Schema.
  • Phone number structure: If your website is optimised for conversions, it is highly likely that you will have a phone number present in the header, footer and on the contact page. Your phone number should include the local area code, be clickable on mobile, be marked up using structured data and match other citations.
  • Outbound link quality: The outbound links from your website should all be of a high quality. If Google deems your outbound links to be of a poor quality then you could see this harm both your local and non-local rankings.
  • Outbound link themes: Relevance is just as important as quality when it comes to outbound links. As with inbound links, each outbound link should relevant to that page, whilst linking to local pages also sends out signals to Google for local results.
  • Outbound link volume: Whilst outbound links are important, it is also imperative that you aren’t linking too much or too little. If there aren’t enough outbound links on a page, you could be losing out on opportunities, whilst if you have too many outbound links, Google could deem this spammy which could negatively affect organic performance.
  • Presence of malware: Malware on your website will seriously harm your organic performance and can result in a manual penalty from Google. If you have malware present on your website you may aswell say goodbye to both your local and non-local rankings until the issue is resolved.

On-page Factors

  • Length of content: On average, a page which ranks on the first page of Google has 1,890 words according to a study carried out using SEMRush data. It is recommended that you take a look over competitor websites to get a true gauge of what is required in your industry and look to better their content in terms of both length and quality. We always conduct a content audit at the beginning of our SEO campaign’s to ensure that there is sufficient copy and to identify low-hanging-fruit.
  • Site-wide content relevance: If you’re a local business, the content on all your pages should be not only relevant to keywords you’re targeting, but also reference locality. This can be achieved through techniques such as in-content links to local websites and including references of your target areas within the copy where applicable.
  • Content relevance on GMB landing page: The content on your Google My Business landing page is imperative for success in the local map pack. The content on this page (usually the homepage) should be relevant to the category you’ve selected and be locally relevant for the best success.
  • Google My Business landing page title: Title tags (also known as meta titles) are one of the key elements for on-page SEO. As a result, you should ensure that the title tag for your Google My Business landing page is relevant both topically and locally. Tip: Remember that your title tag will appear in the SERP’s. If your title appears spammy it can harm CTR.
  • Header tag relevance: Header tags carry more weight than the rest of the text on a page, therefore it is important that all of these are optimised. For Local SEO it is best practice to try to include both your primary keyword and area in your H1 heading.
  • HTML NAP matches Google My Business: Your NAP (Name, address, phone number) should be consistent across the web, however the most important is that your Google My Business NAP matches that which appears on your website. It is also recommended that you markup all relevant information using Schema/JSON-LD to ensure that Google recognises the data.
  • Optimise for ‘near me’ searches: ‘Near me’ searches are growing rapidly as more people perform local searches on portable devices. As such, it is important that your website is optimised for these, which can be achieved by tailoring your content, ensuring that your GMB signals are perfect and managing citations/links.

Social Media Factors

  • Facebook page likes: Page likes act as an authoritative signal for Local SEO, with Google more likely to trust a business which has 4000 page likes, as opposed to one with just a few hundred. Not only this, but the larger your Facebook following, the more users you are reaching out to with every post, which can increase shares (another trust signal).
  • Age of Facebook page: Just as humans are more likely to trust an adult over a child, Google trust a Facebook page the more mature it is.
  • Facebook shares: Share-worthy content is a must for any successful campaign and there has been speculation dating back to 2010 between social shares and organic rankings. Many tests have been carried out over the years and although nobody are certain, a recent study by Larry Kim confirmed that by having more Facebook shares, your page is more likely to rank in the top 10 results for both local and non-local searches. By attracting more Facebook shares, you are also increasing your potential audience and the possible attention of influencers, who could provide invaluable inbound links.
  • Facebook reviews: As mentioned earlier in the guide, Google uses reviews as a trust signal and Facebook’s reviews act as one of the major third-party review signals. Although not as important as Google reviews, Facebook reviews are an important Local SEO ranking factor and can increase the chance of a conversion for new users. Recently, Google has also started displaying third-party display data alongside your Google My Business listing.
  • Twitter followers: Just like Facebook page likes, Twitter followers are a trust signal that Google uses when analysing a business’ online presence. The more you have, the more likely it is that Google will recognise you as a trustworthy local business.
  • Twitter engagement: Likes, Retweets, mentions and replies are all metrics that business owners use to judge the success of a Twitter campaign and the same is true with Google. Not only this, but if you have a tweet that performs particularly well, it can actually display in the SERP’s as a structured snippet and can be great bait for generating inbound links.
  • Snapchat Geofilter’s: Although Snapchat provides no crawlable content, it is a great tool for local businesses to advertise and should be integrated into every local SEO campaign. Once you have created your Geofilter and it’s been approved by Snapchat, you can expect buzz from other social media outlets and should also reach out to local media outlets, with the aim of generating invaluable local inbound links to your website. For the best outreach results, it is also recommended that you have a landing page on your website that is relevant to what it is you’re promoting.
  • Social Links to and from your site: There is no point investing resources in your social channels if search engines can’t link them to your website, therefore it is recommended that you link to your social pages on every page of the website (usually within the header/footer) and link to your website from your social pages.
  • Topical bio: Your social media bios are a great opportunity to add both topical and locally relevant content. It is recommended that the content is unique and tailored to your audience on each channel, for example, your bio on Linkedin should be different to that on Twitter due to both of these having a different audience.
  • Consistent NAP references: You’re probably bored of reading about your NAP by now, but it really is that important for a successful Local SEO campaign. Social media pages provide further opportunities for unstructured NAP’s and should be consistent with the rest of your references.
  • Interaction: Engage, engage, engage is what you hear from all Social Media experts and this is also true if you want to drive a successful SEO campaign. By engaging with relevant users, you are much more likely gain more social shares, therefore increasing the possibility of inbound links and increased rankings.
  • Apple Maps Connect: A bit off track with this one, but it’s something that is missed by a lot of local business owners. Although Apple Maps aren’t generally used for non-branded searches, they’re still a great way to capture local branded traffic. By listing your business using Apple Maps Connect, you can ensure that firstly, your company will show in Apple Maps, and secondly, that you can manage your listing.

