Why SEO Is Important for Website Redesigns
During a website redesign, avoiding SEO mistakes by performing an SEO audit is crucial. Each department has a different list of tasks to achieve their goals and meet their deadlines.
The last thing a designer or a developer wants is to tick off the project manager, and the last thing a project manager wants to do is catch heat from the client they’re working with…. And the content team… well, no one wants to piss them off. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how SEO isn’t always on the forefront of everyone’s mind during a website redesign.
Redesigning Your Website Without Keeping SEO in Mind Can Reduce Your Search Engine Traffic By Up to 90%… Easily
SEO isn’t a visually tangible thing; however, for brands that have a healthy flow of organic traffic, it is one of the most critical parts of the project. To prevent a dramatic drop in traffic and maintain a strong presence in search engines, there are several major SEO mistakes you will need to avoid.
SEO Mistakes to Avoid
Mistake #1: Not Conducting Keyword Research
The first step to redesigning a website is understanding the keywords that the website is currently getting traffic for and which keywords are driving conversions. Typically, I start my research with the following tools:
- SEMrush is a great tool for understanding the value of the keywords driving traffic to your website. It will give you a list of keywords you are ranking for, traffic estimations, and ranking urls. Additionally, you can use this tool on competitors to discover keywords that you can target with your new content strategy.
- Search Console (Webmaster Tools) should be installed to collect organic keyword data prior to developing the information architecture IA and the content strategy. No other tool will give you the level of granularity and insight than Search Console. You should analyze organic, image and video search all separately so that you can ensure you’re not leaving out any valuable content assets.
- Google Analytics doesn’t provide you with as much keyword data as the previous two, however, it will provide you with landing page traffic and goal conversion urls. This is useful because it helps you understand the following:
- Which keywords are driving goal conversions. Search console provides you with a list of keywords by landing page and Google Analytics provides you with the number of goal conversions were completed on each landing page url. While you don’t know exactly which keyword is driving the goal conversion, you can at least create keyword buckets for a better understanding.
- Google Analytics also helps you understand a users behavior flow and intent based on organic entry pages. If you have already segmented each landing page into keyword buckets, this will also allow you to identify your information and intentional keyword types.
- For better granularity and to speed up this process, I personally use a paid SEO platform that aggregates all of this data automatically. It’s a little pricy, but I find it well worth the time it saves me.
Mistake #2: Failing to Audit the Site
When performing a SEO Audit, you should be analyzing and documenting every possible factor influencing your rank. In addition to the keyword research, you will want to assess the information architecture, page content, resources, assets, and technical factors on the site. Here’s a list of seo factors you should check during a site audit.
Mistake #3: Forgetting 301 Redirects
Prior to launching the new website, make sure you’ve created a 301 redirect plan. Normally, this is simply a spreadsheet with old urls in one column and the new url it will point to in the column beside it.
Post Launch: Keep an eye on any crawl errors that pop up over the next week or two after the site has launched. You may have missed a page or two, and if so you can catch the error early before it becomes a problem.
Mistake #4: New Content Without Considering SEO
One of the biggest SEO mistakes I see is not structuring heading tags correctly. Remember, there should only be one H1 tag.
Keyword Placements Within Paragraph Text
It’s important to know where your keywords are within the page. Moving primary keywords from the above the fold content to the bottom of the page can affect your rankings.
If the site was previously interlinking pages using keywords, that is more than likely influencing the rankings on the page. Understand the interlinking structure and keywords within the anchor text prior to writing the content.
If the page includes several images, including relevant alt text, be sure to check analytics and webmaster tools. Images can garner plenty of search traffic if they’re ranking well in image search.
Removing videos from a page, especially if they are self-hosted can lead to rank losses due to a number of factors. Links may be lost because the person linking no longer finds value in your page, or the website may be using a video sitemap.
Mistake #5: Reducing the Number of Pages On the Site
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen companies have their websites with over 500 pages get redesigned, but cut down the number of pages to 20 or 40 due to budget restraints. This is not good for the client or for the agency designing the site. Never drastically reduce the number of pages.
If budget is an issue, keep the content for those pages the same and design a single template that can be reused for all of them. Even if you redirect all of those pages to the new website, you will see a drastic reduction of organic traffic.
Mistake #6: Forgetting Robots.txt or Noindex Tags
This is one of the most simple steps to overlook, yet probably the most common. You’re SEO person will know exactly what this means. If they don’t, you need to find yourself a new SEO person. In the development phases of a website redesign, it’s best practice to use Noindex tags within the html <head> or disallow rules in the robots.txt file to prevent search engines from indexing the site before launch.
This robots.txt disallow rule will prevent all robots from being able to crawl your site:
Mistake #7: Eliminating Pages or Resources With Link Popularity
Some companies may have useful resources on their website. It could be a few industry related calculators, PDF downloads, links to industry related sources, glossary of terms, or page full of useful content. These resources tend to attract links from bloggers, other company websites, trade journals, government sites, and even .edu sites for their students. Always run a backlink analysis on this page, and in most cases it’s a good idea not to change the content too much. Changing the layout is perfectly fine as long as you maintain the value the content holds for your readers.
Mistake #8: Reducing Text on Home Page for Minimalist Designs
Modern sites have become content thin. Less is more, but in the world of SEO, it’s much more challenging. For instance, take a website that currently has over 500 words on the home page. There’s an H1 tag, multiple H2 tags, and contextual links within the body paragraphs. Reducing that to one large covered background image with a logo and one bold message to create a dramatic affect makes it much more difficult maintain ranking.
This is another reason why its important to include SEO at the beginning of the project. In many cases, it will be the client who says that is what they want, and without having your SEO team there to set the right expectations with the client, your project could turn into a disaster.
Mistake #9: Changing the Title and Meta Structure
Create a spreadsheet with all of your current title tags and meta descriptions. Know where the keywords are in each tag. Pages with keywords at the beginning of a title tag will normally rank better than if the keyword is located near the end. One of the more common errors I see is when a developer dynamically inserts the company name before the page title in a CMS.
Also, know where keywords are within the meta descriptions, while having much less of a ranking influence, it’s important to assess every factor. If you’ve listed all of your keywords by page, you can easily highlight each keyword.
Mistake #10: Changing the URL Structure
URLs are a strong ranking signal. Identify all of the keywords in each url and be sure to carry them over to the new website. If the old urls are simply dynamic session IDs or parameters, you won’t have to worry as much. Just make sure each page 301 redirects to its corresponding page on the new site you create with friendly urls.