At Crescent Digital, we are regularly called in to perform website audits following a drop in visitors. Over the past 18 months, we have seen more sites moving towards using HTTPS encryption following Google’s announcement of using HTTPS as a ranking signal (1).
However, when adopting HTTPS incorrectly, you will likely see your search traffic suffer.
Clients are absolutely correct to adopt https for their websites as although the ranking increase may be relatively minor, the reassurance to clients that your website is safe and secure will help increase engagement.
Why Mixing Your HTTP & HTTPS is a Bad Thing To Do
Google & other search engines see www, non-www, http & https versions of websites as separate sites each with its own trust & authority.
According to Google (2), technically all of the following urls and domains are different:
Your website’s domain will have earned trust & authority which will directly affect where it appears within the organic search results. However, your new https prefixed domain will likely have none, meaning a big drop in search engine trust, authority, rankings and ultimately traffic following the change. In addition, the search engines will not know which version of your site to show in the results when users are searching because they will be seen as duplicates.
What To Do
Having established that Google sees www, non-www, http & https versions of websites as separate domains, diluting any search authority, it is critical to configure your site correctly and there are several critical factors configurations to consider:
- Set-up permanent redirects to redirect any visitors and search engine spiders towards your one preferred domain.
- Set-up permanent redirects to redirect any old pages (particularly those with a large volume of links & social shares) to the corresponding pages on the new domain / site. This will likely be achieved using the htaccess file if using Apache web server.
- Configure Google Search Console in order to set your preferred domain.
What Not To Do
Please do not use the URL Removal Tool to remove old web pages or domains as you can end up removing your whole domain for 6 months. With redirections configured correctly, the search engines will understand and within time start to show the appropriate results.
HTTPS as a ranking signal https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2014/08/https-as-ranking-signal.html
Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO – https://www.mattcutts.com/blog/seo-advice-url-canonicalization/
Google has been testing different search results pages and have this week rolled this out the changes which may make a significant impact.
What has changed:
- 4 paid AdWords ads at the top of the page (previously 1-3) – there is now more opportunity to show ad extensions in the 3 and 4th positions such as site-links and snippets
- The Ads down the right hand side of the page have disappeared completely
- Organic search results have been pushed down the results page further
The winners are the advertisers who have ads in positions 1-4. The losers are advertisers in positions 5+ as these will now be shown on the bottom of the page or even page 2. The other losers are organic SEO results as organic results now make up a minority (36.4%) of the search results.
We always recommend using several streams of traffic for your website rather than being over dependent on AdWords or organic Google results. For AdWords advertisers, according to recent data, position #3 has seen the biggest increase this week with a 15% increase in click-throughs and with our clients AdWords, we are positioning ads at position #3 and would suggest as a good tactic to follow if managing your own.
Costs haven’t inflated for positions 1-4 yet, however there’s likely to be a lot of jostling for position when advertisers realise what’s happened so we’d recommend keeping a close eye on positions of ads and traffic.
My thoughts are that contrary to some reports, its not time to panic as we’ve seen several changes before. We’re a little disappointed that this wasn’t communicated to Google Partners and that Google has become even more ‘pay to play’ with prominent results dominated by those with the largest budgets. However, if you’re starting to get fed-up with Google, there’s a lot of chatter about a search engine that doesn’t track you.
If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
In a #FF (Follow Friday) way of providing some thank you’s, we thought we’d give out a bit of link love and provide names and links of tools that we use and love for managing search engine marketing:
- SEMRush – this is becoming our go-to tool for all things search related. Firstly, it’s great at analysing other sites traffic to which we don’t have access – great for potential clients and competitors analysis. For competitor analysis, we can view what keywords are working for them, their backlinks and trends over time. But here is what sets it apart – the AdWords analysis is fantastic for evaluating AdWords campaigns of your competitors: everything down to downloading spreadsheets of their ad text, keywords bids, estimated traffic, including text and shopping ads.
For more, visit http://www.semrush.com/uk/
- ScreamingFrog – for my tastes, ScreamingFrog feels a little ‘old school’ in terms of SEO. By this, I mean, it’s focus on titles, meta descriptions and alt tags. However, the paid version is great at spotting technical problems which may be preventing the SEO from being effective on the site. Fixing what you find in ScreamingFrog will not guarantee good SEO, but not addressing these problems will certainly compromise your SEO efforts.
For more: http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/
- Moz.com – I was using a subscription to Moz about decade ago when it was known as SEOMoz, but unsubscribed and it fell off my radar. However, since taking a paid subscription again 18 months ago, we haven’t looked back. It’s great at SEO analysis of your site, including authority, as we all know – not all sites or links are equal. The site audit’s can be a little over-zealous, but better safe than sorry.
For more, visit https://moz.com/
If I was stuck on a desert Island with only one tool, it would have to be SEMRush, purely due to the fact that it covers technical SEO, keyword , competitors and AdWords analysis.
More and more business websites are having home pages dominated by image sliders, also known as ‘carousels’. These have become increasingly common due to out of the box content management systems such as WordPress, with many themes including image slider plugins.
However, recent usability studies have indicated that using image sliders on your home page are a bad idea and many leading companies are now moving away from this design.
Below are some strong reasons why image sliders are a bad idea:
- Image sliders can be mistaken for banners or banner advertising, which people have learnt to ignore. One study found that it’s more likely that you will survive a plane crash or win the lottery than click a banner ad.
- The area where banners normally appear is the prime real estate of your site (the part of the home page that appears before scrolling). This is where your company should be presenting its USP’s and / or call–to-actions such as sign-ups.
- The moving or sliding motion distracts visitors from other areas of the site.
- Multiple large, high definition images can have a negative impact on page load speed, particularly is using entry-level, shared web hosting or the user is using a slower or heavily contended connection. A small increase in load time can negatively impact the visitor experience and adversely affect search engine performance.
- Studies have shown that image sliders aren’t very effective, attracting at little as 1% of clicks.
What You Should Consider Instead
Usability studies have shown that website visitors make a sub-conscious decision whether they will stay on site and engage within 200ms of landing on one of your pages. Your website’s prime real estate should be the area where your business presents it’s USP’s, why visitors should engage with you (and not your competitors) and / or it’s call-to-actions, such email sign-ups.
We’ve seen quite a few of these (Google penalties due to artificial link building practices) recently, and this one was from one of our clients, although we have changed the URLs to protect their identity . If you have GWT (Google Webmaster Tools) running and your website’s configured correctly, you may receive an email and message within GWT such as below:
If organic traffic to your site has dropped, it could very likely be as a result of a Google penalty.
The above message means that the Google staff believe that your site has been subject to ‘spammy’ link building practices and as a result, have applied a penalty.
The context of this post is too short to go into the full details of how we go about getting these removed, but we:
- execute a full link audit and analysis using special tools
- followed by outreach to request link removals
- disavowing unremoved spam links
- finally, a humble and extremely polite letter to Google’s staff requesting a review.
We then wait an expected 2-3 weeks before receiving an update. Whilst many people report their requests being rejected and having to reapply several times, we have been fortunate enough to have penalties removed at the first time of asking.