Your Guide to a Successful Website Redesign: SEO Best Practices & More
A successful website redesign and migration requires a team of digital professionals to help the process go smoothly. At Blue Compass, we prioritize SEO during the web design process. Our digital marketing, web design and development team members work through web launch checklists to make sure all projects follow website redesign SEO best practices.
To help you avoid some of the biggest SEO mistakes during website redesign, we’re sharing a list of common issues and how to prevent them.
Taking (or not taking) certain steps in the beginning of the website redesign process can have a significant effect on the final outcome. Being aware of common mistakes will enable you to follow website redesign SEO best practices so that you don’t miss key opportunities for website growth.
Website Redesign Mistake #1: Not Consulting Your UX Team (Or Not Having One)
Focusing on proven UX processes for a website redesign simply means keeping your target audience in mind while you’re making changes. When our team is building a new website or working towards positive UX & SEO for website redesign and migration, our goal is to keep users engaged and encourage action.
Creating an intuitive site structure and providing helpful information and next steps enables each website visitor to find exactly what they’re looking for on your site and convinces them to convert. If you want your site to be an effective marketing tool, you need to create obvious, intuitive paths to help users sign up for an email newsletter, set up an appointment, purchase a product or perform some other desired action.
A bad or confusing experience on a website can cause users to give up and leave the site — and frustrated users are less likely to return after a negative experience. On the flip side, a good user experience on your website will increase customer satisfaction. If you truly delight users, they may spread the word about your brand, and you could gain more customers.
Website Redesign Mistake #2: Focusing Too Much on Design And Not on Usability
Every web designer's dream would be to create an innovative website full of unique, sleek and modern features. However, primarily focusing on the design is not practical or beneficial for most websites. When users visit a website, they have certain underlying expectations about how the website will function, and they will struggle to navigate a cool, nontraditional website that deviates from those expectations.
One example of good design that comes at the expense of a good user experience is the hamburger navigation menu. Hiding your main navigation menu under three lines in the top right corner of the website may be a simple, streamlined solution, but our research has shown that it can be confusing for users. A hamburger-style menu is a suitable solution for mobile websites, but it’s not a user-friendly option for desktop users.
Remember that your website is a place to inform your customers about who you are and what products and/or services you offer. Feel free to be creative with your web designs, but always prioritize clarity and functionality for your target audience.
Usability also means making sure all users can navigate your website with ease. Pay attention to web design accessibility best practices and ADA guidelines for websites. It’s worth it to make small adjustments during the design process to ensure a good experience for users with disabilities and other barriers.
Website Redesign Mistake #3: Skipping Responsive Design
According to recent reports, nearly 60 percent of all online searches are performed on mobile devices. It’s important for website designs to be responsive so that users viewing the site from their phone have a good experience and are able to find what they’re looking for.
When a website isn’t optimized for mobile devices, mobile users will have issues viewing site content, navigating the site and performing actions like filling out forms. They may have to zoom in on the design, and they will likely miss key information.
One of the web design best practices we follow at Blue Compass is to design for mobile devices first. Our web designers and developers work on the mobile version of a site first, then convert the design to tablets and desktop computers to make sure it looks good and works correctly on all types of devices.
Website Redesign Mistake #4: Using Unclear Calls-To-Action
Call-to-action (CTA) buttons help guide users to a place where they can convert on your website.
Why are strategic calls-to-action vital to a good web design?
Without an effective call-to-action strategy, potential customers will be confused or unaware of how to take the next step. Our Iowa web designers and developers agree that the most effective buttons are large, bold and have clear text. Avoid styling important links in a way that makes them blend into the web page content, and don’t give users multiple link options when you’re trying to get them to follow a CTA.
A good CTA button should lead users to a landing page that puts them one step closer to performing the desired action — scheduling an appointment, registering for an event, etc. Explore our landing page UX best practices you should follow to create a page that drives conversions.
Website Redesign Mistake #5: Forgetting to Compress Imagery
Consider a fact we mentioned previously: a majority of users are using mobile devices. Imagery doesn’t need to be huge when most of your audience is viewing your site on a tiny screen. Large image sizes will cause your site to load slowly, which is a bigger issue for mobile users. Research indicates 53% of people will leave a mobile page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Another study shows that waiting for a site to load causes a bodily stress response similar to a person’s emotional reaction when watching a horror movie or solving a math problem.
We recommend keeping your images 100KB or smaller to avoid unnecessary SEO errors. If they’re smaller images throughout the page content (not a header), they can be compressed down to 40KB. Bonus: Blue Compass has created a tool that makes image compression easy! Using a simple code on your website or putting your images through the Responsive Image Tool will compress them to an acceptable size and increase webpage load times.
Website Redesign Mistake #6: Not Transferring Blogs, Articles or White Papers to New Site
Transferring valuable content from your old site is an essential SEO best practice for website redesign and migration. Some companies spend years building a library of blogs, articles and other content marketing pieces. Transferring a large archive of posts can be a daunting task, but it’s an important part of preserving your site’s existing SEO value.
Blog pages and articles often add value to your website over time. If Google recognizes these articles as valuable resources for users, they will move up on the search engine results pages (SERPs). Using certain keywords and phrases can boost your site’s organic search rank, so failing to include those keywords on the new site could be detrimental to your site’s organic web traffic.
How Will Launching a New Website Affect Organic Traffic?
Launching a new website can be intimidating, especially if you’re trying to preserve SEO value from your old site. If you avoid some of the biggest SEO mistakes during website redesign, your new site’s organic search trends will soon align with your old site’s performance.
