How to Avoid SEO Disaster During a Website Redesign? SEO Checklist Included
In a time of constant change and increasing customer expectations, the greatest danger facing most brands today is the loss of brand relevance. To stay up-to-date your site needs regular updates and SEO optimization. It all starts with conducting an audit of your website that could reveal insights that may be hurting your traffic and sales. As you take stock of your website’s performance and overall business needs, it boils down to two things:
1. Either going back to the drawing board and doing a complete overhaul of your current site
2. Making small incremental updates to the existing site over a given period of time.
These decisions are often driven by your marketing budget and the resources on hand. Both options will affect your website’s layout, site navigation, content strategy, and overall design, potentially disrupting your current search engine optimization (SEO) standing. As such, SEO needs to be factored into all the elements of the process. You can explore our recent posts, discussing the importance of the right content management system (CMS) and landing page SEO best practices which are crucial regardless of your current website strategy. Here, we will take you through some reasons to tackle a website redesign with a checklist to ensure that your website is optimized before you relaunch.
So, Why Do You Need to Make Your Website a Priority?
The old adage, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it – does not work when it comes to your website. The digital landscape is changing and your business must be ready to adapt. Even if you are not undertaking a rebranding or repositioning, a redesign could improve your website’s performance and overall business outcomes, especially with sales and brand awareness. As a premier website design and development agency, we have witnessed businesses cut corners with web-related tasks. Although not discussed here in full, a successful redesign hinges on making a proper investment in the project. Don’t skim quality for a quick fix.
As your marketing plans take shape, here are more reasons you should prioritize your website strategy over anything else:
1. You are losing to your competition because your site’s navigation or interface is difficult to use. Your site’s user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) matter. Poor user experience translates into bounce rate, page views, site speed, and overall conversion rate, which ultimately impacts the bottom line.
2. Most buyers begin their journey on google, so if your website is not following good SEO best practices, they might not find you. You can spend a lot of your marketing dollars on paid media. But if your owned media (website) does not do a good job of communicating with customers and prospects alike – the money spent on other digital marketing efforts is wasted.
3. You need to keep up with the latest technological innovations and digital trends. As your business grows, the website needs to change, which includes updating site navigation, CMS, web functionalities, etc.
Your Redesign SEO Checklist
By now you should have a good understanding of SEO but if a refresher is needed, we previously covered the basics in What Does SEO Stand for and How Does it Work? A good grasp of the basics ensures that when you are working on the checklist you are not lost.
Now, to the checklist. This checklist will guarantee that your website’s optimization and marketing goals are aligned, so let’s get started.
Audit Your Existing Content
The content drives your website’s organic traffic. An in-depth review of your content position is key to the redesign process. An audit will help you identify what worked and what you can tank; most importantly how this ties into the new marketing/content strategy. To help you in this task, Contentmarketinginstitute.com listed the following main steps:
- Identify the main goal of the audit
- Identify the content to include
- Define your inventory/audit facets
- Inventory the content to be audited
- Audit the content in your inventory
Though tedious, this process is necessary and you will see why a bit later, later when we address content optimization.
Update Information Architecture
Information architecture has to do with how you organize your content. Are things where they are supposed to be? During this process, you need to get a good understanding of the functionality of the site and have a complete inventory of the content. Determine if users will find the content you’re producing valuable. Bear in mind that good information architecture greatly impacts the user experience. So organizing your website’s data and content affects usability, conversions, and ranking.
Carefully Map URL Redirects
Redirecting a URL is effectively informing your visitors and Google that your website or the page has a new home. Handling redirects correctly is crucial to avoid losing rankings and help search engines understand the changes you have done.
Optimize The Content You’re Keeping for SEO
- A well-optimized unique content ranks higher on search engines. Simply auditing your content and creating an inventory does not guarantee that it will reach your intended audience. This step requires a few more layers. Getting it right off the bat is important. So:
- Perform a target keyword search and analysis. Check to see if the content will rank based on the keywords. If not, edit to ensure optimization. Tools that do a great job are SemRush and Hrefs.
- Find keywords for your key tags; Your key tags are the title and the meta description tags. Meta description is an important element for a well-optimized page. Your meta description can help increase the click-through rate by making it clear to the visitor what your content is about.
- Write URLs that are not only user-friendly but also recognizable by search engines.
- If you are keeping videos, compress the files to ensure that they load faster and don’t clog your website. Better yet use youtube or vimeo to host your videos and embed them to save on load time and server resources.
- Your visitors should be able to share content, so add social media links. AddThis a great tool that allows you to configure social media channels and embed the sharing widget.
Optimize Page Speed
Page speed is different from your website’s speed. Your page speed refers to how quickly your content loads when someone visits a page on your site. When your site is optimized for speed, it enhances UX and boosts your search engine ranking. You could use Pagespeed tool by Google to test page loading time.
Update Your XML Sitemap
A sitemap is a fast way to get indexed by Google. Sitemaps tell search engines when a page was updated, the frequency of updates to the page, the relative importance of pages within a website, and how to find and index content that may be found deep within the site’s structure.
Test Your Site After Redesign Is Complete
Do a test run and check for the appropriate tags and accessibility attributes, including meta descriptions, titles, alt text, labels, links opening in new windows, etc:
Website Redesign is Always Work-in-Progress.
A website redesign process is never complete – customer behavior, Google algorithm, UI/UX practices, and accessibility standards are moving targets – you’ll need to keep track of all of the changes to ensure your website is in sync with the time.
Having said that, the right kind of behavioral and analytical tools and technologies can prove really helpful in the process. If you have limited resources in-house to manage a website, partnering with a web consultant or an agency, like WDB can make a huge difference.
If you liked this post, check out our latest Smarketing for Marketing episode – where our guest, Brianna Feldott, shares her take on website design and SEO.