Citation Factors

  • Consistency of Citations: Consistency is key when building citations and if you get it wrong, it could confuse Google and have an adverse effect on your local rankings. Initially, we would recommend building citations through directories such as Yell, Yelp, Foursquare and Thomson Local. By stepping into Google’s shoes, it’s easy to understand why they would be more confident displaying a website which has 40+ consistent citations over one which is sending mixed signals.
  • Quality/Authority of Structured Citations: When selecting where to place your structured citations, you should think about both the quality and authority of the website you’re placing them. A study from Search Engine Land showed that the most important aspects to look at are industry relevance, local relevance, domain authority and the number of competitors that are listed.
  • Quality/Authority of Unstructured Citations: While structured citations are most important, you shouldn’t overlook the importance of unstructured citations. These are citations which come from sources such as newspaper articles, blog posts, government websites and industry associations. If you want to dominate the local pack in your niche, it is unstructured citations which can give you the competitive edge.
  • Citations from locally relevant domains: Where better to place your NAP than on a website that relates directly to your geographical area. These websites include local news outlets, blogs and community websites.

Technical Factors

  • Relevant landing pages: For the best results you need landing pages which are relevant both topically and locally. Without a relevant landing page for each of your products and services, it is increasingly difficult to send the signals to Google of what you do. If you are trying to target too many topics on one page, it is likely that you won’t succeed due to the optimisation being diluted.
  • Mobile-friendly website: Since the mobile-friendly and Mobilegeddon updates, Google has been pushing for every website to be designed for mobile. If your website is mobile friendly then Google will give you a small ranking boost and it is expected that Google will roll out the mobile-first index imminently, which will see websites that aren’t mobile-friendly drop for both local and non-local results.
  • Site architecture: High-quality internal linking is just as important as inbound links. Internal links pass authority from page to page, therefore if a page is deep in your link structure, Google will deem it to be a low priority which will affect rankings. It is recommended that no priority landing page is more than 3 clicks from the homepage, with the highest priority pages featuring in the primary navigation. Methods for improved internal linking include adding structured breadcrumbs, including in-content links and having a flat site-architecture.
  • Structured data markup: While not directly affecting rankings, structured data is something which you can’t ignore if you want to increase your organic visibility. If you markup information using structured data then it can be used by the search engines to generate rich snippets and gain you a higher SERP real estate. For local businesses, the most popular schema markup includes address, opening hours, price range, reviews, and breadcrumbs – you can see a full list of structured data options on Schema.org.
  • Duplicate content: One of the biggest issues for SEO is duplicate content, which can single-handedly cause huge problems for a campaign. If your content isn’t unique and is a direct copy from elsewhere on your website or an external website, it is highly likely that performance will be less than impressive. Instead, you are likely to get a cannibalisation issue in which you have pages competing against each other for the same phrases, which will cause rankings to fluctuate. For many local businesses who don’t have a lot of services, this is likely to be less of an issue, but for a website with many pages, it can be harder to manage.
  • Canonical tags: A canonical is a HTML tag that is placed in the <head> section of a page to prevent duplicate content issues. Each page should include a canonical tag to ensure that the canonical URL is indexed by the search engines – this should either be a self-referring canonical or a canonical to the preferred URL. For local retailers that have an e-commerce website this is particularly important, however, it is also important if your website displays multiple versions of the same URL. An example is that https://www.test.com/Men/clothing.php?sessionid=273749 is the same as https://www.test.com/Men/clothing.php, therefore to manage this you would have to specify the canonical URL in the page’s source code.
  • URL structure: URL’s are a touchy subject with webmasters, however for local SEO the best structure to follow is always using a single domain or subdomain, followed by a keyword rich slug. When possible it is recommended that you exclude dynamic URL’s, use less than 60 characters (where possible) and try to match URLs with your H1 tag. For Local SEO, it is always preferable to use the topic of the page as the slug, followed by the area where applicable.
