When re-designing a website, it's a common pitfall to underestimate the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Many companies finish re-designing their websites and slap SEO on like a bandaid once they're done with the site. It is a common pitfall, but no less disastrous for your business.
In fact, it is absolutely crucial to factor in SEO before you go ahead with any kind of design work on your site. Sure, I get it: design is much more interesting than sitting down and figuring out things like ranking, SEO, or on-page content strategies that will keep your site's SEO ranking for a long time to come.
But as easy as it is to jump into the re-design, it's not the way to do it if you want to keep your website where it will benefit you: high up in the search engines' listings.
SEO needs to be part of the web design process, not an afterthought. Below we've outlined a few of the ways SEO can be an integral part of re-designing your website.
When structuring your site, keep user experience high on your priority list. User experience is an important Google ranking factor, so anything that has to do with site navigation and site structure, like navigation bars and internal links needs to be kept in mind as being as user-friendly as possible. Use tools like XML sitemaps, your primary navigation, and internal links to help search engines discover more pages on your site.
And while you're at it, don't forget the URL structure when updating your page. Google ranking prefers the sites requiring as few steps as possible, so simplified URLs will definitely help. Having URLs with words that search engines and people can understand, instead of using numbers or abbreviations goes a long way towards keeping your site towards the top.
It's also important for SEO to be as intentional as you can about the keywords you use on your site as you are re-designing. Look for keywords that will fit core aspects or services your company offers, and look over the keywords you have already been using to see if they are giving good results, or if they can be improved upon. Decide on the main keywords that will accomplish what your company wants to achieve.
In order to keep your old page's ranking, you will have to be smart about re-directing. Always, make sure you upload re-directs from your old pages to your new pages. If you don't, you risk losing the Google ranking you've spent months, or years, attaining when you easily could have kept it.
When you automatically re-direct all traffic from an old URL to a new one, you improve the user experience since users will be able to find your new page through the old links, and avoid hitting dead ends and 404 errors.
The other thing that happens when you re-direct traffic from your old page is that Google lets you keep the ranking from your old page, which is clearly very important.
When you decide on the most important keywords for your company, make sure these words have their own well-written pages, including Latent Semantic Indexing keywords to boost relevancy for your chosen keywords.
Keep in mind that for your site to be properly indexed by a search engine, it needs to be mainly text-based. Search engines have trouble indexing sites that are mainly flash or video-based. Because of this, it is essential that you write out clearly what your company is offering, and that your website is text-based so that the search engines will have no trouble indexing your page, and you can show up in those search results.
Search Engine Optimization is a topic much too big to cover in just one blog post. But the most important thing to take away from this post is that while SEO is many things, it can't just be slapped on at a later date. Do yourself a favor and integrate SEO from the moment you start re-designing your website. You will be happy you did!