How We Increased SERP Rank with Strong SEO and a 301 Redirect

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March 28, 2019

In an earlier post, I explained how we landed a featured snippet for our most popular Microsoft Office help page – even though we totally ignored SEO best practices. Google felt it was worthy of position 0 in spite of terrible SEO because it answered the search queries better than any other page. In this post, I’ll explain what happened when a new version of another popular help page was created, and a 301 (permanent) redirect was added to the original page. We wanted to see what effect updating the page with correct and meaningful SEO techniques would have on Google search rank. If there was a significant bump in page rank, then other popular IT-related help pages would also be addressed.

About 301 Redirects

A 301 redirect tells both browsers and search engine bots that a page has been permanently moved. Search engines understand this to mean the page content can be found at the new URL. Since the original page was so popular, we didn’t want to lose page rank. Using a 301 redirect minimizes or eliminates any potential loss. According to a Moz.com post:

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect which passes between 90-99% of link equity (ranking power) to the redirected page. 301 refers to the HTTP status code for this type of redirect. In most instances, the 301 redirect is the best method for implementing redirects on a website.

Why Recreate the Page?

You might be asking yourself, “If the page is ranking so well already, why bother recreating it? Why not just update the SEO on the existing page?” We had a few reasons to recreate the page:

  1. The help pages are being moved to a different platform and are slated for removal from the website. If we don’t recreate the pages, we will lose valuable site traffic.
  2. To add a small internal promotion box asking visitors to explore our university for their other needs.
  3. To see if we could snag the featured snippet for this page as well.
  4. Most importantly, to establish our website as a valuable source of information available to anyone, not just our students.

The page selected was the 5th most-visited of our IT-related help pages. It was the 18th most popular page on our entire website over all for the 2018 calendar year (Jan. – Dec.). This particular page describes the steps necessary to insert the document path name into the header or footer of a Microsoft Word document.

Changes to the New Page

We kept the new page as close to the original as possible (to keep the focus on SEO), but we did make a few adjustments:

  • The text of the H1 tag remained the same, but only one H1 tag was used. The original page had 3 (and they were all identical).
    • Word: Insert File/Path Name into Document Footer or Header
  • The meta description was rewritten to describe the contents of the page and encourage more clicks. We also added a CTA (Call To Action).
    • Inserting the document file or path name into the header or footer of a Word doc will help you remember where your document is located. Learn how to do it!
  • The somewhat generic help desk image was replaced with one directly related to the page:
  • Lastly, a meaningful, keyword-related alt attribute was added to the image (Insert filename into Word document header or footer).

What Stayed the Same?

The components of the page that were not changed include:

  • the secondary navigation
  • the H1 and H2 tags
  • the body (text) of the page

Results

The old page (containing the code for the 301 redirect) was re-published on February 18. As of March 13, the new page surpassed the old page in popularity. It is currently the 10th most-visited page on our website. During the same period in 2018, the old page was the 12th most visited page. In this short period of time the optimized page is already receiving significantly more traffic that the original page.

Conclusion

If a web page contains content that answers popular queries better than any other page, it will do well in the SERP (regardless of SEO). But if you take that same page and apply proper SEO techniques, it has a great chance to rank even better. Granted, this was only a one-page test, but for us the results are promising. The plan is to create a new version of our most popular IT-related help pages that we have in order to create a valuable educational resource available to the general public.

If you decide to create a new version of an existing page, be sure to add code for a permanent redirect. That way you won’t lose the link equity (ranking power) that was generated by the original page.

 

 

 

 

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