As an SEO consultant, I am asked interesting questions, which gives me insight into how others understand and perceive SEO. It also helps me to guide and educate clients on how site changes can affect search visibility.
Unfortunately, sometimes as an SEO consultant, I am not asked questions or brought into site projects that can significantly impact SEO performance. This lack of communication can lead to missed opportunities for optimization and hinder the overall success of the website.
Collaboration between SEOs, marketing departments, developers, and beyond can ensure that the website development aligns with SEO best practices.
External consultants can be expensive and you certainly want to use your time and resources wisely. Today, I want to shed light on how to bridge the communication gap and ensure that SEO consultants are integral partners in the decision-making process. By doing so, we can discuss how to make the most of your time with your SEO and identify the specific site changes that warrant our expertise.
Table of Contents
What parts of the website can affect SEO?
The answer: a lot. The outcome of an SEO strategy is what propels a website to the top of search results. This outcome is a collection of on-page and off-page signals that search engine algorithms use to read, understand, and rank a URL.
On-page signals encompass various elements such as content quality and relevance, title tags and meta descriptions, keyword targeting, site architecture, internal linking, image optimization, page load speed, and more.
Off-page signals, on the other hand, include factors like backlinks, domain authority, social signals, brand mentions, and more.
Your website serves as the central hub of your brand and business. To maximize the efforts you’ve invested in creating a product or service, it’s essential to adhere to best search practices. This ensures that those who may not be familiar with your brand yet can discover you seamlessly along their customer journey.
9 Key Moments When to Consult Your SEO Expert
Now let’s get to the heart of the matter.
Below I will share 9 crucial site changes that your SEO can help with for seamless implementation and minimal reduction to site visibility. If you like your SEO, then give them ample to gather data and assess potential risks and opportunities before any changes.
Within each crucial site change discussed, we delve into how improper implementation can detrimentally impact a site’s search visibility. As seasoned SEO experts, we also provide recommendations on the necessary steps to guarantee a smooth and successful transition during these changes.
1. URL Changes, Redirects, and Removals
Developers and SEOs share an overlap in language in tasks but are two different types of specialists. It isn’t a developer’s job to understand how site changes affect site visibility, even if they are fully capable of executing URL changes.
How can it affect SEO?
- Loss of page authority – without a proper redirect, the original page’s authority (built through backlinks and organic traffic) will not transfer to the new page.
- Poor user experience – if internal links are not updated following a URL change, users may encounter 404s which can negatively affect rankings.
- Loss of organic traffic – without a proper redirect, users may not be able to find the original page and the decrease in traffic will signal to search engines that it may no longer be relevant.
- Chained redirects – If redirects are done ad hoc without monitoring they can result in redirect chains which is a redirect into a redirect into a redirect, and so forth. This can reduce load speed, dilute link equity, and offer poor user experience.
- Weaken internal link structure – removing key URLs that are part of a website’s main navigation can disrupt the flow and distribution of page authority which results in a loss of rankings and traffic.
If you are making any changes to URL structure, removing URLs, or setting up redirects then your SEO will most likely want to know. They can also further help by providing redirect mapping to ensure that URLs will not lose their “SEO Value” or check for internal links to get ahead of potential 404s.
2. Modifying Content from Optimized or Top-Ranking Pages
While content modifications and updates are generally favorable, both Google and users appreciate fresh content. However, caution is advised when tweaking content on a page that is meticulously optimized for search, as such adjustments can have adverse effects on SEO.
“It’s important to monitor and analyse your content on a regular basis. Keyword rankings and search behaviour can transform pretty quickly. A keyword might lose relevance for your business as the intent behind it might have changed or maybe even your product. New updates to the Google algorithm might force you to adapt a different approach to SEO and your writing style. Modifying content from optimized or top-ranking pages can be successful, if done right. Do your research, understand your audience and consult a SEO professional when in doubt.”
– Stacie Pahl, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at Beekeeper.
How can it affect SEO?
