SEO subtraction equals addition

A lot of the work we do here results in a gradual increase in rankings, not an overnight improvement, and that’s frustrating to a lot of clients. The delay is the result of having to wait for Google to catch up with the work we’ve done each session. With a lot of the work we do, it’s more of a long-term plan instead of a one-off improvement, and that’s what gives a gradual, cumulative effect.

One client came to us in May after a giant drop in traffic. We found that it was due to a plugin they’d installed that overwrote the robots.txt file. We fixed that obvious problem but then found that something in the site had spawned over 52,000 site URLs in the sitemap. Not good. The site should have only had around 6,700 pages. The reason for these extra URLs was that some WordPress themes would add a new URL every time you add an image to the site. This site was allowing Google to come in and crawl every one of those thousands of bad pages. Google, of course, viewed them as bad pages because they were just an image without any information, so each of them was dragging down the site’s rankings just a little bit more.

We used Yoast to fix this problem. Obviously it can’t all be done in one day, but we’ve set it to automatically remove around 1,000 bad pages each day. It’s taking a while for Google to catch up, which is why improvement is slow, but it’s already gone up by around 10%. And on a site of that size, it adds up to more than 1.5 million unique impressions over the course of a year. Not too shabby!

We want the growth to improve but it’s important not to change things while this process is working. Working on some other aspect of the site’s SEO might only complicate things and can actually slow the growth we’re trying to improve. It might take more time but gradual improvement is the smarter way to go.

For more information, visit the StewArt Media website.

Jim Stewart is a leading expert in search engine optimisation. His business StewArt Media has worked with clients including Mars, M2 and the City of Melbourne.

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