The need to update your site or purchase a new domain can be highly compelling if you want to change the look of your website, rebrand or try out some new website enhancing tools. In most cases such an undertaking aims to build a site that will retain web traffic and respond to the needs of customers. The process usually involves incorporating new design features and replacing the backend CMS. In spite of the obvious benefits, the decision to get a new website is often fraught with challenges, most of which can only be overcome with good planning. The SEO part of the process can be executed by creating a site redesign checklist. This can be broadly organized in three phases; pre-launch phase, launch phase and post-launch phase.
SEO considerations should take precedence during site redesign or migration because it can make or break a website. During the pre-launch phase, you need to include all the critical SEO properties, including staging site crawler access, choosing and determining the redesign variables and creating a 301 redirect strategy. Performing site crawl will help you get an accurate picture of how your site looks like because the outline will help you identify and map several key items such as site URLs, sitemap and metadata. The other important steps encompassed under the pre-launch, launching and post launching procedures include; old site audit, site noindexing, data analysis, adding analytics code and site scrutiny and testing to ensure everything runs as expected.
When you are performing site noindexing, many undesirable outcomes can get into your way. To overcome these challenges, utmost care should be taken to prevent the search engine from duplicating your content. One of the most effective techniques to discourage content duplication is preventing Google et al from indexing your site when you are still working with a CMS. You can do that by blocking the execution of Robot.txt file in your CMS. Placing your analytics code during the site, redesigning process will help you stay in touch with crucial items such as event tracking. Once you are done with the analytics code, you need to unblock the site to allow your search engines to index it. Always remember that the success of SEO lies in making your site user and Google friendly.
Benefits of SEO in your Business
Businesses can take advantage of a strong online presence to grow and build a positive reputation. Some studies have shown that SEO ranks well above other business marketing strategies such as traditional advertising, paid search referrals and social media in promoting the visibility of a brand. When you redesign your website, it is also important to ensure your site incorporates a responsive design that will respond effectively to the needs of various users when it comes to design and navigation. Mobile responsive design, for instance, has become very pertinent because searches originating from mobile phones superseded those emanating from desktop devices.
This fact is reiterated by the high number of Australians with Smartphone’s and other advanced mobile devices. It is also important to reiterate that about 50 percent of all potential online sales and conversions are lost when users are unable to find or relate with the information found in a website. The resulting high bounce rate from unsatisfied customers can negatively impact on your site’s SERPs ranking and business reputation. SEO incorporates all the elements designed to attract traffic and make the website accessible to users. These components include adding compelling content and powerful sales and conversion tools.
A successful SEO content needs to incorporate the customer’s perspective of things in order to create a personal attachment and build trust. In addition, a good SEO strategy will help you respond effectively to the punitive search engine guidelines. On the other hand, if redesign your website without incorporating SEO properties you may be forced to rework key leads such as writing meta-descriptions, reorganizing the website content and renaming the URLs to make your site SEO compliant. Delaying or postponing this process may end up hurting your website over the short and long term.
Strategies to observe to ensure SEO efforts are co-opted in your web design efforts
The power and end-results of SEO in the website redesign effort can only be measured and tested by looking at the search results, customer satisfaction and reading online reviews from various users and authorities. To incorporate SEO during website redesign or CMS migration process, you need to:
Focus on the User
The fundamental goal of redesigning your website is to attract and serve the needs of your clients. You can easily improve your website by changing its design to make it more appealing and ensuring the navigation process is user friendly. Prioritizing these changes will go a long way to limit the costly bounce off rate and help visitors find what they want quickly.
Create Google friendly site, sitemap and URLs
The top topics appearing in Google searches are often determined by factors such as website content, URL, sitemap and meta-descriptions. To save money and time, you can ensure your site ranks higher in searches by articulating these items when undertaking re-development.
Incorporate long-tail keywords and advance popular topics in your content
Content is always king when you want to create a powerful website or blog because it gives visitors a reason to visit and even bookmark your site. A properly optimized site with proper long tail keyword will appeal to customers, produce higher sales and drive traffic.
When you are about to launch a new website, it helps to have to configure two Sitemaps; a XML sitemap strictly for search engines and a HTML sitemap for search engines and users. You can use Bing and Google Webmaster Tools to submit your XML sitemap to the search engines to speed the website indexing and crawl operations.
Create a safe 404 page not found page
Creating a search engine friendly and user friendly 404 page found page to complement the 301 redirects will help you direct users back to your website. This process can be implemented by creating a search box that directs users to the intended information. To enhance your site’s usability, it is also advisable to add the menu of your website on the 404 page. Adding a tracking feature on this page can help fix broken links and identify the referrers.
Embed right keywords on your images
Images embedded in your site should be accompanied with the right keyword centric ALT-key because Google spiders cannot flatly read the information expressed in pictures. Adding the right keywords will help you identify and illuminate your pictures when users perform online searches.
Analyse your site’s performance
Immediately after your site goes live, it is important to measure its performance in order to establish if there are any emerging SEO trends that you need to follow or build on. The need to analyse your sites performance is further reiterated by constant changes being made by search engines with regards to regarding algorithms and the customer demands. The measurements should ideally focus on aspects such as bounce rates, traffic flow, leads, page clicks and conversions.
How to prevent your SEO from becoming a disaster when performing a site redesign
Losing your organic traffic after redesigning your website or after making a shift to a new CMS platform is one of those things you must guard against during the precarious transition period. Since most companies loose traffic during the transition period, you need to take the following steps to retain your web traffic and rankings:
Crawl your site to get better understanding
The probability of experiencing changes in your URL increases dramatically when undertaking a site redesign project. To avoid the repercussion of creating misdirected links, loss of sales or loss of organic traffic, always make it a point to inform your search engine about your intentions. While undertaking the crawl exercise, do not forget to audit your sub-domains.