- Shift in relevance – revising the on-page content of a high-performing URL can cause it to lose relevance for the target keyword. While it may gain rankings for different keywords, they could be less valuable or more competitive.
- Loss of Rich Results – if a URL has earned a featured snippet, changes to the snippet content may cause the page to lose it..
- Change in user behavior metrics – heavily modifying content for top-performing pages can result in users reacting differently than before. If their actions are negative, this can result in a drop in rankings.
If making modifications to an About Us page or Careers page, you probably don’t need to consult your SEO. If adjusting pages such as top-performing blog posts or product pages that are optimized for search, then at least notifying your SEO will help reduce any loss to rankings.
3. Site, Platform, and Hosting Migrations
No site migration should happen without an SEO. Regardless of the scale or type of migration. The intricacies involved in transferring a website from one domain to another, or undergoing structural changes, demand a comprehensive understanding of search engine optimization principles. An SEO not only ensures that the migration process goes smoothly but also safeguards the hard-earned search visibility and rankings of your website.
“Working with Flow throughout multiple iterations of our website has been exceptionally easy. Viola’s team were dedicated to learning everything about us, our needs, and our website. It really made the entire process feel like they were right there working alongside us in-house!”
– James Burgess, Content & SEO Lead at Aroflo.
How can these things affect SEO?
- Downtime – if your site experiences extended downtime during the migration process, search engines may temporarily de-index your pages. This can cause a temporary loss of rankings and a drop in traffic.
- Redirect errors – if every URL is not redirected correctly, you may lose ranking and authority those pages have built over time. Secondly, it can result in a rise of 404 pages.
- On-page SEO inconsistencies – when changing platforms, on-page SEO elements such as header tags, meta descriptions, or alt text can be lost in the migration process. This can negatively affect how search engines interpret and rank those pages.
- Indexation issues – if robots.txt or meta robots tags are not configured correctly during migration, it can result in pages not being indexed or duplicate content issues.
SEOs play a crucial role in preserving link equity, minimizing downtime, and effectively communicating changes to search engines. Our expertise extends to overseeing the implementation of redirects, updating canonical tags, and monitoring performance post-migration.
4. Implementing Site Translations
It is only natural as a brand grows and expands into new markets that its site will also need to grow. Creating a multilingual website comes with a whole set of technical challenges that unfortunately are intertwined with SEO. Navigating these challenges requires a strategic approach that not only addresses linguistic and cultural considerations but also ensures the continued optimization and visibility of the site across international audiences.
How can these things affect SEO?
- HREFLANG tag misconfiguration – Hreflang needs to be correctly implemented to let search engines know which language is used on a specific page to serve it to the correct audience. Incorrect implementation can result in a higher bounce rate, poor rankings, and reduced traffic.
- Duplicate content issues – this can be caused by HREFLANG not being correctly implemented and search engines identifying your pages as duplicate content. In this case, search engines struggle to choose which page to rank and can incorrectly canonicalize them.
- Poor quality translations – automated translations are not ideal as they are often low-quality and lack local nuance. This can be negatively perceived by native speakers of this language who visit the site.
- URL structure complications – Choosing the right URL structure for your translated content is crucial. Whether you’re using subdomains, subdirectories, or ccTLDs (country-code top-level domains), each approach has implications for SEO. For instance, using a subdirectory (e.g., “example.com/fr/”) can consolidate domain authority, while using a ccTLD (e.g., “example.fr”) requires building authority for a new domain, which can be time-consuming and challenging.
SEOs play a vital role in shaping the optimal site structure for international SEO and audiences. This involves guidance on implementing proper HREFLANG tags, steering clear of duplicate content issues, and consolidating authority across different language versions. Regardless of the method chosen for translations, it’s crucial to keep your SEO informed about the approach, allowing for effective collaboration in maintaining a seamless and search-friendly international web presence.
5. Removing your SEO plugin
While SEO plugins don’t equal SEO, they often store valuable metadata for URLs which is important for search. This can include the meta description, published and modified date, and title tags. If these plugins are removed or altered significantly it can result in a loss of this data.
