Money in the trash can

I’ve worked on a number of projects in the past year where I had to clean up after someone else’s redesign. I had actually done the SEO on the sites but wasn’t involved in the redesign project. These were websites that had really good traffic prior to the redesign, but then took a major nosedive when the site relaunched. The business owners took a big hit in revenue due to a big loss of website traffic. But the owners didn't have to take this loss!

The First Rule of Redesign: Do No Harm!

As I was brought in to “re-optimize” these websites, I saw that these business owners didn’t have to go through this pain they were in. Here are 5 redesign blunders that I've seen that can trash your site. These are mistakes I’ve encountered in the past year or two and hope you can learn from them.

1. Be Careful With Your Content: Don’t Rip It All Out

There is a natural tendency to completely scale back your content and go minimalist when you redesign your site. There is definitely something to be said for simplicity. Simplicity is good… Over-simplicity is not so good.

In my previous business-networking group, there was an old adage when asking for referrals: “Be specific to be terrific.” This is great advice not only for networking, but also for website content.

Most visitors that reach your site via the search engines don’t come in through the home page. They come there because they have searched for something specific and will come in through one of your sub pages specific to that topic. Consolidating your content can pose a problem.

If you consolidate your products or services pages to a single page, it will likely be so generic that it is not immediately clear that you offer that service. If your visitors have to work to figure out what you do, then you’ve already lost. You only have a few seconds to convince a visitor to stay. So, keep each page focused and clear.

2. Mind Your URLs: Set up Proper Redirects

When you delete pages from your site and add new ones, it is critical that you set up automatic redirects to send your visitors to the correct new page. The technical term for this is a “301 redirect.” Not only does it help your visitors who may be clicking on an old link get to the right place, but it also makes it clear to the search engines where the content has moved. It helps convey your old page rank to the new page instead of starting over.

3. Watch Your Code: Keep It Semantic

The third blunder that I’ve encountered has been improper coding of the new site. Poor code can interfere with search engines indexing and understanding your site. Now, for business owners, it really comes down to working with a web design agency or designer that knows what he or she is doing.

You may think you’re getting a great deal by going cheap, but cheap usually means designers either don’t know what they’re doing or don’t care enough to take the time to do it right. They may be able to create great visuals but not have a clue how to implement them properly. If they don’t understand terms like “301 redirect” or “Semantic HTML” and are clueless as to what schema.org is, then, as Bill Engvall and Jeff Foxworthy say, “Here’s your sign…”

4. Avoid Cheap Themes and Templates: Invest In Quality

There is more to a WordPress Theme or Joomla Template than its look! Code matters!

Many “designers” (aka theme customizers) will take an off-the-shelf template and customize it to fit your needs. This can save money and be a good fit as long as the designer starts with a quality theme that is well coded. However, to be blunt, there is a lot of crap out there. And if the designer starts with a poorly coded theme, then you will end up with a poorly coded website and you can expect your traffic to go south.

Be sure that you understand whether your designer is customizing an off-the-shelf theme. If so, find out where it is from and do some research on it and on the theme designer. Google can really be your friend here and help you avoid a lot of unnecessary pain down the road.

5. Don’t Make SEO An Afterthought: Build SEO In To The Front Of the Process

Make sure your website company understands SEO or bring an SEO person in at the front of the project. It can take months to recover from a poor site redesign. It is also much more expensive to pay someone to recode and rework your site to fix the errors that shouldn’t have been made in the first place. Taking a little extra time up front to ensure that your site will be built with best SEO practices in mind can save you tons of time afterwards.

Conclusion

I hope these blunders will give you some food for thought for your next redesign. If you are considering redesigning your site, ask your prospective design agency about how they will handle these issues up front to avoid the pain of lost traffic and lost business.