How to do a major rebrand and keep your website’s SEO rankings

As many of you may know we recently rebranded mooo.com.au to tinyme.com.au. The reason for the rebrand was quite simple, we were expanding overseas and did not have a mooo.com or mooo.co.uk.

 

So as the head of SEO I was tasked with planning and managing the “SEO” transition from mooo to tinyme. In a nutt shell I successfully (with a lot of sweat) recovered all our SEO rankings in 8 days after the major domain name transition.

 

The first 3 days after the transition our rankings dropped from page 1s to page 7s, which was quite bad seeing as most people don’t browse past the 1st page of search engine results. So as you can imagine it was a very stressful couple of days for me.

 

So I would like to share the steps I took in doing the transition, so anyone thinking of doing a rebrand in the future will have something to refer to. But before you start this process remember to benchmark your current rankings so you have something to refer to after the transition.

 

Step 1

Before you switch your site over, generate an xml site map of your current site.

 

Step 2

Identify all the external links that are going to your current website URL. This is to help you identify links which you can manually change to your new domain URL.

 

Step 3

Using 301 redirects (permanent redirects) make sure every URL from your current domain is redirected to your new domain. This is usually done in the server.

 

Step 4

Using your list of external links to your site, and if possible, contact the site owners who have existing links to your site, and get them to change the links to your new site URL. Its always better to have a direct link to your new site rather than a redirect.

 

Step 5

Revise your robots.txt file to make sure you disallow all pages and folders you do not want crawled by the search engines.

 

Step 6

Go to your Google Webmaster Tools account and add your new domain, then go onto the Bing Webmaster Center and do the same.

 

Step 7

In your current site Google Webmaster Tools site profile, fill out the Change of Address form to tell Google that you have moved to a new site URL.

 

Step 8

With your current xml site map, do a site submission to Google & Bing. This is to tell the search engines to crawl your current site to find all the new redirects.

 

Step 9

Write a post in the Google Groups Webmaster Central forum indicating your move, why it’s being done, and how you hope Google will recognise the domain name transition as legitimate.

 

Step 10

Once your site has been fully transitioned, use Xenu’s Link Sleuth to monitor your new site for broken links. And if you find any broken links, hurry and fix them ASAP.

 

In conclusion, once all this is done remember to keep closely monitor your site over the next couple months and keep up your normal SEO activities.

 

Also keep in mind your rankings will drop initially, no doubt about it, but they should return in a matter of days/weeks. (that’s if there aren’t any other issues with your site)

 

Doing an SEO site transition was definitely one of the biggest and most important projects ive handled and thankfully it all went well. So if you have this task at hand, be very systematic and thorough. And I wish you the best of luck with it!

Integrating Marketing Channels For Enhanced Multi Channel Marketing

 

 

In the past integrating traditional marketing channels has been a pretty difficult task and companies big and small would manage their marketing channels in isolation, creating silos in their marketing departments.

Thanks to the emergence of new digital channels it has become much easier to integrate marketing channels for multi channel and cross channel marketing.

Here are 3 simple reasons why organisations should integrate their marketing channels to compliment each other, rather than manage each channel in isolation.

 

Consumers will interact with more than one marketing channel before they decide to make a purchase.

These days with so many marketing channels easily available to consumers, a customer would interact with multiple marketing channels before actually making a purchase.

Typically before a customer would actually make a buying decision, they would have seen a print ad in a magazine, searched for a product on Google, clicked on a banner ad on a blog, or had a product recommended to them on facebook.

For brands that use a variety of marketing channels, it is very common to have specialised people or teams managing these different marketing channels. But to convey a clear message to the customer, it is important that all these different departments work together and are on the same page.  It is alright for different marketing channels to have different tones, but it is important for them to have the same voice.

 

Integrating marketing channels to test, measure, and amplify!

Compared to traditional marketing channels, digital marketing channels are a lot easier and quicker to test, measure and amplify.

A good example is using SEM (search engine marketing) like Google Adwords to test different advertising promotions.  By A/B split testing two ads with different promotions, you can determine which promotion is most appealing to customers before using it for other channels.

Another good example of testing advertising copy is through emails marketing. You can send out an EDM (electronic direct mail) to your subscriber list, and split test different advertising copy or design visuals. The variation with the best results (opens, clicks & conversions etc) will determine the winning ad copy.

Once you have tested and measured the results, the next step is to amplify the winning selections onto more traditional marketing channels, like print and television.

 

Leveraging marketing channels off each other = double the effectiveness.

The real value in integrating marketing channels is so they can leverage off each other and become more effective then they would be, just operating in isolation.

A simple example is leveraging social media with email marketing. Getting new fans on a new facebook page or twitter account can prove challenging at the start. But if your business has been operational for a while, and you have an existing subscription list of customers that you regularly email, you can leverage off your subscription list by emailing your list and asking your members to join your facebook.

