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Understanding the SEO Essentials of Website Redesign

Jan 4, 2016
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SEO Website RedesignWhen it comes to redesigning your website, there is a lot more that goes into (or should go into) the process than just changing a layout and the color scheme. In addition to the design, website owners need to think about the SEO implications the redesign could have on their online marketing strategy. The design process is exciting, we get it. But many times the most essential SEO factors are forgotten about and this can lead to a negative impact on your SEO effort as well as a ton of frustration.

As a website designer and SEO consultant, I have seen both the good and bad of website redesigns. While I believe the best approach is growth driven design (read more about that here), I understand that many aren’t ready to make the switch. Before we get into the SEO essentials of website design, let me share what can happen when SEO is forgotten about in the website redesign process.  

Recently, a friend of mind in the industry, told me about an experience he had with a client. He built the site and had been running an SEO campaign for the client for years. Traffic was climbing and all was well. At a monthly meeting the client discussed the idea of a new site design to freshen up the image of his company. My friend agreed an update would be good and started working on a mock up. He came into the client’s office to discuss the project a few weeks later only to learn that the whole site had already been redesigned and launched without him knowing. He knew this wasn’t going to end well. The result, traffic crashed, on-page issues went through the roof and years of hard work were wiped out. After almost 6 months of fixing errors the site is slowing starting to climb back up but there is still a lot of ground to cover. All of this headache could have been avoided by understanding the SEO essentials of website redesign.

So let’s take a look at how to avoid an SEO disaster while redesigning your website. 

Purpose

The purpose of your website is the first and most important piece of the puzzle. Because having a website is so important, many companies do whatever they need to just to “get one up.” The purpose of your page can be found by answering this simple question; “Why does your website exist?”  A few common purposes are; to share information about a topic, to share personal or social information, or to sell products or services. Understanding your purpose is essential to successful internet marketing. Learn more about how purpose impacts your search ranking here. 

Creating a Plan

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” -  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. After you know why your site exists, it’s time to plan. The planning phase is two fold. The first step it to take a look at your current site, your content and your metrics. Then you look towards what you are hoping to achieve by redesigning your site. Set goals for your new site, but make sure they align with your website's purpose.  Check out this detailed website redesign check list to help you create a plan.

It’s All About the Users

Your website design and your SEO strategy both must be user focused. The purpose of your site along with buyer persona data will dictate how you create a site for your users. But here are 3 things every site must have regardless of persona or purpose.

  • Clean Design & Easy To Use: All sites need to be easy for the user to interact with. Make sure that you use the space well and don’t make it hard for your users to find what they are looking for. How does this impact SEO? Google and other search engines track how users interact with sites. If your site is determined to be “unfriendly,” it could cost you.
  • Mobile: Mobile matters now. With more users moving to mobile as their primary device for search, website owners need to be thinking mobile first. Users expect different things from mobile sites. They need to be fast, easy to use, and the content must be a primary focus.
  • Content: Whether it be the mobile version or desktop version of your site, the content must be the main thing. Make sure that your main content (the purpose for which your site exists) is displayed front and center.

SEO and Your Main Content

The old internet adage, “Content is King” still rings true today. Your site’s main content is extremely important and needs to be optimized. So often in a redesign, the new content is simply copied and pasted over and the old, unwanted content is just disregarded. Un-optimized content can cost you and simply “removing” old pages without a plan is not a good idea either. Here are a few SEO essentials around your main content you need to think about during your next website redesign.

Pages Content: Here I am referring to the text on the page. Make sure that all your content points to your purpose. If you are copying old text, go over it again. Make sure that your keywords are being used, appropriately, and that your content shows your expertise, authority and trustworthiness on the subject.  Check your use of H tags and make sure that all links are working properly.

Images & Videos: Images and video that help achieve the purpose of your site should be considered main content. Images need to be optimized. When optimizing images make sure you do the following.

  • Have the appropriate file name. (Pro tip: Use keywords in file name.)
  • Add the correct Title Tag
  • Add the correct ALT Tag
  • Make sure the image size is optimized

Video is a powerful way to get your message to your users. Again, optimizing your videos is very important. Use Schema video mark up to help the search crawlers understand what your video is about. If you are hosting your video on your site or using a service like Wistia, make sure that you also submit a video site map. This will help get your videos indexed properly.

URL Structure & Redirects: Sometimes during a website redesign, the URL structure gets changed. For instance, a page that use to be example.com/about is changed to example.com/about-us. While the new URL may be more descriptive, the old one will now generate a 404 error. Having a number of these errors can impact your SEO. It makes it appear as if the site is not being maintained. If you change the URL structure, make sure that you redirect the old page to the new page using a 301 redirect.

A website redesign can have a ton of benefits. A fresh new design can bring an old site back to life and help you re-engage your users. In order to make sure your website redesign is a success and you increase your organic traffic, making sure you have SEO best practices in place is essential. 

To learn more about SEO and Website redesign, check out this free eBook “10 SEO Mistakes to Avoid During your Next Website Redesign.”

10 SEO Mistakes to Avoid During Website Redesign

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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