So here are 7 simple steps you need to take in order to redesign your website and avoid severe traffic drops.

A guest post submitted by Rachael Hand see the slides here

1.)    Research your site to determine where new SEO opportunities and problems lie

Before evening beginning any website redesign project it is vital that you conduct an SEO site auditbeforehand. This ensures any current problems with your website (in terms of SEO) are identified so they can be addressed during the redesign.

You should also conduct a URL analysis before a redesign because there is a strong likelihood that certain URL’s will change during the process and if this is the case, you must inform search engines of where these URL’s have moved to. This can help you develop a list of 301 redirects which you will need to establish later in the redesign. Don’t forget to also check your subdomains when you are checking your URL’s!

As well as analysing your URL’s you should also analyse your inbound links so you can ensure those pages are that are being linked to are migrated to the new site.

Finally a great way to make a website redesign run smoothly is to utilize webmaster tools. These tools allow you to: verify website ownership, analyse site diagnostics, view search queries and click through data. They also ensure you receive messages direct from the search engines bringing any SEO related problems to your attention quickly. Webmaster tools are great for monitoring your site before, during and after a redesign so you can tackle issues as and when they occur, as well as reducing the chance of overlooking a potential SEO problem or opportunity.

Google webmaster tools in particular are especially important during a redesign because they have the functionality to actually notify Google when you are moving domains.

2.)    Analyse the sites that are linking to yours

You need to make sure you’re aware of which links to your site that are coming from other web pages are bringing targeted traffic to your site. This is because these links may be integral to that page’s position in search engine results pages. As such, you will want to apply 301 redirects to these pages if there URL’s are set to change during the redesign so you don’t lose that link juice. Then, once the redesign is completed you may want to try and contact as many of those site owners linking to your pages and ask them to update their links to your new URL’s.

3.)    Identify your keywords

In order to keep your site as visible as possible in search engine results pages after a site redesign it’s good practice to determine which search terms are being used to find your products and services already. It’s also useful to look at topic related to these search terms to spread your relevance.

Running a pay per click (PPC) is an excellent way to determine which keywords are bringing significant, targeted traffic to your site and better still it can help you gauge which search terms brought engaged users to your site thanks to measurement metrics like time on site, page views, bounce rates and conversions for example. If a PPC campaign isn’t possible you can also use website analytics and reporting of Google’s webmaster tools to generate similar information.

It’s important to research which keywords are working for you so you can either maintain them during the site redesign or introduce them.

4.)    Use keywords to enhance the on page SEO factors of a website

Once you have your important keyword phrases identified you can use them during your redesign to limit the impact it will have on your sites traffic. Typically you may find you need to add content to your site to focus more closely on a given set of your keywords which are particularly important from brining engaged visitors to a page. You can also include content linked to related search queries to spread and increase the relevance of your site and improve your authority.

As well as adding more content to increase the relevance of your keywords toy should also optimize most site pages for the best chance of actually ranking in the search engine results pages for the keywords you have chosen. The means you also need to consider developing relevant tags such as HTML Pate Title tags and Meta Description tags. Ideally this should be done for every page in the new design.

5.) Write on-page copy and new content that is engaging, well written and targeted

When writing on page copy it is best practice to include those of your key words which are most relevant to that page. In order to maximise on this, you should determine which pages on your existing site bring in the most valuable traffic. You can do this by using a combination of website analytics such as Google’s Webmaster Tools and manual searches to identify which of your sites pages are appearing on the first page or near the top of the search engine results pages.  If these pages are bringing significant traffic for your chosen keywords then you need to consider re using the important content and minimizing the impact of URL changes when you undergo your redesign.

6.) Focus on usability for users and crawl-ability for search engines

Always remember that your site’s users and visitors come first even when you are trying to maximise the impact of your SEO tactics. For that reason you should give time and thought to the organization of your site redesign and build it around important keywords themes to help ensure that visitors can navigate your sight effectively and be engaged along the way to move them towards conversion. Considering your keywords themes can also help you improve your search engine rankings

Another important practice during a redesign is to get an SEO to look at wireframes, storyboards and test sites throughout the design and development stages to ensure it is all optimized for search engine friendliness.

7.) Do not underestimate the importance of 301 redirects and 404 errors.

Before actually launching your newly redesigned site, you must set up a custom 404 error page because people may still be clicking on search results to old pages that have been moved or deleted and they need notifying of this.

You must also have a 301 redirection plan. As explained earlier any modified URL’s need mapping from, the old one to the new one to ensure page rank is passed on to enable you to maintain your site equity. Failing to successfully and thoroughly implement a 301 redirection plan is the main cause of a drop in search engine result page position.

Where possible if you can maintain the URL structure of your site throughout the redesign, do it, it saves time, effort and the risk of losing page rank!


Search Engine Journal

Search Engine Land

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