Site re-design on its most basic level is comparable to doing a house re-model. Even with the best laid plan, things can, and will go wrong.
If you are able to plan ahead and anticipate potential problems the smoother your re-launch will be.
Don’t start the re-design process off on the wrong foot
If you hired a design team or web design company you need to get them talking with your SEO team. Don’t have one? You may want to reconsider your approach or talk to an expert. Additionally, if you have a design team that plans to worry about SEO after the re-launch or just before the re-launch that will be a problem.
Consider what would happen if a contractor didn’t communicate with the utilities or power department before starting on a new addition to your house. Unfortunately, this does happen sometimes and when it does the results are almost always disastrous. Your finished product, the addition, can’t be completed without communication between a number of individuals, many of which will need to work together.
In the case of website re-design, the web designer is your contractor and SEO is the power or gas company. Without gas and power it doesn’t matter how nice your addition is, you won’t be able to enjoy it if it’s cold and dark. Similarly, visitors can’t engage in your site if they can’t find it.
Be realistic and plan for the re-organization
- You need to have realistic expectation for your website re-design. Web re-design is not a quick fix solution and shouldn’t be viewed as one.
- Be aware of potential negative impacts to your overall site optimization that could occur for a fairly short period of time after your site re-launch.
- Don’t expect to have an influx of targeted traffic from search engines or to see your keyword ranking shoot up immediately after re-launch. This won’t be the case.
- If you don’t have any plans for an ongoing SEO strategy and expect temporary SEO and re-design to be a cure-all you are in for disappointment. Consider your hypothetical housing addition. After it’s built it will need paint and upkeep otherwise it will slowly fall into disrepair. Are you beginning to see the correlation?
- Timing is crucial. Just because you are eager to implement web re-design careful thought needs to be put into the re-launch date. A few ways to determine the best time for your re-launch is to check buying trends. You don’t want to operate from a new site just before a peak buying time. In addition to buying trends, look at historical traffic data and pick a low point.
Check off your to-do list before starting work on the site
- Take inventory of your current site rank and determine which pages are high ranking, deep pages on your site that have been indexed. You can use a tool that checks keyword rankings and tells you specifically which pages are ranking. Also keep in mind if you’re showing up in SERPS, it’s not necessarily your home page that’s ranking. It could be an internal page that came up in Google searches.
- Have a plan for re-organization. Think of it as your blue print. Your checklist should include a list of what pages are getting indexed and ranking. In the re-design will the URL’s to these pages change? If so, make a list of the pages that will require 301 redirects. Determine how new content on the site will be structured and determine if re-structuring will impact keyword density of your current pages.
Protect your equity
If you plan on doing a major reorganization of your website it can be absolutely crucial to have a comprehensive list of what pages will need 301 redirects and prepare for them.
You need 301 redirects to help the page hold position, or only suffer a temporary drop. If a page is ranking and you change the URL, but don’t create a re-direct all the trust or equity that page has built up with search engines will be lost. It’s similar to not putting in a change of address form to the Post Office. Visitors won’t be able to find your site and the Post Office won’t know where to send your mail.
If you don’t have 301 redirects for pages that will have different URL’s those pages will become 404 error pages and Google doesn’t like sites that house a large number of dead pages in index.
If you have a number of 301 redirects it will take time for them to be crawled, indexed and analyzed, just as it will take time for the old content to no longer be indexed in the various search engines.
To recap, your pre-work checklist should include:
- What pages are getting indexed/ranking and will their URL’s change
- What pages will need 301 redirects
- How will new content on the site be structured
- Will it impact keyword density of the current pages
Obviously site design is essential to a website and businesses online success and online content as well as design should be high quality. Website design is inherently linked to SEO just as SEO in linked to website, brand and business success.
Without utilizing all the tools in your kit, your results and ultimately your success could be at risk. If you feel comfortable embarking on the re-design process alone, by all means go for it. But keep in mind what can happen when an amateur tries to remodel their home after watching a few episodes of ‘This Old House.’ It can be a lot easier and save a lot of stress if you work with a design team and link building company from the start, or better yet, one that specializes in both.