In current SEO thinking there is always the question regarding the effectiveness of on-page SEO. Just how important is it? Google discards these meta tags and BING and Yahoo! have been giving them less and less importance. There is a tendency to ignore them which I always believe is wrong. Well, this month I got the chance to find out.
HelpMySEO has been due for a major upgrade for sometime now. Upgrades are a bear. They often introduce unexpected conflicts and there are always some teething problems as database quirks stop systems from running smoothly. All of this has to sorted and for much of this I need to rely on the design and programming teams so simple, it ain’t.
This particular upgrade was made even more problematic by the fact that it necessitated a system-wide upgrade which changed many of the URLs and necessitated the transfer of the site’s content. Transfers can be done through the database by moving tables from one database to another. That’s an ‘easy’ option and in this case it soon became apparent that it would cause more issues than it would solve.
So the only thing left was to manually take each article across from one site to another. Given the fact that HelpMySEO contains over 500 articles with SEO Tips and online marketing advice, each of which may have any number of links to external websites, the task appeared herculean. It was done, thanks to the help of two web editors whose staying power I am now in total awe of.
No On-Page Optimisation
With the site’s content transferred over three days it was left to me, working at a much slower pace to reinstate each page’s meta tags and page description. I have a full day. Apart from commitments outside the site I blog every day, put content in Social Media News, respond to emails, consult with clients, answer requests for interviews with computer magazines and offer assistance with SEO problems. Going through every page in a website with 500+ articles and optimizing it in detail is nightmare.
Making a virtue out of necessity I made the conscious decision to optimize the pages gradually over this month at the rate of maybe ten – fifteen per day and monitor the effect that a total lack of on-page optimisation would have on the site’s visitor numbers.
Bear in mind that Google still indexes the content of each page but what is different now is that not being able to find any meta tags in the keywords it may not be 100% certain as to relevancy in some search queries and, having no description whatsoever on that page it will serve either what it thinks is relevant or nothing at ll on the organic search results pages (SERPs).
In the first few days there was hardly any drop in traffic at all but by the time we got to the middle of the month traffic to the site had more than halved to less than 5,000 per day and the drop continued as the month progressed. This highlights the importance in details. Without on-page SEO there are no descriptions to links, no alt tags for images, no H1 or H2 or H3 headings and certainly no meta tags of any kind.
While the content, relevancy and keyword density are all identical the lack of additional, corroborative details is having an effect on ranking in the search page and it is, additionally, impacting upon human behaviour as far as the Click Through Rate (CTR) is concerned.
Given the fact that Google’s Panda algorithm update is actually counting CTR as one of its metrics in assessing the quality of a site which means that left to its own devices with no action from me, beyond the creation of content, HelpMySEO would continue to spiral down the search engine rankings.
I am now, a little behind my own timetable on bringing the site’s pages up to speed, though, given the exciting life of an SEO, I will use the brief respite over Easter when no phones are ringing and no emails are coming through to actually catch up, which means that come May the site will be performing as well, or higher than it did before the change.
On-page SEO is irritating. Having done all the hard work and created content you are suddenly left with the tiny tasks of putting tags and anchor text and internal links and descriptions. The impression that these do not matter is a totally false one and I hope my very own case actually helps to illustrate that.