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How to Exploit the SEO Honeymoon Period

5 steps to make your BRAND NEW site rank by ex-Googler Kaspar Szymanski .

Google gives any brand new site it encounters a chance to be much more visible in Google Search then the almost non existent data allows. It is a testing period commonly referred to as the honeymoon period, during which traffic is high while Google has its pink glasses on and continues to pick up data to eventually rank the site at a more appropriate level. That brief period of time is an opportunity to make a brand new site rank high, even for competitive queries and well beyond the honeymoon period.

Beyond the most basic requirements such as a crawlable, indexable and servable site that adheres to Google Webmaster Guidelines, there are a few less obvious steps that can help to use the honeymoon period as a springboard for lasting SEO performance for a new site.

1. Site Performance

Site Performance, especially speed, is a heavy weight SEO factor. All other signals about Google almost always shows a preference for a site that provides faster user experience. This has been Google’s approach for many years. However, the importance of site performance has grown over time. A number of factors determine how fast a site loads, about which countless publications and guidelines have been published. Ex-Google engineer Fili Wiese shared a recommended and most compelling source on the Need For Speed to be embraced.

Protip: One step that helps to make a site load and render fast for GoogleBot and users alike can be to use Google Cloud Services as hosting provider. On top of additional benefits such as comparative cost efficiency and reliability, it also gets your site as close to the GoogleBot as possible.

2. User Signals

Google loves websites that are popular with users. User signals - of which up to this point Google does not have a critical mass yet - indicate whether a site meets or exceeds user expectation. Both from a business but also from an SEO point of view, user signals are a killer factor. Users build their expectations as they glance over snippets - they pick and choose, or reject and ignore results based on their appeal. Which is why every snippet needs to clearly outline what the landing page has to offer and what’s more compellingly then the next best result on the same topic. Highlighting the unique selling proposition in every snippets is about the same as dressing up for a first date to make a good impression. That is why optimized titles and descriptions, navigational breadcrumbs and meaningful structured data markup not only help in claiming as much snippet real estate as possible. They also help search engines understand what the website is about. Most importantly though, they make results look more compelling, which directly translates to positive users signals telling Google that a site is popular with users.

Protip: Identifying snippets that work well with users is an art and a science and can be time consuming too, so here’s a time saving tip: a limited AdWords campaign can be greatly effective to test which tiles and snippets work best.

3. Link building

Link building is an essential part of the web architecture. It is how users and Google find new content. Linkbuilding must be pursued from the very first day of the new site launch. The idea, however, is to drive conversions and brand recognition, which are pivotal and boost positive user signals while at the same time avoiding violating Google Webmaster Guidelines. In short, conversion is the only meaningful KPs that can be applied to measure whether a link does advance a new site's rankings. The honeymoon period is the perfect timing for aggressively building links for mind blowing growth in order to maintain converting traffic to the site independent of search engine traffic (yes, the honeymoon period will come to an end eventually), and to indicate to Google that a new site is the new go-to place for their respective niche.

Protip: As soon as the site is live, begin and continue building traffic links. Avoid focussing on actively building PageRank passing links, as these will increase the risk of a Google penalty over time. Ignore all outdated link building strategies that focus primarily on PageRank.

4. Google Search Console

Signing up for Google Search Console (GSC) seems such a basic, common sense step, yet it is surprising how often the full potential of GSC is squandered because of a haphazard approach. The objective is getting free SEO relevant data from the only truly reliable source, Google themselves. The advantage of signing up early and configuring the GSC correctly is that a much larger volume of data becomes accessible, which in turn allows greatly refined SEO tweaking. That is why all available, desirable patterns of a new site should be added and verified to GSC. That includes http:// and https:// patterns, with and without www, all subdomains and directories and all variations of these potential combinations. Once all available GSC patterns are added and verified Google "property set" feature which allows a combined view becomes incredibly insightful.

Protip: Follow the steps outlined in the Which URL versions to add to GSC article to take full advantage of GSC data.

5. Structured Data

Structured data can be used to achieve two objectives at once: it helps to claim maximum SERP real estate consequently further driving up CTR and at the same time helps Google algorithms to better understand the content of the website. Of the markups supported by Google, some like breadcrumb, corporate data, logo and social profile are applicable to any new website. Many websites are likely able to also adapt local business, product, review and other markups from an early stage onwards.

Protip: Use the Structured Data Testing Tool to confirm structured data implementation.

Sites launched, crawled and indexed with consideration or the points above and consideration for SEO often continue on their trajectory to better visibility. All other new sites fight an uphill battle in SEO once their honeymoon period has expired. That having said, SEO is a never ending long term game. Planning and foresight must go way beyond a few weeks or at best months of the honeymoon period. Preparations to improve and SEO out-perform competing sites must commence before or at least as soon as the site is launched. After a successful start, any substantial change or feature release should be planned on the basis that it will take Google anywhere between three to six months to embrace them. Which is why the first in-depth audit is best conducted within the first twelve months of the site launch.

Check list

  • Check if the new site can be crawled and indexed.

  • Make sure it is completely on https//.

  • Make the site faster than any of its competitor sites.

  • Manage user expectations with snippets and landing pages. Ensure the unique selling proposition is clear to users and Google.

  • Claim maximum SERP real estate with structured data.

  • Start and continue link building for conversions from day one.

  • Sign up to Google Search Console from day one.

  • Start collecting and preserving server logs from day one.

  • Audit the website 6 to 12 months after the launch.

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Published on Sep 14, 2018 by Kaspar Szymanski