Website redesign is required to take advantage of the latest technology and trends. Redesigning your website is not without risk. All to often, the website makeover results in a dramatic downturn in search engine rankings! Don’t underestimate the value of the existing indexed pages… or the benefits of current organic SERPs. The web redesign proposal plan checklists should take careful account of the current status of the existing website.
Web Redesign Project Planning | Section #1
Rather than just rush headlong into the web redesign / rebuild process, an assessment of the good and bad elements of the original site should be made. Include consideration of SEO aspects. To pre-empt major problems, run the rebuild idea past an SEO consultant…
Threats to Current SERPs Rankings
It’s important to understand that a current search engine rankings can plunge off the charts as a consequence of a redesign! Why is that? Failing to plan is planning to fail – and you must have viable strategies to contain the threat to rankings.
Permanent Page Redirection
Without an accurate page redirection chart that specifies where the old content went, search engine spiders will be left wallowing in a puddle of 404 Page Not Found errors.
- Top-Ranked Pages – must be identified and protected
- 301 Redirection – reroute current page file names to the corresponding new page’s name. Not doing that means all indexed content will suddenly generate 404 Page Not Found errors, and be deleted purged from all search engine’s index. Next comes total loss of all internal Page Rank. That’s followed by all client’s Bookmarked page links being lost… Finally, all “deep links” to internal content will be lost…
- Preserve the Optimised On-Page Content – move previously optimised page content to their new page counterparts.
- Image ALT Tag Text – copy the old text to the replacement images
- Meta-Tags – copy Title tags, Description and Keyword meta-tags to the corresponding new pages
- Site Maps – provide and listing both XML and HTML Sitemaps
If this is not done, search engine spiders and bots will be forced to restart from scratch. If they are forced to reindex and reassess and the website, and you’ve not protected the positive elements, a plummet in rankings is assured!
Branding per se is an important aspect of business development. Branding consultants have great expertise in their sphere of interest, but often a modest comprehension of the challenges in achieving top SERPs (search engine results rankings). Branding consultants don’t see the importance of your 10 year old domain name… A recommendation to ditch your matured Domain for a new “catchy” new business name is a threat to your online presence. Domain 301 Redirection means its possible to redirect incoming traffic from the old domain to the new domain. Then, you can provide individual page redirection…
Regardless, that still leaves you with all your old links pointing to a ‘dead’ domain and at risk of removal!
Don’t “misunderestimate” the importance of a matured domain with reams of incoming links! By way of example, I recently reviewed a web redesign proposal that recommended moving from a 1999 registered domain with 2900+ incoming links (including 100+ links from domains with a +7 PR! The destination? A 2008-registered domain with a mere 35 links… That’s insane!
Planning to redesign a mature site that’s generating business, but needs a more modern look and feel? Then be sure to choose a designer / developer who comprehends the importance of the old content, and understands the SEO considerations! Ensure the crucial SEO design elements are incorporated into the redesigned architecture. I regularly see web redesign output from designers that astounds and depresses me, e.g.;
- SEO applications loaded but deactivated – so nil meta-tag content on all pages!
- The WordPress CMS with Privacy setting as “I would like to block search engines, but allow normal visitors“
- Flash main menu that search engines cannot read, resulting in no internal pages indexed!
- The dreaded Splash Intro pages with 1 link to the home page only – zero Home page content!
- Missing both XML and HTML sitemaps, giving search engines no list of internal content
If the specific objective is execute the website, then the above 6 items will serve well…
The lesson is, if you are contemplating a web redesign, you’d be sensible to make certain that those responsible for the rebuild have a plan that includes the basic project planning elements! Failing to plan is planning to fail ,as these examples clearly show!
Is Google Still Needed?
Whilst there those who wish that Google was irrelevant, that does not make it so. Ignoring the guidelines provided by the planet’s most influential search engine is not a way forward.
Perhaps when you’re a household brand name, you won’t need search engines to route new clients your way. But for now, to garner an increasing supply of new visitors from Google et al, you’ll have to play by the rules of engagement… None of us can alter global reality to fit our own perceptions – we either adapt… or become irrelevant!
New Website’s SEO Needs
Achieving SEO benefits requires that there be overall targets to shoot at…
- SEF-URLs – Search engine friendly URLs or Page File Names should be explicit, and keyword-rich, independent of Titles or Headings
- Titles: independent and unique page Titles are essential.
- Description Meta-Tags: independent and unique page descriptions are essential.
- Keyword Meta-Tags: independent and unique page keywords
- Image URLs: image file names should incorporate targeted keyword phrases
- Image ALT Tag Text: dynamic based on file name with manual over-ride is ok. Keyword rich image file names are important supporting elements of page content.
- Menus – each item controllable, independent of page Headings, with manual hyperlink titles
- Headings – formatted in H1, H2, H3 HTML tags, independent of menu name
Ensure That Core Files are Present
– Robots.txt: with a link to the XML sitemap
– Sitemap: XML, plus HTML
– Custom 404 Error Page: standard page template, full menu etc
Make sure that the BASIC Hosting issues are sorted;
– www vs. non-www: use full canonical domain name, prevent duplicate content indexing
– Hosting: correct country TLD – or correct country hosting