Critical SEO checklist when redesigning a website

Website redesigns are common. According to this article, they should take place approximately 2-3 years. This seems accurate from my experience.

As a website owner, it means website redesigns, and how to handle them, will become increasingly common over time.

It’s important that you make a plan for SEO website redesign, and have an accurate and up-to-date checklist to follow.

It’s common for web designers to put tens of hours into web design, making a beautiful website but omitting all but the most basic SEO concepts in the new site.

As part of the SEO website redesign process, it’s really an opportune time to address outdated content, broken links, bad navigation & menus as well and other factors that negatively affect SEO as well as conversions.

Backlinks are increasingly hard to acquire in 2017. You must consider your backlinks and do everything you can to retain them, to ensure the inevitable traffic drop after a website re-launch is minimised (and only temporary) as much as possible.

This blog provides an easy to follow checklist to minimise SEO impact when redesigning and relaunching your website.

Website Analysis/Planning

Perform a link audit

It’s important to know all your incoming links. You want to retain the majority of your link juice. If URLs change as part of your site redesign, you’ll want to create 301 redirects, or inform the backlink owner of the URL change. This step is critical, else you’ll lose your website rankings fast!

Keep slugs the same where possible

Avoid renaming pages and slugs. Names should be kept the same to retain your backlinks. Only change the slugs if there’s no alternative.

Ensure the new site is set to no-index.

While you’re setting up the new website, ensure it’s not being indexed by Google/Bing. You don’t want to confuse the search engine and eat up your crawl budget on the site that’s not ready to go live.

Check for any dead links, missing images

As part of the site redesign, the web designer may have overlooked dead links and missing images. It’s an opportune time to perform a website analysis to scan for dead links, missing images etc before go-live.

My tool of choice for these audits is the excellent WebSite Auditor. Here’s my method to perform website analysis:

Create a new project and ensure you have the “Enable expert options” box checked:

seo website redesign

Disable the “Follow robots.txt instruction”. Now the Website Auditor tool can crawl your entire site, even though the home page is set to no index.

seo website redesign

Review the website analysis and check/correct any issues:

seo website redesign

Ensure Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools are setup

Setup all the tracking code on the new site and ensure it’s working before go-live. This ensures there is one less task to perform after the site is re-launched.

Check performance

It’s important to check your website performance as part of SEO website redesign, both for user experience and for crawl performance. If your website is slow to load, it won’t be crawled effectively. This will exceed your crawl budget.

You should check the  page load times via Google page speed insights. Ensure you are using a WordPress image compression plugin, such as Smush and install a caching plugin such as WordPress Fastest Cache.

Ensure on-page SEO is checked/addressed

You’ll need to install a SEO plugin, such as Yoast, if not installed already. This will help you manage your on-page SEO factors. Ensure all Meta Keywords, Meta Descriptions H1s are set and optimised.

During launch

Remove the no-index tags

This will enable the site to be indexed by the search engines

Complete the change of address in Google Search Console

This is essential to inform Google of the address change (if applicable)

Ensure Google Analytics is receiving live traffic

Post Launch

Check for any crawl errors

It’s essential to check the Google Search Console for any crawl errors, as well as the crawl stats to ensure Googlebot has no issues indexing your site.

seo website redesign

Ensure the sitemap is submitted and pages are indexed

There are reasons why pages aren’t being indexed. Check out our blog about why pages need to be Indexed and run your pages through the tool.

There is more likely to be an issue for new pages, rather than existing ones. But check them anyway.

Ensure there are no issues with your Robot.txt

This is checked by investigating “Blocked Resources” in Google Search Console

Track site rankings as normal

If you’ve done everything correctly, it should take around 4 weeks for rankings to return to normal. This is however dependent on your crawl rate/crawl budget.

Website redesigns are a fact of life and are becoming more common. If you make a plan for SEO website redesign and address backlinks up-front, the impact to traffic and rankings will recover in about a month.

Did I miss anything? Please comment to suggest additions to the checklist.

Contact Evolocity today to find out about our SEO, PPC and Web design.

 

How to clean your hacked website

 

Ever received an email from google, such as the below indicating that hacked content has been detected on your WordPress website? I sincerely hope not! If you have, I hope this post will help you clean a hacked WordPress site and secure your site from future attacks.

Clean Hacked WordPress site

We’ll you’re somewhat lucky if you received an email at all.

According to Google, 61% of webmasters never receive the email notification informing them that their website has been infected. That’s because they haven’t setup and verified their site in Google’s search console.

There are three common website hacks at the moment:

Gibberish Hack: This hack creates many pages that don’t make sense, but filled with keywords required to rank on the destination site. This hack is designed so it will rank well and redirect traffic to another site, such as porn or other vice categories.

Japanese Keywords Hack: This hack creates pages with Japanese (and sometimes Chinese) text. The added pages are affiliates selling fake goods and use this hack to rank well in Google search results.

