7 Steps to Managing SEO During a Site Redesign


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7 Steps to Managing SEO During a Site Redesign

SEO AtlantaConsidering a site redesign? If so, you’re probably contemplating all of the potential benefits that a redesigned site will bring to your business. Perhaps your goal is to achieve an easier to use or navigate website, or to migrate to a new CMS in order to scale production and publication of new content. Perhaps the intent of your redesign is to give your presence a much-needed facelift.

Read: Web Design EssentialsWhatever the driver, a crucial step during a website makeover is effectively managing your SEO throughout the re- design process. If not, your investment in improvements could actually have a negative fiscal impact on your business. A much publicized site redesign failure was Digg’s August 2010 redesign and re-launch. Digg lost almost 30% of their organic traffic following the redesign and struggled to rectify their mistake.

No one wants to follow Digg’s example. Take the time pre-launch to plan and evaluate what you’ll need to do to build a well optimized website. If you have been involved in a site redesign, you know it is substantially easier and less costly to make changes to site architecture, links, tags and flow pre-launch rather than post-launch.

7 Steps for Stellar SEO During Your Redesign:

Atlanta Web Design

Below we’ve mapped out seven steps to ensure your redesign efforts yield improvements from old to new without losing any SEO juice in the process. They are:

Establish Goals

Re-evaluate Keyword Strategy

Conduct Page Optimization

Design Infrastructure for SEO

Audit Links

Launch Analytics

Monitor Customer Sentiment

Although some steps may be more impactful than others – don’t shortcut.  Each one is critical to maintaining the overall SEO health of your website.

Step 1: Establish Goals
You won’t be able to determine your success or failure of a new site, unless you’ve first captured data on your old site’s performance. Determine which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you’ll want to use for before and after comparisons. Once you select measurable KPIs, gather the data from your current site (pre-redesign). These figures will serve as your baseline.  Be as consistent as possible when comparing pre and post launch measurements. For example, try to adjust for seasonal spikes, or better yet re-launch your site during your least trafficked time of the year. If you can, re-launch during a month or two where traffic has stayed relatively flat in the past.  That way you can measure several weeks pre and post launch with as-surance that your analysis is accurate.

Read: What Is SEO

Social media sites host content created predominantly by an army of online participants—individuals devoted to and driven by diverse interests and passions. Participants are not just individual consumers at home—they are also professionals using the same tools to solve problems and succeed at work.

Step 2: Re-evaluate Keyword Strategy
Since you are concerned about managing SEO throughout your redesign, we’ll assume you’ve al-ready established keyword strategies for your current site. If so, then a site redesign is a perfect opportunity to do a complete assessment of your keywords against your business’ objectives. Which keywords are currently driving traffic to your site and which ones are converting traffic into actual business in terms of sales, sign-ups, trials or further engagement? These high-quality keywords are keepers. Use them as an input into your keyword strategy for your new site.

Likewise, which keywords are your competitors winning at? Are there keywords you’d like to be associated with, that you currently aren’t using?  Where do you see room for improvement? As you answer these questions, create your list of strategic keywords. This list will serve as the bricks and mortar of your SEO foundation – include them in your site map and content map planning and creation. Last but not least, ensure your strategy effectively tackles head, torso and tail terms.

Step 3: Conduct Page Optimization
Once your keyword strategy is determined, you’ll want to use your keywords to optimize your individual web pages. While you’ll be testing each new page for its utility, user-friendliness, mar- ketability and the like you should also be evaluating each new page on its “findability” too.

Important Note: As you create templates for your pages, make sure your pages are being built with the right structure for SEO. Your page template checklist should include factors like: single <h1> tags, good use of <h2> tags, meta description, good body text and unique title tags. Search engines look for clues in these technical elements. Be sure to follow a consistent approach and messaging when building them.

Step 4: Design Infrastructure for SEO
As the saying goes – don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. As you shed your old site, you’ll want to transfer the valuable authority you’ve built over time to your new site. This is critical. If not, you’ll be throwing the baby out in the process. You can maintain this hard-earned authority through properly constructed 301 re-directs, updated sitemaps and, when possible, some consistency with URLs.You can maintain this hard-earned authority through properly constructed 301 re-directs, updated sitemaps and, when possible, some consistency with URLs

When it comes to planning your site hierarchy and URL structure, it is critical to get this step right.  Your site needs to be easy for a bot to crawl and for a user to navigate. A misstep here can substantially impact your newly designed site’s ability to be found.  Keep the URL structure as flat as possible with good information hierarchy in the directories and descriptive file names. If you change URLs for the updated site, be sure to utilize 301 re-directs for the old URLs to the new URLs, so you don’t lose the authority of the older URLs.

IMPORTANT NOTE: A informal independent Twitter poll asking for known causes of loss of traffic after a redesign, yielded the most common answer: improper or neglected 301-redirects. Check and double-check that your 301-redirects are properly in place.

Also, as you redesign your site structure and page code, be sure your title tags, meta descriptions, headlines, etc are all aligned with your new focus keywords. During your redesign, you should also include a visible site map (an actual page with links to the other pages on the site), an XML sitemap (especially important for larger sites) and a video XML sitemap–which is a great way to highlight the video on your site. These help search engines know what pages to crawl.

Step 5: Audit Links
This is a two-part step. Part A is focused on your internal website links, Part B on your external, inbound linking strategy.

  1. Internal Linking
    A misstep here can substantially impact your newly designed site’s ability to be found.  Keep the URL structure as flat as possible with good information hierarchy in the directories and descriptive file names. If you change URLs for the updated site, be sure to utilize 301 re-directs for the old URLs to the new URLs, so you don’t lose the authority of the older URLs.
  2. External Inbound Linking Strategy- this SEO process is comprised of three basic elements:
    1. Keyword Strategy and Selection
    2. Site and Page Optimization
    3. Link Building

In order to be successful in SEO, you need all three elements to be working together to boost rankings, visits and conversions. Quality inbound links to your site pass their trust and authority to your site or page. Thus, pushing your content higher up the search engine ranks. As you build your inbound link authority, your SEO rankings should improve.  Your inbound link strategy should be comprehensive and a plan to acquire links should be in place prior to launch.

Step 6: Launch Analytics
Establish a reporting dashboard early on to monitor visits from different sources of traffic (including organic search,) check rank of focus keywords on a regular basis and track key conversion metrics. Implement an analytics solution (e.g. Optify, Google Analytics, Omniture, Webtrends, Coremetrics) that will give you visibility into traffic, sources, and visitor path information. If you plan to generate leads or transactions on your site, conversion tracking is a must. Compare and contrast the data you collect to the baseline data you collected pre-launch. This will help you understand where you’ve made improvements and what needs additional time and attention.

Step 7: Monitor Customer Sentiment
Set up a social media campaign for Twitter and Tweet about the launch. Twitter is an excellent forum for monitoring customer sentiment and reactions to your new launch. Leverage this information to make adjustments to content that is confusing to customers or value propositions that don’t immediately resonate. Again, the faster you can gather this information, respond, and tweak your site appropriately, the better your users’ experiences will be. In an ideal world you’ll make these changes, along with any other SEO driven alterations in real time as you discover the need for them.

Training: Atlanta SEO Training

Remember, it is always easier, more effective and less expensive to build SEO into your site during the planning and development stage rather than doing a “retrofit.” Get your site redesign right from the beginning. Ensure your content is correct and optimized for SEO to increase your conversion rates and reduce your bounce rates. Track and monitor your success and make changes – ideally in real time – when necessary.

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Eric Woodson

Experienced marketing consultant that helps clients get visible, get found, and get new business!

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