Top 8 SEO Mistakes Brands Make During a Website Redesign
As a SEO-first web design agency in Iowa, we have a laundry list of items to complete before launching a site, but in reality, not all our wish-list items are feasible within every client’s budget. As you review a website budget and timeline, carefully weigh your options about must-haves and cutting costs.
Content-based SEO Mistake 1: Not Transferring Blogs, Articles or White Papers to the New Site.
Some companies have been taking advantage of content marketing for years now, which makes transferring all those articles a daunting task. While traffic to the blogs might not be high, you need to check the SEO value of the pages. If these pages have words and phrases that you’re ranking for, not including them on the new site could be detrimental to the overall number of keywords you’re ranking for. When a company reduces the number of keywords its site ranks for, it also lowers the potential for organic traffic.
What is a Ranking Keyword?
When search engines decide that your web page is a relevant and valuable resource for a question or topic being searched for, they will include it in the results you see on the page. That means your page now has a ranked keyword for the question or topic being searched for. It might be ranked 34 or 55, but once it’s ranked, you can move it up in the results if you choose to optimize the site for it.
What is Redirecting?
Redirecting is when our Iowa web development team does a little magic behind the scenes to tell search engines that a page no longer exists at that address, but can be found at this new one. It’s like setting up a forwarding address when you move.
What Happens When You Mass Redirect Unique URLs to One Page?
The last thing you want to do is tell search engines that all of your previously keyword rich articles should be directed to a general landing page that holds no actual copy, but a list of the blog titles. Most blog landing pages are database-driven, which means a piece of code is pulling in a summary of the article but no copy or words exist on the page (they exist on others). Bing and Google will recognize that your old keywords are no longer on the page and you will drop in overall organic traffic and rankings. Don’t be lazy about transferring articles, point all the old article URLs to the new blog pages, and you’ll be sure to maintain all of their SEO value.
SEO Mistake 2: Ignoring ‘Inconsequential’ URLs in 301 Redirect Mapping.
So maybe a page doesn’t get a lot of traffic, but it’s still important to include a redirect if the page has been indexed by a search engine. If it appears in the search results and someone clicks on it, your site will return a 404 error. These errors are all logged by search engines and reflect poorly on the website. After we’ve launched a new site we have our Iowa web developers monitor these errors in search console and get them fixed as soon as possible.
Did You Know That Google has a “Crawl Budget” for Your Website?
Each time search bots come to your site, they will spend a certain amount of time on it (called crawling). It views anywhere from 10 to 20,000 pages; depending on the size and health of the website. If a bot doesn’t visit your page, it can’t be filed away for retrieval. More importantly, if a bot runs into too many errors - like the 404 errors caused by not including URLs in your redirect map - it will leave your site and stop crawling/indexing your pages until you manually tell Google that you’ve fixed them. Again, this can be done in search console with the help of your developer.
What is Indexing?
Before a page can rank for a keyword, Google or Bing has to know the page exists and then file it away into its library of answers. When the search engine categorizes and files the page away for later, it has been “indexed.”
For a more detailed list on the latest Google update and how it changed ranking factors see our blog, “A Quick Look at 2017’s Google Algorithm Updates.”
Digital Marketer’s SEO Mistake 3: Forgetting to Generate and Upload the 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.
Submitting your sitemap tells Google you’ve updated the URL and you want them to examine the page. 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.
Designer's SEO Mistake 4: Forgetting to Compress Imagery.
When you consider that more than 50 percent of users view websites on a mobile device, it isn’t necessary to have billboard-size quality imagery. It’s likely that these images won’t even load in time for the user to see, or worse they’ll slow the page load time down so much that users will leave the site before seeing the picture. In 2016, websites lost over 40% of visitors on sites that didn’t load in 3 seconds or less. In 2017, the number of seconds visitors are willing to wait has dropped to 2 seconds or less.
Pro tip from our web designers in Iowa: Keep your images at the desired 100KB and if they’re smaller images throughout the pages (not a header), they can be compressed down to 40KB. As you upload the images onto your site through a content management system, always remember to add a description and title (called image alt text and title tags).
Developer’s SEO Mistake 5: Forgetting to Remove No Index No Follow from your 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. If this code isn’t removed before the site launches, search bots won’t be able to access your new website. They’ll be told to turn away, leaving your site invisible to anyone searching for it.
Copywriter’s SEO Mistake 6: Applying a single meta title and description on all pages.
SEO beginners may pull up a few articles that say meta titles and descriptions don’t contribute to ranking, they may even reference an article from Google itself. It’s true, phrasing in your meta information doesn’t go directly into Google’s algorithm for ranking, but errors do. Did you know that for every page that has the same meta title and description, each duplicate meta title and description counts as an error in Google's eyes? Those are two errors that appear in Google’s search console; so while unique meta titles and descriptions might not help you rank, it will hurt the site if pages have duplicate meta titles and descriptions.
Copywriter’s SEO Mistake 7: Launching Without Social Codes Like Open Graph.
Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ rely on code called, Open Graph, to pull relevant information from web pages when they’re shared socially. Twitter has Twitter Cards that use Open Graph but require a few additional lines of code and Pinterest has Rich Pins with unique codes for recipes and products to appear correctly. When you launch a site, people will be excited to post the good news on social networks and share the new website, but the posts will be small and easily missed without these social codes. A content management system (CMS), like WordPress and 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 and we strongly recommend it. For more information, read this helpful article with examples on what posts look like with and without Open Graph, Twitter Cards and Rich Pins.
Data Analyst's SEO Mistake 8: Not Updating a New URL in Google Analytics.
Most websites won’t change URLs when they launch but on occasion, like during a rebrand, the main domain name will change. Your domain is what appears in between the “www.” and “.com.” If your domain name changes, make sure to update this information in your Google Analytics account so that it’s accurately capturing your data. If you have any filters, make sure to check these for the new domain name as well.
Pro Tip from our digital experts: If you’re moving to a secure site (http to https), head to analytics admin area under “property settings” and under default URL, update the drop down to https:// so it accurately collects your data moving forward. For more Google Analytics tips check out our blog, “Hidden Analytics Tips You’ll Wish You’d Known Sooner.”
Redesigning a website is not easy. But designing, writing and building a site that doesn’t rank in search results, devalues the whole effort. Keywords will begin to slide off the first page, organic traffic will decrease and search marketing budgets will have to increase to compensate for the loss of traffic. Don’t let that happen to your business. Check with your website development company about the tasks listed above or contact Blue Compass to help with your site’s SEO health post-launch.