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Would This Cause A Penalty?

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#1 BrianGilmore


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Posted 03 June 2014 - 08:15 PM

SEO Consulting for a HUGE Website. Their h1 tags have instagram/twitter, h2 have their menu/what's trending and h3 is the article title. Here's what I want to do. Would it cause a Google penalty?
MY MAIN QUESTION: This site has tens of thousands of pages, all articles beyond the few dozen category/tag pages they have. If I change the structure to the following, will it be too much of a system shock to Google? Will this actually HURT them?
Currently on the site: - h1 tags point to Twitter/Instagram sidebar widgets
h2 tags point to the menu/what’s trending section (which is the same on every page)
h3 points to the Title of the Article
I want to change it to this:
- h1 tags should delineate the article's name. That's all they should really be used for.
- h2-4 should be reserved for article subheadings to be used by the editorial staff.
NOTE: 30% of their >11 million monthly uniques come from search. I don't want to eff with that, but the way that NONE of their pages have optimized words, they have no sitemap, webmaster tools and are still doing this well makes me think that even putting in minimal changes to tidy things up will help them bring it to 70% organic search.

#2 torka


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Posted 04 June 2014 - 09:19 AM

To answer the question in your title, using markup as it's intended (which is what you're proposing to do) will not cause a penalty. Why should it?


As to whether making that change will help, hurt or have no effect, there's no way of telling ahead of time. My personal feeling is that H(whatever) elements don't have that much influence. What will make a bigger change is if you change the linking structure, site architecture or page layout. If you're keeping all the same links/menus and the same basic page layout, just changing is so that the links and menus are now in <div>s or <p>s or something like that (so you can now code using correct structural markup the titles and section headers that are already there), then I don't believe there should be a big change either way.


But that's just a gut feeling. The search algorithms take into account hundreds of factors, and it's difficult to predict how those factors will work together on any individual page. Not to mention that search results don't happen in a vacuum -- at the same time you're making your changes, you have no idea what the competition is doing, or what the market is doing. Changes outside the site you're working on can also affect how your site's pages rank in search.


You really won't know until you give it a try.


And all that said, I'm not sure that 70% traffic from organic search is a worthwhile goal. That's putting an awful lot of eggs in one (uncontrollable) basket. For my own sites, I'd rather see something more balanced, with over half my traffic coming from referral and direct. That way, if Google hiccups (as it does from time to time) and my pages drop off the SERPs (it has happened to even very high quality pages), I don't have to worry about losing 70% of my traffic until the situation is resolved. :)


My :02:


--Torka :oldfogey:

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