SEO

Relaunch 2018: SEO Hacks & Best Practices

Marco hat an der SOM 2018 eine Präsentation zum Thema Relaunch mit SEO Fokus gegeben und die Must-Haves für einen erfolgreichen Relaunch in Englisch erläutert und zusammengefasst.

Marco Schlauri

14.5.2018

Introduction

The first insight that I would like to share with you, is that a lot of marketing managers I’ve surveyed, are actually naming a “better online marketing performance” as the number one reason for a relaunch.

Of course, this is bit of a skewed sample as a lot of marketers that contributed to this survey are current or previous clients and therefore well aware of the importance of online marketing.

Still, it’s great for a company like ours to see, that we aren’t the only ones concerned about SEO, PPC, Social Media or Content Marketing when it comes to a relaunch.

This next slide definitely confirms this notion, that SEO and Content Marketing efforts are key to a successful launch. Too many times we have seen websites launch without a clear plan on how to migrate, redistribute and optimise content for users and search engines alike, just for the visibility and traffic to drop the months after.

On the other side, there’s a huge opportunity to learn from previous mistakes and double down on the content that has worked in the past. Both of these graphs depict the visibility of domains I’ve previously done SEO for – once before the relaunch and the other time after the relaunch.

Technical SEO

Fast forward, we are getting right into the technical details. A very important topic, which I am not going to cover here is the redirection of URLs. Even though a URL migration is a crucial step in every relaunch, I am not going to rave on about the use of 301 redirects as enough has been written about it online already.

Also, it’s not something that has changed much over the last ten years and I really want to focus on topics that are relevant right now.

So I am starting off with an update that’s just around the corner:

In July 2018, the chrome browser will display all HTTP pages as not secure.

So, if you are currently on HTTP, you should definitely switch to HTTPS when relaunching. If a domain runs on HTTPS – that’s a clear signal of trust to users.

We have also seen a strong correlation between HTTPS and high rankings – which doesn’t mean causation but it’s definitely the case, that most leading sites in every industry are on HTTPS these days.

Kind of funny: som-expo.ch is still running on HTTP!

The next two slides are more or less self-explanatory. Pagespeed is and always will be an important ranking factor.

Mobile first indexing means that the mobile version of your website becomes the starting point for what Google includes in their index. If your desktop and mobile version largely vary and most of your content is hidden on the mobile version of your site, then this might very well result in lower rankings for you.

Also, Google’s machine learning algorithm (RankBrain) is always analysing how people interact with your website: A bad mobile experience will most definitely result in lower visibility and traffic.

So if you are planning a relaunch right now, I would advise you to pay special attention to the mobile version of the site and that all content is easily accessible for users and search engines alike.

Content Planning, Optimisation & Distribution

No matter what the reason is for your website relaunch, it needs to be specific, targeted and backed up by a concrete plan. The first step in the journey is deciding which aspects of the content you would like to migrate and what needs to be changed or expanded.

To do so, we conduct an internal analysis to better understand the current performance of the website.

Most projects involving a site relaunch are long-term affairs and take between three and 12 months, depending on the complexity of the site.

To make a real impact, the planning stages need to be filled with exhaustive research conducted on all aspects of the current performance, so you know exactly what you need to change.

A content analysis is key to understand, what kind of performance you are actually dealing with.

On the left side, you see the site structure, as facilitated by the main navigation and on the far right end side, you can see organic performance data marked up in colour, so it’s easier to spot right away which pages are performing and which ones aren’t.

Once you have got a good overview, you can further investigate and evaluate single pages based on the keywords they show up for in the search results. Not only clicks are important, but the impressions can give you a better understanding of how Google understands and ranks your site.

Gather all this information in an Excel sheet or the like, so when it comes to creating content for your new website, you always have a place to go back to for inspiration.

You can even take it a step further and look at the click data, that you get on specific pages with tools such as Hotjar. How is your current content structured, where do people click, how far do they scroll etc.

All that information is then combined with the insights we get from the external analysis.

We start with the competition: The easiest way to gain insights, is to look at where your competition ranks, what topics they cover and how they structure their content.

You don’t even need SEO tools to do that. Just run a search for a specific phrase or topic you identify as important for your business and see how a search result is put together by Google.

Follow the links to the different landing pages and write down what you like or dislike about the way they write and structure their content.

The next data point is right inside your organisation: It’s the insights that you have gathered from your customers over the last couple of years. You best talk to your sales or customer services representatives about who they see as an ideal client, what problems clients struggle with, what arguments your sales people use to convert customers etc.

