Website migrations are a tricky business. Even if handled with the utmost care and meticulous planning, it is certain that you will experience an organic traffic and visibility drop in the immediate aftermath. Don’t be alarmed when this happens, it’s part of the process, and if you are patient, it can be reversed.
In mid 2019, we had a client in this predicament: Havwoods International. After migrating to a shiny new website, with improved UX and functionality, organic visibility dropped from 20% to 2%. Yes, they did panic. We, however, assessed the changes made to the website, and activated our landing page optimisation strategy.
Read on to learn how we used landing page optimisation to recover the client’s organic visibility, increasing keyword rankings, by 219%.
Diagnose the problem pages
Following a website migration, you’ll usually find that a selection of pages have been particularly affected by the move. This can happen for a number of reasons, and to illustrate our process, we’ll use a particular page as an example: engineered timber flooring.
In our client’s case, the new engineered timber flooring page was without any copy, and its position in the URL structure had changed significantly.
So what happened? Google re-evaluated the relevance of the page to engineered timber flooring as a topic. The algorithm appeared to have reduced the page’s rankings, as without copy, and taking into account the site structure change, it was less relevant in Google bot’s eyes.
We identified this page as the most affected by using Google Search Console. We filtered by URL, comparing the number of impressions in the 3 months prior to migration, against those 3 months after. We observed a near 50% decline in impressions. This meant the engineered timber flooring page was the highest priority on the site.
Identify your target keywords
To inform our optimisation activities, we conducted extensive keyword research in consultation with the client. Our approach was based on the topics each landing page covered, accommodating users at each stage of the customer journey, from awareness to conversion.
This is how we researched and selected our keywords:
How we researched our keywords for SEO
There’s a few methods you can use to research your keywords. The first step is to think about what each stage of the customer journey looks like for your target audiences. Ask yourself what their intent is at each of those stages, and note down your ideas.
Continuing with engineered timber flooring as our example, the client wanted to target three audiences with this page:
- Industry: Users working in construction who specify the type of flooring used on their clients’ projects.
- Design: Interior designers and architects who are concerned with the aesthetics and functionality.
- Consumer: Home and business owners who are interested in renovating, or sampling different products.
The next step was to feed “engineered timber flooring” and “engineered wood flooring” into tools that we use to conduct our keyword research. We recommend using these two tools based on our experience across a variety of industries:
- Google Keyword Planner: Your best data will come directly from Google itself. Enter your product, service or topic into the tool.
- Google Search Console: We compared the keywords we found with those our target page was already ranking for. We used impressions to determine the most affected keywords post-migration, and moved those to the forefront of our strategy.
Our selection was based on what each of our client’s target audiences might want to know about engineered timber flooring, at every stage of the customer journey. We won’t go into that process now, but you can read more about optimising for different stages of the customer journey here.
Optimise your metadata
At Reef, we have seen the power of metadata optimisation across our SEO portfolio: it’s the quickest way to generate traction in search and improve your keyword rankings.
Time was of the essence, so as the account manager, I decided that it would be best to split the optimisation activities with the client. The Reef team optimised the metadata for the most affected landing pages on the site, and trained the client to optimise the metadata for their case studies and product pages.
As part of this process we optimised:
- 50 meta titles, descriptions and heading 1 tags
We reviewed the client’s optimisations for:
- 71 meta titles, descriptions and heading 1 tags
This meant that at the end of the first phase of the strategy, the Reef team had optimised, reviewed and implemented:
- 121 meta titles, descriptions and heading 1 tags
After implementing the optimised metadata, we saw a 5% increase in keyword visibility within the following month, but that was just the beginning.
Create authoritative copy
The most beneficial long-term SEO activity you can undertake for any page on your site is creating authoritative copy. It doesn’t matter how well-optimised your metadata is, or how technically sound, if the page doesn’t say it, you won’t rank for it.
What do we mean by “authoritative” copy?
Copy that is “authoritative” on a topic, within any industry or niche, will generally contain several features that we’ve found correlates to high organic visibility in search.
To help you understand what we mean by “authoritative”, we’ve created the acronym “TRAIL”:
- Terminology: This refers to the language used in the post. We optimised the post for target keywords and terminology used by industry experts, as well as top-ranking competitors.
- References: We looked at which industry names, associations, authorities and experts were referenced by high performing competitors, and where possible included them in copy.
- Action: Does the copy offer a clear call-to-action where relevant? We made sure this was the case, including callouts to the client’s flooring showrooms, free sample page and contact us page.
- Industry-specific Nuances: To be authoritative, copy must add to the conversation on the topic, and adhere to the logic, features and standards of your industry. You should also answer any specific questions that are relevant to your topic, which will provide value for users.
- Length: Is the copy the required length to communicate what you need to say. So many clients overthink the choice between long and short-form copy. For this project we generally had around 8-12 sections on each page, but we didn’t conform to a particular rule. We allowed each page the space required to communicate about the client’s product ranges.
How did we optimise the pages?
To optimise the pages we followed our usual landing page optimisation best practice strategy, which covered:
- Heading 2 tags
- Authoritative copy
- Internal links
We chose the heading 2 tags based on the frequently asked questions in the People Also Ask box in Google Search for relevant keywords. We also researched long-tail keywords to see which questions were being frequently searched for. Together these methods produced our landing page structure.
The final steps were to write our own answers to these questions in consultation with the client, with internal links to relevant pages and content on the site. Clear call-to-actions were included where necessary to direct users to the next step on their journey.
The result was a unique landing page experience for the 10 pages optimised, customised for the most likely target audiences to land on each page.
What were the results?
Havwoods International Organic Visibility: July – December 2019
Our landing page optimisation strategy yielded returns four months after execution. The client saw:
- 219% more keywords ranking on the first page
- 837% more keywords ranking in the top 3 positions
That was an increase from 46 keywords on the first page, to 147. In the top 3 positions, we saw an improvement in rankings from 8 keywords, to 75.
Jessica Hall, Marketing and Design Specialist at Havwoods International said:
Want to improve your keyword rankings and visibility in organic search? Reef can help you implement an SEO strategy to improve your landing page performance.
Or do you need help improving how users interact with your pages and move through their onsite journey? Consider starting a conversation with us about conversion rate optimisation.