So it’s been months, almost a year, a lifetime in blogging and a lifetime in life. Back in the UK for unforeseen reasons for a month or so and working a LOT. Anyway, had to work through a series of 301 redirects a few days ago on a non-CMS driven site and pulled a few tricks which I thought I would share.
Setting the scene
Client has changed a sub-folder name and individual page names, which as a result meant all URLs had changed, which obviously meant any links pointing at these pages will now 404. If it were just the subfolder you could easily add a mass server side rule; but as usual it never works like that… I needed to add 301’s to the old pages via IIS7.5 & IT (nightmare) and importantly check the 301’s had been implemented correctly.
Really it’s only two tools you need, unless you decide to only 301 the files with external links pointing to them in which case you can run a backlink report using OSE or similar, these are:
SEO tools for Excel
1. Download pages prior to update
Use ScreamingFrog to extract the files relating to the subfolder you are editing. You can either run the entire site or simply extract that specific folder. Using ScreamingFrog means that you will have a comprehensive list of all pages within subfolder-X, meaning nothing slips through the cracks. It is important to rip the site prior to any changes being made. I have been witness to developers with quick hands that resulted in hours of trawling through the waybackwhen machine, GWT & historical server logs…
You will basically end up with a CSV file which if sorted by address (I find it easier) will list all the pages you need to monitor.
2. Add the new file location
For this project the 301s were added by the in-house IT crowd, which meant that I had to provide a list of current and new URLs. Having mapped out the on-page updates this was just a case of adding a column to the above spreadsheet with the new URLs.
3. Wait for IT to make the updates
I put the kettle on at this point.
4. Check the 301s were implemented correctly
Now I know you can run header checkers and trawl through GWT but for being able to instantly check any number page’s server status; SEOTools for Excel really is AMAZING. If you don’t currently have SEOTools installed then I really cannot stress how quickly you should install it.
NB: Remember to actually extract the installer etc from the .zip prior to running/installing or like me you won’t get very far.
SEOTools for Excel has been around for a while now but essentially is a large suite of invaluable SEO tools accessed via your Excel ad-ins panel:
Insert a column (I named it ‘status’) next to the URLs you want to check (obviously you can use any column but I like them being next to each other).
Open the ‘Onpage’ tab of SEOTools for Excel and select ‘HttpStatus’, ensuring that you have the cell into which you want the server response to be added selected:
Select the cell with the URL which you want to test the server status of and hit OK/return/88mph:
The formula should return you a server response code:
You can then copy the formatting down through the rest of the URLs you want to check which will highlight how well or badly IT have added the redirects and dictate how urgently you need to make the necessary phone calls/emails:
I know it’s not cutting edge and you could use Screaming Frog for it all if you need but in my opinion the combination with SEOTools for Excel made the process much more immediate, visual and ultimately successful.
So this is maybe four months later than I had promised myself I would post it; but an SEO campaign I have been working on for the last two years won the ‘Best SEO Campaign’ at the 2011 UK Search awards!
I hate to blow my own trumpet but recognition from peers is something really special. So so proud of the team at Verve Search with whome I continue to work and love. The awards came of the back of a full service search campaign which included:
- Site audit and technical SEO overhaul
- PPC campaign overhaul and management
- Full on-page optimisation
- Google Products feed creation, management and optimisation
- Extensive and on-going link building campaign
More than happy to discuss client, strategy and applications with anyone who wants to know. Just contact me via any one of the routes listed in the site footer.
I suppose this article is a follow up to the one I wrote for Verve Search titled “How to optimise for Google products” which discusses what I deem to be the most influential ranking factors for Google Products and tips on submitting feeds.
I have been creating and optimising Google Products/Base feeds for a number of clients for the last couple of years now. What I deem to be the core ranking determinants have shifted slightly in my opinion and as this isn’t a hugely written about subject I thought I would continue to share my ideas.
Make Google Products a daily event
In my experience ranking competitively for the higher volume keywords requires you to approach Google Products as a daily task. It doesn’t need to take hours and it shouldn’t be too intensive (unless you are adding a number of new products or new attributes are launched. Firstly and very importantly change frequency within your Google Merchant account should be set to daily. Secondly where appropriate make small updates to products, no matter how small the changes are; make and upload them. Don’t forget to upload the file to the root of your website as well.
New attributes – keep an eye on the list
As I discuss in my previous post, it really is always worth keeping one eye on Google’s webmaster central blog. New attributes are added relatively frequently and almost as importantly attributes are often decommissioned. Although it isn’t usually detrimental to ranking to keep older attributes in your product feeds, missing new attributes will definitely put you at a disadvantage.
