When putting together your digital marketing budget, one key decision is whether to invest in PPC (pay-per-click) ads, SEO (search engine optimisation) or both. Comparing SEO vs PPC concerning your business needs can give a clear picture of what will and won’t create the desired results.
Ideally, the most effective strategy is to invest in a combined PPC and SEO campaign. The two work well together to help you dominate search results in the long term, gaining customers from your competition. However, the reality of marketing budgets may limit your strategy to just one of the two.
This guide will define SEO vs PPC and give you the pros and cons to help you decide which will best fit your marketing goals.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is an ongoing process of amending your website and pages to communicate with search engines more clearly than your competitors. This process helps your website and pages appear in the top organic search results for relevant queries.
Organic rankings are search results that can’t be changed by paid advertising.
Search engines rank organic search results according to their relevance to the search term. Rather than paid advertising, SEO puts your brand at the top of the search results more organically: with mobile and load-time-friendly sites that showcase their products and services to both Google bots (which crawl your website) and users. Ensuring your website is user-friendly with useful information and few technical errors is a key requirement for a well-optimised website.
One piece of the SEO puzzle is on-page SEO, which focuses on the elements shown on the front end of the website. There are many factors to on-page SEO. With the recent helpful information update, rolling out on-page SEO is more important than ever.
These on-page factors are where keywords come into play, and we can place keywords strategically to give search engine crawlers the clearest picture of what the page is about. These include:
- Content: High-quality, original and helpful content, always gains organic keywords, so the keywords gained must be relevant to your ideal customers.
- Headings: Breaking up content with headers makes it easy to scan and understand, helping people stay on your page longer. This helps at the consideration stage of the consumer funnel.
- Meta tags and descriptions: These appear in SERPs to give more information about the page, but they also tell search engine crawlers how to index your page.
- Images and Alt Text: Ensure your images are high quality, in the right format and named with keywords.
- Site structure: Pages should fit together in a logical, easily navigated way, for both users and search algorithms.
- Internal Linking: Including links between key parts of your website helps user navigation and search.
Getting the balance between user-friendliness and search optimisation is the key to high-ranking pages. Google’s Helpful Content Update(August 18th 2022) has changed the way SEO works when it comes to content. You can’t simply rewrite other people’s articles, or use AI extensively because Google won’t rank it. For great on-page SEO, a specific target audience can help create content that works to bring in quality traffic, using the keywords your audience uses and focusing on the problems they want to solve.
This is the secret sauce of SEO – focussed on building your website’s authority and credibility beyond content and site structure. This is how a search engine determines whether your website is worth ranking highly for keywords where there is high competition.
Off-page elements include:
- Backlinks and referring domains: quality links from reputable websites show that your website is a valuable source of information.
- Content marketing and social media engagement: sharing your content on a range of platforms encourages others to link to your website and builds up your rankings indirectly.
While there are fewer parts in off-page SEO, this key phase is just as challenging and requires a professional understanding of industry publications, audience management and social media.
In this way, a good SEO strategy provides a firm foundation for marketing, building your brand reputation as well as your search rankings. This makes SEO a powerful marketing technique for long-term results.
Pros of SEO
Low Cost: SEO is generally a lot more cost-effective than other forms of digital marketing, in particular PPC and Google Ads. You don’t pay for people to click on links to your website when you rank organically. SEO provides big opportunities for a great ROI in the long term.
Scalable: Once you have gained first-page rankings for high-volume keywords, you can build on this success and look at other areas to target. Good performance in SEO provides a great foundation for further digital marketing strategies provided you have the right strategy.
Higher Click-Through Ratio: Generally, users will be more likely to click on organic results than paid results, which many people ignore.
Branding: Aside from more traffic, high search rankings give your business and brand more visibility online. Many users trust organic results more than ads, and you can quickly build a reputation as a leading provider of a product or service if you rank highly for several keywords. The quality of the website, content and backlinks that are required for high search rankings have knock-on effects on your overall brand reputation. Your site appearing first can influence your perceived credibility with an audience looking for your product service.
Sustainability: Once you have achieved high rankings and have an ongoing SEO strategy in place, your competitors can’t simply outbid you to appear higher up. They will need to invest a lot of time in developing their site to knock you off the top spot.
Cons of SEO
Long Term:Results from SEO can sometimes take 3-6 months to generate results. If you only have a short window to see returns from your marketing, SEO may not be the best option. However, once your website has gained a significant ranking for high-volume key terms, this is fairly easy to maintain, bringing traffic to your site for the foreseeable future.
Not always viable: For the majority of businesses, SEO is an invaluable tool in their marketing arsenal. However, a small number of companies may not see the same benefits; their industry is too competitive in search or their product/services just don’t get enough search volume.
What is PPC?
Pay-per-click (PPC) is an advertising model where your website pages are displayed at the top of search results, marked as ‘sponsored’ or ‘advertising’. Google displays your ads with a link to
your website, and you only pay when a user clicks through to your site. This is typically associated with search engine advertising like Google Ads or Google Shopping.
A Strategic Approach for Google Ads
When creating a Google Ads campaign, we start with keyword research and organise the terms you want to target into the ad groups that will sit in your campaign. Once the campaign is live, you can manage this with a daily budget and set a cost-per-click limit, which stops the cost from spiralling. Your account will start spending money once a user searches and clicks on your ad.
We recommend starting at a lower budget for the first month or so, as your campaign will be in “learning mode” for the first six weeks. This means that Google is learning about the users searching for your ads, feeding into an algorithm to help Google determine if the user is in the awareness or consideration stage.
Once you start to receive conversions, you can either choose to focus on increasing conversions or traffic to your site.
Choose Your Keywords
With Google Ads, you are in complete control of what keywords your website shows up for on Google. There are three types of match types: broad, phrase and exact.
Broad: Shows your ad to searches that are relevant to your keyword
Phrase: Shows your ad to searches that include your keyword
Exact: Shows your ad to only those searches that are an exact match to your keyword
You need to ensure that you are keeping on top of your search terms with your campaigns. Removing any irrelevant keywords into a negative keyword list helps keep your campaign working effectively. You can find out more information on Google Ads management online here.