Cloaked Keywords Hack: This hack creates many pages that don’t make sense. The pages often look like normal pages from the website, but with weird content that direct you to a third party site.

Recently, I needed to clean up a site that was hacked. These are the steps I followed and recommend:

After validating the email from Google is genuine (by checking the header and hovering over email links) and verifying that indeed the site is listed as hacked via the Google Transparency report, it’s time to take action!

This website was hit with SQL Injection. More specifically, the Japanese Keywords Hack, which involved a hacker trying to use this website to sell fake Japanese products. This is a purely English site, as you can see via the below results from Google Search Analytics, the hack was relatively effective!

Japanese Keywords Hack

Inspect the damage

Log into the Google search console to see the full extent of the warning messages from Google and see the sample of hacked pages identified by Google.

In this example, we can see there are additional pages added as previously, this website only had about 50 pages. As we can see, a hacker has created over 8,000 additional pages on this website. A sure sign that it’s been hacked!

Clean hacked WordPress site

Only use “Fetch as Google” to see the pages created. Don’t click any of the pages identified by Google via your web browser, as they often contain malware and can infect your PC.

It’s now time to clean a hacked WordPress site!

Scan for a virus on your web hosting environment

Next, you log in to the web hosting console (cPanel or equivalent) and run a virus scan on the full site directory to see if there’s any virus present.

In this instance, we can see that there’s a php malware virus. This mailer virus is usually used to send SPAM email from your domain.

Click “Process Cleanup” to ensure the malware is cleaned.

Clean hacked WordPress site

After that, you can either trawl through your WordPress database and directories, looking for any suspicious files or just reinstall WordPress. This will set your installation files back to their default binaries.

Run a virus scan on all WordPress Administrator PCs

Malware, virus or keylogger on your computer may have been used to access your WordPress site without your knowledge. You should now perform a full scan on any PCs that have been used to access the WordPress administrator console.

Restore a clean version of your website.

The easiest approach is to restore a recent backup. This will restore both the database and files of your website.

If you don’t have a backup, you’ll really need to trawl through your WordPress database and directories mentioned above. You need to identify any files outside your WordPress installation that have been modified by the hacker.

Check your htaccess file

This file controls access security to your WordPress site. In the case below, a rewrite rule was added to allow the hacker to perform a SQL Injection.

Clean hacked WordPress site

Clean up your htaccess file, or take a clean one from a backup or another website.

Change passwords

Change your WordPress console password and FTP/cPanel Console password ASAP. The passwords may have been “cracked” allowing access to modify your WordPress site.

Clean up your sitemap

With many of these hacks, thousands of pages are added to your site and sitemap. Clean up your sitemap to remove reference to the hacked pages.

Once you’re convinced the site is now clean, it’s time to fix the vulnerabilities:

Secure your site

Remove any un-needed applications, plugins or files. In this particular site hack, I’ve narrowed down the point of entry to an insecure plugin, or one plugin that hosts files for download from a site directory.

Ensure your WordPress version and Plugins are always kept up to date (even if plugins are disabled). Plugin and WordPress updates are often security fixes to known vulnerabilities. Protect yourself by updating these frequently.

Install security and firewall tools on your website such as WordFence. It never fails to amaze me how many attempted hacks are detected and blocked on my websites by WordFence. Often hundreds of attacks per month are trying to connect to my WordPress console with user names that are invalid.

Submit a reconsideration request with Google

Finally, when your site is clean, submit a reconsideration request in your Google search console to re-crawl and index your site.

After you’ve performed the above activities, you should be good to go.

Hopefully this blog has been of use for those that have been hacked or more importantly to stop your websites being hacked.

Feel free to Contact Evolocity for advice on SEO and WordPress sites.

 

How to create a contact goal in Google Analytics

Why a contact goal?

For most sites on the internet, the end result is to create a lead. In website terms, leads come from site visitors contacting you, or signing up to join your mailing list (or downloading an ebook etc).

Leads become an effective mechanism to be used for future marketing efforts, such as creating a newsletter or reaching out to leads on an individual basis. Knowing the performance of our lead capture methods over time is critically important, just as important as knowing what percentage of leads ultimately convert to sales.

Google Analytics is an immensely powerful tool for traffic analysis as well as SEO activities. You really can find out a multitude of information about users, such as demographics, their device preference all the way down to their interests! If you haven’t invested several hours trawling through your Google Analytics data, I’d recommend to do so, as you’ll learn a LOT about your site visitors.

All this Analytics information is indeed useful, but what I want to focus on in this blog is the conversions area of Google Analytics, and more specifically, Contact Goals. This blog is focused around WordPress sites, but the Google Analytics component can just as easily be added for sites hosted on other platforms.

Goals are important for any business, so you can understand what percentage of users are effectively doing what you want them to do. This means users are effectively flowing into your sales funnel. Goals are important to measure performance of your website and it gives you the essential information to track the performance over time..

