Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Issues to Avoid During Your Website Redesign
One of the first concerns that business owners give when first approached about redesigning their website is their fear of losing their existing search engine traffic. This fear is well founded. Going live with a redesigned website without considering the SEO implications is like walking into a dark room. Generally speaking, there are a 5 SEO concerns address before, during and after you develop your website:
SEO Concern #1: Content Management System
If you are switching to a different content management system, (CMS) it often means that the URLs from your current site will have to change to something that fits with the new system. It’s likely that the new URL naming convention will not match your old one.
Resolution: If practical, use 301-permanent redirect all of the old URLs to their new counterparts. If this is not practical, then review your analytics to find the landing page URLs within your website that receive direct search engine visitors, and redirect those. Also redirect any URLs that have links pointing to them from other sites. The best practice to redirect all URLs, those that don’t receive any direct search engine traffic and don’t have any external links are less important.
SEO Concern #2: Site Architecture
Your new website should include a brand new navigational scheme as well as an overall change of its site architecture (how each page links to each other). This is a key element in determining whether pages from your website will show up in the search results. For instance, if you take a page from your website that is currently featured in the main navigation (meaning that every page of the site links to it) and you feature it less prominently within your new website, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t show up in the search results for its targeted keyword phrases as it used to.
Resolution: Search engines decide which pages are the most important ones on your site by how you link to them. Be sure that the pages you are optimizing are linked from your main navigation so that they will receive the proper internal link popularity.
SEO Concern #3: Content
If you hadn’t previously optimized the content of your old site, be sure to do so with your redesigned site. Research the keywords that people use at the search engines to find similar products or services and then use them strategically within each page of the website. This will boost the targeted visitors to your site after going live. If your existing site was well optimized and already bringing targeted visitors, you’ll need to be careful about the content that you change. While you shouldn’t be afraid to make your content better, it may not be a good idea to completely rewrite old content that was working for you. Avoid the temptation to change content for the sake of change. The rule of thumb when updating content is; change only for the sake of bringing the content current. Your business evolves and so should your content. A website redesign is a good time to work on increasing your website conversions. All the targeted visitors in the world are of no use to you if they don’t take any of the actions you’d like them to take. Rewriting some of your content to convert more visitors into buyers is a good thing as long as it doesn’t decrease the number of those visitors. Again – this is where you’ll need to review your analytics reports to determine which pages were your best performers.
Resolution: If you find that your existing page content was bringing in search engine traffic and conversions, be sure to justify the change before changing it.
SEO Concern #4 Web Page Title Tags
Pay attention to your page title tags. Be sure not to inadvertently lose your previous title tags.
Resolution: Don’t go live with your new site without proper (unique, relevant and keyword-rich) title tags in place on every page. You will absolutely take a huge traffic hit if you do. Make sure that your new CMS allows you to customize the title tags of every page as needed. If it doesn’t, then find a new CMS that does. I can’t stress this enough because title tags are so important to SEO.
SEO Concern #5 Update the Site Map
Before making your website live, be sure and submit a new Site Map to the major Search Engines. Search engines have your old site Indexed. Avoid the delay in having the Search Engine BOTS visiting and re-Indexing your site on their own schedule. Site maps are at the heart of Search Engine Friendly Design. They make it very quick and easy for the search engines to find and index every page on your web site by putting links to every page in one spot.
Site maps also allow you to help the search engines to clearly understand what your web site is about and presents some unique opportunities in optimization. “Keyword density” is a term often used to describe the number of times a particular search phrase appears within your site. Site maps should make maximum use of your most relevant and important keywords. It should contribute to your keyword density within the link text on the page.
All links should be plain text and point to every page within your site with descriptive words that make it easy for both visitors and search engine spiders to understand what they will find on each page linked to from your site map page. Site maps are essential as an optimization technique and should always be linked to from your index page or home page.
Resolution: Submit New Site Map to Search Engines
These 5 issues are just a few of many you may face as you redesign your website. Integrate your SEO into the new site from the beginning to avoid any loss of search engine visitors. There’s no reason your visitor count should take a hit with a new design.