  • SSL certificate: Since January 2017, SSL encryption has been a factor in Google’s core algorithm, meaning that websites that utilise SSL technology get a slight ranking boost. For local businesses fighting for less competitive keywords, switching to SSL could provide a boost that will see your rankings rise and it should be fairly easy to implement with the help of a developer or hosting company
  • Hreflang attribute: The hreflang attribute tells the search engines what language you are targeting on a specific page, which helps them serve the page to users searching in that language. It is particularly important if you have various versions of the same page, which serve different countries. For example, if you have two versions of a page targeting both the Republic of Ireland and the UK, you would need to implement hreflang tags to tell Google which page to serve in each location. Without being correctly implemented you could experience cannibalisation issues, high bounce rates, and low conversion rates.
  • Server location/site speed: Google states that the third most important geo-targeting metric is server location. It is recommended that your server is located in the same country as the majority of your customers – this is more of an issue if your server is slow and you have a long TTFB which will increase bounce rate and cause usability issues. If you are a local business in a competitive industry, users aren’t going to wait around forever so you want your site speed to be as quick as possible!
  • Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs): ccTLDs are generally utilised to indicate that a website is relevant to a particular country or region, for example, if your website is targeting the UK you should use the following ccTLD: .uk. Google says that this is the strongest signal you can send that your content is targeting a specific country, and as such is particularly important if you’re running a Local SEO campaign. If you correctly implement ccTLDs, hreflang attributes and have your server in your targeted country, you are sending all of the right signals to Google.

Behaviour Factors

  • Click-through-rate (CTR): You can calculate CTR by dividing the number of impressions by the number of clicks. This data is available to all webmasters through Google Search Console. Google uses this data to establish whether or not your website is relevant to the user intent, which can then be used as part of their algorithm to rank you for a particular keyword. For example, if you are a local Chinese takeaway and your CTR is low for ‘Chinese takeaway near me’, it is likely that your rankings will decrease for that query. In order to increase CTR, you should ensure that your titles and meta descriptions include USP’s and are written in a way to stand out. You can also use schema markup to show structured snippets in the SERPs.
  • Time spent on page: Due to Google using time spent on a page to define Ad Rank in AdWords, it is also speculated that they use the same metric for organic results. Moreover, you should ensure that when a user lands on your website that they have a positive experience, and spend some time browsing the available content. You can increase the time a user spends on your page by adding visual content, creating engaging text and ensuring your landing page is relevant to the query.
  • Bounce rate: Bounce rate is a metric that Google uses to measure whether somebody stays on the page, or leaves without navigating to another page. If you have a high bounce rate, it is likely that there is an issue with page load time, there are usability issues or the page isn’t relevant for the query. If you have a high bounce rate (which can be viewed in Google Analytics), it is likely that Google will presume there is a usability issue and therefore won’t want to send users to the site, thus resulting in lower rankings.
  • Number of clicks to call: Users can call a business directly from the map pack and Google has access to all of that data! As a result, if your business receives many calls in comparison to impressions, Google is more likely to believe that you are a trusted local business and rank your website higher as a result.
  • Directions to business clicks: Most local businesses will want customers to visit their premises and Google collects data both from directions to business clicks. The data which they announced they gather includes driving logs to review counts, temporal signals, and direction information, which can all then be used to help deem the rankings of your local business in the SERP’s. For example, if Google can see that people are willing to travel further to your business than one of your competitors, it shows them that it is a popular, trusted business.

Time to conclude…

So what are you waiting for, grab a coffee and begin to put your Local SEO knowledge to use!

It’s easy to identify where you can improve your local presence by working through our Local SEO checklist – it will help you identify areas for improvement & strategise a plan to blast the local competition out of the water.

We hope you enjoyed our comprehensive local SEO guide, and if you have any qustions please feel free to get in touch.

