I often work with internal marketers and teams who are responsible for updating and managing a company’s website. In the 10-plus years I have been doing this, I can honestly say that I see the same SEO mistakes happen. A lot.
Staff changes and inadequate handover culture means that best practice all too often goes out the window. Even training doesn’t always help — things get forgotten in large organisations and lack of process and documentation leads to ambiguity.
Time and time again, this lack of internal SEO knowledge causes critical mistakes that will cost you website visitors and partly undo previous SEO investment.
Looking at the bigger picture, losing a few web visitors might not always seem important. But in the SEO world, your website is the centre of all of your organic traffic — it’s everything.
And it’s important that teams learn how to adequately protect their website’s SEO equity…
Protect your digital marketing investment
Websites hold intangible equity called PageRank (PR). This is the value assigned to a webpage by Google. Measuring the webpage’s importance, PR is then used to determine the order in which search engine results are presented.
By not following best practice, you can lose page equity and rankings. Protecting your page equity also means protecting the digital marketing investment (PR, social, content, design, SEO etc) you’ve already put into your website. In some ways, messing up your website is like setting fire to all the money you’ve spent on it.
To help protect your organic traffic and PageRank, here are six ways you can avoid common SEO blunders when updating web content, creating new pages, or tweaking your website…
Always 404 with caution
Every time you delete a page, you are erasing a URL with existing equity — so delete pages with caution.
Once you delete a page and a visitor then clicks through to the URL of the deleted page, they will usually find a ‘404: not found error’ page.
Visitors and Google don’t like finding missing pages, and your site’s SEO can suffer as a result of having too many 404 pages.
Unnecessary 404 pages can happen for ecommerce sites if you lack a clear process and protocol for adding new product pages or product categories. Subtle changes to URL structure once a page has gone live (sometimes ‘by accident’) can also result in unwanted 404 errors.
Most 404s should be replaced with a 301 redirect, Creating a 301 redirect means Google will assign the link value of the old URL to the new URL you want to redirect your visitors to, protecting PageRank.
If you don’t have a page that is a natural fit for a redirect, it’s usually better to improve instead of delete.
Avoid cannibilisation with less duplicate content
Google is a great platform, but it has weaknesses — and duplicate content is one of them.
Cannibalisation occurs when a site has multiple pages that focus on the same keyword (or keyword sets).
Multiple pages targeting the same keyword means that you are effectively competing against yourself, not a competitor.
As a result, Google will get confused about which page it should rank, your traffic will fall, and conversions will suffer.
Avoid cannibilisation by having a clear plan outlining which keywords you’re targeting on which pages. Don’t create near-identical content around the same topic, but go for value-led and longtail supporting content instead.
Don’t upload images at a high res
When it comes to images for your website, bigger is not always better.
Loading times are crucial to UX and SEO. The faster a website loads, the fewer visitors will leave and the easier it is for Google’s bots to index your site.
Unfortunately, large images slow down loading times significantly.
Instead of uploading images at high res, reduce image size without compromising on quality by using a compression tool like TinyPNG.
Inform SEO teams of all website activities
Keep your SEO team informed of the latest and impending website changes. A silo mentality can have an adverse effect on every part of your website.
Effective SEO optimisation boosts rankings, improves website user experience, and makes everyone in your business happy.
Monthly integrated meetings across diverse teams (including SEO) can help ensure that any business plans or marketing campaigns factor in SEO (and vice versa).
Using sales data to inform SEO tactics is a great way to increase ROI through cross-pollination. Mapping your keyword strategy to every stage of the buying journey will help ensure that you have adequate content across the customer lifecycle.
Make sure SEO teams are fully informed of all website activities by talking to them.
Eliminate orphan pages
Orphan pages are pages on your website that are not linked to from another page on your website. In other words, they don’t have any internal links.
Without an internal link, it’s impossible for search engine crawlers to index your page, meaning customers and visitors will struggle to find it.
To find orphan pages, get a full list of your current web pages. Then run a website crawl using ScreamingFrog, and identify for pages without internal links. Add internal links to every orphan page that you find.
Don’t add UTM parameters to internal links
UTM tags are useful. They allow you to track the number of people that clicked a link and give you information about how those people interact with your website.
However, they are designed for external campaigns.
Adding UTM tags to internal links means you will scramble the data you collect from ads and social media, and metrics like traffic, time on site, and conversions might get falsely attributed.
Protecting your website’s SEO equity might be as simple as talking to your SEO team or getting them involved in the latest marketing decisions. Leave SEO out of the equation, and you risk seriously damaging your website equity and paying for the price at a later date. Get these six things sorted and you’ll be well on your way to conserving site equity and maximising your SEO investment.