How does this affect SEO?
- Loss of metadata – most SEO plugins manage pages’ metadata such as title tags and meta descriptions and removing the plugin can result in a deletion of this information. Title and meta description are often optimized for search engines, loss of this data can cause Google to re-write it for you.
- Loss of structured data – along with managing metadata, most structured data that is implemented on sites today is through an SEO plugin. If it is removed, then also your structured data will be deleted which will result in loss of search visibility.
- XML sitemap issues – SEO plugins can automatically generate XML sitemaps which are critical for search engines to crawl your site. Without an XML sitemap, search engines can begin to de-index pages or be slower to crawl newer content.
- Redirect management – SEO plugins can also manage redirects which is great to manage them within the CMS, but if it is removed, that can also remove those redirects. This will lead to an increase in 404 pages, poor user experience, and loss of page authority and rankings.
- Loss of canonical tags – If your SEO plugin manages canonical tags, removing it could cause these tags to disappear. As a result, search engines might get confused by duplicate content (if your site has multiple pages with similar content), which could negatively impact your rankings.
Consult with your SEO before removing any SEO plugins or making significant changes to them. The loss of this key metadata can negatively impact search visibility and rankings.
6. Adjusting Canonicals
A common issue I encounter is with canonicals, a critical element often adjusted by developers without the marketing department’s awareness. Canonicals play a crucial role in preserving content to prevent duplication, ensuring that search engines understand the primary source of content. This lack of communication can lead to unintended consequences for SEO strategies.
How does this affect SEO?
- Indexation of non-preferred pages – If the canonical tag is inaccurately set to a page you don’t want to be indexed (such as a temporary page, or a test page), search engines might index this non-preferred version. This can then result in the more valuable page experiencing decreased visibility, leading to lower traffic and engagement metrics.
- Risk of duplicate content – if a canonical tag that was addressing duplicate content issues gets removed, it can result in both URLs competing against each other for ranking. This is what is called keyword cannibalization and can dilute your SEO resulting in decreased search visibility.
Let your SEO know before making changes to canonicals. They may be able to present an alternative or the next best steps to ensure no interruptions to search visibility of the URL.
7. Schema Markup
While schema markup can be remarkably easy these days through plugins, you will still want to be mindful of which pages it is implemented and that you have the correct schema per URL. If the correct schema is used on a page it can provide benefits such as rich snippets that provide more real estate on page one, but if not done correctly can result in a penalty from Google.
How can this affect SEO?
- Inaccurate or incomplete data – If your schema markup is incomplete or inaccurate (missing required fields, having mismatched information), it might not generate rich results, or search engines might not consider it for ranking purposes.
- Search penalties – Misleading schema markup can lead to penalties by Google. For instance, marking regular content as a ‘Review’ or providing false information (like incorrect ratings) can result in penalties, including loss of rich snippets or lower rankings.
Consult with your SEO to receive guidance on which schema is the most relevant and appropriate for each page type; they may even be able to provide customized schema tailored to your specific content and goals. By leveraging their expertise, you ensure that your schema implementation aligns seamlessly with your overall SEO strategy, maximizing the potential for enhanced search visibility and user engagement.
8. Adjusting Analytics or GTM
Effective tracking is crucial, and both GA4 and GTM are powerful but tricky tools. These tools often undergo changes by various teams, including marketing, developers, and PPC teams. Collaborative efforts among these teams are crucial to minimizing data disruptions and maintaining data accuracy across departments.
“With any updates of the website, it is a good practice to check that you still have collected correct data.
There are few important things to consider:
–Make sure you have an analytical tag implemented in the code, and it has not been lost during migration.
–Check that you have the correct tracking ID.
–Check for duplicates: after migration it might happen that the tracking is implemented twice via Google Tag Manager and directly using the source code or plugin.
–Update settings of the tags in GTM or events in GA4 to align this with the new website structure. For example, if you use page URL as a variable and URL structure changed, this must be updated in the respective tag or event settings.