Pros of PPC
Quick Results: PPC can generate traffic results much faster than SEO. PPC can take 6-8 weeks to show measurable results, which makes it a good choice for businesses that need short-term results and a quick ROI.
Position on Results Page: Google Ads now take up a large portion of search result pages, generally in the first four positions. Although users tend to click on organic results more often, being able to occupy the top of a results page for your chosen keyword can be a massive boost to both traffic and authority.
More Specific Targeting: With PPC ads you can filter the users you target based on age, location and demographics. You can make sure you are only paying for the traffic that you want on your website.
Range of Channels Available: Google Shopping Ads, Display Ads and Text Ads are all forms of PPC advertising. Investing in PPC marketing gives you the option of trying these channels and seeing what works for your business.
Find out how our team use PPC & Adwords for fast traffic boosts.
Cons of PPC
Can Be Costly: Depending on the competition in your industry, PPC can be expensive. Extremely competitive industries such as Law Services or Insurance can have very high costs per click. Keep this in mind if your marketing budget is tightly controlled.
Higher Initial Investment: Although PPC can get results immediately, to optimise your account you need a lot of data on clicks and conversions. This means that initially, your initial cost per conversion will be higher than it will be once the campaign has progressed and begun to generate data. You will need to be realistic about how long it takes to optimise a PPC campaign.
Is SEO or PPC right for my business?
This will largely depend on your industry and business and you will need to weigh up the above pros and cons and see how they fit in with your business.
SEO is low-cost, long-term brand building that helps your website perform at the best possible level.
PPC is a variable-cost, high-impact option that quickly builds awareness and traffic to your site, but may not be sustainable long term.
What we find at eSterling is that you can mitigate the cons of SEO with good PPC and the cons of PPC with good SEO. For example, a PPC campaign can plug the gap between starting SEO and seeing lasting results. Marketers will need to weigh up all of this against business needs and goals.
Questions to ask to decide between PPC vs SEO
These questions will show you the way: SEO, PPC or Both?
Do you need quick results?
If you want to increase traffic and sales immediately, PPC might be the right direction. PPC allows you to drive targeted traffic towards specific pages on your site. Before you start with your Google Ads journey, you should make sure the landing page is set up for conversion tracking and have relevant information to help users convert.
Is competition for organic search results high in your industry?
Using tools like SEMrush, we can measure the relative competitiveness of each keyword in your industry and establish the likelihood of ranking organically with your current domain authority and backlink profile.
If most of the keywords relating to your products or services are highly competitive, SEO may take a long time to have an impact. This is because we will need to focus on building overall domain authority. A PPC campaign can fill the gap before an SEO campaign creates results.
What are competitors paying for ads?
Using the keyword planner tool on Google Ads, you can see the average cost-per-click (CPC) to be at the top or bottom of search results. This gives you an idea of how much you will be paying per click. You can set a maximum cost-per-click budget on each campaign or bid manually, which will give you complete freedom to ensure each keyword has an individual budget. Manual cost-per-clicks is recommended for small campaigns only.
You can also get an idea of how much competitors are paying monthly on SEMrush by viewing their organic and paid search results. This is a rough estimate and not 100% accurate but it can be helpful to figure out how much you should be spending a month. If your competitors are paying huge amounts, PPC may not be the most cost-effective strategy and you may be better off with SEO.
How much is your digital marketing budget?
Choosing between SEO and PPC also depends on your own marketing budget and the competitiveness of the keywords you are looking to target. For PPC, we always suggest that you start small and increase your budget slowly over the first three months of running your campaigns. £500 a month is the best starting point for most industries, it gives you the flexibility to trial your keywords at a reasonable price while allowing Google’s algorithm to direct users to your ads. As for the first month or so Google is in learning mode, you may find a lot of budget is going to waste through irrelevant searches, so start small and making sure you are keep on top of your negative keyword lists. Having the correct conversion tracking set up is key so you can analyse which keywords are gaining sales. You should only consider spending more on PPC once you have results, and then reviewing what your monthly budget should be.
Comparatively, strong SEO may be more cost-effective than PPC, because you can reach the top of the search results for terms that are expensive when targeted for paid ads. Given that most users prefer organic search results over ads, you can gain traffic without paying for clicks.
We Can Help You Choose
If you are still unsure about what direction to take your digital marketing campaigns in, eSterling can help.
Our dedicated marketing are experts in both SEO and PPC campaigns and can offer free advice on what is best for your business and guide you to the channels that will get you the best return on your investment.
Contact the eSterling team now and we will be happy to help with any questions you might have.
As customer expectations move at the pace of the web, letting a website linger way past its sell-by date will have a lasting, negative impact on your business. Deciding when to start again can be tricky, so we’ve put together a guide to summarise some of the signs that show it is time to invest in a brand-new website.
In 2023, we know it’s never “just a website”. In most cases, your website gives people the first impression of your business, so having an up-to-date, user-friendly and fast website gives you the best chance to generate more business.
Quick Check: Why might I need a new website?
You know it’s time for a new website when yours is:
- Difficult To Use
- Doesn’t Render Correctly
- Not Mobile Friendly
- Hard To Update
In this guide, we’ve put together 9 reasons businesses need a new website so that you can assess for yourself whether it’s time to get a redesign. Many of these are rooted in the expectations of potential customers searching online today.
Here, we’ll cover the 9 reasons to get a new website:
- Your website looks dated
- The site is no longer fit for purpose
- Your competitors are way ahead
- You’ve not updated your website for a long time
- Your website isn’t easy to use on mobile devices
- It’s slow to load
- Customers find it difficult to use
- Your Employees find it difficult to use
- Employees are spending a long time working on the website
1. The web has moved on, and your website looks out of date.
The online industry moves at an incredible pace. There are new web design trends, techniques and layout options almost daily, so it is inevitable that your website will be out of date to a degree, and there is no getting away from this. Sure, you can re-skin a site and patch it up, but you’re essentially putting a plaster on it until the next time, and it will cost you more in the long run.
