Time of work: August – September 2019

Status: Ongoing

Identified Issues

  1. 2018 subdomain outranks 2019 for branded search terms

2018 subdomain outranks 2019 for branded search terms

Leading up to the 2018 WordCamp Halifax, the 2017 content outranked 2018. As the 2019 event approaches, we have the same issue. This year, in Halifax, WordCamp is on September 7, 2019. As of August 7th when I search the phrase Wordcamp Halifax the 2018 content outranks the 2019 content. 

wordcamp halifax search results screen capture August 7th, 2019

Search Results when search “WordCamp Halifax” as of August 7th, 2019

Not only does it outrank 2019, but the 2018 search results provide richer results with site links. The site links answer two of the most useful pieces of information any potential conference attendee wants to know:

  1. Schedule: Who can I see and when?
  2. Tickets: How do I give you my money?

Very useful… if we had a time machine!

When will Google start favouring 2019 pages?

Unfortunately, time machines are not currently available. If they were, as Doc Brown suggests, the creation of a temporal paradox could unravel the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe. Pretty heavy consequences for an increase in organic traffic so let’s explore last years organic traffic using Ahrefs to see when the switch happened between 2017 and 2018. 

2018’s event was on June 16th

Organic Traffic & Keywords for 2018.halifax.wordcamp.org One Day Before the Event Screen Capture

Organic Traffic & Keywords for 2018.halifax.wordcamp.org One Day Before the Event

According to Ahrefs estimate of traffic, the site only saw 1 visit the day before the event. Not surprising considering they didn’t rank on the first page for any keywords according to the tool. The day before an event, that had hundreds of people, there was only one visit to the website from organic search results.

Only one person looked up who they wanted to hear talk the night before? Only one person checked the address?

It is possible that they found what they needed from other channels (e.g. email, social media, etc.) but it is very unlikely that only two people searched this information the night before.

Organic Traffic & Keywords for 2017.halifax.wordcamp.org One Day Before the Event Screen Capture

Organic Traffic & Keywords for 2017.halifax.wordcamp.org One Day Before the Event

The 2017 site did not rank as well but did drive some organic traffic. My searches leading up to the event had 2017 info dominating. Unfortunately I wasn’t involved with the site at the time and do not have any documentation beyond Ahrefs data to confirm the search results leading up to the June 2018event.

So what is the issue?

Each year the subdomain of the event is changed to be a double subdomain. Each year this new subdomain must rebuild its authority. This means each year by the time the new event has a website, the previous years site out ranks the current one.

According to Google’s John Mueller official they don’t favour one over the other.

For privacy reasons YouTube needs your permission to be loaded.

I Accept

In a lot of cases this is true like if the subdomain was part of something much larger or at the very least is going to continue to be relevant information. For a conference in a smaller Canadian city this means each year the authority has to be built from zero. Pretty daunting task for a bunch of volunteers.

Learn more about Subdomains vs. Subfolders: Which Is Better for SEO & Why? from Jenny Halasz with her article from February 2018 on Search Engine Journal.

Solutions:

WordCamp Central:

  1. Permanent redirect the main subdomain (e.g. https://halifax.wordcamp.org) to the new years double subdomain (e.g. https://2019.halifax.wordcamp.org/). Each year this gets set up once the promotional website for the new year is ready. This would be a great solution if we could get all sponsors to link the to main subdomain. We would always have a redirect between us and the transfer of authority, but at least we would have something to build off come the start of website promotion. To supplement this approach we are going to:
    1. get the redirects:
      1. https://halifax.wordcamp.org/tickets/ 301 to https://2019.halifax.wordcamp.org/tickets/
      2. https://halifax.wordcamp.org/schedule/ 301 to https://2019.halifax.wordcamp.org/schedule/
    2. Ask all new sponsors to update any promotion to the main subdomain.
    3. Review past link portfolios and determine any existing links where we have relationships and ask for the link to be updated to the main subdomain.
  2. Canonical the previous years main pages to the 2019 counter part. This is great for the main page but the 2 other most important pages Tickets and Schedule do not have the canonical set up.