Week 2 Tea Time SEO Take Aways

Thank you for joining another week of Tea Time SEO! You can enjoy reading some of the key Tea Time SEO take aways from all of our speakers, who we are very grateful to for joining us. They contributed to a recap of the notes and key points from this week including Kristina Azarenko, Marco Bonomo, Chris Green, Luke Carthy, Pinar Ünsal and Andrew Optimisey.

Monday – Improving eCommerce Conversions from Organic

Kristina Azarenko’s issues and remedies to improving conversions:

Capturing Quick Wins with eCommerce Products

Product pages also deserve attention. Because, first of all, for some businesses they are the main drivers of traffic and conversions (e.g. page speed plugin wordpress). As SEOs, we need to provide scalable and repeatable growth to our clients. So it’s important to solve issues as well as eliminate their initial cause so that you won’t end up fixing the same things again.

Common issues with improving conversions:

  • Product name doesn’t describe what the product is about. Why it’s important: in most cases, product names are used as H1s and part of the Title tags. If the product name doesn’t make sense -> the title tags and H1 tags won’t make sense either.
  • No clear process for adding new products. I covered more on it in this Tweeter thread:

The 3 tips that will have you to solve these 2 issues:

  1. Check the current product names. If they’re too specific or general, consider changing them (especially if it’s a made-up name nobody cares about). 
  2. Check how the title tags are created. If they are automatically generated, add category name to the title tag
  3. Create a clear process for adding new products: how the name should look like, how the URL should look like, etc. 

Tuesday – SEO Friendly Migrations

Chris Green’s Notes on SEO Migrations:

Learn the project as well as the project manager

A successful site migration is not just because you provide the best technical SEO recommendations. There are usually multiple parties involved in the process and it’s good project management that keeps the recommendations on the table & ensures timelines work.

I don’t just mean rely on the project’s PM who is usually client-side. Be proactive & own your area, know when your inputs are expected – i.e. key milestones & dependencies.

Don’t wait for someone to bring something to you. If the timelines are getting squeezed or some of the different teams don’t get on it’s amazing how people can “forget” feed-back loops. The SEO usually has to contend with this more than anyone else in my experience.

Being a proactive party stops the SEO becoming the victim of a badly managed project

The biggest variable in the site migration process is organisation size, not selected CMS

This sounds like a ‘big’ point here, but it is hugely important. In the SEO community there’s no shortage of opinions around which CMS are good for SEO and which aren’t. To the point that some may even write off the whole process based on this. 

Any project can work well if you have a good project team with professionals who know what they’re doing – the CMS doesn’t have to stop anything. What can impact the process more is the (client-side) politics, lines of communications and team structures.

Broadly speaking, the larger the company you’re working with, the more stakeholders in the process. More stakeholders = more opinions. Which is a bad thing. Recommendations get watered-down and the overall effectiveness is easily lost.

A great way to help avoid this is to spend more time briefing the CMO than worrying about the CMS you’re working with.

Set. Expectations. Early

This is the most crucial point (in my experience). So much about SEO is expectation management and much of the damage that can be done in the process happens early on. Sometimes before the SEO is at the table.

You need to ensure that, throughout the planning stages, make project stakeholders aware of the impact decisions may have on the end results. You will have (hopefully) established some project KPIs & some goals, if you are concerned that your ability to hit these are being eroded by design/development/content decisions – do not sit on that information!

Let all third parties aware of your requirements as early as possible give them an opportunity to raise issues at the start. You may struggle to provide business cases & data to back up your decisions – which can be tough. Some people don’t like doing this because it’s seen as rocking the boat in the early stages of the proces (which are usually the easier ones). Better than in the 11th hour, right?

A little rudder far from the rocks

Turn the Ship Around

To help illustrate why addressing issues early on works best, I’ll turn to David Marguet, ex Nuclear Submarine Captain for the US Navy. Stick with me! He introduces the concept that “a little rudder far from the rocks is a lot better than a lot of rudder close to the rocks”. This is particularly true in most things – the further ahead you know there’s a problem, the easier it is to mitigate any ill-effects. 