While some website trends come and go, it’s clear when a website looks dated. Customers searching for the first time make huge assumptions based on the quality of a website, and one that looks more suited to 2013 than 2023 will turn people off, losing potential business. But how can you tell which website trends are worth pursuing, and which will simply date your website further in a few years’ time?
Rather than falling for the ‘wow’ factor, this checklist helps us identify the trends that are here to stay:
Does it improve the User Experience? If it helps people navigate your website better or have more enjoyment from using your site, it’s worthwhile.
Does it improve website performance? A new design could decrease loading times, or help the website function in a more integrated way.
Would the website be a success without it? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – there’s no point in adding superfluous trendy features to an already successful website. But if it could be the lynchpin that holds the whole user experience together, go for it!
Does it help the site achieve its goals? Bespoke website design rejects the idea that there’s a one-size-fits-all formula for every business’s website. Each design is grounded in the specific goals of the business, guiding us to choose only the features that will advance the site towards them.
Using this checklist, I have been able to utilise existing new trends which are of benefit to the site as a whole and understand which trends to dismiss.
2. The site is no longer fit for purpose.
Sometimes the lack of functionality of a website is affecting the day-to-day running of your business, or you can identify holes in the online ordering process. When this happens, the site is working against you, rather than attracting and converting customers.
Your website should work with your business, not produce problems and extra work for employees. It can often be frustrating if you are constantly working around your site or having to change your workflow because of it.
If your website no longer works for you but against you, it’s time for a redesign.
3. Your competitors are way ahead.
This is a particularly tricky arena. Sometimes following the trends of the market leaders can reap excellent rewards because your new client base will already be familiar with the look and feel of your website, and it will reflect a professional approach to your business.
On the other hand, trying to keep up with competitors can lead to looking the same as everyone else, which is just as unhelpful as having a dated site. Rather than simply copying your competitors, updating your website can help your brand to stand out from the crowd.
We achieve this with a Design-First approach, putting the needs of your customer and their journey through the site before aesthetic changes.
This is the same approach used by Apple in the 90s when they decided to produce desktop machines that looked totally different to the beige boxes that were on the market at the time. Apple pivoted to emphasise design-led products and reaps the rewards to this day.
The decision to update in line with competitors or innovate to stand out normally depends on what market sector your business is in, so consult a web design expert to find the best approach for your business.
4. You’ve not updated in ages
The average lifespan for a well-designed website is normally 3-5 years, depending on the sector and competitors. In all honesty, if you had a website built yesterday and it was built poorly, it’s already time for a redesign! The day-to-day operations of your business can take up a lot of time, but without showing your prospective customers a professional and usable interface, you will struggle to gain their trust and increase purchases.
Your website should be your statement: your first impression. If it’s dated or, worse still, broken or not rendering correctly in modern browsers, it will be harming your image and your reputation as a business.
As developments in website creation, browsing and hosting capabilities progress rapidly, the longer you leave it to update your website, the more problems will arise. For example, if your website is using a payment method that hasn’t been updated since 2019, most likely it is not compatible with SCA (Strong Customer Authentication) systems such as 3DS2.
Using an outdated, non-compliant payment method is problematic for your customers and your business, as customers will be unable to pay, get frustrated and leave. We recommend simply using up-to-date payment methods that allow quick checkout. The best of these are self-contained and protected under a green lock (HTTPS) SSL certificate.
5. Your website isn’t easy to use on mobile devices
Ensuring your site can adapt to mobile phone screens, accounting for the differences in dimensions and orientation, is particularly important in today’s mobile markets. Responsive web design is a standard these days because almost everyone searches for services and products on their mobile phones more frequently than on a desktop computer.
If your website is not responsive, users will need to scroll sideways or zoom in to read the text. But mobile users are all about convenience. Rather than going to the extra effort, people will simply move on to one of your competitors. It is absolutely paramount to have a website design that can provide a positive user experience on every device, using responsive design.
6. It’s slow to load
Websites that take more than 3 seconds to load lose potential customers quickly. With millions of search results, at least 53% of users will simply click on the next link instead of waiting for a slow website, so it’s important to get this fixed quickly.
However, it may not be as simple as patching or reducing the number of plugins. Your website might need an updated CMS or a full overhaul to get speeds up to scratch.
It’s easy to assess your website’s speed with tools such as PageSpeed Insights. If you find that things are taking a while to appear, it’s worth speaking to a web designer who can advise as to what is slowing your website down.
7. Customers find it difficult to use: You need UX Design
User Experience (UX) is important to factor in when deciding whether your website needs a redesign. If it’s too difficult for visitors to your website to find what they need, purchase products or understand what your services are, you are missing out on potential business. The journey from your homepage or landing page to the checkout or enquiry can be simplified and directed even if your offering has many complex layers, with some clever UX design.
This usually involves creating an easy-to-follow “navigation flow”. If the flow is interrupted or not fluid, visitors can be frustrated and have a tendency to leave. In certain situations, there are accepted standards and habits that customers follow which we can play into to create easy navigation. For example, an eCommerce platform usually shows the cart or basket icon visibly in the top right of the page.
If your eCommerce site makes the customer search for the basket or scroll a long way to add products to the basket, or if the information around product pricing, VAT or deliveries is difficult to find, then your customer will struggle to complete the purchase, and you lose the sale.
8. Your Employees find it difficult to use: You need an up-to-date CMS
Using a Content Management System (CMS) that is not intuitive can also lead to frustration, delays and damage to your visibility online. With a small amount of training, you should be able to manage content on your website yourself, adding blog posts and new product pages in a few easy clicks via the admin area.
But if your CMS is out of date, it may not be user-friendly and require a more specialised operation, costing you more in the long run and leading to struggles further down the line.
9. Employees are spending a long time working on the website
Even with a usable CMS and appropriate training, there may be long processes of updating the website which can now be solved. For example, your website may be requiring a lot of manual work from you and your team to process enquiries and orders.