Earning links – the good and the bad

We are all aware that a website need links to rank well, but the big question is, what is a good link and what is a bad one? Google’s guidelines will tell you that you need to build links naturally, which is true to an extent, however we will guide you through the do’s and the don’ts when acquiring links.

The Good

When analysing a company’s link profile, the first thing the search engine crawler will analyse is whether it looks natural. Is there a spike in referring domains? Is there a spurt of links from one IP? Does it look like a PBN? These are all things that need to be considered, and if your link profile does look unnatural, we recommend speaking to an SEO expert.

It’s true that building links in the right way does take more time and there is a lot more skill involved, but the rewards are much more prevalent. If you get it wrong, it can often be time consuming and costly to fix.

Create Visual Assets
Everyone worth their salt knows that visual assets are great link bait. The primary reason that every time somebody shares your infographic, image, diagram etc. you get a link back, which isn’t the case when you display the same information as text.

Visuals aren’t only beneficial for link building though – they are proven to increase the time a user spends on a particular page (which case studies show Google use as a ranking signal) and they can be used across your social channels to drive engagement, whilst generating shares and reactions.

Create The Ultimate Guide
If you are an expert in your industry, there’s no reason why you can’t create the ultimate guide! This means that you essentially create a great resource that tells the user everything there is to know about a topic relevant to your niche.

Once you have chosen a topic to create the ultimate resource, it’s time to generate something that’s engaging, packed with information and most importantly, share-worthy.

Despite the myth, creating amazing content isn’t enough alone. You need to promote that content and get it seen by the right people, which is where good old fashioned outreach comes into play.

Guest Blogging
The days of churning out poorly written, keyword rich content and placing it on a third party website is long gone, however, if guest blogging is done correctly, it can still be an effective method for boosting your website’s rankings and authority.

In today’s environment, it is imperative that these articles are written to provide value to the user and not solely for the acquisition of links. If you are guest blogging for the sole intention of creating links, it is almost guaranteed that this technique won’t work and could potentially harm your rankings.

Due to Google penalising sites that use guest posting as a link building technique, we would instead recommend planning cautiously and using the technique to boost your brand awareness, as well as reaching out to a wider audience in your niche. If you can do this well, then you will see inbound links start to flurry in as a result!

Niche Directories
Going back a few years, directories were king when it came to link building. Unfortunately for many marketers, this technique was buried when Google rolled out Penguin and many sites that were listed in thousands of directories were penalised.

Despite this, niche directories can be an extremely valuable link source. These aren’t technically traditional looking directories that list multiple website’s under a specific category, but instead could be networking groups, industry specific associations or trade organisations websites.

Here are a few things to consider:

Does the directory accept anybody that pays a fee? Avoid.
Does the directory publish content from the source that can be indexed? Avoid.
Does the directory regularly assess their outbound links to ensure all sites are still live? Consider.
Does the directory have a low spam score? Consider.
Does the directory have feature a lot of keyword rich anchor text? Avoid.

 

The Bad

Link building is an art that requires practice, skill, patience and most importantly, time. If you use the wrong techniques then you can expect to have wasted a lot of resources and could even incur a penalty from Google.

Below are some of the link building techniques that you should avoid at all costs.

Private Blog Networks
Since Penguin arrived, we have seen Google penalise private blog networks (PBNs) and the sites that they link to. Back in 2014 Google started to send out thousands of manual action notifications to webmasters that participate in these schemes, and continue to do so to this day.

Many bloggers have reported using PBNs for short-term gains, however, if you are serious about promoting your business’ online presence in the long term, you should steer clear. It’s easy for Google to recognise these networks and once they do, you will be hit with an instant penalty which will cause serious headaches.

Comment & Forum Spam
Some business owners may consider posting a link to their website on forums and comment sections of blogs, however, from an SEO perspective, this technique is going to do a lot more harm than good.

Not only does it damage the perception and value of the brand, but this technique is also likely to pass on no benefit in terms of links, due to most forums and comment sections utilising “rel=nofollow” for all outbound links.

By using this technique you are playing with fire – there are little benefits to be had, whilst you are risking a link-based penalty.

Automated Link Schemes
Link networks continue to be a problem despite Google aggressively tackling the matter for a number of years. Despite there being a high chance that your website will be penalised if you join such a scheme, many unknowing business owners sign up to automated services that result in thousands of unrelated, spammy incoming links – we can assure you that it isn’t a simple process to rectify either!

Ads that state things such as “Boost your rankings quickly” or “Get 1000 backlinks for $50” are the most obvious signs that you’re signing up to an automated link network, however, many dud SEO agencies also use them for quick results. Instead, we often see that pages are penalised, or even worse, the website is de-indexed and doesn’t appear in the SERP’s at all until the links are disavowed.

