1) Has the ownership of the site changed? Whois is not the be-all-end-all. If Google can destroy sites’ SEO based on radical changes in content, well, perhaps you’d be best advised to know whether that’s happened before based on large differences in content.
Why do you care? Because past history will affect the site’s trust in the SE algos. Slapped before, it’s probably more likely to get nailed again in the future. Otherwise, your leash is a little longer.
On a related note, my subscription to the premium drops tool (I was testing it out, hat tip to Todd Malicoat, if memory serves) just renewed automatically. I hate it when that happens. So: If you want to research any dropping domains/make some purchases and you’re not ready to buy the service yet, let me know what data you want and I’ll get it for you, free – don’t spend your money. If you’re a serious player, you might want to consider my website buying services instead though.
2) What was the page’s old URL before we launched the new site? My online jewelry client Ice.com recently relaunched with a new backend and while we work out the kinks, analytics still needs to be used to direct strategy. Knowing what the former URL for the checkout, category or product detail page was can come in handy!
3) Was this test already run before? If you keep the same landing page URLs, for example, you can look at the old ones before you signed a new client to avoid duplicating work that’s already done. Some organizations keep good records, others have people relying on the memory of an inhouse expert or agency. When one or the other goes … there’s no one to answer the question. Note: This works better if the page is indexed. Of course, you can do this for all tests, not just landing pages.
* Lesson to the wise: Don’t be reliant on one-two people to track what you’ve learned over time from testing. You paid for that knowledge and should have access to good records explaining:
- What was done: e.g. 2 headlines and 3 hero pics for 6 total variations),
- Why that test was run: e.g. to see whether emotional or logical appeals mattered most and whether beauty or strength or product features mattered most, visually
- What the results were: combo x converted best
- Hypotheses to explain the results: people buy pens based on price; people buy pens based on comfort grips, multi-color changers and fancy packaging (features)
- Next test to verify those hypotheses.
Note: My friend Claude Malaison of Emergence Web suggests that internal blogs can do serve this purpose for ‘internal memoir / archive” for an organization in his chapter of “Why Businesses Should Blog” (“Pourquoi bloguer dans un contexte d’affaires”), a 10-chapter book with as many authors.
Also, the Internet Archive created Archive-It, an archiving service that can perform this function for you. Use their contact form to get a quote/get started. Sadly, their usability is not the greatest and there’s no clear call-to-action or obvious pricing page or anything you’d expect/want from a site trying to sell you something. Ironic, I know.
Update: From John Andrews, competitive webmaster extraordinaire, a tip that might be useful to those looking to avoid the competition telling how they’ve evolved or perhaps hide any debatable tactics they employed in the past (or even avoid ending up cloned in the future 😉 …):
“In robots.txt every single time:
Disallow: / ”