Suggested attributed – apply every attribute you can
It is also worth noting that Google often recommends certain attributes for different types of products. More often than not these recommendations are just that, suggestions. These attributes can and should be used for every product for which attribute values are available.
Take the recommended attribute ‘Feature’ <g:feature>, Google recommends this attribute for books, films and music. However if you think your product has a feature worth mentioning why not include it? It is another variable which could determine ranking position.
Age of feed – DON’T UPDATE PRODUCT IDs
As far as I know the ID required and assigned to each product in your feed remains referenced in your feed whether the price, dimensions or colour changes. I personally think that age of feed is one of the biggest ranking influences, so whatever you do don’t erase your feed’s hard work, make sure you keep the product IDs.
Product type – Ignore at your own peril
A relatively new attribute ‘product type’ requires that you select the most appropriate ‘folder’ for your product. The key here is to really analyse the taxonomy provided and find the best fit from the options available. I think if there is any one recommended attribute not to leave out this is the one. Another key thing to remember here is that Google allows multiple product types to be added, just add as many <product_type> tags as you are able to.
Global Trade Item Numbers
As from June it will be mandatory for all products which aren’t custom made to have their GTIN number s listed within their product attributes. It is yet unsure how those which don’t include the identifiers will be treaded, as at the moment they aren’t classed as mandatory (so you would think that products won’t be excluded). All that can be assumed is that by leaving these codes out you are negatively affecting your ability to compete with similar advertisers and providing one less identifier to Google than your competitors.
I think it is true of any industry; if you work with your head down long enough you forget to see how you fit into the overall scheme of business. SEO is a particularly isolated place if you don’t step back from time to time and look at how you fit into the whole digital marketing world. I could go as far to say that you aren’t doing your job properly if you don’t on a day to day basis ask yourself basic marketing questions relating to your SEO project.
So Google launches +1 and pretty much everyone has been talking about it; as they should considering the impact it is set to have on how we search and the results we are greeted with as a result. But I can’t help but get the impression that in an attempt to keep up with the omni-present Facebook ‘like’ button Google are to a small extent forgetting who they are.
I don’t argue that social signals to me will play a massive part in determining what results I may or may not click on. I am more likely to click on a recommendation from one of my friends or colleagues but then I know what is going on and what +1 is. I don’t fall into the ‘typical’ user group, I see through the branding and the rounded edges and I see Google staking its claim again into the social market. +1, buzz, wave, gmail etc etc are additions which have succeed and failed, with each attempt Google aims to get us more entwined than the previous.
What about normal users? Those which don’t have a Google account, don’t understand the different elements which combine into universal search? For them Google stays the same, apart from for those lucky enough not to have signed out of Gmail and are wondering why their friends faces are appearing in the search results.
I guess I just don’t want to get ahead of myself over +1. There are just so many questions running round in my head which need answering:
- Why would people go back to the SERPs to +1 something?
- They must be developing a +1 button to add to websites/content?
- I know Google is playing down the ranking contribution of +1, but how big will it end up being?
- If +1 is a ranking signal, surely it is far too open to abuse in its current incarnation?
- How is +1 going to work with PPC?
- Not everyone has a Google account which is a big thing
Yes the idea of +1 is really exciting. But at the moment, more so due to me being excited by the concept of more user data = better search results, and the likelihood that good quality websites which do their jobs will shine.
Social by most accounts should be taking up a large proportion of your SEO headspace. But I, like many, think the real winner out of these changes is quality content. Google’s +1 is just another way of promoting good, functional, quality websites and webpage’s. Yes I think a lot of questions need ironing out, but hopefully pages and sites that we should be creating and promoting anyway will win big. Yes I am an SEO, but this update as with all updates isn’t for us, it is for the normal web users who will hopefully find what they are looking for more quickly thanks to +1.
I guess the SEO world will have to wait to find out if and how the +1 button will apply itself algorithmically, but it can be sure there will be a lot of discussions to come.
The SEO world it seems is full of strange and often confusing analogies; nowhere are these more prevalent than at SEO conferences. A strange place, where bizarre & inspiring ideas are explained to the expectant audience through often more bizarre means.
My personal favourite relates to reciprocal linking; which I know everyone has their own views on. In this one presentation the speaker argued against reciprocal linking as a valuable link acquisition technique, using by far my favourite ever analogy:
“Reciprocal linking is like two people having a beer; if they both swap beers in the end they still only have one beer.”
