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Dynamic Websites and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

You just caught a glimpse of your competitors and their flashy, new SEO-friendly dynamic websites. Looking at your own company’s static website and search engine optimization, you decide it’s time to perform some updates, if not an entire upgrade.

What now?

Whether you have an eCommerce site, business site, or blog, serving a dynamic web design to your intended audience will boost user experience, resulting in more favorable conversion rates and building SEO credibility with search engines. Updating from a static website will also provide a fresh, unique user experience for consumers on individual web pages, leading to less maintenance in the long term. Partnering with a digital marketing agency with an SEO team and web developers to conduct this update could be a vital piece of your marketing strategy, along with a healthy channel mix with PPC and content marketing.

Converting a website is meticulous work requiring a well-thought-out long-term plan. It is essential to be wary of vendors who oversell dynamic conversion and SEO-centric guarantees. Conversely, be diligent with online resources that state websites no longer require SEO updates because Googlebot can read JavaScript. While Google invented Angular.js, that doesn’t mean an Angular.js website will be SEO-friendly out of the box. HTML is still Googlebot’s native language. No matter the platform, it takes a lot of translation for Googlebot to unpack all scripts correctly. That’s where proper search engine optimization enters the picture.

Common Pitfalls of Dynamic Websites

We found multiple glaring issues when conducting a general audit of several randomly selected websites.

  • One site has category pages pulled together by the search function. Crawlers can’t access the search function, so Google can’t see individual product details or crawl links off those pages.
  • We were surprised to see Analytics, Trusted Stores, Tag Manager, and Remarketing tags multiplying as we clicked through pages on one site. The home page had one of each; there were two on the category page and three on the product page because each time the dynamic website created a new page, it kept all the previous tags live.

While offering a better web design, user experience, and layout conducive to the mobile experience is the ultimate goal of SEO and converting to a dynamic website, the pursuit of superior UX comes with difficulties. It is imperative to ask several questions when approaching a digital marketing agency to conduct this type of work:

  • If links run on JavaScript (which Google can’t crawl)
  • Whether implementation with your content delivery network (CDN) will work
  • What types of pages won’t be accessible to spiders?
  • How will their platform handle your analytics tags?
  • Are there types of pages that can’t be 301 redirected to the new site?

Dynamic URLs Need Work to Be SEO-Friendly

Your URL structure will likely need to change. It will be imperative to plan carefully for redirects from the old site to the new site. The product feed and CDN will cover current products but don’t forget that old product pages with links receive traffic and maybe even rank. How will you redirect these? Forgetting them could lead to a situation where thousands of pages 404, resulting in a massive hit to SEO efforts. Have your SEO team map old URLs to new URLs. This is a tedious process and can be costly, but not as costly as the results of a poorly done map.

Before embarking on remapping, test your new URLs thoroughly. Crawl the web page URLs in a test environment (if you can’t get a standard crawler like Screaming Frog to work, this is a big red flag). Look carefully for anomalies in the crawl results. Dynamic URLs are, well, dynamic, and we’ve seen a newly launched site create thousands of product page URLs with “FAQ” added to the end of them. This error resulted in thousands of 404 pages, an SEO nightmare.

We’ve also seen sub-folders get added, and the “pretty” URLs suddenly get replaced with hashbanged, “ugly” URLs post-launch. Try to work out any kinks before creating final redirects from the old site to the new. On one website, we saw hybrid URLs–part old site URL, part new site URL—show up in the SERPs. Some of these issues inadvertently created redirect chains, so remember to implement self-canonical tags to a pretty URL in place before launch. That way, if something breaks and your product URLs are suddenly replaced, only the pretty one should be getting indexed.

Test Your Dynamic Website in Development

Set up a Google Search Console account for your development site, and make liberal use of the Fetch/Render feature. This feature will show exactly which parts of the dynamic and CDN-delivered pages Googlebot can’t see. Give your digital marketing agency and SEO team access to the development site so they can check and test specifically for SEO issues.

Optimizing Dynamic Websites for Page Speed

Your new dynamic website will be mobile-friendly out of the box, but that doesn’t mean it will score 100 on the Google page speed test. Typically, when a digital marketing agency runs new dynamic websites through the Google Page Speed Tool post-launch, none of them will score above 60. All new sites will require optimizing images, minifying code, and fixing issues with render-blocking scripts above the fold.

Open Graph Tags and Schema.org Tags

If you do a lot of social media sharing, set up a private Facebook page and Twitter account to test out the Open Graph tag implementation. If Facebook isn’t reading the tags correctly, you’ll get a blank space the size of an image or a severely distorted image.

Schema.org tags and other microdata will be your friend, but again, they’ll need testing. Google’s structured data tool is an essential first step, but don’t be surprised if you have to tweak it after launch. After six weeks of mediocre performance, one client fixed their schema tags and saw an immediate increase in the number of keywords ranking, as well as a big jump in keywords ranking in the top three. We suspect that if implementing schema tags correctly, Googlebot will read and process them even if it can’t read anything else on the page.

Search Engine Optimization for Dynamic Websites Post-Launch

Some things can’t be tested, including how Google will display site info on the SERPs. Expect to tweak for SEO and user experience after launch. Even when providing optimized product page URL structures, page titles, meta descriptions, and H1s for a new site before the launch, once the site is live, product page URLs can be listed on the SERPs with the home page title and meta description because something in a script is off.

Finally, think long and hard about when to launch your new dynamic website. If the launch has problems, rankings and organic traffic will drop and may take a long time to recover once fixing everything. Is summer your busy season? Then launch in the dead of winter, so you have time to correct the inevitable problems and regain rankings before your peak season approaches.

None of this is to say that you can’t overcome problems or that you shouldn’t move to a dynamic website. Our clients’ dynamic websites are up and running and performing well with hard work. The benefits for our clients are clear: Better UX, easier to maintain or create additional pages, better integration with the CDN. But better UX, maintenance, and integration won’t matter much if SEO issues mean the dynamic website doesn’t rank.

Looking for a Digital Marketing Agency Partner to Convert Your Website or Conduct SEO?

For more digital marketing insights and tips on PPC, SEO, content marketing, social media marketing, display, programmatic, and CTV, check back each week as Lever Interactive posts interesting, unique content written by our digital marketing agency experts.

If you’re interested in partnering with a proactive digital marketing agency that values trust, confidence, and creativity, you can reach out to us at Sales@LeverInteractive.com. We’re looking forward to helping you with your digital marketing needs in 2022 and beyond.

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