This is the first post in a series of posts, I am going to be discussing website changes that you need to carefully monitor to protect your SEO traffic.
What is a broken redirect?
A redirect forwards one URL to another URL. For instance URL www.domain/abc might redirect to www.domain/efg. These redirects are typically put in place it\f there is a URL structure change, which happens quite often. They also may happen globally for the site if there is a domain change. These would be configured as 301 redirects or 308’s (permanent redirect). As a result, link equity is passed from the old URL to the new URL. So if URL www.domain/abc had 50 links, the value of those links is passed to www.domain/efg (and in general that value propagates to all the pages on the site).
A broken redirect is when those old URLs no longer have a permanent redirect in place or they no longer redirect to the desired target Examples:
Why it’s important?
When a redirect breaks you lose the link equity or value of the links being passed to the old UR and in fact weakens the entire website. It is important to fix broken redirects as quickly as possible.
Broken redirects are one of the most insidious issues that can hit your Website. Why? Because they are not observable or testable from the current/live website. So if these redirects break or go away, you can suddenly lose the link equity, and yet the cause will be largely invisible to you. Unfortunately, I have personal experience with this issue. I got burned by this early in my career for a high-flying travel startup that lost 30% of our SEO traffic due to lost link equity. We eventually recovered but not until there was severe damage.
How can you monitor redirects?
If you are SEORadar customer, we made it easy. I included this feature in the product specifically so our customer would not experience the pain I did back when we had those broken redirects.
You simple load up a batch of URLs to our redirect tester. We will then continue to check the status of those URLs. If there is any change in the URL status (change in the redirect chain or if the target URL generates an error), SEORadar will generate an alert. In this case, the target the old URL has started 404-ing instead of redirecting, stranding the equity of the source URL and suddenly weakening the target URL and in fact the whole site. And since this old URL no longer exists on the site, the source of this problem will be obscured, unless you are using the redirect tester in SEORadar or have hacked up some custom code to monitor the redirects:
Of course, the target URL can start 404-ing as well. Since it is part of the live site, SEORadar will catch that as part of our regular monitoring, but the redirect will specifically generate an alert.
You should fix these as quickly as possible. It is generally believed by the SEO community that the longer a URL is 404-ing, the more the equity degrades. I have seen evidence this in the real world.
Good luck and please pay attention to the status of your redirects!
I recently published an article in Search Engine Journal entitled “The Hidden Risk of Broken Redirect“. It was probably poorly named. Better is “How Changing URL Structures Can Kill Traffic”.
I say hidden, because who knows how many time redirects have been removed months after a URL change and historic, valuable links have gone away? I got burned by this badly following a site migration early in my career and I talk about it in the article. This is whyI generally recommend against changing URLs unless they are truly horrible (or better yet, get them right initially).
In SEORadar we have a redirect tester. You can create a list of URLs and we will continue to ping them on a regular basis until you tell us to stop! If they change in any way (404, 302, extra hop) we will send you an alert. This is absolutely why we built this feature into SEORadar. I felt it was a must-have. To be honest, it is an under-utilized feature.
It’s easy to set up. Simply go to the manage->redirect testing option from the main menu or click here. Paste in a list of the old, original URLs. In the first audit, we will generate a report of all URLs that are redirecting. After, that, we will continue to ping those URLs and any change in state will generate an alert.
One caveat with the current version of this feature, the redirect tester is not domain specific and thus the alerts will go to all users. We are working on a remedy for that situation.
If URLs change that we are already monitoring in SEORadar, then there is no need to set up this monitoring. We always trace a URL as originally configured and generate an alert if there is a change in HTTP status or redirect chain.
Links are still precious and harder than ever to come by. Don’t the value of those links. So my recommendation is this: if you have changed URLs structures, especially to link-worthy content, put in some sort of mechanism (SEORadar or a custom script or something else). Links are precious – make sure they stay active!!
It just got a whole lot easier to analyze your search console data with SEORadar. We have been generating weekly winners and loser reports based on keywords and pages from Search Console for a while now. As useful as that it, looking at that data across the entire set of keywords provided by Google can camouflage important shifts.
For instance, your biggest winners and losers in terms of rankings is not that meaningful if it is for keywords that get few impressions. Now you can create keyword groups and you can filter your weekly Winners and Losers reports by those groups. By default, we will create groups of your top 50 and top 100 keywords.
You can create keyword groups from the new manage->keywords option in the main menu.
You can also upload CSV files.
We are going to continue improving our analysis of the Search Console data over time. So email me with any ideas you have or comment on this post.
As an in-house SEO for large dynamic sites like Trulia, I spent way too much time chasing problems and reversing code that never should have been pushed in the first place. Let’s face it, life would be much more pleasant if we could catch those problems before they get pushed live. This should be done in an automated way so that human error is removed from the equation. As an SEO, I should never be required to manually review code to check meta robots tags and everything else that can go wrong, that is waaaaaay too risky.
Look what happened one of SEORadar’s customers prior to using our service. They accidentally placed a noindex tag on their key pages with this nasty line of code:
And the aftermath was not pretty!
Yikes! They identified the problem after 5 days and it took almost a full week to push the fix due to internal processes. The really sad thing is they did not fully recover and ended up about 15% lower in overall traffic. Recovery from disasters are often extremely painful, so of course, the best thing is to prevent the disaster in the first place.
