Redesigning a website is a massive undertaking, with hundreds of technical, financial, creative, operational, and strategic decisions to think through. It can take months of planning, designing, writing, and developing before you can show off your masterpiece to your industry and the world.
As you already know, search engines are going to be your best friends in helping you drive awareness and leads. Before starting your website redesign process, avoid these seven SEO issues that could prevent your website from ranking high in an organic search.
Mistake #1: Redesigning Without Goals
This is by far the biggest mistake companies make before redesigning their website. Before you begin building your sitemap or thinking about the content you want on your site, take a step back and ask, "What are our main objectives for this new website?"
Here are some key questions to make sure you are aligning with your goals:
- Goal of Redesign: What will success look like 3-6 months after launch?
- Personas: Who are your ideal customers? What is your existing lead quality? You may be generating leads to your site now, but they may not be the perfect fit for your organization. You should be interviewing your customers in person or over the phone to gather these insights.
- Buyer's Journey: What are the core phases that prospects experience when making a decision to purchase a product like yours? What pieces of information do they need as they progress through the sales process?
- Key Elements: What are must-have features and components to help you accomplish your goals?
Mistake #2: Lack of Benchmarks
When establishing your website goals, double-check that you have accurate reporting of your current traffic, leads, opportunities, and customers. You should understand on average how many of these you receive on a monthly basis and when these peak during the year (to understand seasonality).
The big mistake companies often make is having little insight into how their current website performs. If you don't know how your current website performs, how will you know if your new website is a comparative success or a failure?
After launch, you should also measure your new website with the same benchmarks. This data will show your marketing, sales, and executive teams how your website performed before and after, and how the new website is better aligned with your goals.
Mistake #3: Poorly Configured Analytics Setup
There are hundreds of website tracking tools to help understand user behavior. One of the biggest potential mistakes, from a technical perspective, is not having these tools properly configured.
Make sure you have clearly mapped out which tools should go on which pages of the new website. Google Tag Manager is one resource to make sure all tracking tools and tags are implemented properly on the right pages.
Your Google Analytics should also be audited to make sure your user activity, conversions, and revenue (if you sell online) are reporting accurately.
Mistake #4: Botching Your Redirects
Prior to launch, make sure you have your 301 redirects mapped out. One of the biggest SEO mistakes organizations make is forgetting to map old URLs to new URLs. You want to make sure old URLs that have built up SEO value are passing that value to your new website.
Mistake #5: Thinking of SEO as 10 Blue Links
In most cases, when you do a search in Google, you aren't going to get 10 blue links (like you would have 10 years ago). You're likely to get a variety of rich snippets, knowledge graph cards, image results, and more. While doing your keyword research, audit the types of results where you could show up within the SERPs. Then, as you are designing your website, make sure you are implementing the schema and website structure that will allow you to take advantage of the information you find.
Mistake #6: Launching Without SSL
Search engines have been pushing websites to be secure for the past several years. When launching your new website, make sure you have an SSL certificate enabled. Most hosting providers offer SSL at a fairly low cost. From an SEO perspective, search engines favor websites on SSL, and users will be notified in most browsers if your website isn't secure.
Mistake #7: Poor Mobile Experience
Don't assume your audience is on their work desktop when viewing your website. Between 30 and 80 percent of your web traffic comes through mobile devices. Design your website for users on-the-go. Implementing a responsive design on the front end will require you to build only one website, and it will work on all devices (and be cheaper to maintain).
As you wade through the many phases of your next redesign, don't let SEO be something you only think about in the final phases of the project (which is another common mistake!). Though there are many bells and whistles you can take advantage of within search, you'll succeed from an SEO perspective with (1) SMART goals, (2)persona-based keyword research and content strategy, (3) secure hosting and (4) a fluid user experience across mobile, tablet and desktop.