In order to avoid automated link schemes, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable SEO expert.

Sitewide Links
The best practice for link building is to place the anchor text naturally in a body of relevant text. By placing a link in a sites footer, header or sidebar, it is automatically given less weight by Google due to webmasters spamming these locations in the past.

In general, Google’s algorithm will either completely ignore inbound sitewide links or pass very little weight. The guidelines recommend that sitewide links which appear as a result things like advertisements and royalties are nofollow.

Wrapping things up…
Links are still the most important ranking factor in Google’s algorithm, however, if you get it wrong you could be in serious trouble and face a penalty.

We would love to speak to you regarding your digital strategy and offer our expert advice. If you would like to discuss your requirements, feel free to drop us a message or pop in for a coffee and discuss all things digital.

The SEO’s Guide to Website Migration: 2019 Edition

website migration guide

Note: This guide was originally written in 2015, but it is updated every year to reflect relevant new trends and changes in the industry.

This guide is your website migration checklist; your map to ensuring your migration has the lowest possible impact on your search rankings.

Website migrations typically lead site owners wanting to know any potential impact in advance. This is understandable because where SEO is concerned website migration projects rarely go to plan. Expectation management is essential both in anticipating the impact on your business and in developing a strategy to mitigate downtime.

In my experience each site is unique in its remit and comes with its own set of challenges, creating a need to approach each project with a strategy that aims to tick all the proverbial boxes. Our guide breaks into three key areas;

  • Site Migration Risks
  • Site Migration Types
  • Site Migration Checklist

Site Migration Risks

Take search rankings out of the equation and a site migration should be an exciting time for any company. The development of a new website or asset that aims to provide your customers with an improved browsing experience is one we frequently encourage, particularly if it provides a responsive solution. From an SEO perspective, however, a site migration can be very risky and potentially comes at the expense of lost traffic and revenue if not managed properly. Following are some the most common risks involved with the relaunch of the website.

Domain transfer 

One of the riskier forms of migration, a Domain Transfer sees ranking potential and rankings gradually transferred across to the new website as redirects are detected. We have found this process to take 4-12 weeks for full completion, depending upon the size of the site. 

Structural changes

A site’s hierarchy helps to dictate vertical and horizontal linking, and should be considered to protect authority flow through the site. Failure to do so can result in lost rankings and poor communication with bots.

Doorway pages are but one consideration in this. A valuable approach can be to assess which pages on your existing site provide the most traffic and conversions, before ensuring they are given the same priority on your new site.

Content changes

If current content no longer exists or is radically changed to omit target keywords, rankings may decline.

It is prudent to ensure traffic providing content on your current site is given the same of improved exposure on your new site. Similarly, is it possible your existing site suffers from cannibalisation or doorway pages? Can you make similar pages more succinct by combining them into a single asset? Are there opportunities for improvement?  

URL restructuring (same domain)

A URL restructure can lead to both temporary and permanently lost rankings.

Temporary drops in ranking can be attributed to Search Engines recrawling and reindexing your site, and provided a robust redirect process is in place down times can be mitigated or reduced to 1-4 weeks (depending on the size of the site).

Permanent drops in ranking could occur if the URL structure is not as SEO friendly as your previous structure. This can include the addition of files, the removal of keywords, the lengthening of the overall URL, and poor 301 redirect process.

Site Migration Types

There are a number of types of migration, each of which coming with its own considerations and requirements.

Existing Domain Migration

An existing domain migration is one in which your root domain remains the same. This often includes a redesign, CMS update, or URL/hierarchy restructure. Of the three types of migration available an existing domain migration is one that should have the least impact on search performance (the expected migration time is 1-14 days depending upon site size), but can be dangerous if not carried out correctly.

Risks include technical changes, content alterations, URL restructuring, and hierarchy changes.

Time to migrate: 2-4 weeks

New Domain Migration

A new domain migration is one in which your domain changes. Perhaps you are moving to a new TLD (.com to .org), or combining a number of sites in to a single asset? Either way a new domain migration comes with the highest risk of any migration type, not least as the anticipated search impact could last up to 3 months, and must be handled with care.

This is due in part to the passing of link equity from your previous domain, as highlighting in the image below.

link equity flow with a new domain migration

Risks include an increased time to crawl and reindex the site, technical changes, content alterations, URL restructuring, and hierarchy changes.

Time to Migrate: 4-12 weeks

This is highlighted further in the following images which show Impressions data for a live client over the 90 day period after migration (domain size, circa-200 pages).