Testing is hard and things slip through the cracks (which is why we built SEORadar in the first place). SEORadar gives you great piece of mind by monitoring your site and letting you know when something nasty happens. But let’s face it, Google is fast now and will crawl and index those unplanned changes in a jiffy. So sometimes you are working against the clock while the rest of your company responds with their feet in quicksand! Quick, delete that meta robots noindex before Google picks it up and results in grief for you and your company.
While we will always continue to monitor your sites, we want to catch those problem changes before they get pushed live. I’ll show you how to do it with SEORadar.
The audit reports work just like our standard reports. Instead of comparing the live site to the previous archive, you are comparing the live site to staging.
For example, maybe an important keyword has been deleted from a title. You will get an alert like this:
Or even worse, maybe something like this happened!
Of course, now that you have caught this on staging, you can halt the site push and get it fixed.
You can also run various diff reports that will compare full HTML, content or just SEO elements. Your QA team will love this!
When we first built this feature, we hit obstacles and friction because we required VPN access or login/password to staging environments. We recognize that companies need to protect everything behind their firewall, so we came up with a solution. Using our Chrome extension, your browser will retrieve the test pages and send them out to our servers to run the comparisons. No need to open up your VPN to us! Simply install the Chrome extension which you can find here.
You can label the staging domain. This is useful if you are access it via IP address or if you have multiple staging environments.
Important: If you want us to test robots.txt on staging, check the box below. That makes sense if your robots.txt on staging is a replica of live and part of your site update. (We respect robots.txt, so it is possible we could be blocked if you tick it).
That can be fetched by logging in and going to the user->settings screen.
That’s it. We will test and compare all the URLs that are configured for the live domain. And now you will really be able to breathe easier when that major update goes live. Of course, things can still break so you still need SEORadar auditing the live site, but this makes things much, much safer.
This feature is available in our enterprise edition. Contact me for a demo of this feature or if you are an existing customer who would like to upgrade.
As SEOs we always want to understand the impact of site changes. Yet analyzing the data is challenging, especially in an enterprise environment with frequent site pushes and page updates. One of the biggest challenges is tracking when the change happened, what exactly was the change and what other changes might have occurred which would impact the analysis. SEORadar makes this part easy with our source code archive and change and alert history. We keep that permanent change record needed for your analysis. With our new ‘Change Analysis’ feature, things just got a lot better!
Unlike traditional AB testing where metrics become available immediately, with an SEO change you need to wait before you can even begin your analysis. Google needs time to index the change. Then you need to accumulate at least 2 weeks of data. This is the challenge, in a busy life of an SEO! Going back in time to analyze a change impact is particularly painful. Now, you with single action you can schedule a change analysis and SEORadar will send you an email when that analysis is ready to be viewed.
Here is how you do it!
Let’s say a page change was made which removed an H2 from your page which contained a focus keyword (we monitor titles, H1s and H2s and generate alerts if a focus keyword is removed). This would generate an Alert in SEORadar. With this feature, you will get the ‘analyze change’ button:
When you click the ‘Analyze Change’ button, you will set the parameters for the analysis.
Of course other changes might have happened to that page over the time period of the test. Fortunately, we have the full change history for you to analyze and factor into your impact analysis. We include in the report a full list of SEO impacting changes that happened in the analysis time frame. This will help you ascertain as whether other changes could be skewing the results.
This is a great mechanism for implementing an SEO testing methodology or updating old posts that are not driving much traffic. Simple make the changes. We provide a report of all pending analysis and tests so you can see what tests are outstanding and when the results will be available.
Coming soon, we will give you the ability to define a ‘test’ group of URLs and a ‘control’ to compare the results.
This feature is available to Enterprise service levels. Contact us if you would like to test it out and discuss an upgrade.
I am very excited to announce that SEORadar has made the short list for the US Search Awards in Vegas next month for ‘Best SEO Software’ . It’s an honor to be on the short list with such fantastic applications as SearchMetrics and Linkdex. This is tremendous validation for all the hard work the SEORadar team has put in the last 18 months. Thanks to everyone involved!
If you are coming to the awards ceremony or PubCon let me know and we meet up. I love to meet our users!
As an agency or consultant, you are responsible for your customer’s organic search traffic. Yet, your customers are often doing things to their site, changing pages, key SEO elements and frankly, inadvertently making changes with potentially disastrous impact.
For a large SEO agency, an independent SEO consultant or an in-house SEO, SEORadar will protect your traffic, eliminate the fear that some unknown change is impacting your traffic and simply make your life easier. Give te free demo a try!
We officially launched SEORadar at SMX West. It was incredibly exciting to unveil out new booth in the exhibition hall and meet enthusiastic customers, prospects and potential partners!
We have big plans for SEORadar in 2015, so look for some exciting, high value new features coming out very soon!
Today now marks 28 days since we started giving out beta access. The first 3 weeks saw daily updates as we worked out some of the bigger kinks and the next month or two will see some exciting new features.
We have heard from some of our customers on a few potential disasters which we have already detected. Including:
In addition, we have an agency using the beta for daily checks on their customers websites. We also have a major ecommerce site using the historical archive to correlate changes to traffic and rankings shifts.
We are giving out some more beta codes, so there is no reason to be caught unaware when mysterious changes happen to your pages! Fill out the form on the right to get your Beta Code!
I’m very excited to be announcing the availability of SEORadar for beta customers at SMX next week. Its been a long journey which has led me to leaving a great job at Trulia to launch a new tool. You are probably thinking that you don’t need another SEO tool! But once you learn about SEORadar, I think you will agree that this is one tool that you have to have. You can start reading the details over here. Don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get your beta code or fill out the form below. Sign up for the application over here. More details next week!
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