How to Ensure Your Website Redesign doesn’t Negatively Affect SEO
After months or years of investing in SEO, sooner or later your company is going to opt to update their existing website with a website redesign. This article is an in-depth look on how to go about it without negatively impacting your SEO efforts and throwing your spent internet marketing budget down the toilet.
The average company will refresh and redesign its website every three to four years, even if great care has been put into keeping their website finely tuned for search engine keywords that rank, the website is maintained regularly (plugins are updated on a regular basis, etc.), and specific pages are occasionally given a fresh coat of paint, so to speak.
Why Should a Business Redesign its Website?
Aside from the usual marketing fluff that is usually spewed onto boardroom tables (we’re partly kidding, as these are actually all very valid points) on a semi-annual basis, there are a lot of technical reasons a company would want to redesign its website. But first let’s take a look at the reasons that often come from the marketing department.
1. Your Website is a Key Part of the Company Brand
Website standards, trends, technologies used, and expectations of contemporary websites change over time.
From a human perspective, by not keeping with current design standards it demonstrates a lack of attention to detail and misses the mark in terms of visitor expectations. The barber’s kid has long hair and the janitor’s house is dirty. I get it, but if you’re transacting in the hundreds of thousands annually those old proverbs will not do.
2. Your Brand, Values, and Methodologies Have Changed
It is likely that the way you do business has changed and your website will need to reflect that. A website redesign is the most ideal time to retool your website content to reflect changes in how your business operates and optimise content for new keywords and focus on other SEO factors such as title tags, media meta information, and so on.
3. Respect Your Marketing Calendar
Your website is the table of contents that all of your other marketing endeavours pass through; without a website that can fit everything in, in a way that visually makes sense, you’re losing eyes.
You didn’t know one or two years ago what would be on your 2016 marketing calendar. As marketing approaches change, so do rich media content types, and so does the presentation of your marketing collateral. It isn’t easy to move walls around in a house that’s already standing, especially load bearing ones.
4. You’re Leaving Money on the Table
From a technical perspective you’re leaving money on the table if you don’t stay abreast of modern innovations in web design. Lead capture methodologies, technologies which make your website look great across any device, and the way search engines evaluate website value have been evolving at breakneck speed and sometimes a key differentiator between your company and your competition’s could boil down to your use of these modern website technologies.
Even the way website visitors visit websites is still rapidly changing; last year we saw mobile website traffic surpass desktop browser traffic. Your website is responsible for a large portion of important leads which will nurture the future growth of your business.
5. Improve Customer Service
It is no secret that customers now expect to be serviced on the internet. What are you doing to make that a reality? Online ticketing systems, live chat widgets, and other customer service applications have been making their way to corporate home pages and they dramatically reduce customer service expenditures.
While it is possible to integrate these technologies into an older website, there are large swaths of efficiencies to be gained by using modern technologies. The new sparkling tools available don’t tend to be very backwards compatible and custom web development costs rise when you try to fit a round peg in a square hole.
Now, About Those Website Redesign SEO Concerns
We only scraped the surface of reasons why you need to redesign your corporate website every three to four years –and with good reason, that’s an article all to itself. So we only covered the basics to frame the context of the next half of this article.
When you redesign your website there are a handful of things you will need to diligently keep your eye on in order to not lose any of that hard earned “Google Juice” you’ve been building up.
1. Crawl Your Website, Repeatedly
In order to:
- Build upon and improve search rank after your website redesign it is important to know what is broken on the old website and ensure that breakages are corrected on the new website
- Seek out existing website limitations and areas where you can improve; examine files which are being indexed by search engines, review keywords used (if any at all) in HTML page titles, meta description tags, and run a side-by-side comparison of how many pages are being indexed across search engines –what Google sees Bing may not see and it is important to understand why
- Analyse top landing pages from your website with Google Webmaster Tools and apply the principles used in those to other important landing pages across your website
- Check for and alter/remove duplicate content, site wide –duplicate content will drop your website rank on every search engine, and the same goes for meta information
- Verify internal links to make sure they work, and they are appropriately using keywords (or not using keywords at all) –Google and other popular search engines can smell “link stuffing” a mile away and it could hurt your incoming organic search engine traffic
- If website URLs have changed permanently, be sure to redirect them properly (i.e. 301 redirects) and be warned that you still may lose a pinch of organic traffic initially
2. Focus on Navigation and Link Structure
It is incredibly important to make sure that your navigation and link structure has a natural flow for both search engine site crawlers and humans alike.
Think about the various roles for each type of human visitor and tailor your navigation for them. The general public might be interested in your blog, but specific industry roles should also be able to find exactly what they are looking for at their fingertips in as few clicks or touches as possible.
In respect to Google and popular search engines you will want to use key phrases and keywords within your navigation, ensure that your website sitemap reflects any navigation changes, and prioritise popular links and possibly remove frivolous links.
3. Review Incoming Links
A website redesign is an ideal time to also review off-site website content. Disavow spammy, low quality links, and determine which links are bringing in the lion’s share of organic traffic to your website.
If any of these links point to content that has moved, this is another key moment to consider the importance of a 301 redirect for that content.
If you are moving from an old CMS to a new one and not just moving things around in terms of the design, it is also important to consider how links to your home page are rendered. A common example of this is when companies switch from, say, .NET to PHP programming languages.
Links to your home page may look like www.yourawesomewebsite.com/index.aspx but now that URL looks more like www.yourawesomewebsite.com or www.yourawesomewebsite.com/index.php.
In these cases, you guessed it, 301 redirect.
This article discusses some of the most important “evergreen” points on our list in terms of website redesign SEO, but we’d like to hear from our readers, too. This provides other SEO professionals an opportunity to speak up and offer helpful advice as well.
So if you have any website redesign SEO tips to share, please do in the comments!