New integrations and automation options are being released all the time, so it may be worth updating your website to make the most of these algorithms, APIs and widgets.
If you can relate to any parts of this post, then you already know whether or not to redesign.
Having a new website built begins with an aim: a purpose. One of the first questions we ask is: “What do you want your website to do for your business?” and we go from there.
A new website can be tailored specifically to your goals, whether it’s lead generation or helping customers find information easily. A website redesign can help with:
Improved Branding: An updated website with a modern design can promote trust and brand recognition among consumers and improve the overall design and quality of the website can help to evaluate the trustworthiness of the company, thus enhancing the brand image and keeping the business relevant.
Smooth information flow: The core goal of a website is to provide information that helps visitors learn more about the business, products/services, and ultimately close deals, by having an optimal information flow and a website redesign can help to structure and present the information in a way that all the important stuff is easy to find.
Reduced business costs: A complete website redesign allows for re-evaluation of hosting and CMS, can run more efficiently, save costs in the long run, and cut costs of missed opportunities and lost revenue caused by an outdated website.
More sales and business: A website redesign allows you to make conversions the primary focus by presenting a flow of information that guides visitors towards actions such as purchase, subscription, or request for more information, which is something that older websites often fail to do effectively.
If you’re hoping a new website will help you gain business via search inquiries or if you just want more traffic to your website, you may be looking in the wrong place. In this instance, I would advise you to read about Search Engine Optimisation first, before completely rebuilding a possibly perfectly good website.
To get the most out of your website design, make sure your designers understand your requirements, functionality and sitemaps. Be open and honest and set goals. Take advice and, if it is in line with your website’s goals, then go for it! Employ designers and developers that have a track record of delivering. For that reason alone, eSterling is a great place to start.
Google recently announced that, from July 1st 2023, standard Universal Analytics properties will no longer process data… but what does that mean and why does it matter to your business?
What is Google Analytics 4 (GA4)?
Your business’ traffic is currently being tracked using Universal Analytics, this has been the standard for the past 10 years. However, Google Analytics 4 is the next generation of Analytics; it comes with more accurate and powerful data tracking which will be highly beneficial to us and to you during our SEO efforts.
The key new features of GA4:
- We will be able to track a lot more data compared to Universal Analytics
- We can gain so much more insight about what users are doing on your site
- More integrations with Google Ads
- Updated more secure tracking
- Analytics tracking that complies with GDPR and User Privacy
Why do I need to switch to GA4?
Since Google will no longer track any further data come July 2023, we would no longer have access to newly tracked data if you choose to not switch. This means that we could no longer report on the number of visitors who view your website, or how they access your website.
What is required to update from Universal Analytics to GA4?
First of all we need to update the tracking codes across your website, with new tracking codes provided by google after creating a GA4 profile. This is then added to the website using the below process.
- Create a google tag manger account and add ga4 code via this tag manager account.
- Setup conversion tracking on the new ga4 platform to tracking user events that generate user conversions. This can include:
- Contact form submissions
- Phone call clicks
- Website sales
- Exclude internal traffic for us and yourself, so that we don’t track data from our usage on the website.
We then need to create bespoke reports on the GA4 platform to generate the data that is important to you, as GA4 doesn’t have the same kind of standard reporting that universal analytics has.
More information on this change from google can be found here.
Recently, Google announced that they would be discontinuing Universal Analytics (Google Analytics 3) from the 1st July 2023, replacing it with their new Google Analytics 4, which was launched in 2020.
You may be wondering what this means for your website analytics, as most websites still rely on GA3. With this post we hope to answer a few of your burning questions.
How is Google Analytics 4 Different?
Although the premise of Google Analytics 4 is the same as Universal Analytics, much of the interface and data collection methods have changed.
In GA4, rather than tracking individual metrics such as page views, it focuses on events such as user engagement. This includes metrics such as clicks and scrolling which offers a greater insight into your users’ actions. These new metrics mean that the generated reports have changed.
As some metrics have been removed and new ones added, the reports generated by Google Analytics have changed as well, with more focus on user engagement. There is also a new reporting interface that allows you to create your own custom reports using the new metrics. Although this is a process that requires some learning.
This move to Google Analytics 4 demonstrates Google’s dedication to improving user engagement and experience.
How Much Longer Can I Use Google Analytics 3?
After the 1st July 2023, Google Analytics 3 will no longer track your website traffic and data. This means that technically you will be able to use GA3 up until this point. Following on from this, although GA3 will no longer analyse your website, it will continue to store your history allowing you to view your previous data.
However, this means that comparing your current performance with your history will become more difficult.
The last date you will be able to send data into Universal Analytics will be the 30th June 2023.
When Should I Make the Move to Google Analytics 4?
Despite Google Analytics 4 being a direct move from Universal Analytics, your history will not be transferred over. This means that if you wish to compare your current performance with your history, as mentioned above, it will be a more difficult process.
To ensure that you get the most out of Google Analytics 4, you should consider making the move sooner rather than later. Comparing your history with your current performance is a key metric within GA as it provides crucial insights into improvements and issues with your website.
What Should I Do Now?
At this stage, you should set up and configure a Google Analytics 4 Property ASAP, as this will allow you to gather data before Universal Analytics is turned off.
If you wish to know more about the process of making the change to Google Analytics 4, or need help setting up a GA4 property then please contact us and we will begin the process.
November 2021 Broad Core Algorithm Update
Google updates Google Search hundreds of times a year to ensure that the Searcher has the best possible experience. The majority of these updates are not noticeable, but they still contribute to the overall user experience.
Several times per year, Google releases Core Updates which are larger and more noticeable. These sometimes bring disruption to websites as they can decrease or increase in rankings and traffic. This is normal and usually stabilises after a week or two.
Announced on the 17th November, the November Core Update saw a spike in SERP volatility, much like the spike back in July with the previous Core Update. This time, the spike was larger, with an average of 20% more volatility than in July, however, it levelled out sooner.
