In the olden days of internet marketing, there were many tribes. The designers were extremely artistic and creative, known for making internet hieroglyphics that far surpassed the crudely-drawn stick figures made by the developers. But the developers were great at building internet huts that were rock-sturdy – even if they were ugly as sin. And the internet marketing tribe dabbled in the arts of commenting on others' hieroglyphics with exact-matched anchor text. Obviously, we’ve come a LONG way from those old days, and a lot has changed. No longer are we separate tribes – designers, marketers and developers are often members of the same team, needing to work together if they are to navigate the treacherous waters of business on the internet. No one group can stand alone and survive – marketers can do all the linkbuilding, ad campaigns and social media promotion they want, but it doesn’t mean anything if the site is ugly and clunky. Similarly, developers and designers can make a great, easy-to-use, beautiful site….but that doesn’t mean much if nobody is out there promoting it, helping it stand apart from the sea of competitors.

How a site redesign can improve your SEO The Modern Marketing Tribe, seen here in their traditional attire and in their war pose.

 

One area of collaboration that often gets overlooked is site redesigns. Many times, the redesign of a website will be done at the helm of traditional marketing and design, with development details and SEO success as an afterthought – resulting in dead links going nowhere, rankings falling off a cliff, and a disconnect between this beautiful new site and attracting potential leads through organic search. At best, many times it’s a matter of setting up 301 redirects from removed or changed pages to the new ones and traffic stays the same. But what if I told you it didn’t have to be that way? What if redesigning not only made your site look good, but it also gave a major boost to your SEO efforts? Well…it’s entirely doable! Here's how to redesign your website so that your SEO is improved.

Fixing Site Speed Flaws

This is an area I enjoy harping on a lot, because it really, really matters. How do you feel when you go into a store or business and it takes forever for someone to help you out? Your website is your business, your store front, and your customers are expecting something immediately. More and more, Google has considered this to be a ranking factor, and we have plenty of blogs on the topic. But a site redesign is a great opportunity to do something about it.

  • Downsize Images – the web is a low resolution media, for the most part. There’s no need to have a super-high resolution, 30 MB picture of your employees on the homepage. One of the best things you can do while moving things around on your site is to compress images. This alone is often enough to bring your site speed up to snuff.
  • Defer/minify Javascript – (Translation: removing all the unnecessary characters from Javascript code so that it runs faster without affecting its functionality) If Javascript isn’t properly managed, it will have to load before the basic HTML, meaning it takes longer for Googlebot to crawl your site, meaning you’re penalized for having a site that’s ‘slow.’ The development of your new site gives you the opportunity to tackle this without any downtime to your site, so take advantage of this opportunity.
  • Caching and Server Response Time: By specifying a ‘cache expiration’ on different resources on your website, visitors can store these resources to their browser cache, making your site load faster on subsequent visitors. By working with your developer to implement a Content Delivery Network protocol such as Cloudflare, you can deliver website resources to new visitors faster, decreasing website load times.

Better Menu Navigation

One thing that often goes hand-in-hand with the visual redesign of your website is the navigation of the site. Often you’re going to already be moving categories around throughout the site, and this provides an opportunity to word your menus in a manner which benefits your organic search performance. For the best organic search results, the menus of your site should be written in HTML first before Javascript, and each menu item should be descriptive. When a search engine spider visits your site, it can’t read formatting and doesn’t have the same intuition as a user – all it sees is the titles in the navigation menu, and it makes a best guess based on that. For example, let’s say you run an e-commerce shop offering pet supplies. A typical menu would look like this: Toys

  • Ropes
  • Animals
  • Bones
  • Balls

A better way of doing this – one that’s more descriptive to the search engine spider and more engaging for your visitors, would be Premium Dog Toys

  • CanineBest Rawhide Ropes
  • KONG Plush Toys
  • Rancher’s Select Cow Bones
  • SuperRubber Dog Ball Toys

By making your menu navigation more descriptive, it opens up yet another opportunity to target the keywords that drive traffic and revenue for your business while making it easier for your customers to find exactly what they’re searching for.