–Update GSC connector in GA4 if you migrated from URL structure with www. to without or if you changed the website hostname.
In addition to that I recommend using GTM debugging mode and click through the website and test that you have the data you need — there are no duplication of pageviews, the tracking is not blocked, the tags fire when you want them to fire and send the data in GA4 or another tool.”
– Irina Serdyukovskaya, Web Analytics Consultant.
How can this affect SEO?
- Loss of critical data and insights – if tracking tags or conversions in GA4 are modified incorrectly it can prevent it from collecting data. This, of course, can lead to a loss of accurate data on organic search performance for insights.
- Misinterpretation of user behavior – altering session length can significantly impact site metrics. For example, if a session length is too short, it can influence time on page or bounce rate. These misinterpretations can lead you to make incorrect assumptions about content effectiveness and user intent.
- Conversion confusion – If conversions are adjusted incorrectly in GA4 or GTM this can impact conversion tracking which will negatively influence reporting insights.
- Inaccurate attribution of organic traffic – If referral exclusion lists and UTM parameters aren’t configured correctly, some of your organic traffic could be misattributed as referral or direct traffic. This inaccuracy can under-represent the value of SEO efforts and might lead to decisions that prioritize less effective channels or strategies.
- Cross-domain tracking disruptions – For sites operating across multiple domains or subdomains, adjustments in cross-domain tracking settings can lead to fragmented user journey data.
Full transparency and collaboration need to be established along with a data governance plan. There is such a thing as “too many cooks in the kitchen” when it comes to managing analytics. Awareness is key – if PPC teams request tracking changes, SEO should be informed to share insights on potential impacts. This proactive collaboration ensures precise measurement of efforts across departments and prevents unintended consequences on data accuracy.
9. Changes to Robots.Txt or Sitemap
Consider a website as a museum. The sitemap is your map, guiding search engines to collections (pages) they can explore. Meanwhile, the robots.txt file acts like a vigilant security guard, directing search engines to accessible doors (site sections) and restricting entry to others. Changes to either of these items can significantly affect search visibility.
How can this affect SEO?
- Reduced visibility – an incorrect change to robots.txt can disallow the crawling of certain pages or entire directories. For instance, blocking the “/blog/” directory could result in none of your blog posts appearing in search engine results.
- Wasted crawl budget – If your robots.txt file is overly permissive, allowing search engines to crawl low-value pages (such as internal search results or session IDs), crawlers might waste your site’s crawl budget on these pages instead of more important ones.
- Outdated sitemap – If your sitemap isn’t updated regularly to reflect new, removed, or changed URLs, search engines might waste resources trying to crawl non-existent pages or miss new pages entirely.
- Confusion over redirects or canonicals – If your sitemap includes URLs that are redirected or marked as duplicates via canonical tags, it sends mixed signals to search engines. It’s like telling them, “Here’s a URL for you to index, but actually, we prefer you to index this other URL instead.” This confusion can dilute ranking signals or slow down the update of the new page location in search indexes.
- Sitemap accessibility issues – If you inadvertently remove the sitemap declaration from your robots.txt or move your sitemap without updating the robots.txt reference, search engines might have a harder time discovering and accessing your sitemap.
I have a recurring nightmare of a client’s site getting completely deindexed and would love to live to never see the day. Accidents happen, but if intentional changes are being made to your robots.txt or sitemap, then notifying your SEO beforehand can save a lot of headaches.
Looking for an expert to chime in?
I get it, SEO can be complicated. I’ve outlined crucial site changes that can significantly impact search visibility and provided insights on how to navigate them successfully. Bridging the communication gap between different departments—developers, marketers, and SEO professionals—is essential to unlocking the full SEO potential of your website.
At Flow, we understand the complexities of SEO and we are here to be your trusted partners in navigating these challenges. You deserve to work with an agency that gets you and that has a proven track record of delivering results to software startups. Get in touch to discuss how we can help you elevate your website’s visibility, rankings, and overall success.