Regained Position 1 for Branded Search

The Challenge

A national pet retailer came to Greenlane with a unique organic search problem. On desktop, the search results for their brand name yielded a video thumbnail of their homepage instead of a text listing. On mobile, their homepage ranking dropped off the first page completely, and switched between the video thumbnail and within the video carousel.

This severely impacted click through rates to the homepage. Users either couldn’t find the link to the homepage at all, or thought it was a video and didn’t click through. This also severely impacted the bottom line, as the homepage tends to be a major entry point for customers who end up purchasing products.

The Goal

This issue lingered for a number of months while they tried to figure it out internally. So by the time we came on board, our client wanted resolution as quickly as possible. The goal was to fix the issue altogether. We would restore both the desktop and mobile listing to their correct state, i.e. without a video thumbnail on desktop and mobile, and not within the video carousel on mobile. Additionally, we would ensure their mobile ranking returned to position 1.

The Strategy

Our client provided us with a great deal of information about their video hosting provider, so this gave us a good place to start our search. We believed it was probably a technical issue, so we started by analyzing both the homepage and video subdomains for the technical components we know can impact SEO if implemented incorrectly. We examined different components like robots.txt, canonical tags, XML sitemaps, user-agent detection, etc.

During the XML sitemap review for the video subdomain, we noticed the sitemap was specifically submitting the homepage as a video, complete with a thumbnail, duration, video location URL, etc. In fact, this sitemap was submitting an extremely large number of our pages as videos, which had the potential to impact the indexation of other pages in the same way as the homepage.

We recommended the sitemap in question be removed with a “410 Gone” http status. Then resubmitted the bad sitemap to Google via Search Console to ensure they knew it was gone.

The Results

Once the fix was launched, the homepage began returning to its first-place position within a day, with the fix fully propagating across all Google users within a week. Desktop and mobile are now both showing a normal organic search result for the homepage in Position 1, without the video thumbnail. Organic traffic returned to normal on both desktop and mobile devices as well.

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