Switching Property Management Software – SEO Website Migration
So you are switching software, did you think about SEO in consideration of the migration? Do you have a migration plan to prevent loss in organic SEO traffic? If not and you are engaged in SEO – you could be setting yourself up for a disaster, especially if you are switching CMS platforms. Doing this incorrectly could result in your website being ranked worse than your previous site, and sometimes it won’t even be ranked at all. By following the 30 steps listed below you can streamline the changes you are making to your website:
Planning The Migration
You already have some of the planning for a site migration completed – you know what keywords you rank for and which ones are specifically driving traffic to your site.
Make sure to include everything you’ve built with your new site – you don’t know how important the stuff you have is until you try leaving it out:
1)Build a sitemap of your new website – list your pages hierarchically (images, videos and other assets).
2)Assemble a list of all the URLs currently on your site. To do this either crawl the site, extract the information from the CMS, or export URLs receiving traffic from Analytics. Its helpful to scrape your website’s URLs using tools like ScreamingFrog. Ensure you add these into a well-organized Excel document. a.Make note of the URLs you are using for PPC campaigns – if you don’t set up redirects on these URLs it could cause them to send users to broken links and ruin your Quality Score.
3)Go through each URL from the current site and individually map it to the new site URLs, ensuring to implement 301 redirects. In your Excel it could be as simple as column A = Old URL and column B = New URL to 301 to.
4)Ensure you are tracking many keywords prior to migration to benchmark the current websites rankings and measure the progress throughout the migration.
5)Its always good to track current bounce rate / time-on-page for your most popular pages.
6)Enter the new website into Google Search Console (Google Webmaster Tools)
7) Develop a XML Sitemap for the new domain don’t upload this into Google Console sitemap section until you go live, just get it ready.
Implementing the Migration
Instead of just waiting for your site to go live, go through your site and test a few things to make sure the migration is going smoothly.
1)For ALL your URLS from the old to the new domain, set up and test the 301 redirects at the page level. To make this easier use crawlers.
2)In order to prevent the staging site from being indexed, password protect the new domain and block all the crawlers in the robot.txt file. If possible, use meta=”noindex” tags. Not doing this can cause some serious problems. Google could accidentally index content on your staging site in addition to live content – or the worse possible scenario, Google reads the content on your staging site before your live site, which in turn would cause some serious ranking issues… So pay be extra careful in this step!!!!
3)Publish updated content to the new domain. If you’re on WordPress, this is cake – there are exporting features built in.
4)Remove the password protection required to edit content on the new site.
5)On the page level, begin implementing 301 redirects from the old to new domain.
6)Crawl the list of redirects using ScreamingFrog SEO Tool to ensure that they are working. This is a good way just to double check. 7)Disable the disallow rule in the robots.txt file, so search engines are allowed to crawl the new site. This is important or you could potentially lose rankings for a while.
8)Via the Search Console submit the sitemap of the new domain to Google
Monitoring the Migration Progress (Please don’t set it and forget it)
Make sure to be aware of all your data after a migration. Spotting an issue before it gets too serious makes it a lot easier to fix.
1)For at least the first month after the migration keep checking Google Search Console every day for 404 crawl errors. These are important to fix with 301 redirects.
2)To ensure that the 301 redirects are still working crawl the old URLs once, or twice per week for the first month
3)Verify that your organic visibility is maintained by checking the benchmark rankings mentioned above. One really great tool for this is called Authority Labs. You can track Local, Organic, and Mobile rankings!
4)Look over your new organic traffic volume and how visitors are behaving on your site to make sure that your new sites is performing as well as your old one and users are finding what they need. Sometimes moving or redesigning the site can cause issues in the user experience. It could be smart to install tools like InspectLet to track user flow / engagement.
PPC In A Site Migration
Since AdWords doesn’t redirect to a URL, if you are changing the web address you will need to create some new ads. The URL that is being displayed HAS to match the final URL. Don’t forget to update your tracking codes either. Once you have updated URLs and codes give it a test run and make sure everything is running as it should be. I also recommend reading my article about tracking success in Google Analytics.
Losing a Piece Of History
Change is good, but sometimes it takes a while to adjust to it. So even if you have been consistently practicing SEO and CRO, you cannot know for sure how new users and more importantly Google are going to respond to your website. Expect to see a decline in performance at first while users and Google become more familiar with your site – I know it sucks, but just be patient and try not to freak out. Google takes forever sometimes to make changes react ONLY once you’re sure there is a problem.
If you took all the necessary steps needed for a successful site migration all you might need is a little bit of time, so everyone can realize how amazing your new design is 😉 BUT be sure not to do a full site migration during peak season for your management company. Rather do it during a time where business is slower for you.
