Eventually, there will come a time when your business needs a website redesign. Perhaps, the website design is outdated and is text-heavy, maybe it performs poorly on mobile devices, or it is too difficult for you to make the updates yourself. There are a variety of signs that it is time for a website redesign.
When it comes time to redesign your website, make sure the designer you choose is familiar with search engine optimization best practices and will make their best effort to not only preserve but also improve your overall search engine rankings.
Search engine optimization is all about increasing the quality and quantity of traffic to your website. Many businesses invest heavily in SEO, so you don’t want to wipe out everything you have built over the years.
9 SEO Mistakes to Avoid
All to often, we have seen other providers make common SEO mistakes during a website redesign. These mistakes can lead to your website falling down the search engine rankings and losing traffic.
A few of these common SEO mistakes include:
#1 Failing to establish a SEO baseline
Integrating SEO into your website redesign starts at the very beginning before you even start outlining the new site structure or any development. It is important to establish an SEO baseline for the existing website. To establish a baseline, consider the website’s total traffic, traffic sources, engagement metrics, conversion rates, etc.
A few questions to ask yourself:
- What pages/posts have the highest position?
- Which pages/posts bring in the most traffic?
- Which pages/posts bring in the most organic traffic?
- Which pages/posts bring in referral traffic and have inbound links?
- Which pages/posts do website visitors spend the most time on?
- Which pages/posts have the highest bounce rates?
- Which pages/posts have the highest conversion rates?
- What keywords are you currently ranking for?
When you go through the website redesign process, make sure you identify your best-performing keywords and continue to prioritize this. Also, make sure your best-performing pages and posts are prioritized and continue to perform well.
Identifying an SEO baseline is why good website designers asks for access to your Google Analytics and Google Search Console at the very beginning of the project!
#2 Slowing Down Your Page Load Speed
Fast loading pages are important for the user experience, mobile friendliness, as well as search engine optimization. If you go through a website redesign and your website ends up slower, this could harm your rankings. Rather, when you go through a website redesign, you want your website to perform better and faster which in turn can help boost your overall rankings.
In 2021, Google released Core Website Vitals to help you gauge the speed of your website. Website speed is more important than ever. You can test your website’s speed with Google PageSpeed Insights, GT Metrix, or other online tools.
#3 Eliminating Well-Performing Content
If you log into your Google Search Console and look under the Performance tab, you might just be surprised to see what your best performing posts and/or pages are. Make sure you keep these pages! If you accidentally eliminate key content, you could in turn lose traffic, inbound links from referring websites, and featured snippets in the search results. Make sure to check your Google Analytics and Google Search Console before eliminating any content.
Not only is it important to keep these pages, but also it is important to not change too much about these pages. You can add to the page to improve the quality or refresh outdated statistics with newer, more relevant statistics. Make sure to keep your core keywords and top level headings the same. Also, don’t bury the key content. Keep these well-performing pages higher in your website structure and menu hierarchy.
#4 Forgetting Redirects & Frustrating Users with 404 Errors for Common Links
A 301 redirect is a permeant redirect which passes the full link equity from the old page to the new page. When you redirect a page, you automatically direct traffic from the old page to the new page. Redirects prevent 404 Page Not Found errors, which improves the user experience and prevents users from getting frustrated with errors. Also, it is an important signal to search engines that the page has been moved, and where to find the new page. Furthermore, a redirect passes on the link equity from the old link to the new link which helps transfer the ranking power from the old to the new page.
When starting a website redesign, it is always a good idea to make a copy of the sitemap so that you can see just how many URLs you are dealing with and plan accordingly. With all the current URLs listed, you can map out which URLs to keep versus redirect in a spreadsheet. Upon launch, you can import the directs accordingly. For small websites there may only 20 links, while for large websites you may be dealing with 10,000 links. This is a great example of how price varies with scale.
