10 Ways to Maintain SEO Rankings Through a Redesign (Webinar)

10 Ways to Maintain SEO Rankings Through a Redesign (Webinar)
November’s webinar addressed one of the biggest concerns we hear form our clients – How will a website redesign affect organic rankings? CEO Ethan Giffin, offers up 10 key ways to maintain SEO rankings through a redesign. Watch the webinar and get your SEO action plan now!

10 Ways to Maintain SEO Rankings Through a Redesign (Webinar)

View the transcription of this webinar below:

10 Ways to Maintain SEO Rankings Through a Redesign (Webinar)
Mack: We’re going to wait just a few more minutes. People are continuing to file into the webinar. This is the number one concern as people come to us looking to potentially redesign or re-platform on the Magento platform, is how to maintain those SEO ranks.
Really excited today that we can take advantage of a couple things. Number one, our in-house expertise on Magento, the platform. And secondly, as always we’re going to have Ethan Giffin joining us today. And with Ethan’s background and strength in search engine optimization, and particularly as we’ve been migrating these sites over on the platform, how we maintain those through that. So, excited to have Ethan leading this today.
As always, Ethan Giffin of Groove Commerce, CEO & Founder, speaks across the country on this topic in search engine optimization/conversion rate consulting. You’ll see him at Search Engine Strategies. He was at PubCon last week talking on this very topic. And he’ll be at all the internet retailer conferences next year, as well as the Magento Imagine conference, talking about search engine optimization, conversion rate consulting, and all those topics as we look at redesigning and developing folks on this new platform. So very excited to have Ethan with us today as we get going with that.
Excited to do this webinar, but want to make sure we remind everybody we do this webinar for you. So thanks for coming out, but want to make sure we hit on the topics you’re looking for and answering the questions you’re looking for.
So today’s topic, with 10 things to do, not going to run the full hour. So we really encourage you to send in those questions/comments if you have those. We’re going to field those to Ethan and make sure we get to those today. I want this to be an interactive session. So I just want to throw that out there as a reminder.
So to get things going today, want to start out with a poll. Right now I’m going to launch that poll. Want to know just where people are at. As we talk about this transitioning topic, are you in the process of a website redesign. So real quick, go ahead and let everybody take this poll, get a sense of where things are at.
Wait a couple more seconds here as we get a majority.
All right.
So we’re going to go ahead and share those results now. And with that, I want to bring Ethan onboard. Ethan, welcome. Thanks for joining us today for the webinar.
Ethan Giffin: Thank you Mack. Thanks a lot for the great introduction. And welcome everybody. Thanks for your time today. I’m going to talk a little bit about redesigning your website. We all have to do it at one point or another. We try to avoid it as much as possible, and we all pull our hair out when we go through that process, us included. Even a creative agency like ourselves, we still struggle to go through the creative process and kind of redesign our own site for ourselves.
So what I’m going to talk about today are 10 ways to not lose your SEO rankings during the redesign process. It’s pretty interesting—the poll results came back. About 64% of you are currently working on a redesign. About almost 10% of you just redesigned. And about 27% of you are thinking about it. So, you know, a lot of people there in play with this.
What we want to try to do is make it a successful experience, make sure that you don’t pull your hair out. So with that said, let’s get going today.
The #1 way that we get started is we want to create a baseline report on your website. What’s in the baseline report? First we’re going to verify your Google Webmaster Tools account. A lot of people out there still haven’t done that. It’s a fundamental thing that you want to do. The amount of data that comes back from that really allows you to see some interesting things of what’s going on with your site with “The Google”, as my friend Rob Snell likes to call it.
You want to make sure you submit your XML sitemap over to Google. Again, we still see a lot of fairly decent-sized retailers that don’t do these types of things.
From there you want to spider your existing site. There are a couple of great tools out there that allow you to spider your site and kinda look at it the way Google sees it. One is called Xenu Link Sleuth. It’s a tool for the windows operating system. And the other is called Integrity. It’s a great tool for the OSX or MAC operating system.
