Website redesigns can make an unattractive site beautiful, but they can also render a high traffic site virtually invisible. Here are some tips to keep in mind when considering a website redesign to keep your site well ranked and indexed.
Tip #1: Collaboration is Key
It goes without saying, but developers, designers, and SEO professionals must work together in a cohesive fashion throughout the redesign process. Ideally, you should hire one firm who can manage all of these elements for you and are aware of the pitfalls of design over function.
All too often, businesses seek to refresh the look of their site, and by doing so, destroy their search engine presence. This can happen in a multitude of ways from SEO unfriendly design practices, coding errors, to even more grievous practices like URL rewriting without direction, content duplication, information architecture changes away from search engine friendly techniques and many more.
Starting the website redesign process with a cooperative meeting of the minds between the SEO team, designer, developer, and company decision maker is a great first step in launching a new or redesigning an existing website.
Page Load Time
A site redesign gives you a chance to re-code, consolidate externally referenced files, and attain quicker load times.
Don’t let a designer or developer use the word “flash” during your call or meeting. In an attempt to make a website look attractive, dependence on multimedia usage can and will have a negative impact on site speed. To ignore this is very harmful, and a sign that your developers may not be up on their game. To illustrate this, Google has stated that in the last year, site speed is considered as part of their ranking metrics, and that slower speeds annoy the end user. Additionally, some multimedia such as flash is inaccessible on many media devices like iPhone, iPad, tablets, and other mobile devices.
Make sure that the development area or testing sections of your website are excluded from search engine’s view. Relaunching your website when these elements have been crawled or indexed by any of the major search engines means that your beautiful new site is a duplicate. This will set you on spiral of trying to redirect the development environment that was leaked. Also, ensure that there are no live copies of your website on other servers that may be viewed by search engines.
A different form of content duplication is the creation of new URLs without properly redirecting the old URLs with 301 permanent redirect commands. Not implementing this properly leaves the search engines puzzling over which page should be ranked.
One important point worth mentioning here is that 301s are a must and that 302 temporary redirects should not be used. Make sure in your redesign process that no one says the word “delete” when referencing site content. Pages should never be deleted, they should be permanently redirected to the most relevant launching page.
These are just some of the points to be aware of when considering a redesign of your website. We will continue to update this section with SEO tips, and other things to consider when hiring your redesign professionals. A basic takeaway from these tips is to hire someone knowledgeable, and if you want to take the project on yourself – be aware that there is much more to the science of websites, design, and SEO than meets the eye.