Is your company website feeling a little … dated? Technology changes fast, and the second you stop to catch your breath it seems you’ve fallen behind again.
You might be thinking, “it’s time for another website redesign because flash is so 2015?” And, you’d probably be right since flash is going to be all but extinct by 2020, but redesigns are overwhelming, and there is this lurking concern that you’ll destroy your SEO in the process.
Quite frankly, the concern is valid, but ignoring the fact your website is lagging in design isn’t going to help you improve its performance. Don’t worry. We'll help you pinpoint the most common SEO fails so you can avoid them during your redesign.
At the basic level, your website is a simple tool your customers will use to learn more about your products or services. Essentially, it’s a salesperson who works nonstop to expand your brand.
Your website should be both informational and interesting, without those two components it will likely fall flat. Beyond the basics, you also need modern design and advanced features that customers will expect (like live chat).
It's not uncommon to go in and conduct a website redesign once in a while to stay on top of the current and most fashionable styles. But, if you aren’t careful, you can forget the most crucial aspects of your site that help you reach your traffic goals.
For most, SEO is a big, scary term, that often feels foreign, but the good news is the basics are pretty easy. If you design with the user experience in mind, you’ll be on the right track to having a high-performing website.
If you follow this guide, you’ll learn about the SEO pitfalls you’ll want to avoid.
SEO Fail #1: Designing Without First Outlining Goals
When you move into a new home, you probably start dreaming about the pictures you’ll hang or where you’ll put the couch and the size of your dining room table.
Imagine if you didn’t plan. Instead, you just left the furniture wherever the moving company happened to drop it and painted the walls without any consideration of color or design.
Beyond design, you expect a home to have certain features. What if your new house didn’t have a bathroom or a kitchen? What if there were stairs leading to nowhere? The home would be chaos, and your visitors might be a little confused about your decisions.
Web traffic is a lot like inviting guests over to your new home. If you don't incorporate good design and common features, your guests might be a little frustrated or at the very least unlikely to ever visit again.
The goal is to create a space that is easy to navigate and simple to use. If your visitors have to think about what they need to click to get to the places they want to go, they are more likely to leave, which will increase bounce rate and reduce your ranking on search engine result pages.
SEO is dependent on your visitors’ experience on your site. The longer they linger and the more places they visit, the better your rankings will become.
Before you start the redesign, sit down and have a planning session with your team. Grab a large whiteboard or sticky notes and start writing down the features of the website you think should be included.
SEO Fail #2: Starting Without Benchmarks
Be careful and methodical as you redesign your website. There will likely be a lot of variables involved, and the only way you’ll know what is working and what isn’t is if you know how many people currently visit your website and where they spend most of their time.
A program like Hotjar helps you map customer movements on the page with heat maps. You can also use Google Analytics and other statistics to learn more about where visitors spend their time and how long they stay on one page.
If you start a redesign project without first examining your current position, you’ll have a difficult time measuring success in the coming months as your redesign rolls out.
Here are a couple of items to review when looking at your new website analytics:
How many more people are visiting monthly compared to the old website?
What is the new bounce rate?
How many pages do visitors view before leaving the website?
Are the visitors providing their contact information before they leave?
SEO Fail #3: Aimless Redirects
It's time to start closing up shop on your old website, but there are still a few customers who haven’t noticed the change. The simple fix is to redirect them to the new site.
Your new site has all the bells and whistles a website should have, and it left behind some of the old features of your previous site. If you don’t redirect old links to new pages, visitors will see a 404 error, which means they’ll likely leave your site and go looking for their answers elsewhere.
Search engines will see these broken redirects and may assume your website isn't fully functioning, and your rank will take a hit. You are going to find it difficult to get traffic to a site that search engines think is incomplete.
SEO pro tip: It’s worth double and triple checking all of your redirects.
SEO Fail #4: Forgetting to Update the Sitemap
A sitemap is what search engines use to navigate your website. It's a simple document that shows the path of your links. More importantly, it provides a hierarchy, so search engines know what is important and what isn’t.
Most people don't include this in their redesign because it isn’t visible. However, a sitemap not only improves rankings now, but it also makes future redesigns even easier.
SEO Fail #5: Not Adding Anything Meaningful to the Conversation
Ideally, you have something important to say regardless of your industry. Google typically doesn’t provide much value to sites who don’t want to provide value to visitors.
Don’t dedicate hours to rehashing the same dusty old topics everybody in the industry talks about, but instead, think of new and creative ways to add to the conversation. A good way to stand out is by being transparent and authentic. The more time customers want to spend with your brand, the more likely your website is to make it to the front page of Google.
SEO Fail #6: Forgetting Contact Info
The Google Quality document emphasizes the importance of including relevant and accurate contact information. Don’t overlook the importance of this page. It might be simple, but it plays a critical role in your rankings.
SEO Fail #7: Setting It and Forgetting It
Google rewards a “freshness factor.” If your redesign results in a spike in traffic, but then it dips back to previous levels it might be because you're not updating information enough. A redesign breathes life into your website, but if you go months without adding anything new to a blog or other page, you might be penalized for letting the information stagnate.
SEO Fail #8: Copying and Pasting Meta Descriptions
Copy and pasting any content on your website especially meta descriptions could lead to low-performing webpages. Google wants unique content that adds value, and a bunch of work that is copy and pasted around your site will lead to penalties because it wouldn’t be inherently unique.
SEO Fail #9: Forgetting to be Mobile Friendly
Mobile is more important now than ever. It’s likely most people are likely to view your website from their mobile device and not a computer. Google understands the power of mobile platforms and will give preferential treatment to sites who design mobile-friendly websites.
SEO Fail #10: Giving Search Engines the Wrong Directions
Pop Quiz: how do the most popular search engines know what to share with their viewers? Ding, times up. Simple: crawlers, spiders, and automatic programs that troll and index just about everything they can find.
So, when these automatic programs come across your website, they are looking for a document to know where to go on your page. If you are missing a robots.txt document on your website, you will find these crawlers will look elsewhere, and they will do it faster than you can blink.
Simple fix: give them a script to follow, and your page will get properly indexed for people to search. Simple, old-school SEO techniques here will serve you if you follow nothing else today.
SEO Fail #11: Leaving Out Social
Everyone including grandma’s dog has a Facebook page. Instagram and Twitter are used by millions.
Social media is the fastest way to get your content out to viewers. You will find it is fast and free to get started with your own business account to share your content on the most popular social pages to get in front of your viewers.
But if they can't make it easy to share your content with their followers, you are going to be missing hundreds of opportunities a day, at the very least. Adding share buttons is a quick way to bring eyes to your page and increase its popularity, and search engines will want to share popular content.
SEO Fail #12: Security is of Utmost Importance
Every day people are finding their information stolen or misused. Robo-calls are coming in by the dozens each day, and websites are being attacked all the time. This isn't a scare tactic; it’s just a part of modern life. So what does this have to do with your SEO?
It worked for a while, but as data being moved around became more secure, encryption or a security layer was added. Thus HTTPS. Now, most search engines will avoid listing a website that does not have this security layer. If you want to be completely ignored by Google, forgetting your security certificates will be sure to tank your SEO.