Spring cleaning is not restricted to the home. The virtual world needs it as much as the tangible, physical one. It is all too easy to become comfortable with your existing website, as humans are, in essence, creatures of habit and like an old armchair, we can become attached to a website, no matter how outdated, unwieldy and unfriendly to our target customers. So, a website redesign, where possible, is very much recommended every now and then to keep up with new developments and reduce bounce rate, increase session length and ultimately boost the creation of new leads and yield repeat custom.
However, any website redesign is not without its pitfalls. It could, in fact turn into something of an SEO nightmare, should certain steps not be followed. This could result in a new website that is not SEO optimised, meaning that search engines will not look favourably on your site, resulting in loss of traffic and a painful hit to your bottom line. So, whether you are looking to optimise your site for mobile, rebrand, appeal to a more international consumer base or switch to ‘https’ you need a plan to retain (or improve) your hard-earned SEO.
This article could end up being dozens of pages in length should it seek to explain, step by step exactly what you need to do to avoid an SEO disaster when rebuilding your site and in doing so would only make sense to a tiny percentage of readers who probably already know what to do! So, let’s break things down to four key areas, the first of which is the very reason why we can keep things relatively simple:
- Get an SEO expert on board.
In an ideal world you will want your SEO expert fully integrated into your web design team so that everyone meets regularly and is generally coming at things from the same angle. Remember that SEO should not be an afterthought, rather it should be considered a fundamental building block in the design of the site itself.
- Evaluate existing SEO
Of course your primary concern could be not to damage your existing SEO, but now would be the perfect time to, page by page, re-evaluate your SEO performance using one of the great tools like MOZ analytics or Majestic SEO to make sense of what is working and what needs improving.
- Be thorough
Just as important as evaluating your SEO is editing your old site and proofreading new content for any errors. A thorough spring clean should be the goal. It is important that until everything is up and running on the new site, the WIP (work in progress) is stored away from the prying eyes of Google as it could penalise you for duplicate content over the two sites. Keeping the same page names is also desirable, but can be offset by using 301 redirects to avoid the dreaded 404 error pages.
- Don’t ignore overall quality
It is vital not to forget that creating a user friendly, mobile optimized site that runs smoothly and speedily is of vital importance. Only focusing on SEO is a big mistake. The internal link structure of your site is just as vital as is ensuring that calls to action are sensibly placed. Ensure that your site not only looks good to the eyes of Google, but looks great to the eyes of your visitors.