Messy SEO: Fixing site structure while a Google title change sinks clickthroughs
In Part 5 of our Messy SEO series, we look at the results from Google's title tag changes and other SERP issues affecting MarTech.
Messy SEO is a column covering the nitty-gritty, unpolished tasks involved in the auditing, planning, and optimization of websites, using MarTech’s new domain as a case study.
This installment of “Messy SEO” details my process of working with our marketing, content and development teams to further clean up the search engine results pages for MarTech. In Part 4, we discussed the issues arising from Google’s title changes and the tactics taken to address them.
SERP title change fallout and improvements
Google’s SERP title changes from August did a number on our MarTech mission page, pulling in irrelevant alt text from our site header logo, making the title link read “Martech is Marketing Logo.”
We tried many tactics to combat this change: resubmitting the page via Google Search Console, adding contextual internal links and updating the title tag every few days to see if anything changed. And, after months of edits and monitoring the SERPs, Google finally updated the MarTech title tag to reflect our chosen version (shown below).
Our original chosen page title tag read “What is MarTech? …This is MarTech.” We believed Google’s algorithm felt this tag wasn’t clear enough for searchers, so we tweaked it a bit to better highlight the main topic of the page. In a sense, we answered the question we posed in the same tag, inviting searchers to view the page to learn more.
We were thrilled to see Google update this important page’s title in the SERPs. But, after digging into the original change’s effects on MarTech search performance, we saw the true impact of Google’s SERP title alteration.
After Google’s edit to our title in early November, we saw a major drop in organic clicks to the page (shown above). We compared the period when we first noticed the change to when we saw it reflect our updated title tag (all rough estimates). We found that total clicks to the page decreased by 41% and the CTR dropped from 3.1% to 1.7% when compared to the previous period (shown below).
Fortunately, the search numbers appear to look much better following Google’s decision to display our new title. But with so little data to go on right now, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Issues of site structure
The change to major page titles wasn’t the only issue we noticed affecting MarTech’s SERP display. Yet another consequence of our consolidation of Marketing Land and MarTech Today came in the form of Google’s chosen sitelinks for the MarTech domain (shown below).
While our mission page is certainly important (as evidenced by our work on its title tag), each of the other displayed links plays secondary roles for the site — with those toward the bottom being even more irrelevant. It looks like Google considers these pages more important than our designated top-level topic pages, which serve as relevant silos for all our content.
This shows that building your site using a horizontal structure isn’t always enough to help Google recognize your chosen hierarchy of pages. A site like MarTech contains many mixed signals from the years of publishing on Marketing Land and MarTech Today. Clearly, Google still thinks pages relating to them are important due to the signals built up over the years.
Sending site structure signals to Google
The only way to address these old site indicators is the ensure our new signals are conveying the correct information about our site layout. Here are some of the tactics we’re using to give Google a clearer view:
- Adding breadcrumbs to articles. While our MarTech pages already feature the top-level category, we decided more information was needed for crawlers. We’re rolling out breadcrumb links to each article to help Google and users gain a better understanding of our site structure.
- Fleshing out content on top-level pages. Our topic and category pages originally only featured the header text and the associated posts. Now, we’re adding relevant content blurbs to the tops of these pages to highlight their importance — and hopefully improve their rankings as well.
- Internal linking. We may sound like a broken record at this point, but internal linking is a critical factor for improving page rankings. Our breadcrumbs and menu links already point to many of these, but we want to link from the body text in article content as well to give more context.
Have you had continued title tag issues or site structure problems affecting the SERPs? How are you addressing them? Email me at email@example.com with the subject line “Messy SEO Part 5” to let me know.
More Messy SEO
Read more about our new MarTech domain’s SEO case study.
- Part 1: Navigating a site consolidation migration
- Part 2: The importance of canonicalization
- Part 3: How to find cached images and improve user experience
- Part 4: When Google’s title change goes wrong