A total site restructure- SEO impacts

So recently we made a complete infrastructure change on one of our sites – essentially changing our directory structure -making the transition between directory levels logical, consistent, relevant and cohesive.

This site is massive – many levels, with a lot of user generated content.

At the moment we pushed these changes live, 3 things were utterly critical:

1) Changing the sitemap.xml on the fly – auto populated from the database and rewrite engine

2) Making sure that the old rewrites and database structure pointed our old URL’s to our new ones by way of 301.

3) We added canonicals on every single page, as we have tracking parameters scattered throughout.

The effect:

-It took about 4 days until Google started indexing our new URL’s.
-Link juice not passed immediately – we lost ranking on keywords
-3 days later (so a week after the live deploy of changes) we started seeing gains in our rankings to existing levels.

I think we were aided by the fact that because of our relatively high PR of 7, our site was well crawled.

Interestingly enough, new pages created within our new structure ranked immediately in the top 5 Google results – link juice passed from any relevant old URL’s and also from our strong PR (PageRank) on our domain and strong DA as created by SEOmoz

There is still a long way to go, but we are making good traction.


Posted in SEO | 2 Comments

The relevancy of linking out

It was established a long while back that Google’s PageRank was increasingly irrelevant. In fact PageRank as stated by Susan Moskwa at Google on October 15, 2009 had lost much weight when Google removed it from it’s Webmaster Tools.

The most simplified description of PageRank is based on the ongoing premise that inbound links to your website will improve your PageRank. While this can be true, it is also true that inbound links can most importantly improve your SERP and Search Engine ranking.

To prevent Search engineers from trying to corrupt PageRank by trying to improve it with with paid links, blog comment links and link farming, Google was forced to introduce the nofollow value in the rel attribute on the anchor tag.

The risk with nofollow, is that on dynamically generated sites, some valuable links are lost.

And this is the point I would like to get to. Nofollow is all very possible. So is stuffing your page with Link farms, spending loads on SEM and the content network. But the moment we all jump on Google’s new algorithms like PageRank and then jump onto the solution (nofollow) that is meant to fix the issue we all abused, and then in turn abuse nofollow to prevent linking out just to keep those ‘valuable’ inbound links, we are all missing the point.

The point is very simple. And I will bang on about it over and over again – ‘SEO is common sense’. In other words, Google, Yahoo and Bing, will always reward the sites that make it the most rewarding experience for the user.

So if we take outbound links that are utterly relevant – I suppose intrinsically linked (excuse the word play) to the site it is linking to, our sites will be rewarded by the Search Engines. Matt Cutt provides evidence of this in the Q&A and comments on PageRank sculpting.

Keep your site relevant. An honest search engineer can’t totally control the relevancy and value of inbound links unless he/she has good connections, cleverly employs social media, has business acumen and is a good networker. But what a search engineer can control are the outbound links – the relevancy, the value and the quality of the sites you are linking to.

Posted in SEO | 1 Comment

Google Instant

As someone who has been involved in Project Managing and Strategising web solutions for the last 5 years I was, like many, intrigued by Google’s latest development, Google Instant.

Google Instant predicts and produces real time results based on each incremental character string typed in by the user. No longer do we have to push return.

The main motivation behind Google Instant is for Google to improve the UI (user interface) for us the Google users. By improving the UI they are staying a step ahead of Microsoft’s Bing and to a lesser extent, Yahoo, from whom Bing have achieved significant market share.

I have been thinking a lot about Google Instant.

My first gut reaction was that this would totally change the landscape for those of us devising SEO strategies for our clients. It would radically change the way we construct our keyword content.

But then I got thinking that people’s search behaviour is usually pre-meditated. People know what they want to search for. Google Instant simply allows people to get there faster.

The question will be whether we see over time a behavioural change. As Matt Cutt suggests, we will be scrolling our Google Suggest results on each string increment with the up and down arrow keys more readily because results will be instantly visible. This will undoubtably have an effect on SEO and I envisage increasingly Google oriented SEO strategies that will align with real time search results based on very specific keyword strings.

I see a gradual change required in SEO strategy. SEO is not irrelevant. We just need to keep ahead of the game and keep adapting accordingly.

Posted in SEO | Tagged , , | 2 Comments