What they do is they will actually spider your site from the homepage and crawl every deep link and determine and present back to you an Excel spreadsheet. And you go can go through that and really see how the outside world is looking at your site from an SEO standpoint.
Once you’ve kinda verified your Webmaster Tools account and you’ve submitted your sitemap, you’ve given it a day or two, you want to look for existing crawl errors. You can go into that Webmaster Tools report. You can find pages that aren’t found, pages that are in the sitemap that aren’t returning properly, URL’s that are unreachable. A lot of interesting things can come out of this report.
So you want to really make sure that, from a diagnostic standpoint, Google is able to get into your site from the homepage and work its way down to the lower levels. That’s very, very important.
Another thing you want to look at is you want to look at the total pages in the Google Index. You can get this out of the Webmaster Tools account as well. How many pages are in your sitemap, and how many pages did you spider down from either using the Integrity or Xenu software? So you really want to look at that comparison and see where you are, and see are there large quantities of pages being missed by Google for one reason or another?
I’m going to talk a little bit more about the Google Panda update in the coming minutes, but one of the things that Panda has done is it’s penalized sites that don’t have great unique content. So if you don’t have get unique product descriptions, this could be a reason.
Also as part of your baseline, you want to do an initial rank check. You want to take keywords, your prime keywords, you want to figure out where you are, where you rank for those in Google and Bing.
And then lastly, there’s a couple of great Google Analytics custom reports that will allow you to determine the most important pages on your site from a revenue and traffic standpoint. So it just kinda gives you a high level overview of those reports.
It’s always difficult to share analytics with folks, but this is an example of a top converting landing page report that you can set up in the custom report area of Google Analytics. It allows you to break down your top landing pages by keyword, looking at visits, new visits, unique purchases, your conversion rate and revenue.
I would say that you’d want to at least look, depending on the size of your site, at the top 100 pages and make sure that you’re paying very close attention to them, both from your SEO, but also from a conversion rate standpoint and the elements from a page.
Another interesting report to look at that you can set up in Google Analytics, they already have some existing mobile reports, but one of the things that I like out of this report is it goes a little bit deeper. You can set up revenue by mobile device. You want to determine what mobile devices are looking at your site and determine if some have an extremely low or 0% conversion rate, why is that? Do you have a mobile version of your site? That’s something you should think about when you’re doing your redesign. Or is that mobile site not displaying properly on all the different types of browsers?
So this is a great report. You can use these. This is a screenshot right out of Google Analytics of how we set these up, and you can go in and just kind of drag and drop and set these boxes up very easy there. If you have any questions about this email us and we can put you in the right direction.
Lastly, another interesting custom Google Analytics report that we like to look at is our E-Commerce Funnel Exits. When you look at your funnel report within Google Analytics, you can see where people are kinda exiting—where are the people exiting? But this report allows you to really look at people that have exit the funnel, and you can see what exact page that they exited for and what keyword that they came in with.
So it really allows you to see and get a little bit deeper level diagnostics around what you are looking at in terms of what are the biggest exit pages around your site once people have added a product to their shopping cart, and allow you to focus on those and fix it. So those are some great custom Google Analytics reports that you want to set up as part of your overall baseline.
Tip #2: Avoid Canned Descriptions. A lot of folks, when they redesign, say, “OK, we want to add some new brands, some new manufacturers. We want to add more SKU’s.” And, you know, you’re importing more things. The biggest thing, the biggest challenge there is to say “No manufacturer’s descriptions!”
What I took here was the first sentence or so from a Cisco router, put it in quotes, dropped it into Google and looked at the results that came back. You can see here, and it may be difficult to see on your screen, but there were about 24,100 sites utilizing those same words within their content areas within their descriptions. So creating unique content around those products is really going to help you. And again, the kind of common theme of Panda is unique content within your site.
This will really help you if you are going to have the same canned descriptions as everyone else. Google has no way to determine which site is the best or the most important to display for that product.
