Happy New Year!
To kick start our blogs for 2020 we wanted to cover a topic that we have seen nearly ruin businesses time and again over the years… and that is website redesign.
If you rely on SEO for any proportion of your lead generation, your website redesign could crash all your hard-earned rankings if not managed correctly. In this article we will share with you some tips on how to ensure this does not happen.
Great visibility on search engines are increasingly difficult to come by and mostly come as a result of consistent focus, time, effort and energy.
Every few years your business will require a website redesign for a variety of reasons, generally as your business evolves and your products develop you need a website to reflect this. Also, you need to keep up to date with technical SEO elements including load speed and mobile responsive issues.
Most businesses will seek a professional agency to complete their redesign, generally using a recommended or previously used agency with whom they have pre-established trust.
So where is the risk?
Risk is limited unless you rely on SEO as one of your marketing strands for lead generation. At Lilac James, SEO is responsible for approximately 50% of our new business, so to lose that would be really damaging for us and we would have to react quickly and aggressively to grow other marketing channels.
Many times over the years clients have come to us following a website redesign wondering why their lead generation has suddenly dropped with no explanation. Examples include:
A large university who had spent £10K on a website redesign only to see search engine visibility drop by 20%.
A furniture retailer with both online and offline presence lost 100% of search engine website traffic during their redesign resulting in having to dramatically increase other marketing avenues whilst we re-established their SEO presence.
A kitchen retailer who completed an extensive refitting of their showroom, invested in an extensive rebrand and a new website but failed to implement the strategy below and lost 100% of organic search traffic which placed their business at significant risk.
A secondary education provider who contacted us 2 days before their potentially disastrous 11K new website went live. Luckily, we acted in time and not only preserved but built upon their rankings.
So why does it happen? Why is this so common?
The main reason is that if you change the structure of your website, including page URL’s, Google will consider your website as brand new and you will have to start to build authority and credibility from scratch.
Think of it from Google’s perspective, all it wants to do is deliver its customer (the person searching) the most relevant information for their search. With that in mind Google is generally going to deliver websites with higher authority and credibility (domain authority) rather than brand new websites that have just sprung into existence.
In simple terms, your old websites hard earned rankings could be sent to the internet graveyard, never to be recovered!
So how can you avoid this?
The great news is not only can you avoid it but also that a new website, if launched correctly with SEO in mind can build upon existing rankings and increase upon your search engine visibility.
If you’re managing your redesign you need to understand that if you radically change the wireframe of an existing site you risk the current organic rankings which are driven by the current structure.
So what should you do?
1. Take the time to understand which pages on your website are delivering your organic traffic and for which search terms. You can use a combination of Google Analytics and various paid and unpaid ranking software services like www.link-assistant.com/rank-tracker/ to achieve this.
You can also use incognito mode to type in search terms that your target customer may enter into Google and see what pages of your website are delivered, if at all.
2. Once you understand which pages and search terms are delivering your organic search traffic ensure the page URL’s do not change within the new website and if they do need to change, ensure a full 301 redirect is put in place at page level.
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. 301 redirects send site visitors and search engines to a different URL than the one they originally typed into their browser or selected from a search engine results page.
3. Make sure that the pages on your new website are sufficiently optimised for keywords that are currently driving ranking results.
If you’ve followed steps 1 and 2, you’ll understand which pages are delivering organic search traffic and you’ll have kept the relevant URL’s in place or utilised 301 redirects, to retain page authority.
When it comes to re writing your page content, ensure it remains highly relevant to the search terms it is being delivered for. Also use synergistic language i.e. pet and canine instead of just dog….
For example if you have a page that Google is delivering for ‘Digital Agency Cambridge’ and you change the wording to reflect ‘SEO Company Cambridge’ you risk confusing Google and losing your organic rankings. You can therefore change content, but it must remain relevant to the keywords that it is currently being delivered for.
Content is king!
Google needs to read words, it interprets images and videos to a much lesser extent so any redesign should reconsider building upon existing content relative to target keywords.
We work with many web design agencies across the UK who are fantastic at what they do, but they recognise that SEO is not their strong point. Being business minded they recognise when SEO is an important part of their customers marketing and lead generation strategy and utilise our expertise to deliver their clients the best possible website that not only looks good but can also be found by the target client.
Unfortunately, many web design agencies are unaware of SEO and produce fantastic looking websites with great functionality, that no one can find because they have not utilised content effectively to maximise their search opportunities.
It’s the equivalent of having fantastic Christmas lights all over your house… and living in the desert where no one will see them!
Your Web Developer
When you engage your web developer, whether that be an agency or freelancer, do not assume they will know all the above. You must make it clear to them that SEO is an important factor in this web redesign and then work with them to ensure you carry over and build upon your SEO strategy.
Remember – You delegate responsibly, don’t abdicate responsibility for your redesign.
Lilac James remains focused on delivering sustainable digital growth via SEO, social media management and paid advertising. We hate to see businesses lose ground for something that was ultimately avoidable. The fact remains however that you don’t know what you don’t know…. If in doubt please ask, we are always happy to help.
Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org and feel free to connect on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamie-stenton-023732bb/