Learn what you should do before redesigning your website to mitigate any search engine traffic losses.
The decision to redesign your website can be tricky. Your site might be outdated yet it is still ranking well in the search engine results pages, so what do you do?
What you do is relative to the size of your website. If you have a small 10 page site it is going to be much easier than a site that has hundreds of pages, but it is still possible to have a successful redesign of your current site, it will just take a little more work.
Step 1: What Doesn’t Work on My Current Website
This is the first thing you should ask yourself. Is your website hard to update yourself? Should you consider using a content management system? Is the design itself outdated? Do I need a blog?
Make a list of things you would like to change about your current website, so you know what needs to be done for the redesign.
Step 2: Organizing Your Content
The next step in the redesign process is to organize all your new content you want for the site. Start by opening up your favorite word processing software and write the content for each page, keeping in mind the content of some of your current pages. The reason for this is maybe some of your pages rank well, changing the content completely could change your rankings with the redesign.
Do you want to add videos to the new website? Maybe you want to start selling products, so you will need to add eCommerce capabilities to the new website. If you answered yes to either of these you will need to produce the videos and/or collect product images, descriptions and anything else you need for the product area.
I find the best way to approach this step is what we tell all our web design clients, write an outline of the structure and set up of all your new content. See your English teacher in High School was right for teaching you outlining. Who knew back then the Internet would be born?
Creating an outline helps us the Web Designers create the structure for the new website. It helps us understand how we should build your navigation. In the outline you can start typing all your content too. This way you have everything in one place. Here is an example:
- About / Mission Statement
- Web Design
- Website Design
- Blog Design
- Content Management Design
- Graphic Design
- Logo Design
- Web Hosting
- Web Design
- Case Studies
You can see by this structure we would need main navigation buttons for Main, About, Services, Portfolio, Blog and Contact. All the indented items could be added as drop-downs in your menu.
This would also be the basis for writing your new content. Simply write the content directly inside this outline so you can see the flow of all your writing, making sure your message stays consistent.
Step 3: Writing Your Content
The new content you write is one of the most important parts of this redesign process. Yes I know most business owners are not writers, so you can hire a copywriter if you need to. In any case the text you write will have a huge impact on the future growth of your site and the traffic it sees from search engines.
Now more than ever search engines are smarter than they were when you first designed your website. If you are a landscaping company you can no longer write for your services that you, mow lawns and trim trees, you have to be detailed.
Tell how you mow the lawn, why is your way unique. Talk about the benefits of leaving your grass a little longer during the Summer to help it retain more of the water your sprinklers spray on it, don’t give away all your secrets but explain your services or products or whatever you do in as much detail as possible.
I know you are already saying, “…but people don’t want to read through all that text”. Well yes and no, you will find some that just want to see what you do and then contact you, and that is great. There are also people that are visiting your website in order to qualify you, and to see if they want to hire you. You need to give them the reasons you are the best choice.
You can get more details about writing by reading, Tips For Writing Better Blog Posts. This article still applies to regular content on your site, giving you an idea of what you should include to make people read your content.
Step 4: Analyzing Your Current Pages in the Search Engines
Most likely the URLs of your new pages will be different from the pages of your current site, so in order to not loose that traffic those pages get from search engines, you will need to see what pages need to point to their respective new page…hold on I’ll explain.
If you are using a service like Google Analytics (you really should be) you will see what pages of your site get traffic from the various search engines or maybe they are linked to from other websites. In order to not loose that traffic with your website redesign, you will need to redirect those pages to the new ones you are creating, and you do this with a 301 redirect. I am not going to get into the details of how to do this, that would be a whole article in itself, and your Web Designer should know how to do this or you need to find another Web Design company.
A 301 redirect basically does what the title infers, when someone clicks on the link going to an old page the 301 redirect, redirects the person to the new page. Not only is this great for the person looking to read that page, but it also helps search engines find your updated link to that page. This is essential to keeping your traffic up and so people don’t click a link to your site and get a 404 Error.
Now all the grunt work is done, time for the fun stuff, the actual redesign of your website.
Step 5: The Redesign
Seems like you have done a ton of work and you still don’t have new artwork. Well those preliminary steps were important for a successful redesign. Now that you have the new structure of the site you have a clear road map for how your new website should be designed.
You start with the mock up of the new site in Photoshop. This will show you how the overall site will look, where your navigation will be, and other key elements. You might also have to design a mock up for the subpages of the site if they will be different from the layout of the home page.
Something else to consider at this stage is your logo. Can it use a freshening up? You don’t want to loose your branding but this would be the perfect time to add some new life to it. Look at how many different versions of Pepsi’s logo there are.
Now that the artwork is complete it is time to start building your new website.
Step 6: Putting All the Pieces Together
When you are building your new website you want to do it in a subfolder of your current web hosting account. This way you can keep your current website up and running until you are ready to launch the new one.
The process of building the site is going to vary based on how it will be built. Are you going to use a CMS like WordPress or Joomla? Maybe it is a small site and can be built using modern HTML5 and CSS3 static pages. This is something you need to discuss with your Web Designer. Everyone does things a little different.
Step 7: The Launch
Your new website is built and ready to launch. The next step is to make a backup of your old website and stick it in a subfolder and maybe call that old_site. Then move all the files from the new website into the root directory of your hosting.
So now that the new website is live, you will want to submit your sitemap to Google through their Webmaster Tools. Also make sure all your 301 Redirects are in place and working.
You might want to send an email to all your customers/clients telling them of the redesign and how it can make their life easier. Maybe now they can simply buy the products they get from you online instead of submitting a request and waiting for someone to get back to them.
Post on Facebook and Twitter and the other social networking sites announcing the launch. If it is news worthy write a press release to further get the word out.
That Was A Lot Of Work, And Worth Every Minute
Your new website is done. You spent hours writing the new content, making sure you don’t loose traffic from the old links and freshened up the look of your logo, so now what? That’s easy, reap the rewards of your work. That doesn’t mean your work is done, it means if you did your redesign correctly you should start to see an improvement in your business, and the satisfaction of knowing your company stays on top of technology and all the benefits it brings.
If you have been considering a redesign of your website use this as a guide so you don’t get blind-sided by something you may have overlooked.