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Tales of an SEO Detective By Christine Smith

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From the SMX Advanced Conference in Seattle, Washington, June 2-3, 2015. SESSION: The Latest In Advanced Technical SEO. PRESENTATION: Tales of an SEO Detective - Given by Christine Smith, @websmithc - IBM, IBM Search Marketing Technical Lead. #SMX #21A

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Tales of an SEO Detective By Christine Smith

  1. 1. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc Christine Smith IBM Search Marketing Technical Lead TALES OF AN SEO DETECTIVE
  2. 2. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc Case #1: Thousands of Missing Pages Why were thousands of support pages missing from Google SERPs?
  3. 3. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc §  >1M technical documents §  Self-support for server and software admins §  Searchable by error codes, etc. IBM’s self-support site http://www-01.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?uid=swg21363866
  4. 4. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc §  Normal traffic §  1.77M Google referrals per month November 2013 December 2013 §  Traffic dropping §  1.35M Google referrals per month §  Down 24% in one month!
  5. 5. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc Google monthly referrals dropped 28% by April 2014
  6. 6. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc Thousands of pages missing from SERPs!
  7. 7. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc §  30 example URLs missing from SERPs §  The following were ok: ü Pages displayed correctly ü Redirects were working normally ü Canonical URLs were correct ü Robots.txt was not blocking anything Assigned to the “case” in April 2014
  8. 8. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc §  Only 10% of Sitemap URLs were indexed §  Regenerated sitemaps ü Corrected URLs to match canonical URLs ü Improved to 60% of Sitemap URLs indexed ü  Today, 88% are indexed §  But, still no Google referral improvement Sitemaps?
  9. 9. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc §  Opened Google Site Search support ticket §  Google findings: §  A sampling of the 30 URLs were: 1.  Marked as a duplicates of the Support Registration page and 2.  Last crawled Nov 2013 Engaged Google: April-May 2014
  10. 10. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc §  According to Google engineers: §  No way to get a list of all URLs marked as duplicates of the support registration page §  Panda 4.0 and Data Refresh – May 19 May 2014 – Google
  11. 11. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc §  Submitted a Manual Actions Reconsideration Request through GWT §  Some technical docs were incorrectly flagged §  Requested increased crawl rate for the domain §  Hoping the pages would be revisited May 2014 – IBM actions
  12. 12. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc Google referrals increased 22% May to June 2014
  13. 13. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc §  Traffic bounced back.. Almost overnight. §  GSS ticket was closed, but not resolved §  Was it.. Ø Increase crawl rate? Ø Better sitemaps? Ø Panda and data refresh? Ø Normal re-crawl of the pages? What was the fix?
  14. 14. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc §  Likely culprit: §  Faulty redirect or §  A bad site maintenance redirect §  Typical “outage” responses (not recommended): §  500 or 504 HTTP response §  Or 302 redirect to a maintenance page Postmortem: What was the cause?
  15. 15. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc §  Right way to indicate site maintenance: ü Give a 503 Service Unavailable HTTP response! ü Retry-after time in the header helpful §  Tells Google to come back later. §  Do not set all 5xx responses to 503 §  Google will ignore and assume site is down Lesson Learned
  16. 16. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc §  Some web platforms automatically give 503 HTTP response during an upgrade §  e.g. Wordpress §  Others require workarounds, like §  Apache, IHS (IBM), IIS (Microsoft) rewrite rules §  Akamai logic §  Details in backup slides for server admins! How to indicate site maintenance
  17. 17. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc Case #2: Missing Link Credit Why was there no internal link credit from my landing page?
  18. 18. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc §  http://www.ibm.com/ smarterplanet/us/en/ §  Started a new “card” system §  But, the links on the cards gave no internal link credit No credit for landing page links?
  19. 19. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc §  Robots.txt disallowed the JavaScript directory that rendered the cards ü Once unblocked, Google gave internal link credit §  Caution: Some search engines (e.g. Baidu and Yandex) do not support JS content! The culprit?
  20. 20. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc Case #3: Mistaken URL Identity Why were my articles not showing up in search?
  21. 21. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc §  Smarter Risk Journal site moved existing content to a new dynamic platform §  Articles were recreated and republished §  https://www.ibm.com/web/portal/iris/smarter-risk/ Smarter-Risk-Journal Smarter Risk Journal moved
  22. 22. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc §  Problem: §  The logic that created the canonical URLs was flawed: §  Same URL as landing page §  Effectively indicated that all articles were duplicates of the Smarter Risk Journal landing page… and deindexed by Google. Journal articles were missing from SERPs
  23. 23. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc §  The Fix: ü  Correct the logic of the canonical URL code to match the specific page URL ü  Take special care with encoded characters §  Test canonical URLs by pasting into a browser §  Encoded characters could give errors §  e.g. replace a “%20” with a “+” for spaces Journal articles were missing from SERPs
  24. 24. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc Advice
  25. 25. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc ü Always double check ü  Canonical URLs ü  Robots.txt ü  Redirects ü Verify sitemaps ü Use 503 Service Unavailable HTTP responses during site maintenance Lessons Learned
  26. 26. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc THANK YOU! Join us @SMX East NEW YORK CITY Sept. 29th – Oct. 1st 2015
  27. 27. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc Configuring 503 HTTP response Backup slides
  28. 28. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc §  Apache: §  https://gist.github.com/jjulian/1889874 §  IBM HTTP Server (IHS): §  http://www.ibm.com/support/docview.wss? uid=swg21397422 §  Microsoft IIS: §  http://serverfault.com/questions/483145/how-to-add-a- site-wide-downtime-error-message-in-iis-with-a- custom-503-error-co Web Server Rewrite Rules for 503 Response
  29. 29. #SMX #XXa @SpeakerName#SMX #21A Christine Smith @websmithc Akamai flow for 503 HTTP response

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