There is speculation that the Google Core Updates are becoming less impactful, however it is also possible that the Updates are being streamlined in order to limit disruption.
Both Desktop and Mobile were hit by the Core Update, with Mobile being the most affected. This is a trend we are starting to notice with broad Google algorithm updates, as Mobile becomes more and more of a priority.
Analysing the top 100 websites which saw the most volatility, the ‘winners’ of the Core Update saw an average position gain of 33, while the ‘losers’ saw an average position loss of 28. While there were many sites which were significantly affected by the Core Update, the average website only saw a shift within around 3 positions.
As has been the case with the previous Core Updates since 2019, Google’s advice has remained the same. Websites should make sure that their Mobile versions are up to date and running smoothly, alongside ensuring that their content is high quality.
If your website has been hit by the November Core Update, it may be the time to update your content and make sure that it is high quality and meeting top ranking keywords. Alongside this, when generating new content it is important to make sure that it is high quality, proofread and optimised to improve the chances of it thriving in the many updates Google rolls out in a year.
Migrating your eCommerce site to a new platform or design can come with a host of benefits – from increased functionality, better security, improved user experience and other advantages that could help your online revenue grow.
However, an experienced digital marketer will tell you that migrating an eCommerce site can come with a lot of pitfalls that can spell disaster for SEO performance, so it’s best to prepare properly. Site migration SEO is an important area for eCommerce businesses developing a new website, as neglecting this part of the migration could lead to a loss in organic traffic.
To help with this process, we have put together the ultimate guide to SEO for eCommerce migration. If you follow this checklist, you will be less likely to see in a drop in your organic rankings and traffic and may even increase your sales.
It should be noted that each migration is different, bringing its own host of challenges. This guide will outline the general issues that site migrations face, but you might also consider challenges arising from changes to your domain name or payment gateway, switching from HTTP to HTTPS, or other irregular changes.
The steps that apply to most migrations can be divided into Preparation, Comparison and Post-Launch. To help make sure you take appropriate action at each stage of your site migration, here’s a quick checklist to refer back to later:
- Preparing for Site Migration
- Crawl your current site
- Create Benchmarks:
- SEO Performance
- eCommerce Data
- Backlink Profile
- Compare Live Site and Staging
- Map Redirects
- URL Structure
- Internal Links/Site Structure
- Review Metadata
- Review Content
- Review On-page and Technical SEO
- Copy Schema Markup
- Page Speed
- User Experience
- After Site Migration
- Pre-Launch Checks
- Site Speed Test
- Monitor SEO Performance
Preparing to Move
These steps should be the first thing you do and can be done before work has even started on the new version of the site.
Crawl Your Current Site
“Crawling” refers to an algorithmic process that checks all your site URLs and how they are structured. Search engines crawl every web page to index them against relevant search terms, based on the technical data and content of each page. Finding out what information search engines gain from your current site is a useful first step in maintaining SEO through the site migration process.
Screaming Frog is a widely used tool that crawls all URLs on your site and lets you analyse all technical and on-page SEO data. Other tools are available to do this, but Screaming Frog is free up to 500 URLs and is relatively simple to use and understand.
It’s important you crawl your current site to obtain a list of all your current URls as well as SEO data about those URLs. This data can be used for comparison and benchmarks later on and includes:
- Metadata – information that helps search engines determine topical relevancy, this can be descriptive, such as a page summary or image alt text, or structural, such as how information fits together with the rest of the site.
- Canonical Tags – code that helps search engines identify the main version of a page among many similar pages.
- H1 & H2 Tags – HTML tags that show page hierarchy and the main topics of the page.
- No-index pages – pages blocked from search indexing, such as shopping cart or checkout pages on eCommerce sites.
Benchmark SEO Performance
Using tools such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console and your other SERP tracking software, take a snapshot of performance to benchmark how your site performs in search engines.
Make a record of the key metrics for your existing site, including:
- Organic traffic: how many users land on the site through search engines?
- Session Duration: how long do they stay on the site?
- Bounce Rate: what percentage navigates away without viewing other pages?
- Pages per Session: How many pages does the average user view each session?
- Devices: what devices do they view your site from?
- Top-ranking keywords with the highest monthly search volume
All of this data can be tracked and compared once your eCommerce site migration goes live.
Benchmark eCommerce Data
As well as benchmarking your SEO performance, you should export as much detail as you can about your sales performance.
Look at revenue, transactions, conversion rate, what channels users are most likely to convert from, what devices users are most likely to convert from, what pages are viewed and assisted conversion. This data will give you a good idea of the impact the migration has on your site’s profitability.
Benchmark Backlink Profile
Finally, you should always export a full list of all your backlinks before an eCommerce site migration, so that they can be reproduced. Ahrefs is a useful tool that allows you to look in-depth at all of the domains that link to your site. Keeping a record of this is important to ensure that no important inbound links are lost during migration.
Compare Live Site & Stage Site
Now that you’ve created records of your SEO benchmarks from the old site, you can make sure the developing site matches up to the same standard.
With your current URL list from the crawl, create a full 301 redirect map to ensure that all old website URLs redirect properly to the new URLs. Normally, a map will be a spreadsheet with columns for your current/old URLs listed against their new URL counterparts.
Once implemented on the staging site, you will want to crawl the old URLs to ensure that no redirects are broken. This should be repeated again post-launch.
Ensure URL structure is still SEO-friendly
If you are migrating to an entirely new eCommerce platform, the URL structure will likely change for products and product categories. Review the new URLs on the staging site to ensure they still meet SEO best practices.
- Do URLs still contain target keywords?
- Do URLs follow standard structure, e.g. “/product-category/product/”?
- Do URLs contain hyphens instead of underscores?
- Do URLs appear spammy/stuffed with keywords?
Compare Internal Links/Site Structure
Before launch, you will need to check to see if the new site has SEO-friendly internal links and structure.
- Are all of your main pages, product categories and products linked in your main navigation?
- Are there any orphaned pages?
- Do category pages contain indexable links to the products?
- Are there any broken links on the site?
- Are there any internal links that 301 redirect?
