3 Marketing Efforts That Can Cause SEO Problems

Posted by on January 20, 2011 in Business Start Up Advice [ 1 Comment ]

A website can be a really powerful marketing tool, helping to increase your brand awareness and increase sales. The problem with a website is everyone in marketing has an opinion about how a website should look, function, and complement offline marketing campaigns but rarely does everyone have the online marketing experience to make the efforts successful. Offline marketing decisions like rebranding can have a significant impact on a company’s web presence, as can initiatives like a poorly done redesign.

Changing domains frequently
Some companies will change their domain name to match a marketing campaign or as part of a rebranding effort. The problem with this is that when changing domains, all the link value associated with the previous domain can be lost. Using a brand new domain means the value of the brand, on the web, is effectively reset to zero.

If a company can’t be persuaded to keep the current domain and switches to a new domain, it is really important to implement a 301 (permanent) redirect from the old domain to the new domain. A common mistake when this 301 is implemented is to redirect all pages on the old domain to the new domain. Best practices (for both search engines and usability) dictates that the 301 should be done at a page level, matching the old page to the equivalent page on the new site.

Using a 301 helps transfer link value (#4) from one domain to the other, as well as the old page to the new page. While there is no guarantee that this will pass any value, 301’s typically pass about 90% of their value. Here is a really helpful resource on How to create 301 redirects.

Targeting Only Branded Keywords
One mistake that many companies make is only targeting branded keywords. There are a couple issues with only targeting branded keywords. The first issue is brand awareness. If only branded terms are targeted, then there will be very limited growth in online brand awareness. Typically, it is pretty easy to target both branded and non-branded keywords.

A great example of targeting branded and non-branded keywords is Apple’s iPod.

Looking at the page title for the iPod page (since page titles are a strong on page ranking factor):

Page Title: Apple: Play music and more on iPod
URL: http://www.apple.com/ipod/

They are targeting the phrase “play music” in addition to the branded term “iPod”. By targeting potential customers who aren’t looking for an Apple product, they introduce their product as a solution for the user’s problem.

For most companies, though the Apple iPod is a clear exception, non-branded terms have a significantly higher search volume. Targeting non-branded terms can bring in significantly more traffic for this reason as well. The data below looks at the search volume for the terms “cell phone” and “Verizon Wireless”; there are about 3.5 Million more searches for “cell phone” than “Verizon Wireless” each month.

For doing keyword research, check out Google’s Adwords Keyword Research Tool

Leaving Redesign Remnants
A redesign can be really helpful to better communicate a value proposition or a marketing initiative but can be really dangerous for your SEO. When doing a redesign, it is important to keep the URLs the same. The reason for this is there is value associated with each URL; creating a new URL for the same content means all the link value associated with the content is lost. If the URLs must be changed, use a 301, as discussed above.

A mistake commonly made by many design agencies, as most design agencies have a poor grasp of SEO, is to change URL’s and not redirect them. In addition to losing all of the link value associated with the URL, this is really bad for the usability of the website. User’s may have visited the site and bookmarked a page; when they use the bookmark to return to the site, they are presented with a 404 error. The same result happens if search engines haven’t revisited the page (to discover it is a 404 error) but still send traffic to it. Users are immediately presented with a 404 page, which can have a negative effect on the perception of a brand.

Geoff Kenyon is an SEO consultant and founded Lighthouse Santa Barbara SEO. To read more from him, please read the Distilled and SEOmoz blogs.

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