<< by on November 22nd, 2011
Changes in site architecture and Search Engine Algorithms had a decimating effect on our client’s rankings for its over 600 store locations.
Search Engines can’t fill out a store locator box. Google-bot can’t type a zip code. So even though users can easily use these kind of interfaces to find their nearest store location, a search engine can not do that.
As a result, a directory of store locations had to be developed as a path that Search Engines can use to find the store pages. This was effective until one day in May. The directory structure could only be accessed from one link on the site, deep in the site map page. When the Google May Day update hit, the directory structure had all of the store locations 4 clicks away from the home page. Ever since the May Day update you really need to try to have your content within 2 clicks of your Home Page.
The client also had a couple of different websites, which also used the same exact store location pages just with different URLs. This is duplicate content in the eyes of Search Engines. Chances are a Search Engine will usually only rank one of the duplicate content URLs, and it may not be the URL that you prefer to rank.
Search Mojo cleaned up the directory structure of the store locations and convinced the client to add a footer link to all pages of the website to that directory structure. This had a significant impact on improving many keyword rankings. It led to the store pages at least getting found and indexed by Google, which wasn’t happening with the directory structure being buried deep within the site, far from the Home page.
Canonical tags which refer search engines to rank the pages that you want ranking rather than their duplicate content counter points on other URLs were implemented to avoid issues of duplicate content.
Rankings bounced back for the store location pages. We went from 10% of them having top ten search rankings on Google to about 70% of them having top ten rankings on Google. Many other pages are very close to becoming top 10 ranked pages.
What Could Have Worked Better
Rich Snippets have the potential to give search engines the ability to associate your page with a location, which can be a big deal. When search engines can personalize search results based on the searchers location (especially on mobile devices enabled with GPS) these store pages can lead to increased store visits and sales.