#3: You want to automate your information transfer. What we mean by that is data imports can get real messy. When you’re moving, let’s say, from one platform to another, you are moving data out of databases in one format and you’re moving data into another database in another format. You can issues in terms of special characters and other things that can affect that. So we really want to audit and pay attention to these data imports.
We want to create a content map. What that is, is we want to take that spider report that we got from Xenu or Integrity, we want to open that up and we want to start to create a spreadsheet where we make sure that every page on the old site and the new site have a one to one match unless you are eliminating it.
If you are eliminating it, you may want to make a determination from an SEO standpoint to develop a page and keep it as a landing page. Say you have a product and last year’s model becomes obsolete. You get great search traffic for last year’s model, it’s not available anymore, you need to make a decision on if you’re going to 301 that or if you’re going to keep that page and drive that traffic into this year’s new product.
You want to make sure that you define unique page titles and meta tags for all of your products, in all of your categories, in all of the pages within your site.
You want to define what your URL structure is. How are you going to display all the different types of pages that you have?
You want to set your canonical tags. If you don’t know what the canonical tag is, that’s a way to tell Google, if you have duplicate pages with the same content on your site, that’s definitely a no-no. The canonical tag allows you to tell them that this is the exact page you are talking about. So you want to define what those tags are as part of this content map.
And then lastly, you want to look at and create a robots.txt file. The robots.txt file tells Google and other search engines spiders what pages they can look at and what pages they can’t look at. So by setting that, you want to make sure that you’re blocking out, you know, what are the non-efficient pages? What are the pages that don’t have great value to Google? Things like your 404 error page, potentially. Things like your success page, either if you are generating leads or you are selling products. Things like your login page. All those pages that are very low value to Google, you probably ought to just block those out. In many cases your search results page for your site search should be blocked out as well.
One thing you want to be careful with if you are an e-commerce site, many people like to block out their images folder. That’s going to really hurt you in terms of looking at the different Google Product feeds and things like that. They can’t get the product images. It’s the same spider that looks at that both from an SEO standpoint and from a product feed standpoint, so you can’t disallow your media or your images folder.
Mack: Great, Ethan. So, some great tips upfront there, obviously, Ethan, just in general as you look at your SEO, as you transition sites. Now, moving into that switching to Magento topic specifically. A lot of people coming to us typically as they transition to Magento Enterprise.
So with that, we’re going to start things off with a poll. We’re going to go ahead and launch this poll: Which version of Magento are you currently using or transitioning to? We’re going to go ahead and let everybody do that, again, just as Ethan sets up for the second part of this recommendation so we can gear more of this towards our audience. So we’ll go ahead and let folks answer that question now.
All right, it looks like we’ve got a good amount of the sample there, Ethan, so we’re going to go ahead and close that poll. We’ll share the results. I’ll let you take it over from there, E.
Ethan: Excellent, excellent. Very cool. It looks like about 21% of you are thinking about or already using Community, 64% Enterprise, and then 14% other.
All right. Very good. So let’s get into #4: You want to create an internal contextual link strategy. That’s really a lot to kind of spit out. The internal links within your site are one of the top ways Google can determine themes of pages.
I say Google kind of off-the-cuff. They typically drive the most traffic to most sites from a search perspective and a volume perspective, but don’t discount Yahoo or Bing. So when thinking about your internal linking strategy, first off, don’t use the word “view” or “more” in hyperlink to your products or your category pages. Those kinds of words, Google is unable to determine the theme of those pages. Make the product name be the link.
Create links to other products within your product descriptions, and then create links within category descriptions. This is an example here where we removed the “more” link from category page, and you can see that we created organic links within the category description, linking to some of the top products within that category.
Within the product descriptions, within the unique product descriptions that you are creating on your site, you should definitely create links to other products. Don’t use canned descriptions. Again, don’t use the manufacturer’s description. So how all these pages link together are a great spider web of content and it shows themes back to Google.
You also don’t need to repeat the same navigation on all pages. We know that Google can determine what the common navigation links are for your website. You know, links in the header, the left-com, links in the footer. Most of those get discounted. So why not kind of change it up a little bit? If you think you can remove some of that navigation from your product pages, do it. If you think you need to change up the navigation between the category and subcategory pages, do it. Don’t be afraid to, because if you repeat the same template over and over again, it can affect your SEO.
