There have been some great SEO questions in the forums in recent months, so I wanted to pop in to chat about on-site changes and their impact on rankings. This post is going to a little bit “inside baseball,” but it should be interesting for the SEO enthusiasts in the audience.
On both small-scale tests and sitewide changes, the SEO team monitors both organic search traffic and average search rank across a sample set of communities. Our changes to the title tag on 12/10 concerned some in the forums, so I wanted to check back in with some results.
Changes to on-page elements take a while to index (particularly on a site as large as Wikia!), so it is important to monitor organic traffic and rankings for 6-8 weeks before drawing conclusions. Both Google Search Console (formerly called Webmaster Tools) and our third-party ranking software indicate either a small lift or no impact across sample communities. Communities that had additonal keywords in their titles before the change gained an average of .5-1 positions in the 2 months after the update.
Ducksoup kept me in the loop regarding this thread, so I was sure to track those communities that had specific concerns about the impact of updated titles on their rankings. Screenshots below come from Google Search Console.
In the wake of a sidewide change that has SEO implications, it is tempting to comb through individual SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) in search of gains and losses. The issue with this approach is that search results are in a constant state of flux; movement by a position or more is expected and not cause for alarm. (Mozcast, SERPmetrics, and other tools are available to check the turbulence of search across a broad sample of sites.)
If you are concerned about the performance of a single article (or a small group of articles), you can try a few things:
- Build each article around a single topic and choose a name that reflects that topic; be sure the title is not a duplicate (e.g. space vs. hyphen; caps vs. camel case) of another article.
- Prioritize the use of natural language. Use synonyms and grammatical variations throughout an article, but not in the same sentence or paragraph. The goal is to cut down on repetition and create a broader range of possible ranking signals without keyword stuffing.
- Send relevant internal links to articles from related articles, categories, and galleries and/or feature it on the main page, but avoid sending multiple links to the same page within the body of a single article.
- Search for questions people are currently asking about this topic and include answers in your content. Feel free to state the question in the article, but it is not needed.
- Check photos and videos to be sure each has a descriptive file name (spiderman_slinging_webs.jpg is more meaningful to search bots than img012.jpg).
These steps do not guarantee a first position spot in search but can set our most important pages up for success.
I love to get into the details about search rankings, so please feel free to ask questions here or on my Message Wall.