Whilst I agree in principal with reciprocal linking’s reduced value in the overall link acquisition mix; this statement got me thinking. In a link building environment where so much emphasis is put on trust ranks, domain ranks and other such link value determining metrics surely not every beer (link) is equal.
And as such, by up-swapping links from a ‘low value’ domain to a ‘high value’ domain surely there must be some positive overlap and thus even if it is a tiny fraction of a link juice point add value. Let me try to break it down:
Obviously you could use any metric you deemed appropriate, but the below one helps to visualise my point. In theory by swapping links with a ‘more valuable’ domain/URL you can quickly build both inbound link volume and help associate your site with specific targets.
My URL Mrank: 3.24
Potential reciprocal target Mrank: 5.21
Mrank difference: 1.97
I am not saying that everyone should immediately drop what they are doing and start working on a reciprocal linking strategy. What I am saying is that for newer sites which are struggling to generate links; increasing the amount of time dedicated to reciprocal linking might prove a valuable use of time. Even if the passed value is nominal these new links will add to the robustness of your profile.
I guess to sum it up; websites need beer to rank effectively. If you are going to swap beer; firstly make sure the glass is the same size and secondly if you have a home brew swapping it for a Heineken really does make sense.
First blog post. Better write something interesting. How about link building? Time spent on page metrics drop…
Link building is considered the bread and butter of SEO, a massive cog in any off-page optimisation campaign. Not only is it in my opinion the biggest contributing factor to ranking position, but building high quality, high value links is also the most difficult task set to an SEO.
I have been building links with a predominantly white hat on for the last two years. I am constantly looking for new ideas, investigating hunches, reading around subjects and more often than not getting very good results.
Yes, a lot of the time I apply geeky methodology and techniques, most of which I hope to write about in the future. However in this post I am not going to try to baffle you with science or try to impress anyone with cutting edge scripts. Instead I thought I would put down on paper what I consider to be the most important steps to take before you even begin to approach link prospects. In my view not following these suggestions will have serious implications to the success of your campaign.
Get yourself a client email address
It may seem like a really small detail, but having your client create you an email address specifically for your link building activities; in most cases will mean the difference between foot in the door and straight to deleted items. This doesn’t just apply to unsolicited ‘trolling’ techniques, but is useful in all manner of situations. From sending over offer details, to following up phone conversations; a qualified client email address really will have a massive impact on your link acquisition success rate.
A lot has been written about this subject recently, debates started around the business sense of conducting this research. I like wiep am a firm believer in the value of competitor research. How else can you assess the competitiveness of a market, discover what tactics are being used; which are working or not and where there are gaps which you can take advantage of. Competitor research shouldn’t be a routine copycat activity, but instead allow you to employ some core marketing ideas and if done well set the stage for a successful campaign. Most of my competitor research starts with open site explorer.
Putting all your off-page and more specifically link building efforts into the wrong keywords really won’t get you far at all. Google’s external keyword tool gives you local and global monthly search volumes, allowing you to segment the traffic drivers from the tumble weeds. Three big tips at this stage are to make sure you are seeing “exact” match results by checking the relevant box, ensure your geographic location is set correctly and download the .csv for each keyword to see a monthly breakdown of search volumes (great insights into seasonal trends). Keyword research and competitor analysis should go hand in hand, allowing you to segment the competition and select the keywords most suited to your objectives.
Link building is a labour intensive activity; constantly contacting different people and organisations, switching from one angle to another and all of the time making notes and updating the status of your link building endeavours. Using spreadsheets in my opinion quickly becomes unmanageable. Firstly version control gets out of hand, and then the status of link prospects quickly gets forgotten; leading to inefficient link generation.
The solution for me is Raventools, an SEO tool which contains in my experience the most complete link management system available (I am planning to write a full write-up on Raventool’s functionality soon, so won’t start listing features now). However I can’t not mention these two; firstly, a link status checker, which as the name suggests periodically checks your links and updates you as to status changes (live, inactive etc). Secondly a reporting suite which allows you to create customisable branded .pdf reports as well as giving clients access to their accounts; allowing them to keep tabs on your link building efforts.
Use the Telephone
At Verve Search we use the telephone just as often as we do email for link prospecting. Just because you are using reporting tools and bespoke Google search commands doesn’t mean you have to completely retire the telephone. The majority of my most prized links (sad when you start ranking them eh) involved the use of a telephone at one stage or another. Telephones also facilitate relationship building much more effectively than email does and any link builder will tell you; one link is great, but a relationship which spawns more links is even better.