3 years ago I wrote this piece on the importance of having an SEO strategy in place BEFORE your website is designed. We’ve experienced some really significant algorithm updates from Google over those 3 years that have affected website ranking dramatically.
As such I thought an update would be useful!
Many of our website design clients are aware that there might be SEO issues, but some are blissfully ignorant. As I said in the original blog piece, going live with a fresh website design without considering the SEO implications first is like building a beautiful new house with no drive, no front gate and no front door!
In other words no one will find it or be able to get in when they do!
So if you are having a new website designed, these are the 5 top SEO killers to avoid before your web designer puts crayon to paper or the developer even lays down a single line of code.
It all starts with your brand and product positioning; and this drives your keyword strategy. Its important to spend time working out why prospects need your products or services.
When you understand this from the customer perspective, you are in a better position to research the keywords that people use in the search engines to find products or services like yours. Spend time on this – you may even decide on a new domain name.
Relevancy of the content to the user is crucial to the search engines. Website content needs to be clear, succinct and interesting to a human visitor. Google understands that at the end of the day the search engines don’t buy from you – its real people! So Google is looking for natural content that is engaging to the viewer and they will penalise website content that they think ‘games’ the system.
Review which pages perform the best in Google Analytics, and if you do find that your existing page content and keywords were bringing in traffic, that convert well, then you need to think really hard before making changes.
Website Navigational Structure
A new website will probably have a new navigational structure and this may change the site architecture (how the pages link to each other). Website navigation executed through the site architecture is a major factor in determining whether pages from your website show up in the search results.
Your website designer must ensure that the pages you are optimising for (in other words your main products or services are navigated – and therefore linked to) from your main menu.
This will result in those key pages receiving the prominence and search engine ranking they deserve and will help in bringing targeted visitors to your website. If those key products are deeply buried in the new website site by bad architecture then this tells the search engines that those pages are not important and they will not show them in the search results.
Mobile Friendly Web Design
I can’t imagine anyone designing a site just for desktops these days, but for Google, despite your customer/prospect profile, your website design must be responsive – in other words mobile friendly. We have a number of clients, in the B2B category, whose sites (according to Google Analytics) are only ever visited from desktops, so this is a frustration because it can be limiting in design terms. Google will penalise mobile-unfriendly sites.
If this is a redesign project, where there is a website in existence, make sure you don’t waste any authority with Google that you already have. Redirect the most important old page URLs. These will have in-bound links from other sites and therefore authority in Google’s eyes. It’s a good idea to redirect all URLs if you can.
And don’t forget that www.yourco.com/product.html is seen as a totally different page from www.yourco.com/product.php – redirect it!
Meta Tags – Headers, Images and Descriptions
Apologies – this is another tech issue, but meta data – title tags and H1 header tags are an important part of your SEO strategy. Title tags are the text that appears at the top or the browser when a page is navigated to. Title tags must be unique and describe the content of that page AND be keyword rich. One of the most common mistakes during a redesign is to inadvertently lose all the old tags and we have seen site traffic drop off when this is poorly executed.
Its important that your new website does not go live without relevant keyword-based title tags in place on every page.
The Meta Description is less important in SEO terms these days. It is the text that appears under your page title in the search engine listings. An advert for each page!
We see loads of sites where the same meta description is used for each page – this is a big mistake because they’re missing a great opportunity to communicate the right message to prospects. The Meta Description needs to be relevant to the page you want to target to appear in the search engines.
So there we have it – 5 SEO killers to avoid in your website redesign. Address these before designing the new site and before coding because getting it wrong can have a significant financial effect on your business. You will loose web visitors and therefore business – and it’ll cost you more when you engage an SEO professional to fix it all.
Author Matthew Simmons