So, you decided to optimize your website for search engines and went through a thorough process to hire a reputable agency or a qualified team of experts in-house. They’re anxious to start working on your site and find out that it’s going through a redesign period that is just about to be completed. You have no doubt that after spending thousands to make your site look phenomenal, it’ll certainly be on page one of every major search engine! Well, the truth is that to secure top positions and to create a truly search-friendly site, you have to start thinking about SEO long before the redesign process begins.
The nature of an SEO campaign is thoughtful and long-term, aimed to bring you meaningful results, which you simply won’t see overnight. Think about building a house from scratch. As you’re reviewing your blue print, you want to make sure that all the important parties are involved during this phase – plumbers, electricians, roofers, etc. You don’t want to just start conversations with them after your walls are built. With multiple parties involved in building a site, it’s much easier to make edits to it during a wireframe stage than update a live version.
Of course, an existing site can still be effectively optimized. Keep in mind though that fixing things that went wrong from an SEO perspective later in the process may require more time and resources. Let’s take a look at the following potential situations you may have to deal with.
1. Your entire website is built in Flash.
Your creative and development teams spent many months on finalizing the site layout, wireframes, manuscript and content. Your site is about to go live and as you’re popping a bottle of champagne, the SEO team points out that your entire website is built in Flash. While Flash makes sites look creative and interactive, search engines can only read the site’s source code text. So, unless you reconsider using Flash altogether or create a text copy to accompany it on back-end, it would be very difficult for search engine crawlers to find it.
For example, this is the website your visitors see:
And this is a part of this site’s source code that search engines see – with the exception of meta keywords, which don’t even influence organic rankings any longer – there is virtually no textual content for the search engine spiders to crawl, therefore they will not be able to index it appropriately.
2. Your content doesn’t target important keywords.
As your SEO team reviews the final version of your site, they notice that the keywords you’re trying to rank for aren’t incorporated enough throughout the site to boost your rankings. If your goal is to target a specific search term and rank #1 for it, you need to include a thoughtful, authoritative content specifically dedicated to that term.
Because SEOs monitor search trends regularly using multiple tools, involving them in early stages of content development is crucial for securing top rankings. We can also help you determine how to do it effectively – a simple “stuffing” of keywords here and there will not help you rank higher and in fact could harm your rankings.
3. You took your old website down and didn’t establish a redirect strategy.
As you’re preparing to launch your redesigned site, your SEO team asks about what your plan is for the old version. You want to take it down completely and replace it with the new and improved site, but you haven’t thought about all the links across the Web that point back to your old site.
By wiping out your site and not 301-redirecting old pages to their respective new pages, you will be losing all the link equity you’ve acquired throughout the years. Those blogger mentions and media coverage pieces won’t help you with referrals any longer. Sure, consumers can just search for your site when they see an error page, but that’s an extra step that most of your potential leads are not willing to take. Depending on how big your website is, redirect mapping can be a very long process and may significantly affect your project timing. You can read more about 301-redirects in this Google Webmaster Tools blog post.
4. You haven’t installed any analytics/monitoring tools prior to the launch.
Having analytics and monitoring tools installed early is extremely valuable for an accurate tracking of a site’s performance. While in some cases you may be able to pull the numbers retroactively, it’s best to make sure all the necessary monitoring tools are installed as soon as the site goes live so you don’t miss any valuable data. Consider the following tools:
Google Analytics – helps you track traffic and user engagement metrics such as bounce rate, conversion rate, time spent on site, etc. Google Webmaster Tools – provides you with details about your pages’ visibility on Google and enables you identify all back-end issues on the site such as broken links or inaccessible content.
Launching or redesigning a site is a long process. To avoid these or any other complications which may cause delays, extra budget and resources, consider consulting all your important partners – including SEOs – early in the Web development process.
Have you come across other situations when a last-minute SEO involvement caused issues?