Does one of the following sound like you?
- About to embark on the search process for a partner to help with a website redesign
- Halfway through the website redesign process
- Just had the website redesigned
If you match any of the above, you need to take a close look at this post. So grab a refill on that coffee and let’s do this.
The Devil is in the Details
While the visual appearance of a redesign might align with your expectations, there are some technical notes playing in the background. These are common areas that are either executed well with website redesigns or neglected—either out of ignorance or intentionality. It’s important to understand these areas and to make sure they’re handled properly for your website.
Here are some important items to ask about and check on.
#1: Forgetting to Remove NOFOLLOW, NOINDEX from the Website
It’s a common website development process to place a <META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW”> in the header (the top-most HTML structure that isn’t visible on the front-end of the website, but contains scripts and other code).
All that this line of code does is tell search engines, “Hey the website isn’t ready or is being worked on. That being said, please hold off on crawling and indexing these pages until we’re finished.”
For the sake of a website design, it makes a lot of sense to place this there.
After the website is launched, however, this absolutely must be taken out of the website’s header.
If Left Up After Launch, Search Engines WILL NOT Index Your Website
Recently, I had a friend email me and ask why their company website wasn’t on the first page (or any page) of Google for their organization name.
First thing I did was look for NOFOLLOW, NOINDEX. Sure enough, it was there in the HTML header of the website. The website had been live for about nine months, so I gathered that NOFOLLOW, NOINDEX has been live since the launch.
Again, this tells search engines to “go away.” If it stays up, search engines will in theory never crawl and index the website. This means that you won’t rank for your organization’s name—or other keywords—because your website is technically off the reservation.
What This Means for You
If you’re evaluating a website redesign, make sure you bring this up to the potential partner. If they have no idea what you’re talking about then run far, far away.
If you’re halfway through a redesign, or close to launch, make sure that they take out the NOFOLLOW, NOINDEX upon launch.
If you’ve already launched your redesign, and you Google your organization and don’t see your website, chances are the NOFOLLOW, NOINDEX is still up. If this is the case, you need to act immediately to get this removed from the header and follow some cleanup steps to insure your website gets indexed by search engines right away.
#2: Not Redirecting the Old Website Links
Search engines count a lot of mistakes against the authority—and thus ranking power—of websites.
One of those mistakes is not redirecting links.
For example, if your old website has an about page at the URL website.com/about and your relaunched redesign has the URL website.com/about-us then the old about page URL is now a broken link.
Redirects Need Set Up
Anytime a link is changed a redirect needs set up. A redirect tells search engines where to go and automatically redirects users with old links.
What Happens for SEO If Redirects Don’t Happen
A broken link might’ve been crawled by search engines. What happens is a search engine will explore your website every once in a while to see if there’s new or updated content. They’ll recheck previously indexed pages. If there’s a broken page, and it’s discovered, that page will get removed and a tick mark gets placed in the “against you” column.
This probably won’t make a difference for one or two pages, but let’s say your website has 200 links that get moved and all 200 links have different URL structures. Serious issues are about to occur when the website gets explored again.
- Another common issue is when a blog post structure is changed. For instance, your blog URL structure could exist on the old iteration including dates like so: website.com/2016/01/08/post-name. And then with the redesign could be: website.com/post-name.
It is worth mentioning that one or two pages could make a huge difference. For a case where you have a high-ranking page or post (for a keyword phrase), you could lose that rank if the URL gets lost in translation. That could be a high-converting page/post that pulls in leads. That’s not something you want to lose.
What Happens for the End-User If Redirects Don’t Happen
This isn’t just bad for search engines. This is also bad for your end user.
Let’s say a particular URL is bookmarked or referenced in a post of page. If you change that, the link is lost, which can be frustrating for the end user.
#3: Not Designing It for Your End-User
“Because it looks good” shouldn’t be the only motivation driving your website redesign. If it is, you’re missing out on the most important aspect of website design—the end-user.
Who is ultimately going to be using your website? You need to understand who those people are and their needs or you could miss the mark with the redesign entirely when it comes to design or content.
#4: Not Using Web-Optimized Images
This is a mistake that is made all too commonly.
There are two kinds of images—the ones suitable for websites and those that aren’t. The ones that are suitable for optimal website design have to be intentionally modified.
What Qualifies An Image As Web Optimized
- It’s between 10-500kb in size. Some can go a bit above that, but they should never go above 800-900 kb.
- It’s cropped to reduce unneeded space (which further reduces the file size)
- It’s compressed for fast loading
- It has an optimized file name. This is an all lowercase, connect by hyphen name that is not more than five words. These words should also be search engine optimized.
What You May Find
If your website is utilizing images that just came out of the DSLR camera, they could be MBs big with horrid file names like DSCN_71098366. This slows down your website pretty significantly. A slow-loading website is bad for SEO and the end-user. The filenames also aren’t doing anything to help your SEO situation.
#5: Not Tracking It
Analytics and tracking is everything.
Before the redesign is launched, you should have a benchmark of how the website was performing. This includes:
- Page breakdowns are nice too
- Bounce Rate
- Average Session Length
- Page breakdowns are nice here too
- Conversion Rate
After the redesign is launched, you should have active protocols in place to track the performance. At first, it’s common to see a dip in all of the analytics I mentioned above, but over time you should notice them return to normal, or hopefully, go up.
If there’s nothing set up to track how the website is doing, you’re really flying blind here. You also won’t be able to be agile, which is my next point.
#6: Forgetting About Your Website Until the Next Redesign
The next time you touch your website shouldn’t be the next redesign.
Growth Driven Design
With the power of analytics, you should be monitoring progress and performance. If you notice that users are suddenly bouncing from a particular page, you need to figure out why and attempt to fix it.
This is an agile approach. Nowadays, this is also referred to as Growth Driven Design. This mentality is that when the redesign is complete, we choose to play smart. We keep an eye on the numbers and how users are using the website and continue to optimize it.
From those conclusions, we know what the most logical next move is.
Create Content on a Regular Basis
You should also be using your newly design website as a powerful tool on your behalf. Use it to create regular streams of content about your organization, but also answering the common questions your prospects have.
Keep An Eye on Your Website Redesign
Whatever boat you fall into, the bottom line is this—keep an eye on your website redesign.
Make sure NOFOLLOWS are removed, old links are redirect, your website is built for your users, it’s utilized web-optimized images, that you’re tracking things and that you’re using your website.
Now, here’s to you and an outrageously successful redesign.