Site Redesign

Site Redesign

When it comes to your online advertising presence, your domain is your most important asset. By extension, the authority and reputation of the content on your domain is equally important. With the advent of quality Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress, site redesigns happen less frequently (on average) than they did 5-10 years ago as it is easier to make adjustments to content and your marketing message than ever before. Still, there plenty of good reasons for a website overhaul. But what happens to those strong SEO rankings that you’ve worked so hard to attain? If you aren’t careful, they can regress.
So what can be done to ensure that your SEO rankings are not negatively affected by your new design? Here are 5 tips that you won’t want to ignore.

Tip #1: Use 301 redirects

This is an important step. Say, for example, that the previous location of your “About Us” page was http://yourdomain.com/about.html, but now you are moving from a static HTML site to a WordPress CMS with “pretty” URLs. As a result, the new location of your About page is http://yourdomain.com/about/. The problem with this is that the next time Google’s web crawler goes back to your About page to check on if any changes have been made, they will be met with a 404 crawl error. Uh-oh. That won’t be good. The solution is simple. Before you launch the new version of your website, you’ll want to be sure to compare the URL of each page in your index to the new location for that page on your new site. Next, you’ll need to write a 301 redirect for each page that has a new URL. If you are using WordPress, the solution gets easier. You can just use the Simple 301 Redirects plugin. If not, you’ll need to access the .htaccess file and write each 301 manually. For a tutorial on how to do this manually using the .htaccess file click here: http://www.webconfs.com/how-to-redirect-a-webpage.php.

Tip #2: Create and Upload New Sitemap to Google

Chances are, your new website will result in a new sitemap. You’ll want to be sure you create a new HTML sitemap and link to it somewhere in the footer (at least). You’ll also want to be sure to create an XML sitemap for the purpose of uploading it to Google and Bing Webmaster tools. Doing so sends the search engine giants the message that you have a new site (and a new sitemap) and that you’d like them to evaluate it and communicate any difficulties they might have in breaking down the data. This gives you an opportunity to fix anything you may have forgotten. It also gives them a jump-start in breaking down your new index. Both are advantageous for you, the webmaster.

Again, if you are using WordPress you are in luck. Just install the Yoast SEO Plugin, configure taxonomies (using the plugin documentation as your guide) and generate the sitemap. Next, you’ll just want to upload the URL extension (such as sitemap.xml) to Google and Bing webmaster tools.

Tip #3: Configure Meta Tags Properly

You are launching a new site, which means new Meta tags. Do your title tags reflect your keyword strategy? Does your Meta description create a compelling reason for your prospect to click on your link when they search? Are you using canonical linking to reduce the possibility of duplicate page content across your domain? Are your Meta title and description tags unique on each page? Taking this one step further, have you configured the alt tags for each image on your new site so that the blind can get a description of what each image is (and you improve the likelihood of getting some of your images listed on the first page of image search results)?

Tip #4: Optimize page load times

 An important part of a website’s authority is the user experience. Part of the user experience is making sure that pages on your domain load quickly. Pages that take too long to load have higher bounce rates and drive people crazy. Fortunately, Google has an excellent free tool called PageSpeed. Use this tool to analyze your new site online, and then follow their suggestions to improve your score (they will rate your new site on a scale of 1-100, with 100 being the best). Most of the changes they will suggest are relatively easy to take care of, such as enabling page caching and creating CSS sprites. Any skilled developer can usually handle most of the suggestions made by Google in 1-2 hours (or less). Optimizing load times is a task that requires minimal effort while improving the user experience significantly. So do it!

 Tip #5: Promote Your New Website

 

You’ve worked hard to plan, build and launch your new site. So make sure you take the time to get the word out! Here are a few ways you can publicize your new site.

Write a press release and distribute it at prweb.com. If you write a quality release and follow their rules, you should see 100-200 decent-quality backlinks at a minimum. If you configure geographic targeting wisely, you should see some convertible web traffic too.

  1. Blog about why your new site is awesome and push the blog post out to your audience via social channels such as Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Ask for feedback. Hold a contest and award a prize to the person who finds the most typos.
  2. Go to web design blogs and submit your new design for feedback. Participate in high-value communities for the long-term and you will see a positive impact on your own site authority. You’ll also be surprised at the quality of the suggestions being made.

So there are 5 tips for making sure you retain those high SEO rankings you’ve worked so hard for when launching a site redesign. Is this list comprehensive? No, not at all. It’s merely meant to start a discussion. So tell me…what did we miss?

About the author:

Angelica De La Cruz is the director of content at 417 Marketing, a web design and SEO firm dedicated to helping it’s clients increase online exposure, drive traffic to their website, and then convert that traffic into new customers.