Local SEO is crucially important for all local business owners, especially vacation rental managers. If people in your city are searching for your business and can’t even find you, how are all of your potential guests outside of your city supposed to find you? They can’t and you need to fix that. Local SEO is the process of ensuring potential guests can find your business when they search for you locally and streamlining this process through a few easy steps. First you need to check for an existing listing. Let’s assume you own a property management company in Park City. You would Google “Park City vacation rentals.” If your company name showed up on this list, you’d be good, if not, you need to make some changes.
You want to be sure that when people are making these city/state specific keyword searches, your company is showing up on the first page of results in both the Organic results and Local, or what is also known as the “Snack Pack.”
SNACK PACK & ORGANIC
There are 2 different kinds of results on the front page. The “Snack Pack” and the “organic results.” The top 3 results that can be seen in the screen shot above are commonly referred to as the “Snack Pack,” the sweetest and best results you can find on the internet. Just kidding, not necessarily. But it’s pretty sweet for the
business owners whose site is in the Snack Pack because now people get to see their site first. Below the Snack Pack are the organic results and we are all familiar with the various SEO tactics that must be implemented in order to increase your ranking on these. Now the most important question, how do you get your site in the “Snack Pack?”
GETTING IN THE SNACK PACK
You have to sign your business up with Google. First type your phone number into Google and verify that the correct business shows. Once you have done that here are the steps you must follow to get your business registered locally:
a)Go to Google.com/business
b)Select “Get on Google”
c)Sign in or create an account
d)Type in the name of your business
e)Add your business
f)Fill in your business details
g)Wait for Google to send you a post card
It will take a little but for Google to send you the post card, so in the mean time you can optimize your listing to attract more visitors. A few different ways you can do that are:
A)Adding visually pleasing images
B)Having the correct hours of operation of your business listed
C)Put a description that adequately describes your business and also contains a few important keywords
D)Most importantly, ensuring your business is listed under the correct category.
Being a vacation rental manager, your categories should be: vacation home rental agency, property management company and/or condominium rental agency.
CITATIONS (GOOD ONES)
Once you have done all of the aforementioned and Google has recognized your business you can start to strengthen your local presence. The first way you can do this is by building citations.
A citation for your company is a way for Google to verify your business and it can be as simple as a mention of your company name, phone number, or address. A citation does not have to include a link and is most commonly accomplished by putting your site in a directory. Since we are focusing on being “local” today, instead of getting your site in a directory that is more general and doesn’t have a specific focus, rather try and get your site in a “local” travel directory.
Manually doing this can be very time consuming and there is an easier, but more expensive option. You can pay for your business to be added automatically & synchronized to several listings through these sites: -Bright Local
WEBSITE TITLES & HTags
Once you have registered your site locally through Google you need to make sure your site itself has updated city/state tags in your title tag, your h1 tag and your content. Simple additions such as this have been known to significantly help organic results.
ADDING SCHEMA MARK UP
You want Google to be able to understand your website as easily as possible. When you add specific markup tags you are letting Google know where your address, phone number, business name, etc. are on your website. This can be done very simply by going here:
B) Choose lodging
C) Fill out information and C/P the code to your site
GET QUALITY REVIEWS & HELP PREVENT NEGATIVE ONES!
Last but not least, and an important factor in the Snack Pack ranking system is getting reviews. Everyone loves reading reviews, it makes your business look better and attracts potential new guests. The let Google know that people were satisfied when they worked with your business. Good reviews are great, but no one likes to deal with having bad reviews. A great tip to promote good reviews, but also accept bad ones is by having a “review business card” that you leave on every nightstand in your properties. If you can train your cleaning service to leave a business card such as the one below on every nightstand, you have a higher chance of hearing from people who have enjoyed their vacation, thus more good reviews.
The goal is to have the domain on your business card lead guests to a review page with a simple (Y/N), or thumbs up and thumbs down, that asks if they enjoyed their stay. An example can be seen in the screen shot below. If your guests push the thumbs up, they will be taken to a further review page where they can leave a positive review on a directory of your choice (Google or even VRBO!). If they say no, then they will also be taken to another page where they can voice their opinions, but instead this message will be sent directly to your email, so you can figure out what went wrong during their stay.
SMALL STEPS, BIG RESULTS
These may seem like simple tasks, but if you are able to thoroughly and successfully complete all these tasks, it will help your site. There are other strategies to Local and additional work to be done, we will be contributing further articles to elaborate on such strategies. Keep an eye out and we hope you enjoyed reading this article.
