Maintaining SEO on Large, Complex Websites

Maintaining SEO on Large, Complex Websites with Omi Sido

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Clearly, the Daily Mail has a lot of content and a lot of new content coming onto the site regularly. So what are the main technical SEO challenges for handling a website like that?

One thing that always come to mind first when talking about large websites is the technology used.
A lot of large websites have different parts of the website built using different technologies that don’t talk to each other. Imagine a large website built using PHP and ASP.Net. For a start, you probably have 2 teams as normally PHP developers are not good at writing ASP.Net code. So whatever SEO improvements you do in the PHP part of your website you have to make sure that the same improvements are done in the ASP.Net part. Explaining to more people means increased risk of mistakes and misunderstandings. Plus things are done differently in PHP and ASP.Net so a true understanding of both languages is a necessity.

The second most significant problem is old platforms. In my experience the bigger the website, the older the platform. For example, let’s look at Tesco. Their website was built 20 years ago. For 20 years they’ve been using the same back-end platform. But 20 years ago there was no ‘digital marketing, SEO and I doubt you can call their platform a CMS. Even for the most insignificant SEO change, there is a need of a developer.

The third most challenging issue when it comes to large websites would be dealing with stakeholders and managers. This may sound strange at first but there is a need for making a case for each and every SEO project regardless of the scale. Large websites usually have many parties involved, so sometimes it is really hard to get work done without making an ROI case for each and every project.
The way get around it is to tell people stories about the importance of new development. One of them is AMP. To convince the Daily Mail management that we need this development we had to connect it to the business objectives.

How important are AMPs for news sites? Do you have any tips for successfully implementing them quickly and effectively?

The Google AMP project is getting a lot of attention recently. In short, Google wants to improve our mobile experience by making pages load faster. Many businesses don’t get it and they think it’s only for news websites. Yes, it’s true news website benefited a lot when they started implementing the AMP technology, but the truth is that there are benefits for all types of websites. eBay is using Google AMP – and you should too as browsing in AMP is the future.

Implementing AMP is in fact very easy. It’s the simplest (stripped down version) of HTML. Every developer knows the basics of HTML and the AMP HTML is exactly that: regular HTML tags with some of them replaced with specific AMP-tags. They are called AMP HTML components and they help common patterns to be implemented in an efficient way.

The real question when implementing AMP pages is how to integrate the AMP idea with the monetization strategy of your business. If your business relies heavily on advertising to generate revenue you should carefully consider whether to implement AMP until the standard catches up to your needs or suitable alternatives are identified.

One tip when implementing AMP pages on your website would be to make sure the code is 100% correct. Either using the Chrome extension (called AMP Validator) or the Browser Developer Console make sure your AMP pages validates with no errors. In my experience, even minor errors in the HTML code will exclude your pages from the AMP SERPs.

The same topics/people appear regularly in the news, how do you ensure the most relevant/recent content ranks in organic results?

We have started creating the so-called Hub/Topic Pages. Internal linking for news websites is very important. The risk of producing a lot of content around the same topic is that you can end up with multiple pages which have similar keywords which compete against each other in Google for the same search terms. The answer to this problem is to decide on a page that you want your site to rank for a given keyword or phrase, and concentrate on it. Then all article produced with the same topic should be linked to this page. In the case of Daily Mail, some of those articles are also displayed on this page.

What about schema? How important is it for SEOs to utilise structured data?

  • First, it is a feature that is gaining ground and Google officially stated that it may be something that will go into the ranking algorithm in the near future. So, besides taking advantage of the benefits described below, you also prepare your website for future SEO.
  • Second, structured data enhances your website’s presence on the SERPS with rich snippets which equals to better CTR (Click Through Rate).
  • Third, it’s a way to get into the Google knowledge graph and take advantage of the many benefits this feature offers to website owners.
  • Fourth, is great for Local SEO. With structured data, you can give search engines more information about your local business including address and contact information. In conjunction with a proper Google my business entry, it can boost your local SEO.
  • Fifth, it’s a requirement for running successful Shopping campaigns. When setting up shopping campaigns on AdWords, you need to have microdata on your product landing pages so that Google can verify the data submitted in your shopping feed.
  • Sixth, new technologies like the accelerated mobile pages rely heavily on structured data for some of their advanced features.
    Seven, it increases your chances of getting an entry in Google answers which can be a big boost to your traffic.

The Daily Mail has websites in several different markets – how do you manage the geo-targeting of the content?

For news website the task of geo-targeting is easy. Different news are coming from different part of the world so our job is just to make sure they appear on the appropriate geo page. Unfortunately, this can only be done manually but this is not something we worry about too much.
I always tell people that geo-targeted content helps businesses acquire local customers. The local customer is a lot more likely to buy from you than the international one. Example: If I want to order pizza I don’t expect it to be delivered from Paris. Or if I am looking for a plumber I would have expected him to be able to get to my house in an hour or two and not in two weeks. Geo relevancy is very important especially when it comes to small business.

We always need to look ahead. So what do you think is the next thing to be thinking about SEO in order to bulletproof our future SEO efforts?

Because I’ve got a development background and also from experience I’d like to advise businesses to make sure that their websites are technically sound before thinking about content. Many people think only about content and this is fundamentally wrong.
Having good content is good (and the right thing to do) but if your website has a lot of technical problems like too many pages returning 404 errors or too many redirects it actually stops search engines from discovering and indexing your website. If search engines can’t find or index your carefully crafted content than this content becomes useless.
Yes, content is King, but Kings normally live in castles. So first you have to build the castle so you can give your King a place to live in.