In this episode, we talk about anticipating SEO problems before they happen.
00:00:44 - Maintain Documentation of Hosting Locations
00:03:17 - Plan Workflows of New Content, Site Updates, and Changes
00:05:53 - Redesign Your Website Every Two Years for SEO Purposes
00:09:48 - Plan for Rankings to Drop with a New Site Launch
00:12:42 - Plan to Test Page Speed with New Add-Ons and Plug-Ins
For more on the tools and tips in this episode, please visit:
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Dodgeball Marketing Podcast #72: Anticipating SEO Problems Before They Happen
In this episode, we talk about anticipating SEO problems before they happen.
Chris Raines: Hey there. Welcome to episode number 72 of the Dodgeball Marketing Podcast. We're glad you're watching and listening. My name is Chris.
Michael Utley: I'm Michael.
Chris Raines: And today we're going to talk about anticipating SEO problems before they happen.
Michael Utley: Yeah.
Chris Raines: So let's get right into it. These are things that you can do beforehand. This is just preventative measures to make sure things are running, and you don't run into problems. So, Michael why don't you take the first one?
Michael Utley: Yeah, this is great. So this episode's kind of based on nightmares I've experienced in real time, over the last 20 years. And so this is a highlight reel of my suffering and pain.
Chris Raines: Don't waste your suffering or pain, turn it into a podcast.
Michael Utley: Yeah. I'm podcasting my trauma here. Number one, maintain good documentation of hosting locations including payment methods.
Chris Raines: This one is so good.
Michael Utley: I love this. We had a season of life here at GoEpps, the parent company of Dodgeball Marketing, and partnered to Chris [inaudible 00:01:01] company, BORN Media. But we had a developer who was working with us, who just didn't really like documentation, didn't want to be held back by a bunch of documents. And so what ended up happening is we had stuff hosted everywhere on different platforms, different generations of content management systems, different generations and licenses of plugins, fonts that were hand selected for a design, but then weren't necessarily planned for renewal. So a payment method for a font license could expire and there was no central documentation for that.
Michael Utley: And so I had one website go down. I said, well, never again, that's never happening again. And so something that's really important is a central spreadsheet where you maintain every element of hosting or anything that could break that needs to be maintained. So I'm going to give you a real quick list of things that this could include. This can include your domain hosting. Domain hosting is different than website hosting. This could include your website hosting. This includes all fonts and third-party plugins that are used on the back end of your site and your content management system itself.
Michael Utley: We are big fans of the Craft CMS, content management system, because it gives us a higher level of security for a lot of projects. And so we pay a license every year, and we plan to renew that license, and we maintain the back end of every site that we run. And that includes knowing on a schedule when something's going to renew before it has to renew.
Michael Utley: But guess what? There's some tricky ones. Do you have a toll-free number? Where's your call tracking hosted? Do you have that set up with a payment method so that if your credit card gets hacked, you have one location, one sheet you can go to update your payment method for everything, including a hosted phone number. Think of your toll-free number or your call tracking as hosting. Think of all of this stuff as services that are out there in the world that support your brand on the internet. And you need to have one place that you can go to the next time Target, Home Depot, whomever gets hacked and you receive a new credit card number from your bank. And so this is a really good one. So number one, maintain good documentation of hosting, including payment methods.
Chris Raines: Love it. Okay. Number two, plan a realistic workflow of new content, site updates, and changes. We were talking before we started recording. I'm going to try to channel some of your trauma here. Where the typical situation is you might have a client that gets really excited about a new SEO or content program. And they say like, oh, we'll produce the content. We'll hand over a document to you that you format and do all the SEO stuff. And month one they're gangbusters with the content. Month two, they get busy. Oh, we'll get it to you, we'll get it to you. And then one week goes by, two weeks go by, three weeks go by. Suddenly there's four to six to seven weeks where there's no new content on the site.
Chris Raines: And part of it is getting busy, so you've got people that are in the business trying to do their own marketing. They just don't have the time to do it. And then it might even be too, I don't know if you've seen this of just anytime you're new at something, it's going to be a little bit rusty at the beginning. So you get this perfectionist mindset. It's like, I just got to sit down. It's not right. The sections aren't right.
Michael Utley: Often it's I need to be able to say this the way we would've said it. And sometimes it's a difference in grammar, but neither is wrong. That's not really worth holding up the SEO train.
Chris Raines: So you just got to execute, execute. So what the gist of this one is, is make sure... SEO is useless unless it's consistent. Right?
