This week I figured I would try to take advantage of the greatest event in golf, The Masters, with an SEO Masters post. The name is where the metaphor ends for the most part. I just wanted to highlight a couple of little SEO mistakes that I have come across in the last couple of weeks that businesses have made after a site redesign. The average person might not know these could hurt you and if you have not done SEO in the past or don’t have an ongoing SEO relationship with your search consultant, you may have had these issues which can lead to significant drops in the rankings and traffic.
My Site Used To Rank Before My Redesign
I have run across two minor mistakes that site owners have made in recent weeks that led to them completely disappearing from the rankings and losing significant traffic and new customers from there. Often business owners have no idea what happened and in some cases they are very minor things. Here are two relatively minor mistakes that can lead to huge issues. Luckily, they can be fixed pretty easily.
Title Tags Stripped:
Sometimes when a developer comes in and redesigns a site, among other things they forget to do (see 301 redirects which are very important), they will put the new version of the site back up with generic title tags on each page. This happens a lot with WordPress sites that may have automatic title tags that simply put in your site name and the page name. If you had optimized title tags before the redesign and now generic titles, you can definitely disappear.
For example, your home page may have had a title that said “Your primary service: Your primary geography”, which was getting you to pop in local search results and get lots of traffic for what you do. If the new home page is just the name of your business or some other generic thing, worse yet “Home”, you aren’t going to show up in search for these key terms that were bringing people to your site. The title tag is still an important way to tell the search engine what your page is about. Think of it as the tab on the top of a folder in a filing cabinet. When someone searches Google, Google searches through that virtual file system and instead of “your primary service”, now they are just seeing home or something else generic, and passing right by.
Make sure you keep your title tags consistent after a redesign if you have done any SEO work in the past. If you don’t have record of it, you can use the wayback machine and view how your site looked when it was indexed in the past. The words that show up in the tab at the top of your browser are your title tags.
Sometimes when a developer is redesigning a site they will work on it in a test environment and put code in there to keep the search engines from indexing it before it is ready. This helps to avoid getting in trouble for duplicate content issues or your site getting indexed in the wrong place. I recently ran across a site where the developer forgot to take this code out. This robots.txt file had basically been telling search engines to stay away for a long time. This explains disappearing from the rankings.
If you look at your robots.txt file and it has code looking something like this:
This simple little line in what seems like a harmless file is telling the engines to stay away. If you don’t know what the robots.txt file is, just look at yourdomain.com/robots.txt and you can see it. If you don’t know how to edit it, you should talk to your developer, because you can do some serious damage if you mess with this file too much.
So if you redesigned your site and it disappeared in the rankings, these are two possible reasons with simple answers. They could both be happening to you. Take a look before you spend thousands on audits and other things to see if you have a Google penalty or some other issue. These issues likely won’t happen unless you have recently done significant work on your site, but sadly, they do happen, and I’ve seen companies suffer because of it.
If you need help with your site after a redesign, please give us a call. We can help you though it. Better yet, call before you redesign so we can make sure you do everything else with SEO in mind too.