Changes That Hurt SEO Rankings
In this article, you will learn 12 ways that changes to your offline and online presence can hurt your search engine rankings. The education you gain from this content will help you make better decisions about how to optimize your website and what actions you need to take right now.
Before You Make Any Online Changes
Stop, take a breath, and ask yourself, how will these changes affect my search engine rankings? This is easier said than done. Being a business owner means we focus much of our time on putting out fires and making real-time decisions. It may be better that you hire a local SEO agency if you feel like SEO will never be a top of mind concern.
Whether you decide to handle it yourself or hire an agency that offers SEO services, it is important that you understand how changes to your business and website affect your SEO ranking.
Changing Your Physical Location
You may not think that changing your company address affects your search ranking, but it is an undeniable truth. Any type of internet confusion that is inconsistent will negatively affect the traffic your website receives. Not updating your address will affect your appearance in the search engines.
Here are a few examples:
Having a customer drive to an incorrect address is a good way to lose their business. The search engines inside of Apple and Google Maps give customers the opportunity to leave a review and offer feedback. Someone who drives to the wrong location has a statistically higher chance of leaving you a negative review or reporting the issue to Google.
Both issues are bad for your maps and directory listing SEO.
Your Google Business Listing is one of the best ways to get ahead of national brands. But if you have the wrong address, then you might as well raise the white flag. Competition is hard enough. Don’t let the search engine lower your position because customers never reach your location and recommend your business.
Discontinuing a Product or Service
Nothing lives forever, but before you discontinue a product or service, you need to consider the SEO impact. You will inevitably experience a drop in rankings if you discontinued a product or service without taking the necessary SEO steps. The fish tacos that your business used to offer will continue to live online and can confuse both potential customers and the search engines.
It is important that you create an organic search strategy, whether or not you decide to keep your product.
Changing Your Domain Name
Here is a common problem and one that I foolishly experienced in my younger entrepreneur years. A domain name change may happen if a business hopes to reinvent themselves or a company is acquired. Changing the domain without creating the proper redirects and link outreach will cause a catastrophic drop in rankings.
A brand refresh is a good idea, but careful consideration of how it affects your search ranking needs to be a top concern.
Letting Your SSL Expire
There are some very reputable companies that forget this simple requirement for SEO. The cost of a SSL was hundreds of dollars when I started building online websites in 2006. Now, it is free with almost every hosting plan. While the quality of the SSL may be different, simply having one on your website signals to Google that this is a website they can trust.
Your website suffers when you don’t have Google’s trust. Not paying attention to your SSL can and will affect your organic search result.
Having Your Website Redesigned
Hiring a website designer does not mean they understand SEO. In fact, even website developers have a hard time understanding the technical SEO requirements needed to make a website rank in the search engines. Here are a few of the issues you may experience when hiring a website designer.
Many times we find that web designers change a websites URL Structure. This means that the links that people click in the search engine will take them to your old URL. Bad news for your immediate and long term SEO efforts. Not only will you lose immediate traffic, but search engines will pick up on this trend and lower your ranking.
Images have a major impact on SEO. A website owner who hires a designer for their graphic design ability may see a drop in SEO for three reasons.
Page Speed: Your website load time will slow down significantly if they do not optimize your images to be the smallest size possible without affecting its visual display. Additionally, designers may use long loading forms of text and imagery that make the website “pop.”
Meta Description: If SEO was involved in your original website design, the original images include a meta title and description. A new designer will often change out the images on a web page and be unaware of how that affects Google image search. Almost every image on your website should include a proper title along with a meta description to positively affect your ranking factor.
Theme Changes: A quick way to change your website look and feel is to change the theme. But changing a theme can change the URL structure, add unnecessary pages, and create other issues that impact your SEO. Whenever changing your theme, it should be done on a test site in a staging environment.
Website Plugins: These can be a blessing and a curse. Plugins solve problems for a fraction of what it would cost to hire a custom programmer. Unfortunately, they can also reduce your website speed. Website Developers who do not know SEO may use plugins in order to reduce their costs or give themselves the “appearance” of having more talent than they do.