What To Do When The Wrong Page Is Ranking For The Keywords You Care About
You want to make sure that when searchers are performing a query that is relevant to your site they are going to find the correct page on your site. This may sound obvious, but most sites experience this problem – having the incorrect page come up for a certain query/keyword search. This could be problematic for a few different reasons. First off, when guests arrive at the incorrect page they more than likely leave right away. This is going to cause your bounce rate to go up, which in turn is going to hurt your ranking through Google. Another thing that could also happen, which is the most detrimental, is that your conversion rate could go down… costing your lost reservations – sad face.
Here’s an example. Google “Maui Vacation Rentals.” One page 2 of the results there are two listings for Maui Hawaii Vacations:
Subject to change – we are not Google : )
I’m assuming they are more interested in having their home page come up when searchers look for “Maui Vacation Rentals,” so why is another page coming up?
In the guide below I will talk about the different reasons why this could happen and how to fix the problem.
Step 1: Diagnose The Problem You’re Having
There are a few different reasons something like this could be happening to your website.
The first reason is that a relevant page doesn’t even exist on the website that is correct for the keyword, so instead another page has been indexed by Google. Start with creating a page that is correct for the keyword. This is why it is super important to do detailed keyword research and match keywords to existing pages or create a content project if one doesn’t exist.
Second, it might be possible that the relevant page, or page you want to be showing up, is having indexing issues caused by content or internal linking. If Google is having trouble crawling the relevant page it could mean that your page is being blocked. Your content could also be the root problem –maybe the page doesn’t have enough content, or content that Google feels isn’t relevant or worthy of crawling. It could also be a problem that the relevant page doesn’t have enough internal, or external links pointing to it, which in turn tells Google that the page is not important enough for other pages to link to it. Its it super important to create good menu hierarchy to ensure your important pages are getting positioned.
Thirdly, the ability for your desired page to rank could be being overwhelmed by another page. We call this problem keyword cannibalism – the means that another page is to closely related in topic and causing Google to be confused on which page to position.
Step 2: Create The Relevant Page to The Keyword or Improve the Existing Page
Once you have diagnosed what the SEO problem is, either start with creating the page, or improving the already existing page that you would like to be positioned. Content is always king, so go through and double check that your keywords are all related to what is on the page. You want to ensure that your content is unique and provides value to potential users (guests). Think of content as Google robot food, at the end of the day Google is a machine, it cannot tell what is on the page unless you give it content – well not yet at least (scary).
Check and see what pages on your site are linking to this page and to other pages, but most importantly make sure that the right links are pointing to this page internally. Internal link flow is mega important and its always-best practice to map your sites internal link hierarchy.
Monitor the user experience, meaning take a look at the time-on-page and bounce. Do the other pages outranking this page have better engagement or search experience when looking for rentals? Google Analytics is your best friend for this and your developers can make this happen once you find out.
Go through and check your external links and find out if they are linking to the other page. Sometimes you might find an authoritative site is linking to the incorrect page, its rare but this does happen.
Step 3: Last Resort to Fix This Issue
If all of the above steps haven’t helped and you still are having indexing issues for certain queries, try a 301 redirect. BUT make sure you have given it enough time for Google to recrawl the above modifications – PLEASE.
You want to 301 redirect the page that is ranking incorrectly (X) to the page that you do want ranking (Y). Before you do this analize the content and perhaps consider moving some of the (X) content to (Y). What the 301 does is tells search engines that the page has officially moved and will pass most of the authority over.
Even if you are confident in your site and the SEO you have done thus far, make sure you at least go through and perform a few manual searches, especially the most important ones. Some simple searches can potentially save you big money and help reservations. I recommend doing this quarterly or at the very least a few months prior to your primary season.
Track: Bookings – Inquiries – Form Fills – Calls – Chats!
Do you know how much money you are making through your Paid Search/SEO campaigns? Can you tell how many bookings, property inquiries, contact form leads,phone calls and chats are coming in by origin? Well if you can’t do either of these and you are marketing your management company online in any way, you could be shooting yourself in the foot. Sometimes tracking keywords and general traffic isn’t enough. You may even have the right traffic, but for some reason your site isn’t converting – these are all potential issues that can be evaluated using the tracking methods below.
Start Tracking (Ecommerce)!
As a vacation rental manager you want to know what city your guests are coming from. With this crucial data you can find ways to better improve areas where you might be losing guests, and brainstorm ideas to break into new markets. Your reports in Google Analytics can also be viewed in an ecommerce version. This allows you to see how you’re making money and where you’re bookings are coming from. Ecommerce tracking is single-handedly the most important thing you could set up in Google Analytics. To ensure you have this set up:
1)Pull up your Google Analytics standard reports
2)Go to the “Admin” button located in the top right
3)Go to your “Profile Settings”
4)Click on “Ecommerce Settings” and change the drop down to “Yes, an Ecommerce Site”
5)”Submit” with the button at the bottom
This is when things start to get a little difficult. You have to connect the ecommerce part of your site to Google Analytics so it knows what properties were booked, how much you’re selling them for, etc. Unless you have experience coding/web developing I would recommend hiring a friendly coder who would be up to the task – this would be very easy for them and much less of a headache for you.
