3 SEO Pitfalls to Avoid During a Web Site RedesignSEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the art and science of driving targeted search engine traffic to your web site.

If your business relies on search engine traffic and you’re planning a site redesign, you may be putting a lot at risk if you don’t include SEO considerations during the redesign process. While it’s important to plan SEO into the site launch process as early as possible, there are a number of missteps unique to re-designs that should be avoided whenever possible.

1. Avoid Changing the Address of Your Web Site

If your site is doing well in search results, that means you have established some level of trust and authority with the search engines. It’s likely that you have acquired (through either hard work or good fortune) a number of links from other sites to your web site.

Changing the address of your site means you’re starting over in acquiring links and establishing a position of authority. There are things you can do to mitigate the SEO impact of changing the web address, but nine times out of ten the easier thing to do is to keep your existing address.

Beyond the SEO impact, there are other reasons to keep the same web address such as the impact to existing collateral and other ‘fixed’ advertising you may be doing such as yellow page ads.

2. Ensure the New Design Uses Search Friendly Technology

Use Flash Cautiously

Generally speaking, designers like Flash because of the creativity and freedom it allows them, but Flash only sites can be SEO nightmares. Creating Flash sites is not the death knell it once was, but there are additional levels of complication that if mishandled can create real problems for search engines. Generally speaking, a little flash goes a long way.

As an example, check out the home page on our recently launched web site at MBE Edge. The top panel is Flash, and it will be just fine for SEO. Flash also impacts load time of a page, which is becoming a more important factor to search engines (and end users). Try to limit the use of Flash where possible, or better yet avoid it altogether.

Short URLS

The second issue related to search friendly technology isn’t really a technology issue at all, but rather one of implementation. Ensure your pages reside on short, key word rich URLs. Compare the URLs of these two pages –

http://mbeedge.com/Illinois-Bar-Exam.shtml

http://www.barbri.com/wps/portal/barbri/!ut/p/c4/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3gjJ_cwYzcPIwMLUwNLA08DL_8wfzdLQ6NAc_2CbEdFAMdnVes!/?sitearea=breeze_barbri_library/barbri.com/Anonymous%20Visitor/IL&pubarea=breeze_barbri_library/barbri.com/Anonymous%20Visitor/IL

You want all your pages sitting on keyword rich, short URLs where possible (like the first example above). Make sure your designer and developer know the difference, and have implemented your content management system (CMS) in such a way that the first example above is the default.

3. Redirect Users Where you Want Them to Go

One of the first orders of business while planning for a redesign is to inventory the pages you already have on your existing site. Walking through this process allows you to:

  • Determine which pages you’ll carry over into the new site
  • Determine which pages will be killed
  • Determine a plan for creating new pages where gaps exist in your current content strategy

Now that the strategy is in place you’ll need to assess which of the carry over pages will reside on new URLs. Sometimes this is a conscious choice, sometimes it’s a change dictated by a chance in content management system or other consideration.

Toward the end of your project, as the site is launched, you’ll need to execute something called a permanent redirect or a 301 redirect. This automatically redirects users who find a page on the old URL to the location of the new page.

It also tells the search engines this page permanently resides at the new address (consider a 301 like a change of address card you’re submitting to the post office). Redirects can usually be implemented from page to page, which is the preferred means of doing so. You’ll also want to arrange to redirect your old pages you killed to a new page that has similar content (or to the home page).

The important thing to know with this redirect process is to not use a 302 redirect or a temporary redirect for this process. There is a time and place to use a 302, and this is likely not it.

A site redesign is a stressful time in the life of a business. There is no need to have it become more stressful by watching your search traffic disappear overnight. Be sure to keep these basic tips in mind, and consult with an SEO professional prior to redesigning your site. Proper SEO planning is important during a re-launch, and should be incorporated at the earliest possible time in the process.

Have any website SEO questions for Sean? Leave a comment below.

[Image Credit: Tattooed JJ ]