<< by on June 8th, 2011
The reasons to undergo a web site redesign are endless. Maybe your site’s not user friendly, maybe it looks old and could use a fresh look, or maybe you want to take it in a new direction. Whatever the reason is one thing’s clear: you want a new website and you don’t want to lose any value from the one you already have.
A big misconception that website owners make is first launching their site redesign, then hiring on an SEO expert to help optimize it. This can lead to costly modifications that could have easily been addressed during the design phase.
After a website is launched it can be harder, if not impossible, to alter concerned areas without having to redesign the site again.
Here are 9 tips on making an SEO friendly transition during your redesign process.
1. Perform an SEO Site Audit
If you are concerned with ranking within search engines, then looking for problem areas on your site should be of utmost importance. Performing an SEO site audit allows you to understand which places on your site are limiting your success, and can be addressed during the redesign process.
Check for things such as:
- The number of indexed pages
- Look for duplicate content issues
- Amount of unique content on each page
- Use of Meta tags and Title tags
2. Run a benchmark report
How are people currently finding your site? Not only is it important to understand where your current site’s value is coming from, but also preserving this value over to the new site.
Here are a few tools you can use to find your site’s value:
- Google Analytics: Discover keyword phrases that drive traffic to your site
- Rank Checker: Check the search engine rankings of these keywords
- Yahoo Site Explorer: Check the number of inbound links pointing to your site and where they’re coming from
3. Changing Web host
For whatever reason, if you are considering switching over to a new server, then you need to keep up both the old and new sites so search engines understand the “change of address.” If you take down the old server right away, you run the risk of negatively effecting your search rankings.
Just to be on the safe side, it’s best to leave both sits up for 2-4 weeks. This should be enough time for Google to make the transition with the new DNS settings.
4. Site wide 301 redirects
If you are changing any page filenames, then you’ll need to implement site wide 301 redirects to the new location. This not only transfers the user to the new page location, but also its link juice (value).
Also, make sure not to leave any loose ends behind. If a page is removed and no longer exists, then apply a 301 and direct it to a new page. This way each page is accounted for and there are no dead ends.
6. SEO friendly CSS
Make sure to customize your CSS tags. For example, a search bot doesn’t understand a CSS tag named “headline.” The use of H tags (H1, H2, etc) help the bots to understand what important content is on the page.
7. The Power of Subdomains vs. Subdirectories
Instead of using subdirectories, consider applying subdomains instead.
By using subdirectories, you’re only allowed 2 listings. However, utilizing subdomains across your site can help you achieve more rankings. For example, consider using subdomains for different departments of your company.
8. Program Technologies Accordingly
In this case, using a <noscript> tag notifies the search bots what the image contains. The script will not appear on the page, but will reside in the source code.
9. Create a Custom 404 Error Page
Before you launch the redesigned site, make sure to create a custom page not found error page (404 Error Page). Have it closely resemble the look and feel of your website as well as a message to the user and links directing you back to the site.
Without a custom 404 error page this is what a user would see if a page no longer existed or had been removed from the site:
Here’s an example of Search Mojo’s 404 error page:
Not only will this reduce your bounce rate because users feel they are still on your website, but also search bots have links to crawl as opposed to coming to a dead end.
All in all, the redesign process is an exciting process. Don’t get bogged down by investing a lot of time and money to create your vision without first doing your homework.