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Website Re-Design: A 21 Step SEO Checklist for Planning a Website Re-Design
Thursday, April 10, 2008
As online marketers and website owners, there is going to come a time when you will need to take a deep hard look at your website and determine if it is working for you. More often than not you will probably decide that a site redesign is in your best interests. However as I mentions last week there are questions that you should ask yourself when considering a site redesign. In fact I outlined 7 Questions to Ask When Planning a Website Re-Design.

If you are prepared, a site re-design should not scare you. A website re-design can present a great opportunity to address site hierarchy issues, SEO and optimization issues as well as aesthetics of your online property. So then how do you prepare for the nastiness that a site re-design entails? All of the hierarchy concerns, all of the SEO factors to consider, all of the design issues, all of the content management issues, all of the ranking issues etc etc etc... the answer is you plan. You simply plan out your site re-design. In order to plan your website re-design you should prepare a checklist of the re-design issues that you need to consider. That's where we come in. SEO-Space is proud to present:

The Ultimate SEO Guide to Planning a Website Redesign

This guide focuses strictly on SEO issues and makes the assumption that you have addressed usability issues and the overall need for a site re-design. In order to effectively use this guide you will have previously:
  1. Defined the Goals for Your Site
  2. Defined the Needs of Your Site's Targeted Audience
  3. Determined the Resources Required for a Site Redesign
  4. Determined that there is an actual need for a redesign of your website
Without further delay here is a detailed SEO checklist that you should review as you are planning your upcoming redesign.
  1. Prepare a SWOT Analysis of Your Existing Site - evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of your existing site as it remains today.

  2. Examine Your Existing Organic Rankings - Which of your site pages are currently doing well in the search engines? Which phrases are providing the most traffic to your site? Which pages have the greatest stickiness?

  3. Prepare a SWOT Analysis of You Main Competitors Site(s) - this includes both your offline and online competitors as online competitors may consist of sites who you do not think of as a direct competitor yet they are occupying the prime real estate of the search engine results and are receiving traffic that could be going to your site. Obtain ideas about web design, technology and optimization concepts by looking at competitor sites.

  4. Review Your Keywords - it would be a good time to review your keywords to ensure that you are using the phrases in your site's messaging that your audience is using in their search queries.

  5. Examine Your Existing Optimization - For pages that are doing well, be sure to preserve your well optimized titles and meta data. If using a new content management system, you want to be sure that it has the capability to populate your existing titles and meta data.

  6. Evaluate Your Existing Content - search engines love content, you should know that by now. Specifically search engines love optimized content. Plan out what content will be rolled out on your new site. Are there sections of content that will be phased out? If so remember to check your rankings so that you do not jeopardize existing rankings.

  7. Prepare Fresh Content - as you prepare for the launch of your new site, be sure to develop new, unique and informative content that will get crawled, indexed and ranked by the search engines upon release. This content can help act as link bait and help build the external link inventory of your site's pages. In addition, your target audience is coming to your site to find information. Make sure that you provide them with this information.

  8. Prepare for Blended Search - Be sure that your video and images are well optimized prior to launching the new site.

  9. Map Out Your Site Hierarchy - how you serve up your site's content can have a dramatic effect on your search engine rankings. Determine if you should use a sub-domain vs. sub-folder strategy as you redesign your website. Avoid burying pages deep within your site;s content.

  10. Plan out Search Engine Friendly URLs - this is a "biggee". Many webmasters tend to create these long nasty dynamic URLs that are not friendly for the search engine spiders or human visitors. When planning a site redesign one of the worst things that you can do is dramatically change your URL structure without using proper redirects to help the user and search engines find your content. If the search engines cannot find your content, your pages will not get indexed, your rankings will slip. your traffic will decline and you will receive less traffic to your site. The only thing that will go up is is sponsored PPC spend to buy back your position in the search engines. SEO is free (somewhat) do not tamper with success if you have. Plan out your URL structure as you plan for your site redesign.

  11. Pay Attention to Your Link Inventories - One of the most important factors as to how the search engines rank websites is by analyzing the link inventory of your site pages. If you happen to delete a page as part of your site redesign that had a number of quality links pointing to it, you're making a mistake. While proper redirection can help, you'll want to be aware of the external links that are pointing to your existing site pages.

  12. Focus on Navigation - Ensure that your site will be easy to navigate by your target audience and by the search engines spiders. Consider the use of breadcrumb navigation and make sure that you have a well optimized sitemap to help with clear navigation of your site.

  13. Address Interlinking Issues - use SEO best practices to ensure that your site pages are well interlinked.

  14. Focus on the Theme(s) of Your Site - Be sure to consider what you want your site to be an authority on. Make sure that you have sufficient content to promote your theme(s).

  15. Prepare for Scalability - Consider the impact of Web 2.0 and Web 3.0. As you plan your website redesign, ensure that you factor in things such as press releases, blogs, RSS syndication and the like.

  16. Create Clear Contact Us and Information Pages - to help with local search results, ensure that for any and all branch or office locations that you have detailed address and contact information. If your company is found in local markets, make sure that your website conveys this. Make it easy for your target audience and customer to interact and do business with you.

  17. Consider e-commerce - If you are selling anything online via your site, make sure that you test your online store out. Make sure that the user experience is perfect.

  18. Avoid too much use of Graphics, Flash and Animation - sure these are cool things that can improve the aesthetics of your site, but from an SEO point of view, they often do more harm than good. If you do use images and such be sure that they do not affect your site load time and hinder the user experience.

  19. Brainstorm Ideas - Just when you think that you have addressed all of the usability and SEO factors for your site redesign, get together your design team, marketing team and SEM team to brainstorm anything that may have been overlooked. Work together to create the most effective site that you can for your business.

  20. Hire Third Party Help - Don't be afraid to hire external help. Whether it is a design company or an online marketing company, their expertise will prove valuable in the long run.

  21. Test - As you plan out your website redesign, take the time to test out various strategies from A/B testing of your homepage to testing the use of images and Ajax, testing is a crucial step of the redesign process, even in the planning phase. Test, test , test.
Planning a website re-design is extremely important and can be a difficult and timely process to go through. The key is finding the balance between strong SEO and a sound user experience. The 21 step checklist above will help you succeed with your website redesign from a SEO perspective and from a usability perspective.

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posted by Jody @ Thursday, April 10, 2008  
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About Me
Name: Jody
Home: Kelowna, BC, Canada
About Me: SEO guy by day, family man 24/7.
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