Dennis Cline

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Via citation cleanup and build-out, I've got a dental client ranking in the 3-pack for some important keywords locally. Their website is one of those cookie-cutter, flat monthly rate sites with boiler plate content, but has decent (if awkward) local SEO metrics, mobile friendliness, and adequate page load speeds. But boring as hell with a dismal bounce rate.

I'd like to create a new funnel-based website for them. Fewer pages, initially, but with much greater user relevancy and marketability. One thing I'm concerned about is their legal name is just the founder's name, e.g., "Joe J. Smith, DDS, Inc." That's how it's registered with the Big 3 aggregators and at all the citation sites.

Do I risk confusing Google, Infogroup et al. if I use something like "Joe J. Smith Family Dentistry" in the header and copy, even if I keep the legal name in the NAP footer, About page, and metadata? Dare I use the variant name in page titles and/or URLs?

Also, will the sheer reduction in pages adversely affect the 3-pack position? Organic page rank is marginal (not page 1), which is another reason I want to migrate to a new custom website, but I'd hate to sacrifice the gains we've made so far.

Any advice is much appreciated!
 
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Anytime you're migrating a site, you're going to see some initial drops in ranking. It'd be worth the time to make manual 301 redirects for all the important pages on the old site (especially the ones that had any real number of backlinks) in addition to just the pages that were getting traffic. As far as whether or not the number of pages on a site is a ranking factor, that more pages does not necessarily mean better rankings. Or in other words, to my knowledge at least, the size of a site isn't directly a ranking factor if I'm not mistaken, though I'm not 100% sure on that, and I suspect that it'd be harder to rank a one page site than a 10 page site... I'd be interested if someone else had some knowledge to share around that.

Dentistry isn't an industry I've worked in before, and I know there's a good number of people here who specialize(d) there, so I'd trust their weigh in more than mine. That said, even with proper NAP elsewhere on the site, I'd be real hesitant to use anything other than the proper name in the title and H1 tags. I just saw a case a few days ago on the GMB forums where an overzealous company had a competitor's knowledge graph showing when you typed in their brand name. The reason was that on their website, they optimized the whole thing to their main keyword + city (which happened to be their competitor's business name) and it confused Google to the point where they were showing the actual wrong knowledge graph for a brand search... even in spite of the site having the correct business name, address, and phone number in the footer and such. Google DOES pay attention, and those title tags and h1 tags are a big deal. I don't know what it'd cost you in this case, but I'd almost err on the side of doing a name change if it's that important to the client to get a new name showing. After all, if you're worried their conversion is crap because of a bad name, that 'bad name' is still what's going to be showing in the 3-pack, yeah?
 

Dennis Cline

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Thanks for your input, James. A few questions come to mind.

Good point on the redirects. But since the current site will likely be taken down by the current provider once the move is made, how can I accomplish this? Should I recreate all the pages of the current site with their respective 301s in the new site's sitemap? Any guidance or tutorials you can point me to on that?

The current site is about a year old and according to my research, backlinks are virtually non-existant ? no deep links at all. Since the citation links point to the home page, which will have the same exact URL, won't they all redirect as soon as the new site's server is propagated through the DNS?

Your remarks on using the registered business name echo my concerns. So if I keep it consistent on the titles, tags, and NAP references, maybe I could use the variant name in a header image file using the "official" name as the image alt tag? Any thoughts on this idea?
 
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