.co.uk visibility over time

The new version of the site witnessed a gradual increase in impressions, eventually matching the prior visibility of the old site 8 weeks after migration.

.org visibility iver time

The old site experienced a rapid decline in impressions immediately following migration and still receives some visibility 90 days later. This created a period of around 6 week in which total domain visibility for the brand was reduced.

website migration visibility over 90 days

HTTP – HTTPS Migration

HTTPS migration is becoming a frequent culprit in reduced search rankings, not least as many proceed with the migration without fully knowing that it is one. A HTTPS migration is one in which your website remains the same, but has an SSL certificate applied to it. This in effect completely changes every URL on your website from one that begins with HTTP to HTTPS. The difference is subtle, but the impact significant.

Google has stated that making the switch to HTTPS can positively influence your search rankings, giving enough motivation to many webmasters to make to switch. At the core of this transition however is a complete URL restructure, and is one that can have significant impact on rankings (as discovered by Moz).

Update: considerations for HTTP-HTTPS migrations in 2018, including;

  • migrations appear to be occurring much quicker recently, in comparison to the timings initially observed in 2015, with one particular example being remapped within a few days. The time for a complete migration will still vary based on the size of the domain, available crawl budget, etc.
  • as more websites commit to HTTPS protocol the more Google are able to give it weight as a ranking metric. Last year, Google’s Gary Illyes stated that 34% of Google’s indexed are HTTPS, allowing them to dial up the algo. This could provide additional motivation for webmasters to make the switch to HTTPS.
  • Google’s John Mueller shared a Google+post which answers 13 Frequently Asked HTTP-HTTPS Questions.

Risks include URL restructuring – Time to Migrate, 1-2 weeks.

moz-migration-to-https

Combining Domains

Combining domains represents the process of compounding your assets to a single location. This may include the migration of multiple domains to a completely new one, or the migration of smaller domains to your main website. As previously discussed, porting to a new domain will result in a longer migration, and appropriate considerations towards the impact on your business should be taken. You may also want to reconsider migrating some websites. Google has been prolific with Webspam Penalties over the past few years, and caution must be taken if redirecting a site with a poor backlink profile.

Benefits include a combining of Domain Authority which could lead to improved rankings. Risks could involve penalties if combining domains with a poor link profile.

Time to migrate: 2-4 weeks

Site Migration Checklist

  • Rank Monitoring
  • Technical & Content Audit
  • Redirect file
  • GA Audit
  • Offsite Asset Audit
  • Sitemap Management

Rank Monitoring

Rank monitoring is an essential initial step in the website migration process as it allows visibility on loss and gain of search exposure. It is very likely that there are many hundreds of keywords that provide your site with traffic every month, and whilst monitoring all of them is not essential, tracking top performing or high volume keywords can provide confidence that your campaign is moving in the right direction.

I would advise monitoring keyword rankings for a number of weeks prior to migration. This provides insight on ranking trends and fluctuations, allowing you to establish which keywords are consistent contributors to your sites exposure. It would be an idea to set these as priority keywords to provide quick access to their performance.

You should be monitoring a number of metrics;

  • Keyword
  • Ranking position
  • Ranking URL[s]

By monitoring keywords in this way you are able to assess which keywords have been positively or negatively affected by your migration, providing insight on where opportunities for optimisation may lie. Ultimately, monitoring your keyword rankings affords confidence that your migration has either been a success or where it needs remediation.

Selecting Keywords to track

We typically utilise a number of tools to pull data on suitable keywords, including Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools (now Search Console). You may also wish to use the Adwords Keyword planner for more inspiration on finding relevant keywords, combining all potential keywords before entering them into your Rank Tracking software.

Tracking Tools

You will likely need to subscribe to a suitable tool to assist you in monitoring rankings. There are a number of options you may consider. CandidSky uses their proprietary RankTracker, but good options include AWR (Advanced Web Rankings), and SEO Powersuites Rank Tracker, both of which come with instructions on how to manage your campaign.

Technical & Content Audit

The best migration procedure in the world is fruitless if the site being migrated too is of a lesser technical quality than your existing asset. To allow for better attribution in Correlation vs Causation we must also assess technical and content components that may contribute to a decrease in rankings.

Before launching your new site it is advisable to host your new assets on a test server to provide analysis and information on potential pitfalls.

**Top Tip** When hosting a test site ensure you have a password set on your test domain and robots set to “noindex” to prevent search engines from indexing your content prior to launch.

Site speed

Google may never have alluded to a sites load speed having an affect on its search rankings. The evidence that this metric contributes to a sites Organic visibility is, however, overwhelming to the point where Google do provide developer tools to assist Webmasters in identifying page load speed opportunities.