Michael Utley: Consistency trump's volume of activity every time. Consistency is so much more important.
Chris Raines: It's like investing, right?
Michael Utley: Oh yeah.
Chris Raines: You don't do all of your investing at once. You just stay on the mark, Keep it month after month the dollar cost averaging stuff. It's the same way with SEO. It's better to do a blog post per week or piece of content per week for 52 weeks than to just cram 52 things onto the internet at once. It's that spread out consistency.
Michael Utley: Yeah. And every time you touch a page to make changes to it, search engines are re-indexing that page. And that lets them know, oh, this page is being maintained. So consistency of any kind of content strategy or website updates is way more important. A lot of people think of websites as a piece of print marketing. We're going to put this sign up there and that sign's going to be there for five years, and then we're going to replace it with a new sign. And that's really the wrong way to think about it. Consistency trump's volume and prominence every day. I'll take the next one. This is a good segue to this one. Redesign your website every two years to get a fresh alignment with search engines. This is tough. It's really tough. It's a tough sell for us when we sell a website and say, this is your website for the next two years. Really anytime...
Chris Raines: Everybody wants it to be five to 10 years.
Michael Utley: Every time you have an expenditure, it's a big creative project. Everybody feels on the hook to get it perfect before it goes live, like you're going to destroy the company if you don't have everything exactly right with what you're doing with the new website. And everybody in the company, there are a lot of situations where everybody has an opinion about what it needs to look like, what the headlines need to be. There's a lot of political stuff in companies that gets negotiated
Chris Raines: With the home page...
Michael Utley: With a website project, like who are we going to put on the about us page? Who's going to be first. There's a lot of stuff that creates problems. And so what happens often is companies can go five, 10 years with a website, and search engines have moved on. And sometimes these are pretty seismic shifts that can happen in a website's relationship with search engines. I'll just give one example of how you can get left behind pretty quickly. And then I'll talk about how to lower the threat level on this two year cycle thing. Number one, if search engines decide as they did October of 2019, Google made a real shift in the direction toward the mobile experience as being the primary way to evaluate how good a website was. We called this mobile first indexing because they had for a while to indexes running.
Michael Utley: And so they decided that they would judge all websites by how well they did on mobile in terms of the user experience with things that they could automate in terms of looking at how well it worked. And this meant that any website that was really good on a desktop, which is how people who had websites thought of websites. It meant that they really needed to be pushed to rethink how they thought of their website and think of that first as a cell phone and not a computer.
Chris Raines: That's a hard shift too, actually for designers and developers, because.
Michael Utley: They're hard for everybody.
Chris Raines: Because they're on a desktop and that is how they do the... I know of designers where you have to go back and check their work because the mobile... They think in terms of like this, their screen, because that's their work experience every day. But you're right. Most people are [inaudible 00:08:32] and you got to get it right on mobile. You just have to.
Michael Utley: So when I'm explaining this to people, I say the internet is a phone. The internet is a phone. Oh yeah, there's some and computers on there too, but the internet is a phone. And that's a good way to shift perspective. So yeah, number one, you can have these big shifts and if you don't have built into your planning, hey, we're going to invest and make sure that we're staying current. You can have a seismic shift happening, and you miss the boat on it. For that, we had 20 website projects come in when that update happened.
Michael Utley: So second, the way to lower the threat level is don't necessarily say we have to do a full website redesign every two years. Instead, what you can is a technical evaluation that triggers either a complete redesign or a larger batch of site architecture improvements and creative improvements. And so depending if you just got a new CMS in place and a new system and the underpinnings of the site good two years ago and your SEO expert says yeah, they're still good. Then you can probably stick with it, but you need every two minimum every year really. But you needed a technical review.
Chris Raines: Yeah. Awesome. All right. Next anticipating SEO problems before they happen, plan for some drop in rankings when a new site launches for 30 to 60 days. No Michael, you probably have a little more experience in this than I do because you're doing full websites with your shop. But talk to me a little bit about... I'm kind of coming in here as a student at this point. So when you update a website, lot of times you're changing the design, but not necessarily all of the content. So best practice would be to take your content that's performing well, don't change any of it. You might change the design around it and the URLs would remain the same. So to me that would mean in Google's eyes it's the same, but it's not always the case. So why don't you hone me in on why that's the case.
Michael Utley: I'll give you the pros and cons. So there are a lot of things that we do when we launch a new site to ease the transition. So 301 redirects are very common often if we..
