When was the last time your website had a drastic overhaul? Perhaps you’ve thought about hiring a web design company to redesign your website, but have concerns that the designers might mess up the SEO you worked so hard to create. All kinds of problems can happen in a website redesign if the proper precautions aren’t taken in the first place.
There’s a lot involved in a website redesign besides creating a new look and feel to each landing page. Together, web designers and web developers work on migration issues, XML sitemap creation, and try to preserve as much of the original website as they can. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it is the prevailing way web designers need to view website redesigns.
Often, there are mistakes made during the web redesign process that can destroy months or even years of SEO work. These mistakes happen because not enough consideration is given to website SEO as the site is rebuilt. This guide serves as a cautionary tale of what not to do in redesigning sites and teaching web designers more about the basics of SEO. If followed correctly, many common SEO pitfalls will be avoided.
Why SEO Matters in Website Redesigns
Stop thinking of yourself as only a web designer. That’s the first thing you need to get into your mind to grasp the importance of SEO in your work. When you come in and rebuild a website, you need to think about what the client is going to get out of what you offer.
Will this website redesign reduce the amount of time it takes for each page to load? Did the website have a lot of clutter and distracting details that subtracted from the user experience? What is is you’re trying to fix the most with your site redesign?
These are a few business questions to get you thinking from the perspective of the business owner. By thinking this way, you’ll differentiate yourself from all the hundreds of other web designers who design websites. You’re someone who’s coming into a situation and providing a solution to the problem the business owner is having.
What Does SEO Mean for the Business Owner?
With the right mindset, you’re ready to understand the relationship between SEO and website redesigns better. SEO, or search engine optimization, is a digital marketing lead generation tool used to optimize websites, so they’re found the by the right target audience in search engines.
SEO in the long run saves business owners money because there’s much less of a need to pay for advertising anywhere else. People come directly to the business and not the other way around like it used to be with traditional marketing and interruption marketing.
Imagine if you were the business owner and you see that your competitors have better-looking websites and are getting more of the traffic and sales. For most business owners, this is the reason they want a website redesign at all. It’s an opportunity for them to rebrand their business and gain equal footing among their competition.
This is what you want to achieve for the client, and with this knowledge, you’re going to produce better websites with better results. In the best case scenario, the redesigned website will perform far better in search results because all the technical problems that existed are gone with your website redesign.
What You Need to Do Before Redesigning a Website
Okay, so you know a little bit more about what SEO is, but what else should you consider before redesigning a client’s website? The first thing that should be done is an SEO website audit. This will show you all the current SEO problems that the website has. See which technical problems you need to fix as you’re rebuilding and redesigning a website. Some of these errors include:
• Broken links
• 404 errors
• Missing alt-text
• Slow website speed
During your evaluation of the website, also consider what’s currently working on the website and its SEO.
Does the site already have a lot of existing content you can work with?
How is the current website permalink structure?
Is the website redesign going also to include new landing pages?
Once you have the answer to these questions, you’ll understand your scope and what you need to accomplish with your website redesign.
Talk with the business owner and learn about the history of their website and also take what they say into consideration before redesigning a website and making changes.
It’s best to have a copy of the website you can work with and make changes without affecting the existing website. This is done by creating a dev site and migrating all the current content and pages onto it. After you’ve completed this step, pick what tools in WordPress you want to redesign the website with. We always use Divi Builder for each WordPress web design provided to the client.
As you go, test each page for mobile-responsiveness. Make sure each one looks good from a desktop, tablet, laptop, and phone. Mobile-responsive websites rank better in SEO than ones that look terrible on these devices. You’ll keep website visitors on for longer periods of time without drawing them away.
Install the Yoast SEO plugin on the dev site you’re working on if the website didn’t already have this plugin before. It makes on-page SEO optimization easier as it tells you how to optimize each page for SEO for keywords. Have your SEO and content specialists go into the website and add relevant keywords to each meta description and add alt-text on images as well.
For times where each URL on the website is going to be different from the previous ones, take the time to gather a list of these URLs in an Excel spreadsheet first. This is to help you remember which links and URLs will require a 301 redirect, which preserves the SEO of the old page without Google deindexing it entirely. It’s far less of a headache for you and the client to take note of these links from the beginning.
Update the XML Sitemap
When you and the client are satisfied with the website redesign, and you’re ready to make it live, update the XML sitemap and test the entire website again. Run another SEO site audit and make sure all the links and pages work. Yoast SEO Premium is where you’ll find the website sitemap if you’re having problems. Go to Features and enable the Advanced Options, and you’ll see XML Sitemaps underneath the dashboard. The XML sitemap URL will usually look something like this: websitedomainexample.com/sitemap_index.xml.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console allows you to submit your XML sitemaps after the launch of the website. It also shows how many pages have been indexed by Google. In the months after the launch, you can see also how the SEO of the website is performing by going to Search Traffic, then Search Analytics. If there’s a problem with the click-through-rates, site impressions, or search queries, you can find them by looking at the data shown there.
A website redesign produces many benefits for business owners but needs to be handled by an experienced professional that understands SEO. The goal of a website redesign should be to increase traffic and sales. By taking precautions and testing the site throughout, the transition shouldn’t be a problem at all.
Call our web design experts at Viridian Geeks at 470-440-3434 or email [email protected] to learn about our solutions. Read our blog for more tips on SEO, website design, and digital marketing in the Metro Atlanta area.