#5: You want to optimize the templates for your site. The great thing about using a dynamic site driven by a database is that you can do a lot of onsite optimization just from within your templates. First off, you want to review your product and category templates between both platforms that you’re looking at. Very, very important. You want to make sure that there are no missing elements.
We recently just took on a client last week that came to us, had launched a brand new site, and they were losing tens of thousands of dollars a month in terms of revenue between their old site and their new site.
Their new site actually looked significantly nicer and more professional than their old site, but within kind of the active window, within the content area of the site, they were missing many of the elements—things like finish charts, things like shipping timelines, things like instructions and information around the product. They were missing all these little micro elements that didn’t get transferred from the old design to the new. So you really want to audit all of the elements that are within the old theme to go into the new theme.
You want to think about using all of the great modifier keywords—words like “buy”, “discount”, sometimes even “cheap”. There’s hundreds of these modifier words that people will utilize in their searches. You may not want to say a discount product on your site, but that’s where you can actually take the ALT text for the image and make that part of the ALT text for the image. Very few people optimize for these modifier words that can get you some great tail traffic.
So by utilizing those in kind of hidden areas or through not as kind of upfront areas on the site, you are able to generate some of this great tail traffic.
And, number four, you want to start to utilize some micro-formats. You can learn more about that at schema.org, but that allows you to put things like your product name, your reviews, your pricing, you manufacturer brand name, all of that in a very kind of specific HTML format so that Google can read that and see that as structured data. So micro-formats is definitely something that’s coming to the forefront, and we recommend that you look at that and implement that. It’s very easy to implement within your templates, so why not do it?
#6: We want you to use indexable reviews. What do we mean by that? Reviews are awesome user generated content. It’s another way to generate more words on a page and more very unique content to your site.
Don’t use Power Reviews Express. Why? Because it’s a JavaScript based tool that you embed within your site. Google is getting better at kinda reading JavaScript and things, but why take that risk? Use the internal review engine on your site if you can figure out how to set a follow-up. Maybe that follow-up is through…if you are using Magento, maybe that follow-up is through an extension, but you definitely want to go out…If you just setup reviews on your site and don’t play an active role in getting more reviews, you are never going to get them. You want to come up with an automated method to email your customers three or four weeks after their product is shipped and ask them to come back and leave a review.
If you are not using Power Reviews Standard, find another non-JavaScript method of embedding reviews on your site. There are other great providers of that out there. Power Reviews just seems to be the most common. If you are using Magento, there are some great extensions that you can plug in here, really beef this up, and actually save some money in terms of monthly service fees.
So make sure your reviews and your user generated content is indexable by the search engines.
#7: You want to create sexy brand pages. You want to out-brand the brand. One thing that we know with the Panda update, they love brands. The brand knob in terms of rankings is turned way up. So if you are able to build a brand for your own site, if you are able to generate more unique content than your brands and manufacturers are with things like videos, buyer’s guides, and blogs, sometimes you have the opportunity to even outrank those brand pages if you are lucky.
So anything you can do to make yourself look like a brand and out-brand your brands. This example here is utilizing many common elements of embedding logos, descriptions, logos in the background, really getting these branding pages to be great landing pages from an SEO standpoint.
#8. One of the little more complex and complicated things, or maybe more technical, is setting up your 301 redirects.
First off, you want to keep the same URL for your products and categories if you can. If not, you want to 301 every page based on the content map that you laid out earlier in the process. A 301 redirect is a way to tell the search engines that a page has moved from this place to that place. Very, very straightforward. It’s a server header code. You want to make sure that you’re setting these up from every old page to the new page.
There’s a couple of great tools out there. You can Google “Server header check” and there’s some great tools out there. You’d want to test these pages. Test more than three or four. You want to test as many as you can. Sometimes people just take two or three products and test those 301’s and then there’s some problems downstream that they’re not able to see. So you want to make sure that you’re checking your server headers.