Chris Raines: So that's, just for people that might not know, that's when...
Michael Utley: You have a URL changing and you say, we know the old one, we know the new one, Hey, search index, here's where this page went, and that makes it a little more seamless. But often there's a lot of clearing out the dead wood in old content. And so Google may have known you for topics A, B and C. And if you've evolved and changed as a company and said, Hey, going forward, we're going to be topics A and B, and C we've jettisoned. So that may be really smart for you, but it's easier for Google to index and say, oh, they don't have anything about C anymore. Get rid of that.
Michael Utley: And then it seems like to me, there's like a 30, 60 day lag time for A and B to sort of rise to replace what was lost. It's really a shift in the focus with search engines, as you make changes in your content that you have out there. And there's also just a little bit of technical Google getting reoriented and saying, okay, let's make sure we've got a good handle on what's going on with this website. And so I think they tap the brakes when they see a new website.
Chris Raines: Like if a lot of stuff changes at once, they say, wait a minute, something's, we're going to...
Michael Utley: I feel like they tap the brakes on people a little bit. And I see that in rankings. I feel like we have an inevitable 30 to 60 or even 90 day dip that we then recover and surpass. And so if you have to make these changes, my quote is history moves forward in fits of violence. And so one of those violent acts is letting your rankings go down so that you can grow and become known for what you should be known for which could include an entire re-imagining of your top nav, renaming services to be more focused on customer pain points. There are a lot of things that happen in a redesign that search engines use the luxury of giving themselves time to reorient themselves to a URL. And sometimes that hurts the rankings temporarily.
Chris Raines: Got it. All right. Last one Michael, plan to test add-ons and plugins to evaluate page [inaudible 00:12:46]. So we talked about this a little bit already, but...
Michael Utley: I love this. So third-party plug-ins on any content management system, open up a different reality for how search engines see your website. So when you talk to the sales rep and they say we're so excited about live chat and your customers being able to schedule an appointment with you. You haven't tested their code yet on your website. You are the person responsible for your website. You may want this booking software. You may want this billing software. You may want all sorts of cool new features on your website. But what you don't need to do is sign a 12 or 24 month contract with a third-party plugin without having a technical assessment. And if at all possible a test period. And so we have had sites where the client came to us and said, Hey, we've bought this appointment booking tool and we need you.
Michael Utley: Or this highly prominent marketing automation platform, whose name I won't mention right now. And we need this form on the homepage. And so suddenly there's a form on the homepage that's pulling in from a different server. And if that server is not serving that form fast enough, Google is going to punish the website because you have elements of the page. In this case, it was a form above the fold. So it was content that was to be right there above the fold, as soon as the page loads, somebody can see it and it's hanging up and it killed the rankings to that site.
Michael Utley: We had to take it off. We had to tell them, Hey, I know you're paying a lot of money for this, but we're going to develop an alternative method, capture the data, create a custom script, and code the fields to push it into your database. We're not going to use the tool that they provided to let us load that form to the page. And so this is really tough because then you've got to go through your SEO professional before you make decisions with third-party tools, it's worth it. It's worth doing it because you're talking about potentially a major setback in your rankings for six months, that can take 12 months to recover and get back from.
Chris Raines: Yeah. Because those plugin makers and those toolmakers, they're not incentivized, they're not thinking about your website performance.
Michael Utley: You would think that they would really, really care about that, but they don't always get it. And you don't want to be the learning.
Chris Raines: They look at functionality first and even if it's at the expense of your page speed and your SEO going down, their tunnel vision as they probably should be right on the functionality of it.
Michael Utley: Yeah. And the look and feel. And what it's going to do for you and the performance that they might have. But who knows you can even have a conflict between their software and where you're hosted or some other software on your site. If you've got two Java Scripts running that conflict with each other or kind of blocking up the page, you may be a little code heavy on the page. And this is a tipping point. I'm not a technical person who would troubleshoot those things. But I know that we've had the experience a number of times of saying, why doesn't it just work? And it doesn't. And so test, test before you buy.
Chris Raines: Yeah. Good, good, good.
Michael Utley: You take us out?
Chris Raines: Great. Yeah. That's episode 72. Thanks so much for listening or watching. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, all the platforms where video and audio exist on the internet. Well, not all of them. We're not on MySpace. We need to start on MySpace.
Michael Utley: We are going to get on MySpace.
Chris Raines: Right. Thanks for watching.
Michael Utley: Thanks, everybody.
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