Category Archives: Business Marketing Online

All about redirects and deleting pages

A bit of technical background today, but something that’s worth knowing: what is a redirect?

Put simply, a redirect is an instruction on a web server to show a different web page whenever a specific one is requested. For example, you’d set up a redirect if you were removing a web page from your site but thought that it might have external links to it which you couldn’t update. In that case, you’d want anyone following those links to be taken to a page set up as a replacement.

Another possibility is that you might set up redirects if you’d changed your site’s page addresses globally, e.g. from http to https, and wanted visitors to be sent to the new version. In that case, instead of a single instruction (“if anyone asks for A, show them B”), you’d do it programmatically (“if anyone asks for a page in a particular format, change their request in a certain manner to show them a revised format”).

You’ll hear of different types of redirects: “301”, “302”, etc. I wouldn’t worry about them too much, other than to note that if you’re setting up a permanent redirect, it’s best to use a “301”, as that’s what the code stands for. Search engines will note that and update accordingly.

In most instances, if you’re removing a page from your website, you should set up a 301 redirect so that anyone following the link can get to similar content. So, for example, if you sell red, blue and yellow widgets, but are dropping red ones from your range, I’d redirect the red widgets page address to the general widgets page. This will help people who were looking for your red widgets but might be interested in a similar product, and from an SEO point of view, it might retain more ‘link equity’ from external links to the deleted page. In addition, search engines know to drop the red widgets page from their index. If you just delete the page without setting up a redirect, real visitors and search engines will both get a ‘page not found message’, which is extremely unhelpful. Real visitors may just leave and never return; search engines will keep the page in their index for a considerably longer time than you or they would want, before eventually dropping it.

In the event that you really don’t want to redirect people following a link to a deleted page, find out how to mark the deleted page with a ‘410’ code. This tells the search engines to remove the page from their index.

Spotting your Google results which aren’t delivering

We all want our site appearing on the first page of results on Google searches. But that’s not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to get lots of clicks – and that’s not guaranteed if our entry looks really unattractive and inspires only a small proportion of people to click on it.

So can we identify these unattractive results? As is so often the case, Google Search Console is our friend. A new layout was introduced for this a few weeks ago, and we can use its filtering capabilities to help.

Go to the ‘performance’ report and set the general filters to show (say) the last 3 months, and the UK only (results look different elsewhere and we don’t want them hiding the findings). Click the main panels so we see average clickthrough rate (CTR) and average position. Then use the table filter to show ‘Position’ <10.

Now we should have a list of search terms where, on average, our site appeared in the top 10 results. We can take a look down this and identify those where the clickthrough rate is low (I’d expect more than 10% for most page 1 results).

For the highlighted terms, take a look at that results page on Google and try to work out why you’ve got a good position but a low clickthrough rate. What’s so unattractive about your result? Is it just poorer than the others? Or do you think that most people making the search are looking for something you’re not providing? Could you tweak the page title (and the description) to appeal more? If you can make some successful adjustments, the results can be exceptional.

Getting prospects the answers they need (2)

Yesterday I discussed instant response mechanisms for enquiries from prospects, specifically telephone or live web-chat. There are also two non-immediate methods for prospects to contact you: email and social media.

People who use these methods don’t expect instant replies, but obviously the faster you can get back to them, the better. Email can be done through web forms, but few of us trust these, and an email address is what most people prefer. Apart from anything else, it’s quicker: when prospects click on your email link, if you’re helpful you’ll have set it up to fill in the email’s subject line automatically, and their own details will of course be included in their email signature, which makes it much easier than filling in a tortuous web form. The sender also gets a record – another reason why emails are liked more than web forms.

Social media is less used, but is a channel you might like to make available. Indeed, I know companies who have a Twitter account which is not used for conventional broadcast purposes, but just so they can put a ‘Direct (Private) Message us on Twitter’ link on their website. Enquiries received this way can be processed like email ones (indeed, you can get email notifications that someone has sent a Twitter Direct Message). I assume the same could be done with Facebook Messenger, although I can’t recall seeing that done.

In summary then:

  • Create a good pre-sales FAQ page
  • Link to it from the top of your contact details page
  • Guide people to the right person or department when displaying your telephone number
  • Ensure out-of-hours prospects are encouraged to leave a message and get a call-back
  • Investigate adding live chat to your website
  • Provide an email address, instead of or in addition to a web form
  • Pre-fill the email subject line to help prospects
  • Investigate offering social media direct messaging as an alternative to email

Getting prospects the answers they need (1)

There are many methods in which prospects can get their questions answered, and if they’re not offered the one they prefer, it’s quite possible that they will move elsewhere. It would be criminal to lose someone who’s that close to contacting you, so have you got every channel covered?

The fastest way to get prospects the answer they want is for them not to have to contact you in the first place. A good ‘FAQ’ page is what you need here. Make sure yours is thoroughly integrated with any contact details page though. Link to the FAQ page at the start of your contact details page, as something they might like to try first. And link to the contact details page at the end of the FAQ page, as the next step if their question wasn’t answered.

If the FAQ page delivers, it has the advantage that prospects have their questions answered before they get the chance to go and investigate other suppliers while waiting for a reply. Two other methods can also (usually) provide instant answers: telephone and live web-chat. For both of these, you need to ensure the right people are permanently available on the other end.

With a telephone call, do you just give a number, or do you guide people who to contact? For example, if they’re going to be calling a general company telephone number, does your website give them the extension number for technical or sales support? The minimum should be “Call us on… and ask for our technical (or sales) support team”? Encourage people to call by making the process as undaunting as possible.

Live web-chat is getting very popular with prospects and suppliers. If you’ve not looked into it, you really should. Again, you need to resource someone at your end as much as you do for answering telephones.

No prospect expects you to provide telephone or live web-chat response out of hours, but if they do get in touch then, giving them the chance to leave their details and get a call back is a sensible strategy which many businesses overlook. Expecting prospects to take the initiative and contact you again at a later date is a very dangerous strategy.

There are also two non-immediate methods for prospects to contact you: email and social media. I’ll move on to these in the next article.

Google favours pages which change with the times

Google had a fairly substantial results update in the summer, and we saw some fairly substantial movements in rankings on our clients’ sites. However, these were inconsistent – some pages went up and some went down – and we didn’t have any examples of entire sites moving up or down across the board.

A representative from the search engine has addressed the update in an agency chat, and suggested that if any page has gone down in the rankings, we should investigate if it’s “as relevant as it used to be.” I think what the company is hinting at is that while old, established pages with good links are of course more often than not the top results in searches, there’s a lot to be gained by regularly adding and updating them.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this. On a search results page where most of the entries have dates, I often find myself scanning down to find recent ones. Sure, some great web pages may never age, but times change, and it looks like Google favours pages which change with the times.