Almost all sites can expect to see a small dip in organic traffic because your entire site will need to be recrawled and indexed by Google’s search bots, but your organic traffic should come back in full force in 2-6 months if you followed website redesign SEO best practices when designing and launching your new site.
Website Redesign Mistake #7: Ignoring ‘Inconsequential’ URLs in 301 Redirect Mapping
Redirect mapping is the process of making URLs from your old site to correspond with URLs on your new website so that users who click on an old link won’t get stuck with a dead-end 404 error. While some of your pages may not seem important because they’re not bringing in as much traffic as your top pages, it’s essential to redirect every single page of your old webpage.
If you’re using a different content architecture and navigation structure on your new site, there may be some old pages that no longer exist on the new site. Those pages still need to be redirected to another relevant page in order to prevent SEO errors. Because it seems like a simple fix, many people redirect all old URLs to the new homepage, but that goes against website redesign SEO best practices. You preserve more SEO value when redirecting old content to a new page that has similar copy.
Website Redesign Mistake #8: Applying a Single Meta Title & Meta Description on All Pages
Duplicate meta titles and meta descriptions are a common SEO mistake many people make during website redesign projects. There are a few reasons it’s important to write a unique meta title and meta description for each page on your website.
First of all, meta information is what appears in Google’s SERPs and lets users know what type of content they’ll find on each page. Second, the meta title and description present a great opportunity to include keywords and help your content rank higher in search results. Lastly, each time you repeat a meta title or meta description, it qualifies as duplicate content, and this type of SEO error can add up quickly! Avoid errors and provide a better experience for users by writing unique meta titles and meta descriptions for each page.
Website Redesign Mistake #9: Not Updating New URL in Analytics
Not every website redesign includes a new URL, but if your business is switching to a different domain, this step is especially important. Also, if you’re moving to a secure site (https instead of http), you need to update this in Google Analytics so it accurately collects your data after your new site goes live. This is an especially important part of SEO for website redesign and migration.
Our team uses data from Google Analytics to track traffic trends and understand how website visitors are spending time on a site. Failing to update your URL in Google Analytics could cause you to miss out on valuable tracking data.
Web developers are ultimately in charge of making an amazing web design come to life, and many of the things they’re doing during a website redesign can affect the SEO health of your new website. Make sure your marketing and development teams work closely together to prevent an organic traffic drop after launching the new site.
Website Redesign Mistake #10: Launching Without Social Codes Like Open Graph
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites use a piece of code called Open Graph to pull relevant information from a web page when a user shares it in a social post. When you launch a site, people will be excited to share links with their social networks. When you use Open Graph code on your website, it helps ensure content displays correctly when shared on social platforms or via email.
An SEO-friendly content management system (CMS), like WordPress or the Blue Compass CMS created by our Iowa web development team, gives you the ability to add a social description and image for every page. We strongly recommend uploading a relevant, branded image to each page so that shared links look good and entice users to click to explore your website.
Website Redesign Mistake #11: Not Generating & Uploading a New Sitemap
What is a Sitemap?
A sitemap is a file which contains all of the pages on your website. Google and other search engines use this information as a starting point to crawl your website. Once you create a sitemap on your website, don't forget to submit it to Google via Google Search Console.
Google bots use sitemaps to understand the content and priority pages of your site. Submitting your sitemap via Google Search Console tells Google you’ve updated the URL and you want them to crawl your site. Once you’ve done that you’ll have the option to request indexing. Google typically takes between 24 and 48 hours to include your new web pages in its library of pages.
Website Redesign Mistake #12: Forgetting to Remove ‘No Index No Follow’ From Robots.txt File
What is a Robots.txt File?
Your robots.txt file is a document that tells search engine bots which pages should or should not be crawled. Every website should have a basic robots.txt file, even if there are not specific resources to exclude. The standard robots.txt looks like this:
What Should be Blocked in Robots.txt?
The only thing blocked in your robots.txt file should be pages you don’t want Google to crawl. Not all websites will have exclusions, but some common examples include login pages, hidden pages or any pages on your site that are for internal use only. Blocking thank you pages with a download or pages behind a login account require some expertise, and we suggest you reach out to your website’s administrator if you’re trying to accomplish something like this.
Developers include this in the code during development to make sure search bots aren’t finding and indexing development servers where the site is being built, but the code needs to be removed when it’s time to launch. If developers fail to remember this essential step in the website redesign process, search bots won’t be able to crawl your new website. They’ll be told to turn away, leaving your site invisible to anyone searching for it. This is one of the biggest SEO mistakes that can be made during a redesign, and it will cause organic traffic to drop.
Website Redesign Mistake #13: Failing to Update Your Site After Launch
Neglecting to continuously update your website is one of the most often overlooked website redesign SEO best practices. Search engines notice updates when crawling your website. Regular updates are a positive ranking factor because they indicate a helpful, well-maintained website providing valuable resources for users.
Making changes to your website should be a joint effort among all team members, with developers adding new and exciting features and digital marketers creating helpful, original content that will draw in new users.
When you’re redesigning a website and making extensive changes, consider switching to an easy-to-use content management system (CMS). A user-friendly CMS makes it easier to make updates and may allow more users the opportunity to add beneficial pages to your website that will boost SEO.
Learn More About SEO for Website Redesign and Migration
To make sure you don’t miss any important steps or experience an organic traffic drop after launching your new site, contact the experts at Blue Compass to help you with your website redesign process. Our award-winning web designers, developers and digital marketers implement an SEO-first strategy to ensure your redesigned website will perform well and bring in new customers.
Reach out to the Blue Compass team to find out how we can partner with you to launch your new, SEO-friendly website.