SEO Optimized Website Redesign: Do’s and Don’ts of Developing a Search Friendly Site
Redesigning your website to make it search friendly is not an easy task. You’ll spend so much time and effort plus there’s no guarantee that it will still work for you after making certain changes. You may end up making huge mistakes that cost you high rankings on SERP. That’s why site redesign should never be taken lightly.
To avoid wasting time and money on site redesign, you need to do it right the first time. First of all, you need to know when it’s appropriate to redesign your site and when the idea is not feasible. Here’s how you can find out.
When is it necessary to redesign your current website?
- When the current design compromises user experience
Enhancing user experience should be top on your to-do-list whenever you design a website. Remember the days when flash players and html background videos were the hottest trends in web design? Well, those days are long gone and you better keep up with technologies that have been developed to provide users with the best experience on your website. By lagging behind, you not only appear outdated but also risk losing potential visitors due to an unfavorable experience on your web pages. Any kind of changes you make should enhance user experience and ultimately increase conversion rates.
- When there has been a search algorithm update and your site is lagging behind
Search engines like Google are known to release algorithm updates that tend to affect sites. If you suspect that your site has been affected by a recent update, the best move would be to have an SEO expert do a background check and implement significant changes that are in line with the latest search trends.
Search algorithm updates may affect your site in more ways than one. You may need to change the entire design if you are using a platform that is not favored by search engines. Don’t wait to get a penalty from search engines in order to initiate a redesign. Making certain changes before they catch up with you is always a good idea.
- When you want to move to a different platform
Sometimes the initial platform you chose for your website turns out to be ineffective for you. It could be having an issue in terms of managing content or adding new functionalities and hence you’ll need to move to a better platform. If this is the case, a redesign may be a good idea as it helps you to incorporate all the aspects of modern web design.
However, do not completely lose your brand’s look and feel when migrating to a different platform. Doing this may be risky as some customers were already accustomed to your brand. Try and maintain the same URL, design, layout and content to maintain your users.
Once you’ve settled for a site redesign, the next important thing is to follow a step by step approach that will get you the platform you desire.
What to do before the website redesign
1.Perform proper testing
If you are opting for a redesign because it looks fancy and more functional, you’ll be in for a great disaster. A website redesign should only be done after you have research thoroughly and are almost sure that customers will respond well to the new design.
By running a series of tests, you are able to anticipate the reactions you’ll get from customers after the redesign. Take a couple of popular pages on your site such as the home page, contact us page, shop page and product category pages and then change the layout, color palettes or a number of images on the pages. You’ll need to track the stats using a tool like Google Analytics to determine if these changes have had any effect on user conversion rates.
To make this kind of testing work for you, ensure that:
You change only one element of the website at a time and track user behavior.
You have a set of different designs that you can test on separate pages.
You choose a suitable testing tool to run your experience. Well known tools that can help you track conversions and user behavior are; Google Analytics, Unbounce and Visual Website Optimizer.
2. Determine which URLs bring in more traffic to your site
You have to ensure that during the redesign, you don’t lose the pages that bring in a lot of traffic to your site. In order to maintain top rankings, you’ll have to keep those pages. Preparing a list of your site best performing pages will help you to keep track.
3. Determine pages with quality inbound links
The other set of pages that you must not lose when redesigning your site are the ones that contain very valuable backlinks. It’s easy to obtain a list of all these useful pages from tools like Google Search Console.
4. Determine the pages you don’t need
There are also pages that your site doesn’t need. There could be pages which were used to conduct promotions that have since expired or product categories which are no longer relevant to your site. Compile a list of these pages so that you can get rid of them during the redesign. Any content that is no longer useful and relevant has no place on your website.
A step by step approach to redesigning a website
The process of redesigning a website should be planned well to ensure a successful outcome.
First and foremost, you’ll have to determine the team of experts who are going to work on the new site. If SEO is important to you, you need to let the designers and developers know how things need to be done before the actual work begins. Most web developers and designers are not familiar with SEO so you need to brief them early enough.
Secondly, you need to ensure that the site will not be indexed by search engines while it is still being designed. The best approach would be to perform the redesign on a local host or server and then transfer the new version to the live server when it is complete. When you do this, you will avoid the risk of search engines indexing pages twice and later penalizing you for duplicate content. You can also create a subdomain of the existing site and then block it from indexing until it is complete.
Maintain your page URLs by using 301 redirects. 301 redirects allow you to direct the user to the required pages when you change the URLs. Also avoid changing URLs that have inbound links because they could be valuable connections which enhance the rankings of your site.
Analyze your site to ensure that there are no technical issues or SEO errors that may undermine your rankings. You can use platforms like Website Auditor to scrutinize your site before it goes live.
Always update your sitemap after redesigning your site. Make sure that all pages on the site map do not have any redirects. There are various online tools that can be used to generate sitemaps with ease.
What to do when the site goes live?
The hard work of redesigning your site is complete. But it’s definitely not the end of your efforts to enhance the site performance. There are still a couple of steps that need to get done.
Ensure that your website pages are being indexed by search engines. If you have blocked some pages from indexing, your rankings will be negatively affected.
If you had pages on your site that were ranking high, check to ensure that they are still available after the redesign. It’s common for website owners to notice some of their pages missing or unavailable after a redesign.
7 common mistakes to avoid when redesigning your website
A poorly redesigned site will negatively affect your site’s conversion rates and rankings on popular search engines. Here are some of the common mistakes to avoid.
- Getting rid of majority of the site’s pages.
- Getting rid of volumes of content from your site. The information could be ranking on certain searches and getting rid of it will only remove your site from some SERPs.
- Failing to include relevant keywords when making changes to the site’s content.
- Sites that take too long to load
- Failing to redirect the new URLs to the old versions.
- Deleting pages that had quality inbound links.
- Preventing the whole website or part of it from being indexed by search engines by blocking.
As you plan on starting the new redesign, always remember that a good-looking website will not only keep users on your pages but also increase your rankings.