With regards to the development process, setting the expectation early is encouraging people to put their heads up & watch for the rocks early on. 

In the webinar I used the example of a cruise-liner headed for Cromer pier:

Don’t be like Cromer pier – look for issues early & tackle them head on!

Andrew from Optimisey’s 5 tips for site migrations:

1. Plan everything – checklists are your friend

A good checklist can save you and save a lot of embarrassment too.

Site migrations are stressful. There are a lot of moving parts and people involved and things get forgotten. Even really blindingly obvious “I’d never forget that!” things.

Get a checklist and as you move through the site migration check it off. And don’t just tick a box get a screenshot of it, so you’re 100% sure you checked it and didn’t accidentally check the box in a rush.

Include the blindingly obvious: Does the new site have your Google Analytics code on it? Is it working? Do you have any filters set-up in Analytics you may need to adjust? Do you need to configure new ‘Views’ so you can see the before and after of the move?

Does the new site have a working robots.txt file? Does it have a sitemap? Can Googlebot get to them? Do you have any filtering or “noindex” or robots.txt rules keeping crawlers out of your site whilst it’s in staging? Will those be switched off on migration day?

Have you got all the redirects in place? Are they the appropriate kind of redirect? Do they definitely all work?

Some of those are real “Well, duh!” but trust me, you’ll never regret checking them half as much as you’ll regret not checking them and them being broken…

2. Crawl the site before and after

Site migrations are like moving house. And, like moving house, things can get lost along the way.

Get a thorough crawl of your site before you move. Then, you have something to compare against when you crawl the new site.

This ‘before and after’ comparison can make your life much easier when you’re trying to work out what’s been missed; what changed and where.

Get yourself a list of example URLs, those with the most traffic, the most incoming links, that drive the most revenue etc. Use that as your ‘seed list’ to check if things have worked as they should have, post migration. If anything is broken, that’s bad but if those ‘big hitter’ pages are broken, you need to know ASAP. 

3. Check absolute & relative URLs

One of the common mistakes I’ve seen from the many migrations I’ve done is the mix-up between relative and absolute URLs.

In short, does a link to another page use the https and www bit or does it just have the /another-page/ bit and relies on that fact that you’re already on that site, so it knows the prefix bit?

The former is an absolute link; the latter is relative. Both have their appropriate uses.

During a migration, you need to be sure which are being used where.

If your developer team completely lift and shift blocks of code from old site to new, any absolute URLs are going to mess up your migration. If, for example, you have canonical links on newsite.com which refer to oldsite.com that’s going to make a mess of your migration.

There may be some in old content too. If the site owners wrote content that concluded with “Find out more on our special page https://oldsite.com/special-page/” those are probably absolute links too.

4. Send clear signals to Google

“Control the controllables”.

It’d be amazing if you could, overnight, make sure that every 3rd party site that links to your old site goes and updates those links to point to your new site – right at the time you migrate. But that’s not gonna happen.

What you can control is the things within your remit.

Send clear signals to the search engines. If you’ve moved to newsite.com make sure all your social channels, your Google My Business listing, all those local directories you’re in all that stuff is switched over too.

I’ve lost count of the number of sites I’ve seen migrate and then, months later, their Facebook page is still linking to their old website address… and probably on the http version too. Get that stuff updated. Add it to your checklist (from tip #1) so you don’t forget!

5. Bonus: Simon Cox migration monitoring & Jeff Louella Wayback Machine API

Luckily there are lots of people that have been through migrations before and seen the carnage of a migration gone wrong.

That means there are some really handy tools out there that can help you with some of the trickier stuff; or to unravel a migration that’s gone wrong or where you were called in after the event.

Simon Cox set-up a Google Data Studio template to track migrations: https://simoncox.com/blog/using-google-data-studio-to-review-your-http-to-https-migration. It was set-up to monitor a switch-over he did from http to https but with a few tweaks you can adapt it to monitor any migration. Then you can see when Google picks up the new site and starts showing it in more and more SERPs as (hopefully!) your migration switches over seamlessly from one site to another.