Choosing Cheap Hosting
While even the most expensive hosting plan pales compared to the least expensive commercial rent, business owners will still look to cheaper hosting in order to cut costs. These lower cost plans exceed the maximum occupancy of clients inside of a shared hosting plan. What happens when this occurs is that your website slows down.
Your website feels the impact anytime one of those other websites has an issue or is making major changes. While you should never spend more than the value you receive, going to cheaper hosting is probably not the right option for your business.
Not Paying Attention to Online Reviews
Reputation management is a critical component of local SEO. Having your most recent review go from a 5 star to a 2 star is a fast way to reduce your click thru rate. A lowered click thru rate signals to Google’s algorithm that you’re a less authoritative company than you once were and then reduces your ranking.
As important as reputation management is, some business owners see it as yet another burden they must bear. If you have the time then check out this article about leveraging the Google My Business App for review management.
If review management isn’t something you can prioritize then I’ve got good news for you. You can affordably outsource reputation management to a SEO expert who will provide keyword rich results for reviews and remove the emotional response when customers leave a poor review.
Adding Thin Content Pages
More is not always better, and with pages on your website, this is especially true. It may seem like a good idea to add category, service, and product pages, but unless they include keyword rich content, they negatively affect your search rankings. Often, an SEO agency’s first job is to redirect and remove the excessive amount of pages on a website.
Not only is this important for prioritizing your most important pages, but it gives those important pages a better chance of being crawled by the search engines. In case you are unaware, Google, Bing, and other search engines have a limited amount of crawl space. All websites fight the war of having their pages indexed and having unnecessary pages on your website is a fast way to suffer defeat.
But before you go deleting pages from your website, please read the next change that hurts SEO rankings.
Deleting Pages From Your Website
Just because you delete a page from your website doesn’t mean that they delete it from Google search. As we mentioned in the URL structure section, there is a right way to delete pages from your website.
First, make sure the page isn’t ranking well for any keywords that are driving traffic to your website. It may be more important to change the intent of the page and see it as a benefit rather than a hindrance. If the content needs to be removed, then it needs to be done by creating a redirect to another page. Or you need to make the search engines aware of the change through platforms such as Google Search Console.
Buying Bad Backlinks
In every industry, there are companies that offer poor solutions to a problem. While link building is a necessary step for increasing one’s search engine ranking, there is a right way to do it. Don’t fall for the gray and black hat tactics, such link farms that put links in irrelevant and highly skeptical locations. Even the new version of this called web 2.0 links will eventually bring about penalties from the search authorities.
Use the right backlink strategy for long term search engine optimization. Links from social media, directory listings, guest posts, and organic sources are all good for your SEO, but we must do them in a way that represents “good business.”
Adding Plagiarized Content
Stealing content that exists online is a great way to have Professor Google to fail you in the search engines. This may seem obvious, but as a business owner, you may not be aware of where the content on your website comes from. Unfortunately, being ignorant is not an excuse and you need to address any “stolen” content that exists on your site.
You need to provide a written explanation on each page for why copied content is being published. When you have permission to publish such is the case with syndicated articles and e-commerce product pages, a mention is required.
Oh, and with spun content through AI writing software, Google has already stated that they don’t like it. You can expect for this type of content to be penalized as their algorithm continues to improve.
Creating Duplicate Content
Content cannibalizing is common among enterprise organizations, but it is still an issue that small to midsize businesses face. Sometimes you may have a service page that is nearly identical to an article about that service. Or, perhaps you unknowingly create a second article that is nearly the same as one you published two years ago.
Duplicate content confuses the search algorithm about what is the most important. Make sure you carefully review what exists on your website before you publish a new product, service, or article on your website.
How to Protect Your SEO Rankings
It is best to hire an SEO agency unless you want to spend 20-hours per week protecting and improving your SEO. Not only will a SEO company take this off of your plate, but they provide insights that can scale your business into your business that you would not otherwise have.
805 SEO is an agency with 20-years of small business experience. While we are a company that helps local businesses increase their sales through search engine optimization, we feel that our service offers so much more than clicks and conversions. Fill out the form below to receive a free website audit and strategy call from an 805 SEO expert.