Essential Website Redesign SEO For Web Designers

The Redesign Scenario

Having a fresh new client is an exciting time, your creative juices start flowing, and great ideas start coming to mind that would really wow your client. The client loves the new look of the site, and you get the go ahead to launch, it is an exciting time. Then something happens, the client mentions that the phones have stopped ringing, the lead forms and e-commerce store has really slowed down, and they want to know what happened.

Organic Traffic Drop From Website Redesign

This is a real snapshot of a business that was not a client of ours right after they redesigned their website. After they became a client, we were able to fix their traffic, and improve it from before.

Does this sound familiar?

Well hopefully not, but this scenario is not that uncommon. This post will highlight a few essential steps for designers to keep clients happy when it comes to their Organic SEO traffic to their website. We did post the top 5 SEO considerations for designers before, but these are always a good refresher.

SEO Essential #1 – Tracking

This one is really easy to forget, but is essential for your client and their marketing team, Remember to carry over all of the tracking from the old site to the new site!

Traffic drop due to no tracking.

This initial drop in traffic was from the lack of tracking being implemented into the new design template.

This image above highlights the worst scenario for any business, having no data or records on the performance of their website. This really messes up future performance comparisons and goal tracking as well.

How To Pass Tracking To A New Site

The best way to ensure that you are capturing all tracking platforms (Google Analytics, HotJar, KissMetrics, AdWords, ETC.) you should first ask your client for a list of all platforms that are being tracked, and then also run an audit of the site to identify any others that may have been missed. It is becoming a best practice to use Google’s Tag Manager platform to manage all of these tokens as it allows for 1 point integration, and parallel loading of the tags.

SEO Essential #2 – Site Structure

When the opportunity comes to redesign a website, often there will be lengthy discussions of user flows, and essential content. What the most common result of these discussions being that there should be a new sitemap designed, and that the existing pages will need to be simplified. While this can be beneficiary to the end user, it should also take into consideration the value that the existing content has created, and how to ensure that this value is maintained.

Organic Traffic Drop.

When tracking was installed, it showed a significant drop in Organic traffic.

This above image shows the new site launch that revamped the entire sitemap and content was not delivering the organic traffic that was coming in before.

How To Regain Lost Traffic From Site Structure Changes

While this is not as straight forward as it may seem there are a couple considerations when changing the site structure.

1. Don’t change the URLs

This may seem counter-intuitive, however it is often possible to revamp menus and navigation while keeping the existing URLs as they are. This helps ensure that the search engines have your current URLs in their crawl list, and have no difficulty knowing that your site has been updated. This is not ideal if the URLs are poorly formatted (not using descriptive words) or not logical (not reflecting content hierarchy).

2. Map all redirects

If your URL structure is not logical or formatted properly, then you will need to redo your content/sitemap. In this case you will need to map all of the old URLs that will be retired (yes, all of them) and have the new URL where similar/related content will reside. This map will be used to create a redirect list that will be used by your site to tell search engines who are used to looking at where your old content, where the new content is now located. If these changes are permanent, the only redirect you should use are 301 redirects.

SEO Essential #3 – Header Tag Vs. CSS

One of the more common uses of the header/heading tags (H1, H2, H3 ETC.) are for styling. This means that a certain font and style is attributed to these tags and used whenever this type of text styling is needed. This is not how these elements were intended to be used, and can actually hurt your clients rankings when they are used this way.

Header Tag Hierarchy

This is how header tags should be used to divide content on a page.

The image above gives a basic example of how the header/heading tags should be used on a page.

How Header Tags Should Be Used On a Page

The main concept to keep in mind is that the header tags should be looked at as a nested hierarchy, or like a folder structure. You start with level 1 (the H1 tag) and use it to talk about the main topic of the content, this should be an over arching theme for the page. There should only be 1 H1 tag per page, as it is the most important in the eyes of the search engines. Then within level one, you can have sup-points, or to continue the analogy, sub-folders. The H2 tag can be used to divide the main sections of the content.

This hierarchy continues down with less importance given to each lower level of header tag, so for example, the H3 tag could be used to separate paragraphs from within each H2 section. Keep in min that you can apply styling to header tags, but also that they need to be correctly used to divide content in order to gain the most benefit from the search engines.

Other Tips For Designers

This article only covers 3 areas that are essential for designers who are doing a redesign of a website, but there are many others. What others do you consider when doing a redesign, or working with a website developer?