But don’t just rely on internal feedback. Feel free to reach out directly to some of your key customers. It’s them that you are after and understanding what convinced them to buy from you or what content they like to consume, provides you with valuable insights when planning and writing content.

The Relaunch Game Plan

Now that we’ve gathered all this information, we can utilise it and start building a framework for our new website. In contrast to our previous analysis, where we started with the general site structure and then went more and more into detail, we start bottom up and put our audience first.

Putting the audience first means, starting with the user. I want you to pay attention to the user, because he or she has a direct effect on everything that follows. Each search journey starts and ends with the user, so please don’t treat keywords just as hollow words that you paste in your text to rank well, but try to understand what kind of problem the user is facing.

Each keyword tells a story and the more specific it is, the easier it is for us to understand the intent behind it. In SEO we call this “search intent”. If you get the search intent wrong, you might as well not to start to write at all, because the content you create will not resonate with the user and not solve his or her problems.

If you are having problems finding a clear intent behind a query, it’s easiest to just search for it on Google and see what kind of results you are getting. The content that ranks best, almost always answers the search query the best.

To evaluate if a certain keyword is attractive, we look at relevancy and search intent, search volume and competitiveness.

Basically, we first want to make sure that a certain query is relevant to our business. If you are ranking first for the keyword “tomato” then that’s great, but if you are selling sneakers, it doesn’t really help your business.

Also, if no one is actively searching for the keyword you have in mind, it might be time to reconsider. That being said, make sure you don’t disregard the long tail! Even if a certain keyword has only 50 monthly average searches – when prominently ranking for spelling variations and/or local variations of a query, you can easily gather 10x the traffic.

That’s why today, we are focusing on topics, rather than keywords. A great example by Rand Fishkin can be found on the next slide. The keywords “cheap times to fly” and “cheapest times to fly” have exactly the same search intent behind it, so we don’t create separate landing pages for these queries, but we rather create one page that answers the search intent thoroughly.

Last but not least, it’s crucial that you get an understanding of the competitive landscape and can evaluate if it’s feasible that you’ll ever rank for a certain keyword. Here again – you best look at the current search results for the query and investigate who’s currently ranking for it.

Once you have all your topics ready, you can then arrange them and build your new site structure. You will probably be able to migrate a large part of your content directly to the new site and just optimise it here and there. Still, you should also be open to expand on your current content setup and leverage the insights that have gained earlier.

Not only the site structure but also the way content is displayed and distributed on your website needs to be reevaluated in order to best accommodate your target audience.

What kind of content are we planning to create? How can it be arranged on each page? How will it look on a mobile phone?

In the end, we want to create a great customer journey and not just cover topics individually but think of the whole website as a new way to tell your story and create a dialogue between you and your customers.

Great stories in the world of search have an interesting start that pulls listeners right in (meta data), a clever build up (main content) and sometimes some surprises (chat feature, product finder, quizzes, new blog post etc.) that make sure that our user never gets bored and finds what he or she is looking for.

The dialogue that you’re having with your customers might change over time. If you are relaunching your website now, you might need to use new content formats and cover topics slightly differently than five years ago.

Through the increased use of voice search, we have seen a general rise in long tail queries as spoken language often uses more than just one or two words to make a query. Google is accommodating this change by integrating more and more instant answers, called “featured snippets”, into the search result.

Too easy, right?

Now you got all the information you need to successfully relaunch your website. Of course, when it comes down to it, it never exactly works as smoothly as in theory.

Most of the marketing managers identified the internal resources as the number one issue, followed by the coordination of all internal and external efforts. Of course, building a great SEO and Content Marketing setup is only one part of the launch.

Marketing managers need to coordinate the whole design aspect, pay attention to branding, KPIs and analytics, evaluate new infrastructure solutions and make sure that they appease internal and external stakeholders among other tasks!

The increased workload a marketing manager has to carry, is often the reason why SEO and Content Marketing are not considered from the beginning – simply because there is so much else to do.

We still hope that you have got a proper SEO strategy in place for your relaunch and don’t just leave it up to chance, because due to the increased complexity of the algorithm, the chances are much higher that your traffic will decrease than increase.

Launching a new website and integrating SEO and Content Marketing from the beginning will not only have a positive impact on your traffic and conversions numbers, it can also save you quite some money.

Because anything that is implemented by you or your web development agency and doesn’t live up to current SEO best practices will sooner or later need to be amended. Those are additional work hours and agency costs that are required to correct certain elements, that could have been set up properly the first time around.

But enough preaching now! If you want the complete slide deck or got questions in regards to any of the above, feel free to write me an e-mail at marco@digitalleverage.ch or drop me a line here. I am looking forward to your feedback!

Marco