Why SEO Belongs in the Redesign Process
So, you’re ready to redesign your website. Are you thinking about SEO? If not, you should be. For most websites, organic search is a valuable source of traffic, and it’s important that you account for SEO in order to preserve your site’s ranking power and traffic after your new design launches.
Ideally, SEO should be involved throughout the redesign process, particularly during these stages:
Sitemap and Content Planning
Content will form the backbone of your new website. Early on in the development process, it’s important that the SEO and design teams meet and map out the site’s structure. Having SEO involved at this stage can help ensure that valuable pages aren’t removed (which can cause substantial traffic losses) and that your site structure supports the content that will help it rank well in organic search results.
This is also the stage in the process during which SEO professionals can conduct keyword research to help guide content development, as well as the wording on the site’s navigation and the structure of important pages.
Integrating SEO right at the beginning of the process will help ensure that your site doesn’t sacrifice its ranking power for good design. More often than not, sites that look great don’t have great SEO. You can have both, though, if you account for everything at the beginning.
SEO should also be involved during the development phase of your redesign. This is when SEOs and developers will work together to ensure that the code on your new website is constructed to be search engine friendly. Developers will make sure the site can be accessed and crawled by search engines, and, if you’re using a content management system, that precautions have been taken to avoid duplicate content.
SEOs will take time during this phase to implement proper meta data and alt tags, and most importantly, to plan the 301 redirect strategy. This entails mapping each URL from your old site to its new equivalent on a page-by-page basis. Yes, it’s time consuming, but it’s also absolutely crucial in making sure your site traffic doesn’t plummet after launch. If 301 redirects aren’t accounted for, you’ll have massive amounts of 404 errors on your hands, and that’s no good.
Launch and Post-launch
Search engine optimization also matters when your site launches, as well as during the period immediately following launch. SEOs can help ensure that 301s are redirecting properly and verify that your analytics program is tracking site visitors correctly. They can also submit XML sitemaps, which serve as guides to the content on your site, directly to the search engines. This will help them navigate and understand your new site’s structure more quickly. Perhaps most importantly, SEOs will check the site’s robots.txt file to make sure the search engines haven’t been blocked from crawling the content on your new website. Sometimes, developers use the robots.txt file as a method of preventing search engines from accessing the new site during development, and if the file isn’t updated before launch, the results can be disastrous.
After your site has launched, SEOs will monitor Google Webmaster Tools and analytics programs for any site errors, like 404s for nonexistent pages, that crop up after launch. These errors are inevitable because, let’s face it, nobody’s perfect. They’ll also check site traffic to ensure that no major losses occur and help course correct in the event that they do. Generally speaking, they help monitor the overall health of your new website during its first few days of “life.”
Save Yourself Some Trouble
Next time you think about redesigning your site, make sure you consider SEO or work with a web development agency that offers SEO services. You’ll have a better website in the end, and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble trying to recover lost rankings and traffic following a less-than-perfect redesign.