What’s the easiest way to set up ecommerce tracking?
The easiest way to set up ecommerce tracking is to ensure that your site is using a compatible vacation rental software. For example, StreamlineVRS will automatically import ecommerce data to Google Analytics once it is connected with your site. It’s as easy as:
1)Give Streamline VRS your Google Analytics property
2)Turn ecommerce on in Google Analytics
This is a lot easier than doing it yourself, or hiring someone to do it, so make sure when you are shopping around for vacation rental software, they include the feature of being easily integrated with Google Analytics. This is especially important if you plan on doing online marketing for your properties.
Set Your Goals
Goals is how Google Analytics tracks conversions, it’s debatably the most important data you want to keep track of. Not to mention conversions are what keeps the fire going! You want to narrow down what it is you should be tracking, so start with the most important elements: Reservations, Property Inquiries and General Contact Form Fills. To do this:
1)Go to Google Analytics standard reports
2)Click on “admin” button
3)Click on “goals”
4)In one of the Goal sets, click “+Goal”
There are 2 different kinds of Goals you can track, so you want to make sure you specify which Goal you want Analytics to track. You can have Google Analytics track a:
-URL Destination: whenever people visit a specific URL it tracks a goal
-Event: this is most commonly used for live chats – an event will need to be clearly defined by adding a specific code to your site. This code will allow you to set it as a goal once Google has started tracking the site.
Advertising On AdWords?
If yes, you need connect it to your Google Analytics account, so you can take advantage of the data you are paying for. If you don’t connect AdWords to Google Analytics it could mean that your paid search results are getting tracked as organic search results. To set everything up correctly you need to:
A)Turn On Auto-Tagging in Google AdWords
By doing this you will be able to start telling Google Analytics which visits to your links are coming from Adwords. -Go to your AdWords account
-Go to “My Account” then “Preferences”-Ensure that Auto-tagging is checked yes
– if it is not click “edit” and make sure “Destination URL Auto-tagging” is checked
B)The Joining of Two Worlds (Google Adwords & Google Analytics)
This will ensure that all of the great data you are getting through AdWords is getting imported to Google Analytics. To make this possible:
-Go to AdWords
-Go to “Tools” and “Analysis” then click on “Google Analytics” When you are brought to a screen that asks you if you want to create a Google Analytics account, or use an existing one, select the option “already-have-one”, click the account you want to connect. Now you’re good to go. You can check on your AdWords settings in Google Analytics by following these basic steps:
1)Go to Google Analytics and select “New version”
2)Select “Admin” (top right)
3)Select your account
4)Select “Data sources” from the list of tabs at the top
Don’t Forget About The Site Search
It is important to figure out why people are leaving your site, and what they might think is missing from it. You can easily find out that information by connecting your Google Analytics account to your internal site search. This will give you a list of all the keywords people have searched for on your site, and which keywords brought potential guests to something that wasn’t there. You can set up site search by:
-Go to Google Analytics standard reports
-Go to “View Settings”
-Scroll to the bottom and look for “site search settings”
-Fill out required fields and save
The next step is finding out how your site is identifying internal search terms. A query parameter identifies internal search terms, so you need to ensure that Google Analytics looks for the same query parameter every time and is able to identify them as internal search terms.
Start A Campaign
The most important thing for you to measure is the RIO of your current marketing campaigns. You need to ensure that the money you are spending on marketing is actually working and bringing you more conversions/bookings. Any URLs that you can edit can be tracked by Google Analytics (emails, Facebook, banner adds, etc.) If you don’t have any campaigns set up you can start doing that through Google’s URL builder tool. You can keep track of your link in campaign reports by entering your domain and some basic info about the link: -Source: Which domain is the link coming from? What email list? -Medium: Utilize PPC, banner ads, email, affiliate, etc. -Content: Separate different versions of the same ad by using this -Name: Your campaign links will be grouped by name (this is how Google does it). This is how you can distinguish groups of ads in your reports. Make sure you can know what the link is without having to look at more info.
Tracking Part 2 (Calls)
The easiest way to track calls is by using CallRail. Depending on visitor origin CallRail will automatically change the phone number on your website, which then allows for tracking by lead origin and call recording to take place. You can use these reports and compare them with reservation history in hopes of increasing potential bookings. Bada Bing Bada Boom!
Now You Have Data – Make Your Improvements to Your Advantage!
Data is crucial for Google, and you want to make sure to track all of the data you are acquiring through your site. If you follow all of the steps listed above you will be able to better track your data and use it to your advantage.