You want to confirm any redirects done programmatically. What I mean by that is that many folks, if you have a unique identifier in the old URL and with the new product page, you can write a little bit of code and kind of redirect the old to the new. It really saves a lot of time and makes things work better. But you want to confirm those, as many as you can.
And lastly, don’t use 302’s. We’ve seen even Magento kind of spit out 302 user codes for certain things. Make sure you’re not using 302’s. A 302 code means page temporarily moved. Most of the search engines haven’t really paid attention to that for quite some time. So make sure you set these up at 301’s.
If you’re just doing kind of some basic rewrites, I just did a quick screenshot of the rewrite section of Magento, where you can go in through the admin and set these up very easily from the old to the new.
So again, making sure that you map these 301 redirects out. It will take a little bit of time for Google to discover the new pages, but it’s a strategy that works very, very well. When done properly, we’ve seen people kinda take a dip sometimes for a week or two after launch and then accelerate very fast out of the gate with a new platform.
Mack: Ethan, before we get into the final couple, we’ve got some great questions coming in. I want to remind folks to feel free to send in questions. We’re going to have two more tips from Ethan and then we’re going to dive in. We’ve got a lot of great questions flowing in, but we look forward to a few more.
Ethan: Awesome. Yeah, please do send in your questions. I want to be able to answer as many as possible. I don’t want to get too technical or geeky about this, but these are some very challenging times in terms of the SEO and there’s a lack of great information out there.
So going into #9: You want to monitor your load speed. What can slow performance do to your website? First off, it can sink your SEO. Second off, it directly affects your conversion rate. Number three, it lowers your AdWords quality score. Number four, when you are launching new technology, it limits your ability to diagnose errors because the slowness is kind of masking other problems. So you want to get things tuned as much as possible.
A couple of great sites to help with this on the frontend of like frontend speed and optimization—Pingdom and YSlow. Pingdom is a site. YSlow is a plugin for your browser.
You want to be able to see how long does it take? How many elements on the page? Is there any optimization than can be done to big files, either image files or big things like CSS or JavaScript files? So you want to make your site speedy.
So what are some methods for increasing speed of your site? First off, you want to turn on any compression that you have available. Things like GZip are very easy to turn on. It compresses things as much as possible and then opens it up when the visitor downloads it on their browser.
You want to remove any unneeded code and files—no code bloat. One of the biggest challenges of SEO today is you need your files to be as streamlined as possible. If you are using Magento, you realize that’s very difficult and challenging sometimes. But making sure that you’re removing any unneeded JavaScript’s from pages, any unneeded code. We’ve done a lot of that internally of developing what our kind of base standard theme is in removing things, like as much bloat as possible.
You want to look at adding on some type of CDN hosting. What’s a CDN? It’s a content Delivery Network. What that allows you to do is deliver your static files, things like your images, product images, your CSS, your JavaScript. It allows it to deliver from a separate network and deliver it to the closest point possible to your visitor.
So let’s say your hosting in Virginia, or California, or Texas, or Michigan and your visitor is in Iowa. They’ve gotta kind of wrap back and forth across the country to drag those files across the Internet to go…the request goes out from their browser, all the way to your server, and then back from your server back to their browser.
By using a Content Delivery Network, if a person’s in Iowa, it actually delivers lots of these big assets from the closest point possible from where that visitor is. So they may have a drop in Iowa that pushes that back out and streamlines that. It also takes the load off the server. These aren’t huge loads on the server in terms of overhead, but when you add all of it up together, it does become substantial. So anything you can do to remove load off your server will allow more resources to run important things like your checkout and other more dynamic elements of your site.
Many hosting sites these days will even bundle in basic CDN as part of their overall hosting package. So we definitely recommend setting that up in the system.
Another great way is Google has developed a whole library of different JavaScript’s and other scripts. If you are utilizing things like JQuery, you can actually embed a script that they host on their side with their hosting network into your website. So let them kinda pay for the hosting on some of these larger scripts.