After a website redesign, make sure to scan the new website for any broken links and resolve those issues as quickly as possible.
#5 Forgetting to Create & Submit a XML Sitemap
Regardless of which CMS or website builder you are working with, make sure the XML sitemap exists and can be read by Google. An XML sitemap is created for search engines so that we can crawl your website and understand its overall structure.
Website builders often automatically generated XML sitemaps for you, but it is your job to turn on this functionality and make sure it works. At Kreative Solutions, we have had to provide screenshots to the website builder support channel illustrating that Google cannot read the sitemap to get them to resolve the error on their end. Bugs can arise, so make sure you check it works. As far as WordPress, Yoast is a great free SEO tool that can be used to generate a sitemap.
Once you launch your website, make sure you resubmit your new sitemap to Google Search Console so that your website can be crawled accordingly.
#6 Choosing The Wrong Platform or Hosting Provider
When you redesign your website, you have to decide what it will be built with and where it will be hosted. Even though the decision may seem simple, there are many factors to consider.
When considering the content management system or website builder, make sure your new choice will provide the same SEO friendliness or better. If you move from an SEO-friendly platform like WordPress to another less-friendly SEO platform, your SEO may be impacted. The platform goes hand in hand with important SEO features such as a responsive design mobile friendliness, speed, creation of a sitemap, the ability to add alt image tags, or customization of the page title/description.
Hosting providers provide various packages in terms of server resources, bandwidth, dedicated vs. shared, etc. There are also differences between hosts and the underlying technology, which can, in turn, affect the website’s uptime and performance. Perhaps, you move from a higher-priced hosting plan with more resources to a lower-priced hosting plan with fewer resources, website speed may decline which in turn can lead to a decrease in your SEO rankings.
Now-a-days, your host better include an SSL Certificate within the hosting plan. An SSL Certificate secures your website and is an important factor in your search ranking. Make sure your website and all of its content are secured.
#7 Forgetting to Use Schema Markup
Schema markup is code that helps search engines understand the content on your web page. By using schema markup, your search results can show up in Google’s knowledge panel and/or in Google’s Rich Results. Knowledge Panels provide key information that users are searching for such as local businesses, books, movies, etc.
#8 Deprioritizing Search Engine Optimization
These common SEO mistakes can happen for various reasons. Perhaps, the designer may not know any better. Maybe, the client passed on the SEO services to reduce cost. Alternatively, perhaps scope creep earlier in the project cannibalized the search engine optimization time. It’s sad to see but it can easily happen.
Most of these key SEO factors to consider during a website redesign are invisible during the design. All too often, clients are most concerned about what they see – how the website looks, the placement of the button, the overall layout, etc. Even though all of these are important, you still need to make sure the SEO best practices are implemented on the back end. If you are considering a new car, you definitely need to inspect for visible damage as well as open the hood to see the inner workings of the engine & parts.
#9 Forgetting to Remove No-Index Code Upon Launch
When you start building the new website, it is best practice to use a development environment on a different URL. Within this environment, make sure to add no-index code to discourage search engines from crawling the development site. In WordPress, that means you need to check the “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” checkbox. Once you connect the new website to the domain and launch, you must remove this no index code or uncheck this box!
Make sure you remove the no index code then test the readability of your sitemap and then submit your sitemap to Google. If you accidentally forget to remove the no index code, then you will be blocking website crawlers and in turn, prevent your website from getting indexed and showing up in the search.
When it comes to your next website redesign, make sure you hire a website designer who will prioritize SEO from start to finish.
That way you can avoid the following common SEO mistakes:
- Failing to establish a SEO baseline
- Slowing down your page load speed
- Eliminating well-performing content
- Forgetting redirects and frustrating users with 404 errors for common links
- Integrating outdated XML sitemaps
- Choosing the wrong platform or hosting provider
- Forgetting to use schema markup
- Deprioritizing search engine optimization
- Forgetting to remove no-index code upon launch