The archival version of a website can be a valuable source of information about the positioning of a given page and help in analyzing the results and making thoughtful changes in the SEO strategy. You will find access to the archived versions of the pages on the archive.org tool, or rather its part, the Wayback Machine. Let’s check what archive.org is and how to use archived versions of pages from the Wayback Machine for SEO.
Internet Archive, Archive.org (Wayback Machine) – what is it?
The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization founded in 1996 that has created a digital library available at archive.org. It stores resources such as:
– websites (currently there are 588 billion pages in the database),
– books and articles,
– video recordings (including live concerts) and music,
– films (including recordings of news services),
The database grows thanks to users who, after creating a free account, can upload digital content and multimedia to the Internet Archive for archiving.
The Wayback Machine (Archive.org, web.archive.org) is a website archive, launched in 2001, which stores archived versions of websites. Users can enter any URL into the tool’s search engine and track its archived version even if the site is no longer available on the web. Access to archived versions is free and does not require registration or creation of an account.
How does web.archive.org work?
You can access the archive at https://web.archive.org/. Thanks to the tool, you can check how a specific website has changed over the course of days, months and years. All you have to do is enter any URL from the site in the search window (it does not have to be the homepage address). In response, you will receive a graph and a calendar enriched with visual elements that shows when and how often a specific URL was archived.
Let’s use Archive.org in practice. We entered the address of the world leader in e-commerce, amazon.com in the search engine window. After selecting the date in the calendar from January 2005, we received a screenshot of Amazon’s home page, which was then available to the user. We can compare it with the appearance of the website from January 2017. We will notice that the parties are radically different from each other. A thorough analysis of the appearance and structure of websites from different periods can be a valuable source of information about changing trends, search engine optimization and user expectations (SXO).
How to use the Wayback Machine in SEO optimization?
The Wayback Machine (Archive.org) is a tool often used by SEO specialists. Thanks to the information obtained in the archived version, websites can better optimize the current page, find errors that may result in a decrease in visibility and traffic, and much more. Let’s see how to use Archive.org in your SEO strategy.
1. Archive org as a diagnostic tool to verify site changes
Using Archive.org to verify changes to the website is quite obvious, but it is worth mentioning in the context of SEO. With the Wayback Machine, you can check the appearance and structure of your website, as well as the links and content on it on specific days. Exactly as with the current version of the website, you can view the source HTML code. Just right-click and go to the “Investigate” tab to access the technical components of your site, such as:
– meta data – title and description,
– URL structure,
– headings H1, H2 etc.
– canonical tags,
– the content of descriptions of alternative graphics and photos,
– Schema.org data flagging.
It is worth using the web.archive.org tool for diagnostic purposes, when the website has experienced a decrease in visibility in organic search results or traffic. Thanks to the website archive, the SEO specialist will find out whether the drops are the result of changes to the website, and if so, which ones, or the result of an unannounced update of the Google algorithm. With the Wayback Machine, you can view a cached page both before and after your organic search decline.
2. Archive.org to familiarize yourself with the client’s site
Regardless of the professional experience, each SEO specialist can (and should) use the Web Archive tool to read the client’s website and its history. Based on the website screenshots from different periods, you can see how the website has changed over the years, as well as verify how the communication method and brand branding have changed. How has the brand logo changed? What content was on the site in the past and now? How were users and prospects addressed? The obtained data can be the basis for a conversation with the client about the current method of communication and talking about the brand on the Internet.
3. Wayback Machine to implement old redirects
Are you an owner of a website and brand that started online in the 1990s or early 20th century? Use the website archive to recover old internal links that were on your site. If your website was moved to a different domain in the early 20th century, probably nobody paid attention to the positioning and redirection of the altered URLs. You can recover them – use the Wayback Machine and selected SEO Crawler for this purpose, such as Screaming Frog or NetPeak Spider. Create a sample URL list from the archived version of the site and check their current status code in the Web Archive.
4. Archive.org to discover URL structure
Archive.org is a good idea to use to verify the old URL structure of your website. If the structure has been changed and caused problems with loading subpages, in the Wayback Machine you can check what the addresses looked like before editing.
5. Wayback Machine in SEO work to verify the correctness of Google Analytics code
Changed website layout? SSL certificate implementation? Both these and other changes to the site can cause errors in the Google Analytics code and prevent the tool from correctly counting traffic and conversions. The Web Archive can be used to diagnose the problem. org. How to do it? Go to the selected URL, date and select the snapshot you are interested in. Then go to the source code of the page and find the Google Analytics code using the search engine. Compare the archived Google Analytics code and the landing pages available in your website’s cache at web.archive.org and the current code and landing pages. Perhaps the code was improperly implemented after site migration, and site traffic is but not counted correctly.
6. Web.archive.org for conversion optimization
Have your website or store conversions dropped despite generating high sales in the prior period? Check what changes to the page may have caused a decrease in conversion. Open the archived version of the page from a high conversion time and compare it with the current look of the site. Perhaps the previous version was better optimized for User Experience. Check:
– arrangement of buttons,
– content placement,
– the process of placing an order / filling in the contact form, etc. (perhaps it has been extended, which discourages users),
– menu and category layout – maybe the category names have changed and are not telling the user what to find under a specific URL,
– the font used – perhaps the new one is less legible.
All of these elements can affect your conversion rate. It is worth verifying them thanks to web.archive and optimizing the site in a way that meets the expectations of users.
7. Web.archive.org to verify technical errors and robots.txt file
The robots.txt file tells Google crawlers which pages of your website should be indexed and which ones should not be indexed. With web.archive.org, you can track changes to the robots.txt file structure that may have affected the decrease in traffic and visibility. If suddenly the page is not generating a visit or is not visible on Google, the URL may have been excluded from crawling in the robots.txt file due to an error.
8. Wayback Machine to analyze the effectiveness of landing pages
Do you run advertising activities in Google Ads? See for yourself that the Web Archive tool is useful not only in positioning. If you advertise on Google, you can use them to compare landing pages. For this purpose:
– enter in the tool the address of the landing page from the date on which the campaign produced very good results,
– compare the appearance of the archived version of the landing page for the campaign with the current structure.
There may be changes to your landing page that are making it difficult for users to meet your goal (conversions). The decrease in sales may be influenced by:
– changes in the arrangement of elements on the page (buttons, images, content, etc.),
– saturation of the landing page with information,
– changing the content of the CTA,
– limiting relevance (if there are products on the landing page that are not of interest to the user),
– changes in navigation.
Web.archive.org is a free and very useful tool for SEO specialists and website owners. With it, you can improve your store and page positioning strategy, find and eliminate site errors, and determine which page elements work effectively and facilitate conversion.