- Are there pages that take more than four clicks from the homepage to get to?
- Are your products categorised in a way that targets keywords?
Review & Copy Metadata
From your initial crawl, you should have a record of all of the meta descriptions and titles present on the current site. At this point, it may be a good idea to review all metadata to ensure that it effectively targets your keywords.
- Do page titles begin with your main target keyword for that page?
- Does your meta description contain the effective Calls to Action?
- Are all titles and descriptions an appropriate length?
Once the review is completed, copy all SEO Metadata over to the staging site so that it is ready for when your new eCommerce site goes live.
Review & Copy Content
Content is more important than ever for SEO performance, so ensure that the new site has unique, SEO-friendly content on all pages.
- Does content contain relevant keywords for all pages? Creating a keyword map for each page can be helpful to establish what you need to target.
- Is there any duplicate content anywhere on the site?
- Do products contain enough technical information?
- Is it easy to tell what your product is, what it does, and why you should buy it from the descriptions?
- Do all product categories have content?
- Is there content on the homepage?
- Does the content appear stuffed with keywords, or is it natural, human-first content?
Review On-Page/Technical SEO Elements
- Check H1, H2 usage
- Check IMG ALT attributes
- Verify proper implementation of canonical tags
- Check all pages that you don’t want indexed are marked with ‘no index’ tag.
- Check for canonicals and duplicate URLs
- Ensure the new site has an SEO plugin installed e.g. Yoast for WordPress to support future content
- Ensure Google Analytics tag is copied over.
Copy Schema Markup
For an eCommerce site, the schema markup is particularly important.
In 2011, major search engines created a common set of data markups that search engines use to better understand the meaning information on a webpage. This collaborative markup is called Schema.org.
All eCommerce sites should have some schema markup on their page, in particular the product schema markup. Although it doesn’t necessarily impact the page rankings themselves, it has been proven to have a direct impact on click -through rates due to the enhancements it can provide.
If this is on your current site, ensure it is transferred over correctly. If you currently have no schema markup in place, it’s a good idea to create this and implement it before the site migration is complete.
Compare Page Speed
Using Google’s Page Speed Insights and their Lighthouse Developer Tools, compare the page speed for the current and new sites. Although this may change after launch, it is important to review now to ensure that if there are any issues severely impacting page speed, they can be resolved well before launch.
Compare User Experience
Once you have reviewed all technical aspects, it is also important to check that your new online store works from a user perspective. While this won’t have a direct impact on organic traffic, if you don’t consider the user, you could see a fall in conversions.
- Is it easy to search for products on the site?
- If you have a lot of product variations on your site, can these be easily filtered down to specific requirements?
- Are products categorised in a simple, understandable way?
- Is your website easy to navigate?
- Do product pages display enough information to make an informed purchase?
- Is delivery information made clear?
- Is contact information easily accessible?
- Do you have clear Calls to Action?
- Is it clear what elements are clickable?
- Are all product images high quality and relevant?
- Is this site easy to use on all devices?
- How many steps is your checkout process? Is this as simple as possible for the end user?
With a high-quality user experience, you can maintain a high conversion rate and make the best of your site migration’s SEO.
Now that the new eCommerce site is built and all technical data for SEO is migrated across, you’re ready for launch. It’s important to do a few checks so that when search engines first index these new pages, everything is in place to gain the best organic traffic for your products.
Once your new site has been launched, it is important to check the below:
- Verify all redirects are working.
- Check that the site is not being blocked from being crawled or indexed.
- Verify all pages that you don’t want accessible in search engines aren’t set to nofollow.
- Check for any 404 or 301 response codes on internal links.
- Ensure that Google Analytics is tracking page view data.
- Verify that Enhanced eCommerce tracking is set up and tracking data correctly.
- Verify that the site has an XML sitemap and that this has been submitted to Google Search Console.
- Check that all On-Page and Technical data that has been copied over from the old site is present and indexable.
Site Speed Test
It’s important to check page speed again after launch. Any server or hosting changes post-launch could lead to different scores, so keep an eye on this in the first few weeks.
If you notice a drastic reduction in page speed scores, it is important to rectify this as soon as possible as page speed is a ranking factor for Google. A slow site will reduce the impact of your SEO.
Ongoing Monitoring of SEO performance
You should set checkpoints to compare the new site’s performance against the old site’s data that we benchmarked earlier. This can be after a week, a month, 2 months and then quarterly.
Important things to monitor at each stage are:
- Have any new pages been indexed?
- How have search engine rankings changed?
- Have the pages that are ranking changed?
- Have you seen a fall/rise in traffic?
- Are users bouncing more? Are users spending less/more time on the site?
- Have you seen a change in transactions/conversion rate?
- Has average transaction value changed?
- Has your top-performing products changed?
SEO Site Migration: Support for eCommerce
If you need assistance with your eCommerce site migration, our SEO team is well-positioned to support you. We have helped businesses move their sites to a variety of different platforms, ensuring everything is in place to protect their organic traffic.
Get in touch to discuss how we can help you migrate your eCommerce site.
Google has confirmed that Core Web Vitals are becoming a new ranking signal for search results in May 2021 – but how do they define Core Web Vitals and what impact is this going to have on your site’s rankings?
What Are Core Web Vitals?
Google is adding Core Web Vitals to its recommended ‘Page Experience’ guidelines which currently includes:
- Intrusive interstitial guidelines
Core Web Vitals is categorized into three metrics which are defined as –
Largest Contentful Paint:
The Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) metric reports the render time of the largest image or text block visible within the viewport.
In simpler terms, the LCP is the time it takes for the majority of content on a web page to load. This metric is important as it analyses what it is like for a user to open your webpage. For the vast majority of users, a page that takes a long time to display its main portion of content is not ideal. Google has recognised this by including this metric as part of its search algorithm.
Google has suggested that an ideal LCP measurement is 2.5 seconds or faster and has specified these guidelines for poor, needs improvement and good speeds. These guidelines will be vital for SEO performance after May 2021, when Google introduces LCP as a direct signal for how it ranks pages in search results.
