The experiment – What happens if you rename your entire website, i.e. all individual pages? Do you optimize better pieces or directly everything? And, while we’re at it, also all categories, photos and internal links. Oh yes, for the German and the English language site. Worst case? No way! We dared the experiment. With one of the strongest sites in your industry. With our client we tested search engines and their indexing behavior, live. A total of 641 of 857 dt-language, indexed pages were renamed, as well as all contribution categories (system: WordPress) and the entire internal linking. The exciting finding, nothing. On the contrary, instead of the much-vaunted reach losses, we even had an increase in success of over 28%!
German language company website – change to English language with simultaneous SEO structure measures: Pros & Cons
Why? The better the structure of a page, the higher it ranks in search engines. Accordingly, it makes sense to optimize your page. In the case study we have a German company, whose .com domain is maintained on German content. By using ?lang=en or language indicators, we first carefully converted the German-language site to a multilingual system, i.e. multilingualism. The conversion would therefore require rebuilding measures. This could be used to redesign much more at the same time. This would result in a restructuring only once, instead of in single steps. On the other hand, the amount of changes is much larger, i.e. the danger of slipping in the search results is more real – does that make sense?
Why not? Google punishes you immediately! Really!? First, of course, I have sought the conversation with friendly entrepreneurs. Many assume almost automatically that search engines, here in sepziellen Google, will punish large structural changes. But I always think, we are Marko Polo. We are the first generation to grow up with the internet – we understand the system. So why, should a search engine, abstract meaningful structural work to improve findability, usability, and more? I always start from the positive, also here. If we provide Google with even more perfectly structured content, it will show its appreciation.
At this point, I want to emphasize once again that this is not a ‘very hard’ competitive industry, such as e-commerce for fashion or the hotel industry. The example is for entrepreneurs and medium-sized companies, whose market is occupied by big players, but who definitely have chances to reach the top through good work.
Quick & Dirty with system – Between usability and SEO
Let’s take a look at the results. In the case project, we changed about 80% of the existing site as described above. The plan of our advertising agency was to implement the complete measures over Easter. In the weeks and months before, all texts had already been translated into English and entered into the system (WordPress). So we assumed a very strong German-language site (many page 1 placements for crucial keywords of the industry), as well as a starting English system.
In the first step we had to prepare the upcoming internationalization of the company in the concrete project. At the beginning we had all pages in a separately selectable folder /en/. The German system was in the root, so it was directly accessible. To prepare the site for the internationalization, we first changed all pages to lang-tags. This makes it clear to search engines which language version each page is in.
- Example from www.example.com/en/company
- At www.example.com/company?lang=en
In the following all categories and keywords were changed as well. Should you also use WordPress as the basis for your company site, I recommend WPML – The Multilingual Plugin for WordPress. WPML allows you to run and manage complete multilingual websites with WordPress. A super tool for online marketing. You can find detailed articles on my blog! Here you can find more information about WPML.
Day 2 – Page Renaming for SEO – If Already, Then Already
Instead of one small change, we aimed to change everything in one big stroke. If you say A, you have to say B. So we set out to change the page structure. Parent pages and child pages. Overviews, lists and posts. Almost every URL had to be renamed. This changes not only individual pages, but also the internal linking. Ie. everything. Day two and parts of day three consisted solely of finding a more and more coherent system in the work.
- 641 / 857 renamed
- All categories have been renamed
- Pages + categories were newly ordered
Day 3 – 689 crawling errors in our Google Webmaster Tools
Day three consisted largely of finalizing the conversion measures and minimizing 404 errors. Digression: 404 errors occur when pages are linked but cannot be called up by the user. To prevent this from happening, we have two tasks: The internal linking must be correct (that is, links within the texts must point to existing pages) and we link the error pages to new, working ones. This makes the changeover much smoother, also for the search engine provider.
- Check internal page linking, update links if necessary
- 404 error minimization, redirection for outbound links
For redirections there are several possibilities, a very simple one, even for personal use, is the WordPress plugin Quick Page/Post Redirect. But there are really countless, simple redirection plugins. My favorite plugin is currently SEO Redirection by Fakhri Alsadi. Here you can track 404 links, very handy. So funktionierts (also with all others):
Day 4 – Out of order, out of the index for now!?
Now it’s getting exciting. Google’s webmaster tools provide no new data for the first time, for three long days. During this time, we delve into the optimization of sidebar, footer, menu and design or usability. Now we have to wait and see.
Quick & Dirty with success – 28% increase in rankings (search result ads) plus page impression & clicks
The plan to change everything in a few days was a complete success. Not only did we take advantage of the quiet holidays, we also minimized the negative effects so that only a few days later the first indexing data came. The result is impressive: 28% increase in positioning! No losses after day three. In addition, the project is now better positioned than ever before. No page 1 positioning was lost, no significant position was lost. We even achieved an increase for essential keywords. Wow.
It was worth it, the spring cleaning and rebuilding was a complete success. For the company, for the user (who now finds content better and faster) and for the search engine (which can better access content).