Site Redesign SEO: Redirect Best Practices

by Gradiva Couzin on September 17, 2014

Redirects are crucial in any redesign in which URLs change or old pages are retired. These redirects ensure a seamless user experience, and also help search engines to update their indexes from old URLs to new URLs and transfer SEO power from old to new pages.

We’ve worked with many site redesigns; many that were seamless and some that suffered unfortunate bumps along the way.  The best practices described here are intended to head off some of the most common errors and glitches we’ve seen in redesigning sites. Here are the SEO Redirect Best Practices we share with our clients:

  • Each old URL should be 301 redirected to the most appropriate matching new URL.
  • If possible, old URLs that are being eliminated should be 301 redirected to an appropriate new URL.
  • If an appropriate new URL does not exist for a page that is being retired, it is okay to allow the page to become a 404 File Not Found error
  • Ensure that any broken URLs receive a 404 status code with a nicely-designed 404 error page that helps direct users to new pages
  • All internal links to old URLs should be eliminated on the site and replaced with links to the associated new URLs.

For the sake of clarity, we recommend 301 (permanent) server-side redirects. The following are not recommended for most redesign situations:

  • 302 redirects – these are only used for rare situations when a temporary redirect is needed
  • a sequence of more than one redirection per page.
  • meta refresh
  • retiring a large number of URLs without redirecting them
  • mass redirecting old URLs to the home page.  If a good replacement page doesn’t exist, you can let the old page become a 404 error.

Pay particular attention varying forms of URLs, to make sure that every form of the originating URLs will redirect.  Be sure that all of the following get redirected:

  • URLs with and without the WWW
  • URLs with and without a trailing slash (folder/ and folder)
  • URLs with and without a trailing /index.html
  • URLs in all variations of lowercase and uppercase

Follow these best practices and you’ll be helping your users enjoy a smooth transition, and giving your site the best chance of consistent ranks in Google and Bing.

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We’ve been helping customers improve their search engine ranks and conversion rates for over a decade. We consult on SEO and social media for major brands, one-person shops, and everything in between. Get in touch to find out how we can help you!

Five Signs Your SEO is Scamming You

by Gradiva Couzin on August 4, 2014

Because we’re published SEO authors with some degree of credibility, we often hear from friends or acquaintances who are feeling uncertain about their SEO vendors.  “What are we getting for our money?” is a common question.  Sadly, the SEO industry has far too many charlatans in it. We’ve seen some painful examples of good companies getting burned by these lowlifes.

We wrote this list because we desperately want to help businesses – especially small businesses – steer clear of SEO scammers.  Small businesses shouldn’t be spending their precious marketing dollars on low-quality or non-existent SEO.

#1: Your SEO Does Things That Are Secrets From You

Sometimes an SEO will tell a client that what they do has to be kept secret. If your SEO vendor is doing things that they can’t tell you about, this can really only mean two possibilities: they’re either not doing anything at all, or they’re doing SEO that violates best practices and can eventually cause you massive headaches, loss of SEO status, and reputation damage.  Let’s hope you’re lucky and they’re just not doing anything.

#2: You Don’t Have Access to Analytics for Your Website

Sometimes an SEO will tell a client that their ranks are great and their website is getting an amazing amount of traffic.  Often that information is presented in a telephone call – probably so the lies won’t be in writing!  If you are paying a company to gain traffic for your website, you have a right to access credible measurements of that traffic. Any legit SEO agency will allow its clients to see Google Analytics (or another analytics tool) for their site.

#3: You Don’t Have Access to AdWords for Your Website

If you are getting credit card bills from Google, that means your vendor has purchased advertising on Google using your credit card.  You have a right to see reports from AdWords that tell you exactly what you’re paying for and what you’re getting for the money.  You should demand direct access to any AdWords account in which your credit card is being used.

#4: Your SEO Owns Your Domain, Website Hosting, or Business Profiles on Facebook, Yelp or Google+ and Won’t Transfer Ownership

Some small businesses don’t know how to create a website or manage an online profile, so they hire a marketing agency to do it for them – that’s OK. What’s not OK is when the agency that created the website takes ownership of the domain and hosting and then makes it difficult to transfer.  The same goes for Facebook, Google+ and Yelp profiles. Just because an agency is helping you manage these profiles does not mean that extricating your business from the agency should be a hostage negotiation.

If you don’t know who owns your domain, perform a WHOIS search by putting your domain name into the box on the Whois site.  There, you should see the name of the registered owner as well as a way to contact the company (Registrar) that manages the registration with a report of abuse, if necessary. (Look for an email address starting with abuse@)

#5: They Threaten Dire Consequences if You Fire Them

Good SEO agencies don’t threaten their customers. If a company is telling you that Google will punish your site, or some other unspeakable evil will occur if you cease your contract with them, they’re probably not on the up-and-up.  The only situation in which bad things happen is if the agency owns your domain or web profiles and refuses to transfer them to you (see #4).  Other than that, it’s very unlikely that you’ll see negative consequences if you leave the contract.

Bonus: You Have No Contract, and Are Charged Fees You Don’t Understand

Would you accept this from a mechanic or other service provider? A good SEO agency will include a contract in writing that clearly lays out what they will do and what you will be charged for. All spending should be approved in advance.

Bonus2: Ranking Guarantees

A quality SEO consultant will not guarantee a certain organic rank result, because we do not have control over the many factors that go into organic rankings. Any SEO who makes such a promise is probably one who plans to take advantage of your ignorance by showing you false or misleading rank reports.

If you suspect you’re being scammed, the first thing you need to do is get educated.  You don’t have to be an SEO expert to hire an agency to help you, but a little knowledge goes a long way.  Try our SEO book or review this great list of questions to ask SEO agencies.

If you need to extricate yourself from a scammy SEO, your top priority should be gaining control of your domain and online profiles. You may get some help from Google Support or by writing to the abuse address mentioned in #4.

We wish all small businesses the best of luck in avoiding SEO scammers!  If you’re looking for a low-budget SEO service, we have some small business offerings here.

 

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We’ve been helping customers improve their search engine ranks and conversion rates for over a decade. We consult on SEO and social media for major brands, one-person shops, and everything in between. Get in touch to find out how we can help you!

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