13th May, 2013

Online Businesses Crumbled

Everyday at Essential Marketer I speak to people and businesses who in the past have had their websites redesigned believing that the change would bring them more business, but it has actually destroyed their domain authority, crippled their business’ bottom line and left them in a position of panic as all their eggs had been placed into one basket.

This has been the result of high percentage of ‘Design’ agencies not knowing the ins and outs of the existing authority of the website, i.e. the way Google crawls and indexes the website, and also not having the resources  put in place with sufficient processes and relevant tools to create a net to catch any of the many problems that can occur. This is why it’s more important than ever for Web Design SEO and Design Agencies to work alongside each other to ensure the clients’ assets are kept.

After many conversations going over the same details and hearing the same stories from many sources, I have decided to put together an outline of the common points that you and your designer should consider when attacking the design and development of your precious website.

Don’t Delete Existing Content, Archive It

dont delete content

When you read this subtitle you may think something along the lines of “but search engines love fresh content on my website and everyone within the SEO industry backs this up“. Yes this it totally true, adding fresh content to your website and keeping it up to date to ensure that search engines have an incentive to return and index your web pages is top priority for you and highly important for your online marketing strategy, but there are a number of different reasons why you should try and keep your existing content.

Let me try and explain in more detail.  If a search engine spider came to your website one day and you had 100 pages, it would index them and cache the content across all those pages.  Then the following day it comes to crawl the exact same website, crawls the same 100 pages but all the content has completely changed. What is the spider’s initial thought whilst working through your site architecture? The spider is going to be shocked as this doesn’t look natural.

One problem I always come across when clients are removing/updating content is that they wish to remove a large chunk of their websites ‘Library’, NO! If one day you have 1000 articles across your website and then you decide to keep online 100 of them, what is the search engine going to think regarding the authority of your website’s topic? You have taken your site from a ‘Library’ of your businesses topic to becoming a small ‘Bookshelf’ of advice.

I have worked with a number of clients and have tackled this issue countless times. I understand it is not always possible when your content is redundant due to specification details being out of date, products no longer available and many other reasons, but where possible it is always better to archive and move your existing content down the levels of your site to ensure you are keeping a ‘Library’ of content and not turning it into a ‘Bookshelf’.

Keep Your Existing URL Structure

keep your url structure

The most important factor when redeveloping the website is to ensure you don’t remove the existing URLs that hold authority and rank highly in search engines. I have seen this many times when our SEO team have used Majestic/Site Explorer to check a website’s existing URL structure and many pages have been disregarded within the new site build and the client is wondering why they are not on the first page of results any more. This has devastating affect on a website and can be the end of its online enquiries and traffic.

There are many ways to check the most powerful pages within your website and give you guidance on which ones to keep, to be honest I would always advise to keep as many of them as you can within reason, but I would highly recommend that you keep pages that have the following:

  1. External back links pointing to them
  2. Have great citation and trust values (refer to Majestic SEO for an explanation on these metrics)
  3. Have gained PageRank over the time of being live
  4. Rank highly in search listings

With careful planning, precision and execution of an SEO company working alongside a design agency all these points can be catered for and will ensure that your site will come back with a fantastic new look and user experience whilst also staying cemented in the search engine results to provide your business with enquiries as soon as the new site is re-launched. Don’t change the ‘foundations’ of what your site has been built on, just build on and strengthen them through time.

Clone Existing On Page SEO

clone on page seo

The explanation of this key area is very similar to the ‘Don’t Delete Existing Content, Archive It’ section so I want go into it in as much detail. Keeping the same principles of if a search engine cached and indexed your website one day and then came back and crawled it another day and all the onpage SEO such as page title, meta desc, heading tags had changed, then this obviously looks very unnatural to the search engine robot and could throw its understanding of what you website is about.

It is vital to ensure you run a site crawl and export the data prior to having your site rebuilt. I would highly recommend keeping a copy of this data for future reference and also to refer back to when you are  adding the content back into the content management system (if applicable) before the new site goes live.

Ensure Canonicalisation Remains The Same

www canonicilisation target

Many people don’t understand canonicalisation and the effects it can have, and I personally have to refer to our senior SEO consultant Adam to explain to me the best way to implement and execute the perfect solutions.

When implementing the htaccess file that controls your mod rewrites, it is extremely important to ensure you are keeping the same redirects that had been implemented on the site before. For example if the existing site had the non-www version 301 (permanent) redirecting  to the www. then this is telling the search engine to pass across as much authority as possible to the latter. If this got changed during the design process and the redirect had been turned around, this will again alert the search engine and also dilute your website’s domain authority even further.

It is also extremely important to ensure the type of redirect is a permanent one.  I have come across countless existing websites that have had a 302 in place for a number of years and have been wasting a huge amount of page authority by not passing it through to the other URL.

In brief, ensure that your site is one and not split across all your different domain levels as this can cause serious duplicate content issues throughout the website as it gets indexed.

Future Content Creation

content creation library

My final point isn’t really a major highly important action that you should take when redesigning/developing your website, but it is one that I believe is a major factor in helping your website move forward with the times and making it become as strong as it possibly can.

Many businesses cower at the thought of writing content (I will admit I did until we put together a plan to help) so it is always a good place to start afresh and plan your content creation going forward when the new site has been placed live. By doing this you are setting yourself a schedule and you are also putting a content marketing plan together to ensure you reach your overall SEO goals.

My advice to anyone is to use keyword research tools to look for what people are searching for.  Once you have a list of all the keywords that you can fulfill as a business you can then begin to create page titles from them. Once your titles are there you will also have a theme for the article you are going to write, note down 5-10 bullet points and expand them and you are already half way there to creating a 1000 word article.

Creating these high quality articles and some quality link building will gain you the exposure that you want your brand new website to get, and ultimately increase your online business enquiries.

Web Design SEO, In Summary

There are many other points that you should consider as well but I would be here all day long. Overall what I am trying to get across is that you should be very precious over your website and make sure you have the relevant experts involved within your project to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as it possibly can. The cost of this method will be more in the first instance, but going forward into the future it will save you so much that you will be glad that you made the right choice.

The perfect outcome you can have from your site being rebuilt is that it keeps the exact same pages, URLs, on page SEO and you build your new content on top of this through blogs and articles linking through to your existing ‘main’ pages to keep their lifespan going for a longer period of time. If you stick to these basic rules to begin with your site will continue to work for you and will give the returns you would have expected.

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