7 Deadly Sins of Website Redesign

We have learned from our mistakes over the past decade or so and from the mistakes we have seen others make.

Whilst we're pretty confident of never making the same mistakes again, our primary aim is to ensure that our clients and our readers are fully appraised of the serious problems and pitfalls that can arise if you do not redesign your website properly.

Here are the 7 deadly sins that we have seen destroy search engine rankings and reputations:

  1. No Upfront Plan

If you do not stop before you start and analyse your current website first, then it is likely that your redesign will fail.  If you do not know how the search engines currently see your site and rank your site, which are your most important landing pages and how users navigate and transact on your site, then you are walking in the dark.

  1. SEO Not Integrated From the Word Go

You need to redesign with search engine optimisation in mind. This is a great opportunity to not only fix site problems and improve the user experience, but to make the site easier to crawl for search engine bots too.  This means you should as a bare minimum do the following:

  • Clear and logical site structure and navigation
  • Friendly shortish URLs with no unnecessary parameters that your CMS will likely spit out
  • Keyword and competitor research to identify the high search volume phrases
  • Unique and keyword relevant meta titles and descriptions
  • Headings and copy that are unique to and relevant to each page
  • Alt tags on images
  • HTML and XML sitemaps
  1. No Webmaster Tools Accounts

Webmaster Tools are free tools offered by all the major search engines.  By validating your site with Google, Yahoo and Bing before you make any changes you can gain a good insight into how these search engines currently view your site.  This may identify crawling issues and more often than not duplicate content issues caused by the poor implementation of your current content management system.  It also allows you to remove pages from their indices should they have spidered pages that you do not want indexed and most importantly monitor the situation once they have re-crawled your redesigned website.

  1. No Custom 404 Page

Just in case you do not get everything right first time, then at least create a custom and user and search engine friendly '404 Page not Found' page.  This at least allows users and search engines to keep going and to try and find the relevant page; or in the case of search engines, keep crawling and indexing your site.

  1. Not Mapping & Redirecting Old Site Pages to New Site Pages

This is an absolute priority.  Apart from providing a really poor user experience if they have bookmarked old site pages on your site you also run the risk of damaging your rankings for these pages in search engines.

Search engines clearly do not want to show obsolete error pages to their users so they will drop your pages from their indices if they cannot find any content on your site after a number of attempts.

You must therefore properly map your old site pages to their corresponding new site pages on a one to one basis.  If you have obsolete pages then it is OK to redirect them to an alternative relevant page or the home page; but for all redirects make sure you implement a 301 permanent redirect and then all your link juice will flow through to your new site pages.

If you are changing a subset of site pages on a large site and need to temporarily redirect them then a 302 temporary redirect will be fine - but you must replace this with a permanent 301 redirect to avoid your link juice evaporating!

  1. Dramatic Site Changes

If your site already ranks well in its field and during the redesign you totally change the content or topic of your site including meta tags, headings and so forth; then you do run the risk of looking like a search engine spammer.

This is one of many tactics used by spammers to manipulate search engine listings and one you need to be careful of avoiding.

This also applies, if at the same time as migrating to your new site you create hundreds or thousands of new site pages.  If you do this at the same time as redirecting all your existing site pages then you run the risk of getting a partial index that is someway between your old site and new site. 

Whilst we're sure the search engines will sort out the mess eventually , we feel it is more prudent to adopt a phased approach to implementing a large quantity of new pages at the same time as a major site wide redesign.

This way you can manage the process and also convince the search engines that your site is full of plenty of interesting new content.

A further word of warning; if you upload hundreds of new pages which all have the same link in say the site footer, then the recipient of that link's rankings could well be harmed as it may appear to search engines that you are trying to manipulate your ranking with lots of new inbound links.  It is best to 'no follow' these links.

  1. No Measures of Success

If you have not followed the best practice guidelines on this site then you might well struggle with this one; but it is a key part of the project.

For us, a website redesign project is not finished once the new site is live.  It is only after a period of trouble free running and analysis can you confirm that everything is functioning as intended.

We continue to monitor our new client websites long after implementation to check that the new website is delivering as intended.

There are many indicators of success and these are just some of the ones we use with our clients:

  • Increase in key site performance metrics - unique visitors, page view, ecommerce sales
  • Improvements in key site performance metrics - bounce rates, time on site
  • Reaction of users and customers - on-site questionnaires and blogs
  • Usability Research - before and after in-depth user research and studies
  • Search engine metrics - number of pages indexed, errors resolved
  • Search engine rankings - increases in ranking of keywords and key pages

Why not get in touch and we'll give you an indication of what success factors we would aim for your new website?

These are just 7 of the multitude of possible issues that you face when moving from your old site to your new site.

If you have an ecommerce site then these issues may well be magnified - this is why is it worth taking specialist advice.

If you are about to embark on a website redesign project then please do give us a call for a free chat about how we can help.