Once you have completed your crawl operation, you need to export or redirect the URL’s that need be included in your new website. One of the best tools to use for site crawling includes Screaming Frog and Xenu Link Sleuth, which is available free. Data analysis should be conducted after all the crawls have been done. When scrutinizing your site, you can perform the following checks and tests.
Perform rank check
Analyse your content
Add analytics code
Unblock the site
Rank check is a critical oversight step that measures the site performance against keywords found in the search engine. To maintain the credibility of your newly redesigned site, it is important to retain some of the old popular contents for reference purposes.
Conduct a thorough inbound link analysis
One way to ensure your SEO strategy succeeds is creating powerful inbound links. However, links can easily be compromised during migration as such, it advisable to perform a thorough inbound link analysis to learn more about your profile. You can use 301 redirects during migration to ensure redirection from old site to the new site is conducted smoothly. Tools such as Majestic SEO Tools and Open Site Explorer work stupendously in analysing inbound links.
Performing SEO Audit to identify the areas of focus
Performing SEO audit before commencing site redesign or migration will help you identify the areas that need to be strengthened or overhauled to enhance your site’s visibility. The site auditing procedure involves analysing your optimization strategies using various metrics set by search engine sites such as Google and Bing. Your effort should be focussed on critical areas such as missing page titles, multiple H1 tags, Image ALT text, missing meta-descriptions and duplicate content and XML sitemap. Through the site audit, you also get a perfect window to examine your site and make amends necessary to avoid penalties and ensure your redesign plan stays on track
Create a solid 301 redirection plan
The 301 redirection plan is one of the most important SEO aspects designed to ensure successful site migration. A successful strategy should redirect all the old pages into the new site by passing PageRank and maintaining your sites crucial Search Equity. To execute URL rewrite and entrench 301’s successfully, the developer undertaking the project need to have a good grasp of elements such as ISAPI_Rewrite and .htaccess.
It is important to note that 301’s can only be issued if the URL structure of a website is compromised during the migration or redesign process. However, if the URL structure is static 301 should not be issued if you want to save time and money. When you change your domain name, Google recommends that you retain the old identify and 301 redirects for about 180 days.
Web redesign and programmability goes beyond applying new technology
Incorporating new technology and web design features in your project doesn’t always translate to building a powerful SEO complying website because the same technology and features can also ruin your site if you overlook the risks. To overcome this common misconception, site developers must understand the impact of each and every thing being incorporated into the redesign effort.
Analyse site reporting
A thorough site reporting focused on areas such as referral site reports, landing pages and site content must not be overlooked during the website redesigning stages. This type of analysis will help you identify the most popular pages and redirect external links into these pages. If you are working on a very large data, Google analytics can help you increase the number of records you want to export in case there are limitations.
Create webmaster accounts
Most site owners tend to overlook the importance of Webmaster tools offered by search engine sites like Google and Bing when migrating. These tools can be used to verify the site ownership and analyse search queries and the diagnostics of a site. You can also use Webmaster tools to alert Google about your impending domain shift and receive alerts from the search engines when something is amiss.
Make optimization part of your redesign strategy
Search engine optimization should always be in your mind when migrating or redesigning your website. The strength of most well ranking website is built on a foundation that encourages on-page optimization, and keyword research among other important aspects. One common mistake companies make during the transition period is dropping on-page optimization on sites with strong rankings and web traffic.
While undertaking these crucial steps, always remember to re-analyse your current state of optimization by ensuring the powerful features and contents are retained on your on-page optimization before launching the website. Some of the browser plug-in tools that can help you analyse the website’s content to ensure your site is fully optimized include SEO Site Tools and Search Status.
Scrutinize your Content Management System (CMS)
It is evident that a poorly thought out website reorganization and migration efforts could turn your whole transition process upside down and ruin your SEO aspirations. Some of the most common challenges faced by companies migrating to new CMS platforms include static page and use of faulty internal systems.
The other pitfall that may cause serious damage to your search engine ranking stems from choosing a wrong CMS package. To stay in charge throughout the site transition period, take the time to pick the right CMS. You can do this by undertaking a thorough audit of sites that use the platform you want to migrate to. You can also seek expert advice or read reviews from users to ascertain facts from fiction.
Review of SEO Redesign Considerations
When undertaking a CMS migration or a site redesign, always pay attention to the impact of the process on your sales, search engine rankings, SEO and search traffic. If these elements are not handled professionally they can cause a steep drop in traffic and erode your brand’s digital footprint. To fully understand and appreciate the way a website works, you need to analyse the changes in your URLs, check the inbound links, perform SEO audit and looking at the analytics. SEO audit is a crucial step that looks at elements such as missing page titles, canonical tags, duplicate H1 tags, duplicate page titles, canocalisation, XML sitemap, canonical tags and broken internal and external links.
The other important items include robots.txt, image ALT text, URL structure and the speed and performance of your website. With regards to site analytics, pay attention to crucial elements such as organic search traffic, crawl errors, pages indexed, mobile usability and external and internal link count. The success of your transition largely depends on how well you follow your plan of action to a conclusion. However, a successful site transition through migration or redesign can be tiring and time consuming. For this reason, it is advisable to make backup copies of your assets in case an unexpected event strikes. Before revoking any site hosting plans, make sure assets such as files and database are protected.