We’re having difficulty implementing SEO changes & recommendations
So all the auditing and analysis has been done, SEO consultants have produced reams of SEO recommendations, and somehow, it’s just not coming together. Changes aren’t being made, things are stuck in development queues, other projects are usurping yours, resource is dwindling, and your time’s ticking with no results. Basically you’re stuck in SEO no man’s land. It’s here that project enthusiasm becomes the first casualty, and it’s all downward spiralling from there on. Sound familiar?
It’s a common story, but largely because SEO often means change. Change can be a dirty word in some people’s eyes, especially if you need to change something they’ve done for a project that doesn’t serve their ends. It’s costly, commercially sensitive, time consuming, political, and commonly second fiddle to some other newer far more exciting project.
But when your current ranking state is heavily influenced by the site, some degree of change is inescapable. What we want to give here, is an insight into what sort of changes you can expect to see on an search engine optimisation project, how they’re likely to impact on your organisation, and what the change risks are. In addition, we want to give you an understanding of the key tools and processes that can be used, to gain organisational momentum, secure management buy-in, foster co-operation and even bypass the common blockage points completely to get the job done.
Common changes and recommendations in SEO
What change can you expect? Depending on the scope of the project and the problems identified as the root cause of your SEO and ranking woes, you can expect to encounter the need for change in some to all of the following:
||Overview of changes and impact
Perhaps the most basic and common of changes are those made to content on the page to improve keyword relevancy signatures. These might be small or large and can range from changes to less noticeable adjustments like title and meta tags, headings, or full adaptations of the page. Text might be changed, specific wording altered, added to, broken up, have links inserted within.
Navigation and link management is likely to play a major role in SEO, as this is the part of the site that facilitates access to robots all other pages. Changes here might mean the deletion and/or addition of links to pages and navigation systems, changes in anchor text of hyperlinks.
In a dynamic site, most content is in a database of some kind and controls what content goes into pages.
Schematic changes like adding new fields and tables are often called for to facilitate data requests made by server side scripts in the page building process. This will result in better optimised pages.
As with the textual changes above, much of the copy is in the database fields which will be used to make up the textual content of pages, therefore editing these fields of textual information, in the DB or CMS, allows better optimised copy to be pulled into dynamic web pages, contributing to better rankings.
|Server side scripting
If you operate a dynamic site, the retrieval of database information for the presentation of text and images, the build up of code, and various other elements is likely to come from server-side scripting like jsp, asp, .net, etc, which lives in places like templates, objects and includes. This may mean that the code that builds the page will require change in some way in order to deliver better optimised pages to the browser.
The CMS is the heart of where most front-end editing and sometimes server control is based, and as such it is a common protagonist in the poor structuring of pages and confusion of search engine robots. Sometimes change is required to be made to these systems in order to improve other subsystems like the web server, database, templates, or to make them deliver more SEO friendly pages or URLs.
Web servers have a habit of being at the root of many accessibility problems and are the places where you will generally go to adjust browser handling settings, URL and file request handling, redirects, cookie management, error handling. All of which cut across search engines ability to index the site. It's highly possible that SEO changes will impact the configuration of these systems.
It’s quite possible that certain keywords won’t be supported adequately by the content on your site as it stands. This requires new purpose built pages to be built to address this topic.
Assisting and driving SEO change
Given the extent of possible change and the many other remits that you might cross with, attempting to push such changes through, it’s quite possible you will experience resistance or lethargy in getting co-operation. You will need to use considerable diplomacy and/or influence to get your SEO done. For us at Greenlight there are a variety of ways that SEO changes can be assisted, and we’re going to discuss three of them here.
1. Educate, Educate, Educate
Given that your changes will span multiple areas of the site, they are likely to span across the paths of responsibility of other stakeholders. We’ve worked on some sites where pages have as many as five stakeholders, all of which needed to buy in to a decision to change the page. But if they don’t 'get it', they may not co-operate.
You need to get everyone on board the project before it kicks off and few things do that better than strategy and training sessions. Once everyone gets on board with the idea, sees the big picture, and perhaps how more nimble competitors are often doing because of it; cross departmental co-operation comes much easier.
Greenlight gives regular training courses for outside individuals at the IDM as part of their training curriculum, and also runs training programmes at all levels on an internal basis for clients. Delivered either as a webinar or seminar, these sessions explain the need for SEO, how it works, where it impacts, and how everyone can help. This often has the added benefit of bringing senior management on board too, which can be a considerable advantage.