First Input Delay:
First Input Delay (FID) is the time it takes for a page to become interactive – for instance, this could be choosing an option for a menu, entering text into a field or clicking a link on the site’s navigation.
This metric is important for Google as it looks at real users interacting with their page by measuring how long it takes for them to actually do something on a page. A slow FID suggests that a page is unresponsive and indicates to Google that this page is less usable than others that have a higher FID time.
Google has outlined that sites should aim for a first input delay of 100ms for a good user experience.
Cumulative Layout Shift:
Cumulative Layout Shift:(CLS) is how stable a page is when it loads – essentially how much it moves around on your screen as the page loads.
If elements such as text, images, forms or anything else moves before the page is fully loaded, then this is indicative of a high CLS.
Below is an example of how this could be particularly frustrating for users and why Google views it as an important metric for deciding the best sites.
Google has defined the below criteria for a good CLS score. Google suggests that “To provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have a CLS score of less than 0.1.”
You can test your site and see how it performs for these3 metrics using the Google Page Speed Insight tool.
How Will Poor Core Web Vitals Affect My Site?
If your site is falling below Google’s recommended scores for each Core Web Vital metric then this suggests to their algorithm that your site takes a long time to display for users, is slow to become interactive and is visually unstable while loading and is therefore less “useful” to users. In May 2021, if your competitors are still outperforming you on these metrics, this is going to have a direct impact on the rankings of your site.
Fortunately, there is enough time to improve your site’s Core Web Vitals before Google launches its algorithm changes and your rankings begin to drop.
eSterling have an expert team of developers, designers and SEO specialists who can help improve your Core Web Vital metrics and prove to Google that your site is worth putting at the top of their search results.
Contact the team at eSterling now on 01217208420 or email email@example.com to find out how we can improve your core web vitals.
Google will roll out free listings on their Google Shopping platform in mid-October. This service allows online eCommerce stores to sell their products directly on Google.
Since re-branding to Google Shopping in 2012, the service has been paid-only. With increasing pressures bearing down upon retail markets, the search engine giant has decided to allow businesses to list their products for free to help them better connect with consumers during this period of uncertainty.
While they previously remained tight-lipped about the launch date outside of the US, Google have now confirmed that free listings will become available for all in mid-October.
This is a massive opportunity for any product-based business. Even before the pandemic hit, hundreds of millions of Shopping searches took place every week. It has been estimated that Google Shopping makes up 85% of paid traffic for online retailers.
Over the COVID-19 crisis, eCommerce has become vital for the success of a large number of businesses. Google Shopping and other digital commerce services have also become key places for businesses looking to sell their wares.
If you already use Merchant Center and Shopping ads, you don’t have to do anything to take advantage of this change; your listings will automatically show up at no cost.
However, if you haven’t used the platform before, now is the perfect time to make sure your website and products are ready for listing on Google Shopping.
How to make your website ready for Google Shopping:
First of all, your website requires full eCommerce functionality to be eligible for Google Shopping. This essentially means that customers can purchase products on your website.
Your site will need at the very least individual product pages, basket & checkout functionality and an integrated payment gateway. If your site doesn’t have these capabilities, you won’t be able to make use of the free Shopping listings.
If you sell products and you haven’t upgraded your site so customers can purchase directly on-site, now is the perfect time. Alongside the huge benefits of free Shopping listings, digital commerce will prove to be a vital revenue stream for many as more and more shoppers move online.
If you are interested in how you can upgrade your site, get in touch with the team at eSterling who can help make the transition to eCommerce. We have been building eCommerce sites for over 20 years and know how to create sites that makes it easy for customers to purchase the products they need.
Set Up A Merchant Account
As free listings will go live in a few weeks, now is a better time than ever to sign up for a Google Merchant account and get acquainted with how the platform works.
This account is where all your product data will live, alongside where you can where you can set shipping and tax rules. Sign up is easy and can be done here – https://www.google.com/retail/solutions/merchant-center/
When you want to start selling products, you will need to verify ownership of your website. This can be done in a few ways including Google Analytics, Tag Manager or a HTML file upload.
If you need assistance with verification process, eSterling can help guide you through the easiest solution possible
Set Up Product Feed
If you have an eCommerce site all ready to go, you’ll need to generate a product feed that can be sent to Google. A shopping feed is essentially what allows you to tell Google what you are selling and how much to sell it for. This is the heart of any good Shopping campaign, so getting this setup and optimised in advance could be key to success.
Setting up and optimising your google shopping feed will ensure you show up for the right searches, earn clicks and maximise sales. eSterling have helped companies across the UK set up their product feeds and succeed in Google shopping. We handle everything from generation to optimisation, so if you want to outperform your competition when the free listings roll out, contact eSterling now.
Optimise Product Pages
Google Shopping requires landing pages from product ads to show the same product, image and price that appeared on the Shopping listing, as well as the ability to intuitively add to cart and purchase.
A landing page that doesn’t meet Google’s requirement could prevent your products from showing up at all. Now is the perfect time to review all of your product pages to ensure they are eligible to appear before free listings are launched this month.
Google also requires product images to meet certain quality standards, for instance, if your image is too low resolution the product may be prevented from appearing in your campaign at all. Now is a great time to review your product images.
eSterling’s web design team have created hundreds of product pages that meet the standards of Google shopping. If you feel your product pages need reviewing, contact us now and we can go through what you need to do to get them ready to sell for free on Google Shopping this year.
Set Up User Tracking
Ensuring you can accurately track how Google Shopping users are interacting with your site will be vital in ensuring your campaign is performing as best as possible when you start making use of the new free listings.
eSterling’s SEO team can set up Google Analytics and other user tracking options on your site in no time, making the process as simple as possible and ensuring your tracking is ready once the new changes start to roll out.
Call us on 0121 766 8087 and we can discuss in more depth how we can help you get your website ready for free Google Shopping Ads.
Facebook is launching Facebook Shops in a bid to gain a stronger foothold in the eCommerce world and compete with the likes of Amazon and eBay.