You can also provide them with a share-to-social option to allow them share it with all their friends. Having your customers as fans on your facebook page, will double marketing effectiveness and increase traffic, because of the viral nature of social media networks.

This works in vice versa as well; you can easily build your email subscriber list from your facebook page, by offering incentives to fans for signing up using facebook applications.

 

Conclusion

Ive only outlined a few examples here, but there are many more ways you can integrate marketing channels together for better results. As long as communication between departments are good, and everyone is measuring the correct metrics and working toward the same goals, marketing channels can be easily integrated with each other to produce more effective results.

The importance of having a good SEO person in your company

A couple of months ago I attended the annual Bruce Clay training in Sydney. Now being an SEO for the last 5 years, I’ve heard about Bruce Clay a lot and hes one of the 4 guys I follow in SEO, the other 3 being Rand Fishkin, Matt Cutts and Danny Sullivan. So being at the training was abit of a dream come true.

The training was quite pricy, but I was keen on what I could learn and also keen on meeting other SEOs that were at the event to gather their thoughts about the current SEO climate with pandas and penguins jumping all around.

The training went well, and Bruce Clay definitely knows a lot about SEO. From the training I realised that Bruce Clay really understands the algorithm rather than just speculating like most  “SEO experts” do.

Ben Liau - Bruce Clay
Ben Liau - Bruce Clay

 

As an SEO of over 5 years, I still learned alot and got quite a few great tips, and had my curly questions answered by Bruce Clay.

I was also surprised at the attendance at the training, a real mix bag of professionals including, big brands, big agencies, small seo specialist and pure play online retailers.

From chatting with many attendees, and listening to answers about questions from them, it ironically turns out most big agencies don’t know that much about SEO. This is followed by the big brands who basically work with these agencies. ( I don’t mean all of them, just speaking in general). The attendees that I came across that really know SEO were the pure play online retailers and some of the niche SEO specialists.

And another thing that was evidently clear, was that marketing people weren’t friends with IT people in many large companies. Also not surprisingly big brands and agencies work in silos, which seems to have been the case for many years now.

I think there are a few challenges SEOs in big brands face:

1. You have to act as a middle man between stake holders and agencies without learning that much SEO in the process.

2. You have to jump through many hoops to get anything done.

3. You have to work with people from other departments that don’t really want to work with you (IT Department).

Its does seems quite challenging being an SEO in that situation. But one thing big brands should do, is trust their digital marketing managers, and not put them through hoops every time they need something changed or something new implemented. The digital marketing industry is every changing, and if it going to take months to implement something new, big brands will miss the boat on the best time to execute.

I think the best strategy for big brands are to hire digital marketing experts who have had the experience of making smaller brands successful. These are the people who have fought for ROI without having much resources to use. When a person makes something out of nothing, thats when they become truly skilled at what they do, and become thought leaders in their space. These are the people who really know digital marketing and are passionate about it.

Also a good SEO must have a mix of skills. They must understand marketing to manage stake holders, and know how websites work, and abit of coding would be beneficial. They must also understand  IT infrastructure, to be able to talk to and build relationships with the IT department.

Another major quality an SEO must have is the ability to analyse data. There is no point getting an SEO that can just write content and link build, at the end of the day they will need to be able to analyse the data and make strategic decisions before they start optimising the site.

In saying all that finding a good SEO person is not easy. Im lucky, I know a hand full of SEOs that have those very skills. So if you are looking for a good SEO let me know and id be happy to pass on the contacts.

Happy Optimising people.

Google’s +1 button is finally here!

 

After all the talk, Google’s +1 button is now officially here. In a low-key blog post, Google simply announced that the button has launched with a handful of web properties, comprised of the usual suspects. 

google-plus-one

Google is letting people add +1 buttons to their own sites. Webmasters can get all the info on the code by visiting Google’s +1 button code generator page. The code is straightforward for nearly all Webmasters, comprising a JavaScript include for your “head” and a matched set of tags where your want the +1 button to appear in your docuement body.

Ways to Set the Button Up

Currently, there are few options:

When adding the button you have your choice of four sizes ranging from 15 pixels to 60 pixels tall, set the language annotations will appear in, and the option to display (or not) a counter indicating the number of +1s your page has received.

For advanced Webmasters, you may also specify callback functions in the form of a JSON object. You can also pass a URL to the +1 button code. This is especially useful for bloggers who want to put the +1 button in their list of recent posts or category pages. By default, the +1 button uses the URL of the page it is on. By passing a different URL, you can +1 a page using a button on a completely different page. Twitter’s Tweet button allows this functionality, too.

Do You Really Need it?