2. Let the numbers do the talking – the power of business cases.
When development and eCommerce teams are swamped with projects and conflicting priorities, and constrained by processes, checks and balances, it’s impossible to change so much as a full stop, without a business case. And often rightly so. Which is why SEO has to get into the habit of being business case driven.
SEO is quite fortunate in this regard, as change can be linked very easily to the contribution of a quantifiable objective.
Consider the fig 1 below. A change request (1) is made, for SEO changes to a page (2). This page is being optimised to support rankings for certain keywords (3), which are respectively searched for so many times (4). Gaining the rankings for these keywords would ensure (5) visibility in a further 400,000 searches a month, leading to 20,000 clicks if we assume 5% capture, which would deliver 300 additional sales per month if we assume 1.5% conversion rate, with an average basket of 150, thus delivering 45k of additional sales revenue. Over a year this would create a further 540,000 of sales revenue (6).
This change now has a quantifiable and often significant value, that anyone from a developer to a CEO can get behind and make a pragmatic decision on.
Of course in this example we’ve imposed some likely but arbitrary values on things like CTR (click-through rate), average basket, etc. These can all vary across industries, so you’ll need to impose figures relevant to your circumstances. But none the less, linking changes to keywords, search volume, traffic and sales is a powerful way of ensuring co-operation and gaining buy-in from senior managers, to force your SEO changes through the development cycle.
3. Develop around your problems – bridging solutions
There are times, of course, when with the best will in the world nothing can get done or finished in a time frame that’s in tune with your objectives. All the SEO changes that are designed to
A) Remove technical obstacles that block or obfuscate spiders
B) Change the text signature of pages
C) Change the way a page is linked-to by its onsite peers, and the way it links back to them
...can’t be implemented.
In cases like these is it is possible and plausible to create a bridging solution. This is essentially the creation of new clean, structured, interlinked and optimised pages to support keyword objectives, in the absence of the site being able to be changed to provide that support.
Bridging solutions can take many forms. From a single or group of simple purpose built pages, to a fully working dynamic replica of whole sections of the site. Assuming you’re working with a development capable agency, this solution can be built as well as spec’d by the SEO agency too. Relieving you entirely of the burden of implementation. Consider the following example.
Bridging solutions in action
Greenlight was engaged by a large global hotel booking site to drive SEO in eight countries. The keyword set was vast and covered 1000’s of city and regional destinations, dozens of hotel types, and tens of thousands of hotel names. However after six months of working on the project, nothing was being changed. The site was still completely unspiderable, the content that was on the site was still largely unoptimised and there were thousands of keywords that still needed pages created to support them.
Endless conference calls were being held with IT departments because every change was too difficult, too controversial, too lengthy, too resource-intensive to pursue, and there we’re bigger fish to fry with more concrete business cases and more senior stakeholders.
To kick start the improvement we tabled a bridging solution to build the pages we needed ourselves. Utilising their data feeds and content we designed a series of dynamic templates that would draw on this data to produce the content and optimised pages needed to support the entire keyword set. These pages could then be hosted inside the site's core domain, allowing the search engine spiders to find them, rank them, and open up new traffic streams to the site.
Six months later, and SEO was the biggest and most cost effective refer of traffic to the site, generating millions in additional booking revenue. The rankings and the subsequent traffic and sales we’re all down to the bridging solution, and its ability to deliver to the search engines, something it could evaluate and evaluate favourably in SEO terms; and it had been done without changing the site.
So while the strong ‘SEO consultancy’ heritage is a must to ensure your SEO actually gets implemented, consider these three pivotal criteria in your selection of an SEO vendor or consultant, or the commissioning of any SEO related scope of works.
You need someone:
...who is capable of rallying the organisation to the cry of SEO and educating everybody in a clear, simple and, ideally, entertaining way. Review their training creds and curriculum beforehand to ensure you have a partner that can educate at all levels from web designer to CEO too.
...who is numbers oriented. If your SEO vendor isn’t business case oriented, you will struggle at every pace to justify to your board and maybe even yourself why SEO, or any particular change within it, should be taken seriously.
...who is able to think around resource and developmental obstacles and actually has the ability to build content, pages, and even entire database-generated dynamic websites if the need arises.
Clearly this is the type of agency Greenlight has striven to be, as we think it breeds healthy transparent relationships, empowers clients, and ensures there’s always a Plan B, Plan C and even Plan D, to ensure the job gets to market. And if the worst should happen and you grind to a halt, we can pick up the torch and develop it ourselves. These are the traits that make an SEO partner, not just an SEO vendor.
If you would like to discuss our capabilities on these or any other disciplines, our teams would be most willing to share our experiences with you.