We’ve all been there – you loved everything about your company’s website when it launched way back in 2011, but now, after staring at it every day for the last four years, you only see the flaws. You want something new, something cutting-edge, something that will make your customers say “Wow!” Before you start hacking away at your old site, however, you should consider the potential damage you can do to your SEO – and consequently, your website’s traffic – if you don’t know how to smoothly transition from your old website design to the new one. Here are some common pitfalls to keep in mind if you’re thinking about redesigning, revamping, or rewriting your business’s current, outdated website:
Redesign Pitfall #1: Changing The Content (Cats Where No Cats Should Go)
For many companies, redesigning their website is appealing because it gives company execs, programmers, and creatives an opportunity to rewrite and reorganize the content across their site; they believe, not wrongly, that a new version of the existing content could be more informative, more relevant, promote more user engagement, and just be all-around better.
While their hearts are in the right place – and trust us, there are thousands of websites that could benefit greatly from a total content rewrite – many companies fail to consider the SEO power that they have built through on-site implementation of well-researched keywords and keyword-based meta titles and descriptions. For example, if a business is trying to change the content for www.companywebsite.com/cats (with appropriate cat-related meta titles and descriptions, of course) but fails to include anything on the re-written page about cats, then the new page will quickly lose its SEO power and traffic will fall. Unless the company plans on deleting the page (which carries its own set of SEO problems, discussed below) and starting with a brand-new URL (i.e. www.companywebsite.com/dogs), then they must not ignore the “money keywords” for each redesigned and rewritten page.
Hint: This advice goes for everything on the page, not just the text. Images and videos contribute to SEO too, so covering the cat page with dog pics would be a no-no as well!
Redesign Pitfall #2: Deleting Pages/Creating New Pages (The 404 Hatchet of Doom)
Sometimes, a company will decide that a certain page is not worth saving; maybe the page covers a outdated product or service that the company no longer provides, or perhaps a particular page has been hammered by Panda updates and the company feels deleting it would be easier than trying to fix the problems. Whatever the case, blindly deleting website pages can be extremely risky and, if done improperly, can do more SEO harm than good. If you’re considered taking the 404 hatchet to your website, ask yourself these questions first:
- Are your new pages (pages that have never existed) being 301 redirected from old (now non-existent) URLs? If so, are you using the same keywords on both the old and new pages? Did you know that using different keywords on the redirect page can hurt your SEO?
- Does the page you are deleting have any outbound links? Are you aware that destroying internal links to another page on your website can cause the SEO power on that page to diminish?
- Does the deleted page benefit from any inbound links, either internal or external. If third-party websites are linking to the deleted page, have you informed the webmaster that their link will now be redirected to a different page entirely? Have you considered the SEO consequences of severing powerful inbound links? (A great site to see where your website’s links are coming from is Majestic)
- Have you considered your website’s sub-domains, and how deleting certain pages will affect these pages? (Remember, subdomain links contribute to SEO, too!)
Redesign Pitfall #3: Destroying Your Site’s “Architecture” (It’s Like Digital Jenga!)
While the concept of a website’s “architecture” and how it relates to SEO can be a bit difficult to grasp, businesses that understand how all the pages of their website are arranged and linked together will be able to smoothly transition to a new website design without worrying about SEO retribution. Before deleting pages, adding pages, switching the hierarchy of pages, rearranging menus, or doing anything else than may alter the structure of their website, smart companies need to make sure that all members of the design team, from the programmers to the graphic designers to the copywriters, know how the old website design works. “Everything affects everything,” we always say; don’t touch anything until you and your team have developed a sound strategy for safely rebuilding your website.
Website Redesign Tips From The Experts
If you just can’t stand the look of your old website one more day, here are some pointers to get your website design off on the right foot:
- Good websites – that is, websites that have user-friendly navigation and relevant, optimized content – integrate SEO in every aspect of their design, starting from the ground up. If you’re website already has a solid foundation and is getting good traffic, consider making smaller tweaks instead of completely revamping the existing content; while you may not like the look and feel of your old website, it may become more appealing if a shoddy redesign causes you to lose 90% of your traffic.
- To avoid getting blasted by Google or abandoned by users who may not like (or be used to) a completely new website, try making small changes over a long period of time. Not only will this help you focus on doing everything right, but if you start to see your website’s traffic plummet, you’ll know it was probably due to the most recent round of changes. Starting over is not a luxury many companies can afford; better to go slow and steady.
- If you feel overwhelmed by all this technical talk and are on the brink of throwing your laptop from a moving car, the website design team at Alecan Marketing are here to help! We will gladly look over your existing website and help you safely redesign your business’ site with SEO in mind. Contact Alecan today for a free consultation and price quote!