Shops will allow businesses to set up free storefronts on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook has had shopping features previously, but this update will allow companies to completely transform their Facebook pages into more accessible and attractive storefronts.
What is Facebook Shops?
In a recent post, Facebook has stated that:
“Facebook Shops make it easy for businesses to set up a single online store for customers to access on both Facebook and Instagram. Creating a Facebook Shop is free and simple.”
“Businesses can choose the products they want to feature from their catalogue and then customise the look and feel of their shop with a cover image and accent colours that showcase their brand. This means any seller, no matter their size or budget, can bring their business online and connect with customers wherever and whenever it’s convenient for them.”
Essentially, Facebook shops will function similar to existing eCommerce platforms but will only be available across Facebook and Instagram applications.
There are also plans to roll out features that allow businesses to handle customer support issues through Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp
Is Facebook Shops Free?
Shops are completely free to create – the only potential charge to businesses if a customer uses Facebook’s checkout option but this option can be turned off and users can instead be directed to the businesses’ own website checkout process.
If a business has a fully functioning eCommerce website then all products can be listed on Facebook Shops for free as then there is no need to use Facebook’s internal checkout process.
Is Facebook Shops Worth It?
Absolutely! As COVID-19 has forced shoppers away from the high streets, online sales have soared. These new Facebook and Instagram shopping features present another opportunity to get your products in front of consumers who are looking to purchase online.
With 1.73 billion daily active users worldwide, Facebook has a massive reach. Shops allow businesses to tap into this audience directly. With billions of users now able to easily browse products without leaving Facebook, this is a great opportunity to boost sales in a time that may be difficult for a lot of companies. With no cost to Facebook and such a big audience for your products, there is no reason not to try it out.
Even if you don’t currently have a huge following on your Facebook, the platform allows you to run paid ads that will put your products and storefront in front of targeted demographics.
When does Facebook Shops Launch in the UK?
Although Facebook Shops has launched in the US, it will be rolled out to the UK and rest of the world in the next few months.
How do I set up a Facebook Shop?
To upload all of your products to a Facebook Shop, you will need to create a product data feed or sync your OpenCart, WooCommerce or Magento website.
The digital marketing team at eSterling are able to guide you through this process and get everything in place ready for you to start selling on Facebook shops.
If you need more information on how we can help you sell on Facebook Shops or any advice on social media marketing, please get in touch now.
During these unprecedented and difficult times, there are many business owners who are trying to minimise financial risk for their business by pausing advertising efforts or cutting advertising spend.
This could be seen as a short term and temporary fix but eventually, this will lead to needless lost time and effort later on when it comes to rebuilding your marketing strategy from scratch.
So could this be the time to re-evaluate your existing budget and invest more in Digital Marketing? This blog explains why continuing with your marketing efforts is now more crucial than ever.
Grow your online presence & connect with your clients.
Following the government announcement regarding halting the spread of the virus, people are spending more time online and are using social media to connect with others. So this is the best time to grow your online presence and get more people to engage with your brand.
This could include working on your website to improve rankings and increase your site’s visibility when someone is searching for a particular product or service and being more active on social media. Even if your business is currently closed, you can still use social media to stay in contact with your current clients by showing your empathy and support during the outbreak or posting about small steps you have taken as a business to help people in need.
Make sure that information on your website or social media is up to date and keep your clients posted about any changes in regards to your services.
If you are not familiar or confident using social media, eSterling offer a complete Social Media Management service. We can manage your social activity and provide you with reports to track your online performance and engagement.
Understanding the importance of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a process which includes a number of steps and actions that aim to increase the quantity and quality of traffic to your website via organic Search Engine results. SEO is a long term process and the results are not immediately obvious. So now is the right time to invest in SEO so that your website is fully optimised for when the sanctions are lifted and business returns to normal levels.
eSterling are experts in all things ‘SEO’ and our SEO services provide regular reviews, up to date reporting and on-going support. We make sure the site is fully optimised and that you are targeting the right keywords as well as resolving all technical issues.
That gives you a big advantage over your competitors as many of them may have not looked at their SEO campaigns.
Time to invest in content.
Content is one of the main ranking factors for all Search Engines and Google has made it clear that a great content strategy can increase traffic and in-turn improve rankings. During these days people are spending many hours browsing the internet and reading articles. You should focus on updating your website’s content and optimising pages for desired keywords for your products or services.
Don’t forget to add or update your blog section with interesting and informative content to keep your customers engaged, even if your company is closed or you are not operating usual hours.
Take advantage of our copywriting services and we’ll create well-written, original and engaging content based on your brand and target audience.
Start online advertising by creating profitable Pay Per Click (PPC) Campaigns.
People are staying at home and searching for products and services online, so you could take advantage of the increased search volume and invest in PPC advertising. With Google Ads you’re in control of the money you spend and are only charged when someone clicks on your ads so most of the clicks will come from customers who are looking for your products or services.
If you have already set up PPC campaigns and your business is still operating then it is worth leaving these campaigns running as your customers may still be looking for your services or products.
Should you have any questions about online advertising and PPC, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Here at eSterling we are still fully operational and can help you with online adverting and offer full support throughout this period and beyond.
Focus on your website and improve User Experience.
With daily traffic at an all time high, now could be the right time to think about a new website or a redesign of your old website to improve user experience. You need to make sure that your website is mobile friendly, the page speed is good and navigation is easy with clear structure and defined call to actions on all pages.
If you are not currently selling products, now is a great time to convert your site into an eCommerce site or improve your existing site since most of the transactions are taking place online. With so many people in quarantine and not being able to go to the stores, eCommerce sales are booming!
We have years of experience in designing and building websites and we always endeavour to build sites that exceed your expectations and generate you more business. Give us a call to discuss your project & requirements today!
At some point in the future this pandemic will pass, so you will need to make sure that you’ve got your business ready to go. Investing in your online strategy now, will reap the rewards further down the line.
We are here to help! We can help you promote your business online and develop an effective and measurable Digital Marketing strategy.