#SEO411 Recap: SEO & Website Redesigns

By Kaitlyn Smeland Dhanaliwala | Jul 27, 2010
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Hammer and nails by Hans Godo Frabel
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Earlier this afternoon, we hosted our weekly #seo411 Twitter chat.  This will be our last Twitter chat before it is replaced by SEO4U, and we’re ending our series with a topic that is a very common concern among website owners: how to incorporate SEO into a website redesign.  In case you missed it, here’s a quick recap…

Q1: What SEO efforts should you benchmark before starting a redesign?

The most common response was RANKINGS!  @Jstatad suggested collecting keyword rankings for all listed pages- not just the top-ranked ones.  Other great responses included inbound link counts, keyword referral information, and various Analytics metrics analyzing traffic patterns.  All these things can change with a new website design, so it’s important to grab a benchmark.  Thanks to @JanetDMiller, @AvelynAustin, @derekedmond, and @tim_eschenauer for these answers.

Q2: Are there any SEO issues you should keep in mind when choosing new site programming technologies?

Be mindful of the limitations that come with relying too heavily on Flash and Javascript.   In the words of @Jstatad:

Now is not the time to go 100% all-Flash because your web design firm told you it was a good idea.

Thanks to @mosquitohawk, @janetdmiller, and @ameercarter for responses.

Q3: If you’re changing servers are there any steps you should take for SEO?

@JanetDMiller explained it well:

Changing servers means changing IP address, so I like to keep the old and new sites up concurrently for about 2-4 weeks.

And, as @mosquitohawk pointed out, if you’ll be under shared hosting you might want to find out who your “server neighbors” will be.  If they’re particularly spammy, beware.

Q4: If you’re changing filenames during a redesign are there any steps you should take for SEO?

When changing filenames of any pages, you must employ 301 redirects to hold onto existing rankings and direct users who may click on old URLs.  But, as @Jstatad and @gatzseo pointed out, don’t go crazy with 301 redirects unless they are absolutely necessary; too many redirects can water down the total link juice for a page.

Q5: If you’re moving to a CMS (or new CMS) are there any functions you should look for to help SEO?

Any CMS you choose should allow for flexibility and updating fields that are important for SEO.  From @JanetDMiller: “Make sure your CMS allows you to edit title and meta description tags. Also ensure you can have a different 1 on each page. ”  And @derekedmond suggested finding a CMS with a built-in sitemap feature- another useful tool for SEO.  @MarkAlves made another great point:

CMS should allow editing of breadcrumbs & navigation separately from page names.

Finally, @JanetDMiller shared a Marketing Sherpa article on choosing an SEO-friendly CMS.

Q6: Are there any methods to incorporate CSS in an SEO-friendly way?

Use your H tags (H1, H2, etc.) for headlines rather than span tags.  Search engines read the content in H tags as having special importance on the page. (Thanks to @JanetDMiller for that one!)

Q7: When redesigning a large site would you suggest using subdomains or subdirectories?  Why?

The old subdomain-versus-subdirectory debate lives on!  @Gatzseo favored subdirectories, pointing out that some domain authority can be lost by using subdomains.  @Mosquitohawk also referenced the fact that subdomains do not inherit all TrustRank like subdirectories do.  However, @JanetDMiller, @ameercarter, and @Jstatad voted for subdomains; they cited the fact that subdomains allow for more pages to show in search engine results.  @RyanJones and @derekedmond weighed in with a cautious “It depends.”  Where do you stand on the issue?

Q8: What previous SEO efforts should you take into account during a redesign?

The short answer seemed to be a resounding “Everything.”  Keep as many features as possible which worked for SEO on the old site.  And @ruthburr gave a great piece of advice on one particular feature to make sure you keep: good site architecture with content in mind!

Don't let your flashy new wireframe edge out your great content - you still need a place on every page for good content.

Q9: How should you monitor your redesign to make sure it’s SEO friendly?

Many different metrics were thrown out there, but they were all contained within @VincentAmmirato‘s tweet:

Site metrics, Rank metrics, Sales metrics.

Q10: Are there any other SEO issues you’ve faced when doing a redesign?

There were so many words of wisdom in response to this question!  Here are some of the notable ones:

@janetdmiller: “Communication between SEO team and programming team is key in redesigns.”

@gatzseo: “Get SEO in on the ground level. During the very start of the redesign process. Not something to bring in half way…Test, Test, Test. You can have SEO and CRO working hand in hand.”

@VincentAmmirato: “1. Clients want flashy art and design over function. 2. Too much code obfuscates content from the robots.”

@Jstatad: “The bigger the site the bigger the chance for communication failure. Don’t buy glitz & style over substance. You can have both.”

@ReneeRevetta: “…lots of scheduling and making sure everyone is on the same page with SEO & programming”

@aaranged: “Critical not only to bring SEO considerations in early, but to be ruthless in producing wireframes to guide the entire process”

@AvelynAustin: “Launching too soon because you’re excited isn’t the best way to go… better to be delayed than lose rankings”

@MarkAlves: “Don’t make assumptions. If you need access to certain elements or for file names to stay the same then spell it out.”


This week’s chat was our last #SEO411 Twitter chat using this format.  Going forward, we’ll be launching a new Q&A discussion system called SEO4UCheck out Renee Revetta’s post about how you can continue the SEO, PPC, and Social Media conversation through SEO4U!

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