The Tech SEO, Jeff Louella, also built a very handy Wayback Machine API Googlesheet: https://www.thetechseo.com/seo-tools/discover-lost-urls/ Using that you can find all the old URLs from a site and what their status code is now: Do they return a 404? Do they 301? Do they 301 multiple times?

This one can help save many a botched migration!

Hopefully you never get to that point… as you’ll have a checklist, right?

Marco Bonomo’s Top Tips

1. Migrations are a great opportunity to evaluate existing content

Once the benchmarking pre-migration phase is completed, the SEO consultant should be able to provide recommendations about which content to keep, update or merge. This is particularly important, as well-performing content should be preserved, while content that receives no traffic should be merged or simply updated. As a personal experience, a client of mine facing their first site migration wanted to cut off all the blog content as they were under the impression that the content was “stale”. My assessment helped by identifying all the best blog post performers and secure their presence in the new website.

2. Have a plan for escalating issues

As no migration is flawless, it’s advisable to know exactly who the key players in the site migration process are (e.g. the head developer). This will help in quickly escalating any issue and limit any damage to the website’s technical health and visibility.

3. Secure a PPC contingency budget

As pretty much any website migration comes with ranking fluctuations, revenue (or leads) can be impacted too. Securing a dedicated PPC contingency budget can help in supporting traffic and conversions for a short period of time, boosting recovery. To help with the planning, ask the PPC team to create separate campaigns with different ad groups and plan for an increase in spending.

4. Plan the site migration for the right time

If the business/site you’re planning to migrate has a seasonality, make sure to plan the migration as far away as possible from that period. For example, if the business is booming in the summer months, plan the migration for September. Needless to say, avoid planning a migration on a Friday as things can go wrong quite quickly and you might need more time than expected to fix them.

Wednesday – Keyword Research Why It Is Important

Pinar Ünsal’s key points on the relevancy on keyword research:

Of course, Keyword Research is still important and still highly relevant. 

To be able to achieve higher rankings in the SERPs, more sales, traffic and increased visibility with a detailed Keyword research are essential and you should spend a big chunk of time for your SEO projects on this first. Only when you have done this properly beforehand and ongoing your content/website or the one of your clients can be optimized accordingly.

I recommend using Keyword research tools for this. The one I use daily is keywordtool.io, but there are a lot more to assist you to get more insights on your users’ intent like answerthepublic.com, SEMrush’s Keyword Magic Tool or Authoritas’s content strategy tool.

Besides the Keyword research work I also recommend making a detailed competitor analysis and look for content gaps from Keywords where your SEO competitors are ranked for on Page 1 of the SERPs or as Featured Snippets and where you are missing out on opportunities. This is a great way to make use of your Keyword research in combination with the use of Tools. For competitive research and finding content gaps we use Ahrefs. 

SEO and PPC may be separate marketing channels with unique roles and purposes, but they both play for the same team. Ultimately, the goal of both SEO and PPC is to attract people to your website. That’s why we at Kubix Digital believe that interaction of SEO, PPC and content marketing is absolutely necessary and adapting a more holistic approach is the way to succeed in all Search areas. For your Keyword research you can benefit from PPC insights and tools like the search terms reports where you can see data on how people are searching for your product/service right now. All the other Keyword tools are based on historic data and are using samples so you could miss the whole picture.

If you are working on international project/websites SEO don’t miss significant Keyword potentials by not making a proper localized keyword and market research. Often also cultural differences can result in not succeeding with your SEO approach in that specific country. Here is an example of a wrong translated product name.

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You see here how much you are actually missing out on that ONE product, multiply that by 100.000 products and you will see the whole picture of your missed keyword volume.

Thank you again to all of our speakers who joined us this week for sharing your tips, we enjoyed it. We have also decided to extend our Tea Time SEO until the end of May which means we have plenty more spaces for people to speak. Just send us an email and we will be in touch!

See you at the next “Tea Time SEO” – don’t forget your cake! – See you on YouTube.

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