Though not technically a necessary part of a migration, migrating to a site that is significantly slower than your current asset could contribute to limitations in recovery.

  • Test your current sites page load speed (Pre-Launch)
  • Test your new sites page load speed on a test server (Pre-Launch)
  • Ensure your new site is quicker to load than its predecessor-to-be (Pre-Launch)
  • Test you new sites page load speed (Post Launch)
  • Ideally your page load speed should be less than 5 seconds, with 2 being a good target

Site Hierarchy

Hierarchy is seemingly becoming a more significant contributing factor in recent years, particularly as cannibalisation is increasing in line with Google’s ever growing index.

Crucially, hierarchy communicates the priority and importance of landing pages inline with potential counterparts, and dictates which should rank higher in search. This can be communicated with bots in a number of ways, from navigation linking (vertical) to your internal link structure (horizontal).

Hierarchy Considerations

  • Does your navigation allow access to top service pages or product categories?
  • Does cannibalisation occur within your hierarchy?
  • Are product pages available with a maximum of 3 clicks?
  • Is your internal linking strategy designed to allow authority flow?

Duplicate content management

Duplicate content is a major factor in search visibility. So much so that it warranted a post of its own. Read the full article here.

Content Management

Your website currently ranks where it does based upon many metrics, from Domain Authority (the management of which is considered in our redirect process), through to page level data like copy, page titles, headers, alt tags, etc. Of all the elements that could go wrong through your site migration, content management is likely the area that could pose the largest impact is dealt with incorrectly.

In this aim, we aren’t looking to optimise your website to rank better – at least not at this stage. Migration should be considered damage limitation, and it is likely you may want to come back post launch and further optimise your content to rank better for desired keywords, but for now the aim will be to ensure your high ranking pages remain in a similar form to what they currently do. Considerations for which may include;

  • The migration of comments (particularly if they add value to the original piece).
  • Page titles, and header tags (H1’s, H2’s, etc)
  • Internal links should be updated to their new location (see the following Broken Links section for more info).

Broken Links

We have already spoken of the importance of internal linking in communicating hierarchy… it is indeed surprising that in the excitement of launching a new site so many Webmasters neglect to update the URLs their links point to.

The situation? A user visits your site and clicks a contextual (in content) link to a page you have told them will aid them.

The issue? The link still points to the old page, leading them to a 404 error, and probably a small cup of frustration.

The solution? Many assume the best solution would be reliance on 301 redirects. This would after-all redirect a user to the desired content. The drawback with this solution is the lost link authority through the redirect. The best solution, therefore, is a database look up to change all contextual links to that of their new location.

The process? This actually has considerations for both pre- and post-launch. Pre-launch it would be beneficial to use the redirects file (discussed below) to identify donor and redirect pages, using a database lookup function to update en-masse. The pre-launch redirect procedure will never get every URL, so this process should also be followed post launch with any freshly identified 404 errors.

Redirect file

The redirect process is possibly the most crucial element of a site migration and is effectively responsible for ensuring search engines know where your content has moved to.

Redirects are crucial in:

  • Ensuring link equity is passes to the new site/page
  • Ensuring Bots understand the nature of the redirect (permanent vs temporary)
  • Allowing for deeper crawling of a site following launch.

There are three types of redirect we consider when migrating a domain;

Page to page redirects

Page to page redirects are crucial if your site pulls traffic from a wide and diverse collection of URLs. This may include redirect product pages to their counterpart on the new site, category pages to their new location, and informational content to the most appropriate page. Considers for this must also include links to each page to ensure anchors are managed and potential cannibalisation contained.

Page to parent redirects

The launch of a new site can offer an opportunity to clean up your product offering. With this you may opt to redirect expired products, or even those that do not pull traffic, to a parent or category page. In addition to decreasing the number of pages involved in your recrawl, this approach can also manage authority flow to pages with better ranking potential.

Page to root redirects

A page to root redirect is one in which all pages of a site are redirected to a single location, usually the root, or homepage. There are instances in which the benefits of page to page redirects are inefficient enough that a page to root redirect is the most practical solution. This can include when aiming to pass domain authority when combining a site.