Many sites take the easy route to add contact goals and use the fact that a user clicks their “contact us” page as a goal completion. That’s not enough, however as the user needs to actually submit the contact form to successfully generate a lead. In this blog, I’ll show you how to do that.

To make a contact goal happen, there are two requirements:

1. Create a Thank you page (or similar) that’s displayed after a form is successfully submitted. Simply create a new WordPress page called Thank you and add a note to thank the user for submitting their information and provide additional contact information for your business. This is critical, so we can set the thank you page display as the goal completion.

2. Use a contact form that can display your Thank you page after successful submission. At Evolocity, we recommend Contact form 7 for WordPress for this purpose, as it’s highly configurable and stable contact form plugin. I won’t go into all the details of setting up the contact form in this blog, but in Contact form 7 you can use the hook on_sent_ok to display a thank you page after the form is successfully submitted.

With that in mind, let’s create the goal of a contact form submission.

Inside Google Analytics, at the bottom left of your account, click the Admin tab.

Contact Goal

In the View column, click “Goals” to setup a new goal:
Contact Goal
Click “New Goal” and proceed to setup your Contact goal. Go to Enquiry and select the “Contact us” radio button.
Contact Goal
 Give your Goal description a name and Click type “Destination”
Contact Goal
Enter the Goal details equal to /thank-you/ (or whatever you decided to name your Thank You page)
Contact Goal
To keep things simple, let’s ignore the optional value and funnel options and keep the default settings.

You can then verify the goal, which will check your Analytics data for the past week and inform you how many times the goal would have been activated if it were enabled. When finished, click Save and the goal is set and we are done!

You can then monitor the performance of your goal over time in Google Analytics, in Conversions -> Goals area.

Contact Goal

 

Adding a contact goal in Google Analytics is easy, by adding a Thank You page which is fired from your contact form. Contact goals are important for your business, as they are the foundation for leads and lead generation which should be a priority for all businesses.
For other tips on how to improve SEO for your small business, check out other blog posts here or here.

 

For help with your SEO, or Online Marketing contact Evolocity today or call us on 02 8091 4530.

AMP pages and your Website

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and your Website

Accelerated Mobile PagesSince mobile devices are now the primary means of accessing the Internet with over 60% of Google search queries being submitted from mobile devices; unsurprisingly Google has recently changed their search algorithm to a “mobile-first” index.

Quite simply, this means google now “crawls” your website as a mobile user by default, rather than a computer user (as was the case previously).

In the not too distant past, mobile sites were generally terrible. Pages were slow loading, poorly formatted and many elements failed to be displayed correctly. The dominance of the WordPress platform in recent years, and it’s freely available default themes that are “mobile-friendly” significantly improved this scenario. Having said that, Google et al have recently decided that it’s time to take mobile pages to the next level with the open source Accelerated Mobile Pages (or AMP)…project.

What are AMP pages?

AMP pages are simplified, open source HTML pages that are very fast loading (up to 4x faster) for mobile devices. They are designed for speed, low bandwidth usage (up to 8x less data) and are helpful for easy reading on mobile devices.

When you see this logo: AMP in your Google search results page (on a mobile device), it indicates there is an AMP version of the mobile site available.

Let’s get technical!

AMP pages have three main components:

  1. AMP HTML- A very simplified version of HTML
  2. AMP JavaScript (JS)- A somewhat proprietary version of JS. Third-party JS is not permitted in AMP, so forms etc can’t load.
  3. AMP Content Delivery Network (CDN). Primarily caches AMP pages for fast loading.

How can I create AMP pages for my site?

If you’re using WordPress, it’s relatively simple. Install an AMP plugin for WordPress such as AMP for WP which helps you create and customise your AMP pages. Unfortunately, you’ll need to duplicate those pages you’d like to display as AMP pages, so you end up with two copies; regular web pages and AMP pages.

You can also use a chrome plugin such as AMP Accelerated Mobile Pages Desktop Viewer to view your site in AMP format.

Does my small business need to care about AMP pages?

As always, it depends! Businesses that are producing and publishing content regularly should start seriously looking to an AMP strategy. You probably don’t want to produce AMP pages for your entire website, as that would cripple your design and branding on mobile. For blogs, news and feeds and any other pages where significant amounts of data is published, it’s a good idea to create AMP pages.

Since AMP is reasonably well supported so far by content producers and search/social providers Google, Facebook, Twitter etc it’s likely to gain even importance over the coming years.

What about AMP and SEO?

Although there’s currently no consensus between SEO on AMP Vs regular pages, there should be no immediate changes to your current SEO strategy. It’s worth keeping an eye on this space over time, however.

In summary, as Google’s strategy has rapidly evolved to mobile-first, AMP Pages as with other mobile initiatives are likely to dominate search results and will become more important in the coming years.

For help or advice on your company’s web design, SEO or Digital Marketing strategy, contact Evolocity today.