As many of the larger sites across the internet are utilizing these Google hosted scripts, it actually allows things like that to be cached within their browser. If they get it on another site, it allows things to load much quicker once they get to you. So I would look at using Google’s JQuery scripts if you are utilizing JQuery within your site templates.
Page caching. If you have any type of full page caching, we definitely recommend that you set that up and turn that on. Any way that you can get that page to load faster is better.
And then we’ve got a couple of diagnostic tools that we look at in terms of tracking server errors and speed performance. One of those is called NewRelic. It’s a new tool that we’ve really been looking at. We like it a lot. It allows us to really get under the hood and see what processes are taking long times to load, what queries are taking a long time to run, and really look at things from a much deeper level under the hood and diagnose problems much faster. Something that may have taken us 10 or 12 hours to find before, we can very easily see within the NewRelic console.
Another tool is WebSitePulse. What that is, is a server monitoring service. You can set it up to ping your servers from multiple locations around the country or around the world. And it will return the results to tell you how long it takes to load from all those different locations. You can even do some stuff in terms of setting up a false transaction, where it will go through the process and do a transaction on your website and see how long it takes for each of those pages within that funnel to return. So WebSitePulse is another great tool that we like to utilize in terms of determining server performance.
And our last tip is our Post Launch Review. You all want to get the trophy, right? We all want to get the gold trophy at the end. So once you launch your new site, you want to make sure that you’re submitting your new sitemap over to Google Webmaster Tools.
Definitely spider the site again utilizing Integrity or Xenu and just kinda see if you can head off any new crawl errors. Speaking of that, look for any new crawl errors that appear within the Google Webmaster tools. You will see a little bit of fallout, but Google is very smart with those and any of the old pages should hopefully kinda fall out of the mix within a few days. But you want to keep a close watchful eye on that and make sure there isn’t anything that you haven’t seen before happening.
Over the coming weeks, you want to start to look at the total pages in the index versus what your sitemap holds versus what your spider found. You want to make sure that they’re seeing the new pages, that there’s no challenges there. It may take a few weeks to start to see those new pages show up.
Back in the day, Google used to do what they call The Google Dance where they would update the index once a month. You used to have to sit around and wait for that. At this point now it’s almost like an ongoing thing where changes can very, very quickly appear within the index. So you want to make sure that you’re paying attention to that.
You want to have some type of tool or service to rank check based up on your keywords.
And then last, #6, you gotta hold your breath a little bit. It’s always a challenge when you relaunch. Things can happen. But holding your breath, making sure that you’ve kind of dotted your I’s and crossed your T’s will make sure that you have a very successful relaunch.
So just to kind of finalize. Your redesign checklist. You want to create a baseline report. You want to avoid your canned product descriptions. You want to audit your information and data transfer from one system to another. You want to make sure that you’ve set up a proper internal link strategy. You want to optimize your site’s templates. You want to make sure that whatever reviews systems your are using is indexable. You want to create sexy brand pages. You need to make sure that all your 301 redirects are properly set up and configured. You want to monitor your load speed. And then you want to come back around at the end, post launch, and make sure that you’re doing a post launch review based on all the things that you laid out in your initial baseline report.
With that, I’m going to turn it over to Mack for some questions.
Mack: All right, Ethan, thanks again. Some great tips in there, and definitely, obviously inspired a lot of questions. With that, we’re going to get right into some questions here. Again, encourage everybody on, feel free to send in more questions if we’re not answering them, and the webinar will be available on our site in the next coming days. With that, let’s get into some of these questions.
Ethan, one of the folks, they have a really large site. They’ve got a lot of pages. And the idea of trying to map that all out just seems impossible to them. Can you walk through, at least at a high level, maybe how that becomes more of a consumable idea?
Ethan: Yeah, absolutely. We tend to look at things and prioritize things in terms of a pyramid. You want to definitely start with the homepage. You want to look at the most popular category pages. Then you want to kinda dig that down into the subcategory pages, and then the product pages after that.
So you may have to take several passes at this. The other thing that helps, too, is when you take your top 100 or top 250 landing pages by revenue and look at the pages from that standpoint.
