Redesigning a website can be a huge project, with hundreds of technical, financial, creative, operational, and strategic decisions to think through. From planning out your goals to building your site from the ground up, it can take months of planning, designing, writing, and developing before you can show off your masterpiece to the world.
One key to making sure your launch goes off without a hitch is to ensure your website speaks the language of search engines (SEO). How do you make sure that any SEO value you’ve built up with your old website is not only retained, but also enhanced on your new website? Here are 10 SEO mistakes to avoid when redesigning your website.
Redesigning Without Goals
If you plan to use your website to generate sales leads, your content and user experience need to align with your conversion paths, helping to nurture visitors into leads. This is a key element of inbound marketing programs. To find leads, you’ll want to generate awareness by increasing traffic. This means more blogging, premium content creation, social sharing, and creating reasons to keep people coming back. There is no one-size-fits-all website.
Not Capturing Benchmarks
Now that you’ve made the decision to redesign your site, you should establish metrics based on the performance of your old website. These analytics benchmarks can be found in HubSpot or Google Analytics and will help you set goals for the new site, as well as for overall business growth.
Improper Use of Redirects
Redirects are important when redesigning your site if you have to change URLs. Redirects are commands that tell search engines where to find content that is no longer at a specific URL. One of the more common SEO mistakes is either using 302 (temporary) redirects, or even using 301 (permanent) redirects the wrong way.
What if I have to eliminate pages from my old site? In this case, redirect your old page to the most relevant new page with similar keywords. For example, if you are a bank and are eliminating a certain financial product page, then redirect that old URL to the main financial product category page or a similar product page. This is a much better option than just sending people to your homepage or your blog.
Not Submitting a Sitemap
Every website should submit a sitemap to search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. These can be submitted through the respective search engine’s webmaster tools feature. A sitemap shows the URLs for your entire site and helps search engines understand the organization of your website.
Not Telling Search Engines About Your Domain Change
Just like you tell the post office when you’re moving, you need to tell search engines like Google that your new website is no longer the same. In addition to submitting your new sitemap, use the change of address tool in the Search Console for Google to give them an update.
Not Using the Knowledge Panel or Schema Markup
Fifty percent of search results get a knowledge panel result on Google. This is up from 25 percent just two years ago! We can expect this percentage to rise, especially for businesses. Knowledge panels provide key information that users often seek. Google’s data highlighter tool helps you you explain how your data is structured across your website so Google can use these within rich snippets.
It’s Not Easy to Share Content
Social sharing improves overall traffic and awareness of your content. It also generates more links to your website and encourages conversations about your brand and/or products. All of these increase your SEO success.
Not Using Secure Hosting (HTTPS)
Bad security practices are detrimental to SEO. Search engines will remove your website from their index if your website has been hacked. Make sure your CMS has the right security built in or you are using a security plug-in to avoid this.
Some browsers draw the visitors’ attention to a non-secure warning if your website is not using secured hosting.
Gathering Poor Qualitative Insights from Your Audience
A lot of assumptions are made when building a website. For startups who are still trying to gain product-market fit, this is especially true. Before your next website build, budget extra time to gather 10-20 interviews from current customers and prospects.
Don’t assume that because you are an expert in your field, you know exactly how users navigate the web to make a purchasing decision. Within each of your interviews, have your interviewee walk you through every step they took as they went through their buying process. The process likely starts way before they land on your website.
Not Conducting Competitive Analysis
How will you know what pages to build, what keywords to target, and how to rank highly for your industry topics? Competitive intelligence.
Competitive intelligence is extremely helpful prior to building your new website because you can focus on the types of user experience, content, and features that Google already values within top ranking content.