About a year ago (when I intended to post on this topic) a Moz blog post asked several well-known search engine optimisation experts to nominate an easy-win that clients could implement right away to improve their SEO.
Rand Fishkin’s response was one I’ve also found myself consistently suggesting time and time again when people want SEO advice for their sites: create continuity by updating existing pages instead of turning URLs over.
Let’s have a look at how this works.
SEO is still about getting links from other pages (whether they be social media or other sites), which signal to search engines whether your page is popular, and what it’s about.
One great way to maximise your inbound links is time. Links gradually build up. If you simply do everything you can to not change URLs and to instead re-use existing ones, you’ll find inbound links tend to compound like interest in a bank.
One of the best, easy wins you can implement is to simply stop throwing away old pages and try to re-use and recycle.
The most common example I see of this is when a site promotes something recurring. Let’s say it’s an annual fun run.
Now each year the event changes: the copy will change, sponsors will change. People often make the mistake of putting up a new page and removing the old one. Typically a page will be given a url such as YourSite.com/fun-run-2013.
Campaigns are then run – media releases, emails, ads, social media, etc. – to promote this event, and invariably some inbound links are going to be pointed to the page.
Then, following the event, the page is often removed until the next year, when a brand new one replaces it – YourSite.com/fun-run-2014.
Refresh, re-use, recycle
A small change to this approach can make a big difference over time. Put simply, you want a single page that doesn’t change from year to year, and is always live, so that this year’s inbound links are added to the foundation of those from last year and the year before.
Make your URL YourSite/fun-run. When the copy needs to change for a new year, archive last year’s page by adding the year to the URL, but make sure the address of the current event page is never altered.
The same principle applies to things like retail sites. Let’s say you have a product line of men’s blue t-shirts. Come the end of summer you may be out of stock and may even be thinking of changing supplier. Products like these are often removed from a site, leaving search engines that have indexed them with a 404 (Page not found), which is a signal to drop the page from the index.
In another 6 months or so a new page with a new URL goes up, for a new blue t-shirt, perhaps from a new supplier. It then has to start collecting links from scratch.
Far better to instead list the product as out of stock and remove any links to it from menus and searches, but leave the page live. Later when the new line is ready to be listed you post it in the same place (same URL) so incoming links are added to an existing foundation and not starting from scratch.
Tours that have closed
Perhaps you run tours or regular events that are seasonal. In the off season, don’t unpublish the page. As well as sending a message to search engines to drop the page, if there are good, well-managed sites linking to you, they’ll find their link is broken and remove it.
Simply update your page to state that your events are seasonal and currently closed. If you like, remove visible links to the page from your site and menus, but ensure it continues to be live and return a http 200 status.
It all adds up
Again, over time, this simple habit or change to your processes can deliver real gains.
What other easy wins have you been able to implement in your online marketing? I’d love to hear ideas from others.