It is a challenging process to go through, but, at the same time, if you break it down into smaller chunks, it’s much easier to kind of work through.
Mack: Cool. This next question’s got two parts, so let’s start with the first one. Have you seen these problems with Bing or Yahoo in terms of 301’s not transferring to revised URL’s?
Ethan: Yeah. I mean the first thing, you know, I think Steve asked the question there; great question, Steve. The first thing that we see is, I think, Bing has a hard time of even finding the new URL’s. So many folks will get a bump when they submit the initial sitemap. And as in Steve’s question, sometimes they get stuck in this pending mode.
We’re always kind of working through that and it’s always challenging. That’s, a lot of times, why we tend to focus on Google as the primary search engine, not only from a search volume standpoint, but also that their kind of technical expertise in terms of creating these indexes and spidering content across the internet.
So yeah, I mean there are problems with that, but you just want to make sure that you’ve got all the fundamental things verified within the Bing Webmaster Tools as well.
Mack: The next part of that question from Steve was have you seen this where Bing’s XML sitemaps seem to be stuck in pending?
Ethan: Yes. So you can only do what you do. I hate to say that, but that’s many times why we’re focused on Google, is that you can only do the best you can with those. We’re looking at ways of bumping up and getting unstuck from Bing and Yahoo.
Mack: The next question, people want to know: Is there a common mistake you see post launch of these sites? Some of these Magento rescue projects that we’ve taken on, is there a common mistake you’ve seen where these SEO results have plummeted?
Ethan: I think the first biggest element that we see that many people miss are they miss elements within their product and category pages. It could be like the example I said before where they forgot to put in the finish chart. Maybe they only have one image where they used to have five in their old system. Maybe they don’t clearly state their shipping times. If it’s a larger, more complex product, do they have a white glove type of shipping that they didn’t mention?
I think people go in and look at Google Analytics at a very high level, but utilizing, let’s just say, that top landing page report by revenue and really looking at that and thinking about what are the most popular or most important revenue generating pages on the site? Many times it’s not the homepage. Everyone wants to focus on the homepage, but many times they lose focus of the deeper, more important pages that they just didn’t realize they were generating revenue from.
Mack: OK. Ethan, people want to know, and we deal with this a lot, obviously, on the sales site, you’ve got these complete URL rewriting capability with Magento. Some of what you talk about with folks is step one in this kind of transition is to maintain. The question is: should you take advantage of this URL rewriting capability upfront, or is it better follow kind of what you talked about today—maintain first and then start to look at further rewrites and optimization after launch?
Ethan: Well, I think the challenge is many folks come to us with an older or a custom platform and they want to maintain a URL structure that just isn’t feasible for the long term. So if you can maintain it and then you can maintain an upgradability with your platform, then it’s a win-win. But if you have this complex kind of bulky URL structure that worked from an SEO standpoint but isn’t going to work from a software standpoint, then you need to make some decisions around that and say, “Are we going to work through this and take a onetime hit and make sure that we dot our I’s and cross our T’s?”
That being said, you want to try to rewrite everything that you can, and you want to make sure that you’re looking at different reports. You can even set up a 404 report within Google Analytics with a little bit of extra code on your page to look at your 404’s and make sure that you’re just, almost on a daily or weekly basis, you’re analyzing things that you may have missed and putting them back.
Mack: I think we’ve got time for two more. This next question goes: With the layered navigation and, obviously, some of the other features and functionalities coming out of Magento, if people don’t use the same navigation, how much are you seeing that impacting things and how much is there to be cautious of, I guess as people enter into that?
Ethan: There’s some great tools out there to really help you through this process. Some of the other tools that we like to utilize at Groove, things like ClickTail, things like Google Website Optimizer. There’s an even better tool than that—Visual Website Optimizer that we’re loving to A/B test and multivariate test elements of the page.