Aside from yet another social button by which to share, what does this mean for you and your Web site? Although you would not know it from the low-key announcement, this is Google’s most important push towards social search, with so much riding on it that Larry Page has made a bonus plan for Google employees.

Annotations will now be seen by people you (and others) are connected to via Google. However, Google has yet to prove that +1s will have the same far-reaching impact that Facebook likes currently offer.

However, a close reading reveals that Android Market, YouTube, Blogger and Product Search will all see +1 buttons arriving soon. This has the potential to be a game-changer as it will be the first time that user data is really exchanged between these properties. In particular, Android Market definitely stands to successfully differentiate itself against the Apple AppStore – which has no means to bookmark apps or recommend them to friends, even via iTunes Ping.

New Data Nuggets

Web analytics may not necessarily need another metric but +1 button promises to help measure engagement. Official details on what data will stream from Google’s +1 button are not available yet, but Jim Prosser from Google confirmed that “we’re bringing data to Analytics, Webmaster Tools, and AdWords frontend soon”.

Nontheless, there are methods of tracking +1s to your pages. By writing your own Javascript function, you can track +1 clicks as a Google Analytics event using _gaq.push() and use GA’s standard reporting functionality.  All-in-all, the +1 button will now become another micro-conversion that may provide insight to how your site is performing and how users are engaging with your content.


 

 

Extra “Panda” Update Information Starting to Appear..

 

Last Friday, Google posted an update on its Webmaster Central blog titled “Providing More Guidance on Building High-Quality websites“. The blog post expands on much of what Google has said about the infamous Panda update since its first release on February 24th.

In statements about the Panda update, Google has used a number of questions that they’re attempting to answer with an algorithm. “Do you feel comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?” & “Would you take medical advice from this site?” are 2 that have been around since the very beginning. Last Friday’s Webmaster Central post offered up a better list with some of the highlights below:

  • Does the website have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Does the article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine/real interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by trying to guess what might rank well in the search engines?
  • Does the article provide original/real content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its particular topic?
  • Is the content being mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of content creators, or spread across a large network of websites, so that individual pages or websites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Is this the sort of page you would want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of advertising that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Will users complain when they see pages from this site?
  • Will you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?

Answering the “touchy” Questions

We can conclude how Google can algorithmically answer quite a number of the questions, but what about those “touchy” questions, like the credit card issue question? It’s hard to say, but actually having alot of the questions answered about your website might provide some valuable feedback. If you’re an in-house SEO for a website that has been banned, perhaps one of the following services can be used to help a claim for a re-design or some other change in website philosophy.

UserTesting

User Testing LogoUserTesting is a high-end feedback solution. For $39 you will get a video of a user interacting with your website. UserTesting lets you to ask the user up-to 4 questions after they’ve completed the feedback video, which would be a execellent place to ask some of our Panda questions. 

Other Panda Odds and Ends

NPR did a  long story on Panda’s effect on one company’s struggle since it got Panda-fied: Google’s search new tweaks puts a company at risk

Matt Cutts quote from that  particular story:

“Think about something like an Apple product, when you buy an Apple product you open it up, the box is beautiful, the packaging is beautiful, the entire experience is really wonderful”.

It sounds to me that this particular statement is really just another way of saying “huge amounts of duplicated or bad content on your site can impact the whole domain”.

Reversing the Effects of  the Panda update

Tom Critchlow had this exchange of words with Matt Cutts on Twitter:

@mattcutts assuming a site completely reworks their site/content after panda, how long before they will regain traffic?less than a minute ago via web  Favorite  Retweet  Reply

@tomcritchlow short version is that it’s not data that’s updated daily right now. More like when we re-run the algorithms to regen the data.less than a minute ago via web  Favorite  Retweet  Reply

Moral of this story: Do not expect rankings to come right back after making changes. This is a quite frustrating because webmasters cannot make a change, wait to see if the change actually “worked”, then try something else. It also might explain why there has been so few reports of websites regaining their traffic.

A 3rd Panda Spotted?

Some rumors picked up in early May that a 3rd Panda update may have gone live. Users were reporting wild fluctuations in their rankings and other weird things in the Google cache and site search commands. Considering what Matt Cutts said above, it  actually makes more sense for Panda updates to hit suddenly and all at once, rather than over a longer period of time. Some sources are reporting that their exact match domains took a hit.

So our current Panda timeline now reads:

  1. Feb 24th, 2011: New Panda rollout on Google.com searches
  2. April 11th, 2011: New Panda rollout to all English speaking Google sites. Additional tweaks made to original algorithm
  3. May 3-6th, 2011: Mabe a Third Panda update?

Have you seen any drastic traffic changes during this time frame? Have any of your websites recovered from initially being Panda-fied?