Redesigning with SEO

- October 14, 2008

Whether the reasoning behind a redesign of your website is to increase the overall usability and functionality or just to update the look and feel of the site, this is an important time to bring search engine optimization (SEO) into the mix. Ensuring that your site is SEO friendly is critical in achieving high positions in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Below are just a few things to address during the redesign process that can impact the SEO friendliness of your newly designed website.

One of the first questions to ask yourself; will your new site be on the same domain? If possible, keep the same domain from the original site to the newly designed site.   This is because the search engines place a lot of weight on the age of a domain.   The older the domain, the more trust the search engines have with the particular website.   Also, by keeping the same domain you will retain the inbound links to the site and these inbound links are an important component of good positions in the SEPRs.   However, if it’s necessary to start with a brand new domain, note that there will likely be a drop in traffic until the new domain is established.

Take the time to do keyword research. This process can help with the architecture and navigation of the site as it can provide insight into the different ways people are searching for the information, products, or services that you offer. Keyword research will also help you to identify the best phrases to focus your optimization efforts.   The key phrases that you thought were ideal to optimize pages of the site around may not be what people are actually using to search.

Make sure that the design allows for enough content on the pages and that you are writing the content for your visitor and not the search engines. Even though you should work the targeted keyword phrase throughout the content to help the search engines determine what the website or page is about, you do not want it to sound unnatural or as though you have written only for the search engines. Additionally, creating great content from the start will make your site more link-worthy, encouraging others to link to your site.

The crawl-ability of the site is very important for SEO.   JavaScript links and menus as well as graphics and Flash can be difficult for the search engines to crawl.   This isn’t to say that these elements cannot be used, but it is something to take into consideration. Make sure that there is a balance and that the pages of your site contain ample room for index-able content.  

The anchor text of the links to internal pages on your site should be crawl-able by the search engines. Use descriptive anchor text to tell the visitors and search engines what the topic of that page they are about to visit is about. Quite often, the keyword for the destination page can be used in the anchor text.

Another (and maybe the most important) thing to take into consideration is how the old site will transition to the new site.   If the URLs are changing, how will this be approached? As mentioned above, the best case scenario is for the URLs to remain the same, however, if they change due to a reorganization of sub-folders, moving to a different platform (such as from .php to .asp), a new naming convention is adopted, or for business reasons, you will need to develop an SEO friendly transition strategy. This strategy will vary site by site, but make sure that you have a strategy in place.

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