Our Very Thorough Page to Page Redirect process

  • Pull a full list of available URLs for your existing site with a crawl agent. My preference is with Screaming Frog, but alternatives include Xenu, Integrity, and Website Auditor.
  • Import this data into Excel and use some wizardry to remove URLs with parametres, and duplicates.
  • Run this list through a http response checker (such as httpstatus.io, or scrapebox) to provide a complete list of status codes. Move any 404 pages to a new tab, keeping any 301 and 200 status pages.
  • Now run a crawl on the test server to source a list of the new sites URL structure, before using a VLOOKUP function to identify which URLs are changing, and which are remaining the same.
  • Take your list of expiring/donor URLs (those which will have a new file path) and manually map their new location on the new site (you may be able to use footprints to automate some).
  • We now have a complete list of expiring URLs and their new location. The next step will be determining which of the already expired pages (those with a 404 status code) have value, and should be redirected.
  • Take your 404 pages and run them through a link-monitoring tool (options include aHrefs, Majestic, and OSE – its advisable to use them all to ensure thoroughness). This will provide insight on which 404 pages should be redirected to a suitable page. Any 404 pages that have no inbound links can be discarded.
  • Import the suitable 404 pages into your redirect list, and add a suitable redirect to a page that would benefit from the link equity and anchor.
  • With your donor URLs and redirect URLs complete use the concatenate function in Excel to generate the required redirect code for your server.

GA Audit

An often-overlooked element is the migration/updating of Google Analytics data, which ultimately limits your ability to effectively track site usage through the migration. A complete GA Audit will be covered in a future topic, but below we’ve shared the main considerations for a Migration

**Top Tip** I tend to advise updating the name on the existing GA account as opposed to creating a new one to work with, as this allows for direct comparisons over time.

Considerations include

  • Updating of Goals
  • Updating of Ecommerce
  • Ensure tracking codes are on the new site
  • It is also beneficial to create a property set in Search Console to assist in monitoring the exposure of combined sites through the migration period and beyond. Learn more here.

Offsite Asset Audit

There are two elements to an offsite asset audit. These centre around either assets for which you have direct control, or assets owned by third-parties. An audit of each of these areas can ensure your inbound link equity remains as high as possible.

Owned Assets

Your business likely owns a number of offsite assets, potentially including Google My Business pages, Facebook pages, Twitter Accounts… the list goes on. These are pages you can log in to yourself and update for data congruency. Where possible it is advisable to update any owned assets with the details of your new domain to ensure any authority from them passes straight over, and not through a redirect. Please find a list of relevant redirect tutorials below;

Third Party Assets

There are also likely a ton of third-party assets linking to your domain. Whilst you could certainly use a link tracking tool such as Ahrefs, Majestic, or Moz/OSE to find links, it may not be practical or possible to locate and contact the owner to request updates on all of these (though you would be awarded with more link equity if you chose to do so).

A consideration we would advise however is the updating of any Directory listings you may have submitted data to. As Google aims to collate information across citations, Data congruency is an important element for local SEO, and having different domains listed across profiles could leads to inconsistencies and a loss of trust. It would be advisable to update any existing profiles as opposed to creating new ones.

Sitemap Management

The element most responsible for a delay in the updating of search rankings following migration is the rate at which search engines crawl and re-index the site. In this aim it is recommended that multiple site maps be uploaded to your domain to ensure crawlers have prompted access to as many URLs as possible.

Recommended Sitemaps;

  • Expired URL sitemap (providing access to removed URLs to promote the crawling of redirects)
  • New URL Sitemap (providing access to new URLs to promote the crawling of the new hierarchy)

Sitemap Procedure

  • Ensure both maps are accessible on the migrated site
  • Submit both to GWT
  • Fetch the URL of each within GWT, requesting ‘All’ linked pages are crawled.

Conclusion

Far from being a simple task, a website migration managed correctly can result in a positive lift in search exposure once the new site has been re-crawled and re-indexed. By following the pre- and post-launch procedures you can shield your website from potential negative impact of migration, paving the way to a stronger future for your website and business.

Should you require further information on website migrations, or would like to hire us for a migration project, please either comment below or contact our search team.

Pre-launch Process

  • Set up rank monitoring
  • Assess the new site for content and technical compliance
  • Prepare a 301 redirect file
  • Take a copy of your sites existing sitemap

Post-launch Process

  • Immediately following launch run a Site:Search to pull a complete list of all indexed URLs. Run these URLs through a HTTP response checker and clean up any missing or incorrect redirects.
  • Use GWT to determine any missed redirects and add to the original redirect file using the process above.
  • Update Google Analytics Tracking/Goals etc
  • Request a crawl of your old sitemap
  • Request a crawl of your new sitemap
  • Confirm site migration in GWT (external domain migration only)
  • Create GWT property set to allow assessment of combined asset visibility
  • Update offsite assets

For more details on our approach to website migration, or to share any questions or feedback, please contact us on our social channels, or at info@candidsky.com. Alternatively, contact me directly at anthony@candidsky.com.