Feds should pay attention to SEO while cutting websites

Federal agencies taking part in the administration’s dot-gov reform effort run a risk of losing traffic to their websites if they trim or consolidate the websites without sufficient care, according to a search engine specialist.

The goal of the reform plan begun last year is to streamline, consolidate and better coordinate the operations of what are currently about 2,000 federal Web domains and about 24,000 federal websites. An additional goal is to make the websites more accessible and searchable via Web search engines.

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Federal agencies counting down their websites and domains

The 56 agencies involved already have stopped creating new websites, conducted inventories, eliminated some websites and made reform plans.

However, a search engine specialist warns that blunt cuts and eliminations of websites, links and content without careful attention to search engine impact may decrease visibility and traffic, especially given the recent revisions to the Google search engine.

“It would be a huge error to make a wholesale change to a website without attention to the search engine optimization and presence,” said Kristine Schachinger, search engine consultant and founder of SitesWithoutWalls.com. “You may be losing the value of those websites.”

Federal Web managers should ensure that the new website configurations align with the search engine ranking factors for major search engines including Google and Bing, Schachinger said.

The ranking factors are the items that determine where a website ranks in search results. The factors include items such as whether the website code is free of major bugs and whether the site exhibits ease of loading and optimal use of keywords, URLs and links.

Under Google’s recent “freshness” update to its algorithm, Google’s search engine also prioritizes websites with content that is updated most frequently. On the other hand, Google rolled out another update in early January that analysts have said showcases Google+ content and pushes down other results, including government content.

“If your website is full of search engine optimization issues, you could be missing out on hundreds of thousands of visits,” Schachinger added.

The reform plan issued by the dot-gov task force in December stated the goals of improving accessibility and searchability. Agency’s individual Web reform plans also indicate those goals, while simultaneously consolidating and streamlining websites.


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