Making Better Pages

As a general rule, every page that exists on your site should be able to attract some amount of organic traffic on its own, with a few exceptions (pages for existing customers, special offers for e-mail customers, etc – pages that you don’t really care about bringing in organic traffic for). If a page isn’t bringing in any organic traffic….well, from an SEO perspective it’s useless, and this should lead you to consider if that page really provides any value for your customers in the first place. Redesigning your site often means that pages will be eliminated, but rather than thinking elimination, you should think in terms of consolidation. Chances are, you created that page for a reason – and if it’s not bringing in traffic, there’s a high likelihood you’ve got another page on your site that provides the same information in a better format. The redesign of your site is the perfect time to cut off the dead weight and improve pages that already perform well. As a general rule, if you can’t write 400 natural words about something, then it belongs to a more general page. Let’s say you’re a clothing e-commerce retailer and you have a page for purple dress shirts, and you write something like: At Barry’s Boutique we offer the widest selection of purple dress shirts from leading designers. Choose from fuschia, violet, royal purple and more in collared and non-collared styles. Designers include Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs and more. Browse our selection of purple shirts below. Free shipping! That’s an average description that a lot of e-commerce shops have – and it’s 45 words. Can you write ten times that amount about this narrow category of shirt, without keyword stuffing and repeating paragraphs from other sections? If you can, you should look into a job in copywriting. Half of my career has been in copywriting and I can’t figure out 400 words to say about purple shirts. It’s better to have a page called “colored shirts” and talk about how to choose the right colored shirt for different occasions, what each color says about your personality, etc. Making a broader page with more quality content is often a better option than niche pages which don’t fulfill content quality guidelines. Make sure the main categories and subcategories of your site can fulfill these content guidelines.

URL Architecture and Descriptions

A site's URL structure should be as simple as possible, with content organized so that URLs are constructed logically in a manner which makes sense to human and search engine robot alike. Overly complex URLs, especially those containing multiple parameters, can cause problems for crawlers by creating unnecessarily high numbers of URLs that point to identical or similar content on your site. URLs which are not categorized into a directory can cause similar problems with a crawler not being sure which pages are related to one another and prioritizing the more narrowly-focused pages on the same level as your main categories. Let’s use a legal practice in this example. A bad URL structure would be

  • com/car-accident
  • com/taxi-accident
  • com/1/truck-accident
  • com/train-injury/#
  • com/vehicle-injury
  • com/medical-malpractice

As far as the search engine is concerned, none of these pages are related, even though they actually area. They also aren’t very descriptive, and those hanging parameters muddle up the works even more! A better way of doing this would be

  • com/medical-malpractice
  •  com/vehicle-accident-litigation/
    • com/vehicle-accident-litigation/taxi-injury
    • com/vehicle-accident-litigation/commercial-truck-accident
    • com/vehicle-accident-litigation/train-and-bus-injury
    • com/vehicle-accident-litigation/car-accident-injury

By setting the taxi, truck, train and car pages as ‘subpages’ of vehicle litigation, it’s easier for the search engine to pick up that these areas are all a subset of vehicle accident litigation, and we’ve made this area distinct from medical malpractice by separating it from the vehicle-based areas.

 In Conclusion

You might be asking, “Why do this now during the site redesign? We can do this whenever we want, we don’t have to wait for a site redesign! We can do it after the redesign when we have less on our plate” In reality, that never happens. It’s much easier to schedule off a day for cleaning your house then to try to fit one or two tasks into a day where you’ve got so much else going on. You could do these tasks separately, sure – but they’re far easier to take care of, and more likely to be implemented, when you include them in your site redesign project. You can test beforehand and have the attention of your designers and developers to make sure these changes get implemented, since you’re already working on the site anyway. Take advantage of a site redesign to incorporate improvements for SEO, and you'll see your beautiful, brand-new site rise in the SERPs. SEO for Site Migrations-blog-CTA