When Years of Search Engine Optimization is Wiped Out By a Low Cost Website Update

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Your good friend’s nephew that is an “IT Wiz.”

The offshore provider with fast turnaround.

The local consultant with “connections.”

The “on the side” or “freelance gig” guy. 

Your recruiter that has “built a site before.”

There is certainly no shortage of places you can go to get an inexpensive website created. Whether it’s described as “affordable,” “inexpensive,” “cheap,” “cost-effective,” “fast turnaround,” … all these terms are relative.

When building a new website or investing in online marketing, the “cheap” or “inexpensive” option could end up costing you dearly.

The Mistake That Wiped Out 3+ Years of Hard Work

About a week ago, I received a call from a business owner that I have known and respected for the last decade.  He said, “Brad, you’re the first person I thought of—I really need your help. We launched a new website, and it looks good, but my leads have completely disappeared.”

This particular company is a recruitment agency that focuses on a very specific, niche segment of the IT industry.  They are great at what they do, highly respected specialists, and well-known in the space. So, I was surprised to hear that leads just dried up completely.

Then I looked at their website traffic history:

Like any business, there will be some ups and downs in website and search traffic. But take a look at the dramatic shift that happened in late May/early June in the chart above.

Then I took a deeper look at the keywords they were ranking well for in Organic Search:

Notice anything here? Yep, their search results and keyword rankings took a nosedive. They have all but disappeared from search engine results.  It’s almost as if the business shuttered the doors and windows and disappeared.

The New Website Wiped Out All Keyword Rankings

While the new website “looks” fairly nice, some critical mistakes were made with the implementation, launch, and roll-out that cost this company dearly.  Here are a few:

  1. URLs were changed.
    During the consulting process, the new marketing/website consultant suggested streamlining copy, content, and changing the URL structure of the website. The site performed well in the past but basing decisions on gut instead of empirical data is a mistake.
  2. No redirects were created.
    On top of removing pages that were getting traffic and conversions, the website developer/consultant didn’t set up any redirects. When changing URLs of a site that is getting good search engine traffic, you should setup redirects that point the links from the old website pages (that received a TON of traffic) to the appropriate page on the new site. This wasn’t done, and the result was 100+ pages that returned a “No page found” result.
  3. Services were consolidated, and pages were removed.
    Several key specialty services pages were removed. Each of these service pages ranked highly for a specific service offering the company provided. By removing these pages, Google no longer recognizes them as specialists in these areas. So, they were removed from the top of search results, and their direct competitors received a nice promotion!
  4. Older articles and blog posts were deemed “unnecessary” by their consultant.
    This company had spent 3+ years investing in good quality, original content creation. They had hundreds of articles on their site that grew in popularity and helped in keyword ranking over time. By creating original content on a specific topic or service, you gain trust and visibility online, and in turn, earn higher rankings for target search terms.

    If we look at the chart below, it shows the total number of different keywords they ranked well for. From 2018 until June 2021, they were very aggressive in content creation, and you can see the impact. The total keywords they ranked well for continued to climb and took a huge leap from 2019-2021:

A quick look at Google Analytics showed me that several articles written in 2019 had earned extremely high search engine rankings (SEO is a process that takes time). This great content was driving over 20k visits to their website – in a very specific niche industry.

Then, you can see what happens in the chart above in early June 2021 – all of those keyword rankings (and traffic) just disappear.  This was the result of the new website developer/consultant not looking at data and making the decision that this “old” content wasn’t needed on the new site.

Our SEO Recovery Solution Yields Immediate Results

I’m not sharing this story to shame anyone, but instead I want to educate people on the importance of working with the right vendors and consultants.  My hope is that I never have to field a call like this again from a company that had their online traffic and business turned upside down.

To help with this company, here’s the solution we developed:

  1. Analyze Traffic Data From 2+ Years
    I went back through to determine what pages and content were influential and highly ranked by search engines. I pulled a detailed Excel spreadsheet that ranked the top several hundred pages. This included both service/specialty content and blog articles.
  2. Recapture the Low-Hanging Fruit
    To have an immediate impact, we focused on the top 10-20 pages first. These were the pages that accounted for 50% of the traffic. Luckily, we were able to pull an archive of this content from the old site and add it back into the new site.
  3. Set Up Redirects
    Once this old, top-performing content was added back to the website, redirects were created to point the old URLs to the new location of this content on the new site.
  4. Systematically Adding Older Content Back Into the Site
    After those top 20 pages were accounted for, the plan is to go back and do the same thing for the other content that had earned a good ranking and secured traffic.
  5. Resubmitting Content To Be Indexed
    In Google Search Console, content is being resubmitted, and we are asking for a forced reindex to speed up the recovery.

The Results:

By implementing these changes as quickly as possible, the results after only two days were extremely impressive:

While there is still considerable work ahead to regain ALL of the lost search visibility and traffic, we could isolate the core issue and recover a good portion immediately.  But had they waited much longer to address this situation, it would have been harder and harder to regain this traffic.

Moving forward, we are looking at an ongoing SEO/Content plan to identify competitive opportunities within search results, write extremely focused content around desired keywords, and further solidify the company at the top of search results.

Looking to drive SEO and search rankings for your company? Interested in a new website?

The expert team at Haley Marketing can help. We have seasoned SEO and website development specialists to ensure you don’t run into the same issues we outlined above. With ongoing content creation and SEO services, we can help you dominate search results and drive more inbound leads.  Contact us today!

 

 

 

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