Some of those things you may want to test and determine what the best case is. But from an SEO standpoint, if you’ve got all the same links on all the same pages, maybe a single column product page converts for your better because it’s more simplistic. And if they can still get to the top level categories and your breadcrumbs are very well laid out, it can still work for you. It’s just all about how your customers shop and understanding the personality types of those shoppers.
Mack: OK. We’re going to make this one our last one. There’s a couple of really technical ones. We’ll be happy to follow up with those people directly with messages. But last question today, Ethan, goes to: How’s Magento deal with these hundreds or thousands of URL redirects? This person asks and his question says: “I’ve got a few thousand URL’s I’d need to redirect after redesign. How is Magento going to aid me in that process?
Ethan: Looks like that came in from Isaac. Great question, Isaac. First off, you want to look at that every rewrite project is different. But first, if we could look and see, you know, many times you’ll have a category or product identifier in the URL—C-, Q-, or a SKU number or something. If you are able to have something like that and you have an identifier within the new system that you can match to, sometimes it’s just a few lines of code to make that work and you can redirect 100,000 URL’s and make it all fly very quickly and easily.
Sometimes it’s just getting in there and getting it done. If you have a couple thousand, I’d really look at those and figure out is there any common tendencies with those URL’s and kind of even break that down further into smaller buckets.
There’s even ways of kind of crowdsourcing all of that stuff. I don’t know if I necessarily trust it all the time. But many times you are able to programmatically write some code and automatically redirect those URL’s on a dynamic basis.
For something like that, you don’t want to go into the Magento admin and add all of those right now. You want to do some of that stuff outside of that right in the htaccess file.
Mack: OK. Ethan, this one ties in, kind of: What are the SEO ramifications of Magento’s layered navigation?
Ethan: I think that there’s definitely some ramifications there. We’re seeing some tags around pagination; you know, canonical tags around pagination that we’re starting to look at, and there’s been some great research done. There’s tagging around query strings. I would say that creating hard URL’s for some of those filters would probably be a bad idea; it would be a lot of duplicate content.
But there actually even ways of maybe creating a “view all” page. You know, giving it the right canonical tag, putting in the kind of…doing the same thing and giving tags to the pagination aspects of it.
And then, quite frankly, you could go into the Google Webmaster Tools and they have the ability there to kind of say what are the filters that you just don’t want Google to pay attention to? I think that would be a great topic for a blog post around Magento: What are the common filters in the URL that just should be blocked within your Webmaster Tools to create duplicate content from showing up?
That’s a great reason to run the Xenu tool or the Integrity tool, is that we recently took another Magento rescue project where they were having some issues. We spidered the site and a site that had 900 products ended up having like 82,000 pages because there was just all of this duplicate content. We had to figure out a way to kind of basically segment those pages off and not have them indexed by Google.
Mack: Cool. Well, Ethan, thanks again. A lot of great tips. Really want to thank everybody for joining us. A couple of announcements real quick. As always, this webinar will be available in the next couple days on our website for you to watch again, share. And we encourage you to reach out if there’s any additional questions that we didn’t answer today or any that come up as you review the material.
Quick announcement regarding December. The Groove Webinar Series takes a break in December for the holidays, just based on when scheduling would happen. But the exciting part of that is we’re really excited to announce our January webinar that we’re going to be doing with our partner, Listrak. We’re going to be talking about their cart abandonment tool and some of the results we’ve had from clients we’ve implemented that on. The exciting part is we’ll see some holiday results and studies on that as well. So, really excited to partner up with them in January and get that webinar to you. We also really encourage you to keep checking our site for more information around that, but excited to for that to come back in 2012 as the Groove webinar series resumes.
In the meantime, thanks again, everybody, for joining us, especially throughout 2011 for the Groove webinar series. We hope you’ve found it informative. We’d love for you to reach out with additional questions/comments if you have thoughts on the webinar series, or additional questions or comments as you look at potentially re-platforming or looking at Magento Enterprise. We’re happy to help.
So thanks for joining us today. Thank you, Ethan. And best of luck during the holiday shopping season to everybody. Thanks! Have a great afternoon.
Ethan: Yeah, happy Cyber Monday. Thank you!

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