In response to the tremendous demand we received at Search Engine Strategies London & TFM&A to make the presentation “SEO & the Website Redesign Process;Traps, Tricks, Techniques & Tools” available for everyone, we have decided to include a post, covering all the advice, images and links that Laurence presented. This way all of you can take a look at some of the techniques we use and the latest trends and resources in SEO and website redesign.
We’ve added some more text to explain the bullet points below – but if you just want to check out the presentation then here it is below or you can download the Powerpoint file here. (If you like it please do feel free to add your comments and suggestions on this post)
SEO & the Website Redesign Process;Traps, Tricks, Techniques & Tools
Giving your website a much-needed revamp can give you a unique set of problems and is completely different to building a new site from scratch. Here are some of the differences that specific to website redesigning, as well as some things to avoid, and tried and tested techniques to help your redesign project run smoothly.
Redesigning a website is so much better than starting a new one from scratch. First of all it’s probably needs redesigning because the ‘powers that be’ have decided that it’s not fit for purpose – so chances are anything you do will be an improvement ;-).
And unlike when you start from scratch with a new website design, with a redesign you have a load of really useful data (quantitative and qualitative) that you can use to help you support your decisions, acquire the necessary resources and measure your success.
It is so easy to benchmark where you are today vis-a-vis the competition, set yourself specific targets and a timeframe, and then prove to the ‘powers that be’ what a good job you have done when it is implemented.
But before you start dreaming of pay rises here’s a few things to avoid that might trip you up.
Website Redesign Pitfalls
Problems stem from…
- Redesigning on a whim
- No concerted plan or running before walking
- Fallen out with designers/developers
- Not analytical enough – changing pages that convert well
- No research or survey data
- No benchmarks or targets
- Lack of understanding and knowledge of SEO
- Unrealistic budget, resources or timescales
- Inadequate security
What you don’t want to happen to your site, is something like this…
These are some common traps to avoid…
- Change of domain or TLD – no redirection
- Change in URLs – no redirects or global redirects
- Indexed pages in search engines are not found (404 error)
- Loss of site traffic
- Loss of conversions on previously good converting pages
- Loss of position in the SERPs
- Loss of site in the SERPs
- Loss of job?
But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom, if you follow these simple steps then your website redesign will be easy and a success! When you change URLs ensure you put in permanent 301 redirects on a 1-2-1 basis from old page to new page!
A Traditional Website Design Process
Sometimes it’s easier to visualise the process and divide your project into manageable chunks. This is a pretty standard website design process. When you are redesigning a website with SEO in mind there are a couple of other stages that you should consider.
Our SEO & Website Redesign Process
In more detail, the SEO and website redesign process should look like this. The stages in blue highlight the areas where you need to do more homework before and after your project.
The next thing to do is to ask yourself a few questions, the first being: “Why do I need a redesign?” Once you’ve answered this then it’s time to consider the following things…
- Establish Commercial Goals
- Establish Project Goals
- Analysis, Research & Reality Check – This is the key stage for me – do a reality check!
- Agree Website & SEO KPIs/Targets
- Team & Timescales
If you want some valuable advice, or help in posing yourself questions about your site, try these really handy website design questionnaires that are equally good for covering all bases in your planned redesign – useful website design advice.
Reality Check – If you are not sure whether you have enough resources for the project then you probably haven’t!
Project Scope: Analytics & Research
This is one of the most important steps in the redesign process so remember to consider the following when deciding what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t work, on your website.
The first key area to ensure before you even start a website redesign project is that you have some sort of website analytics software installed so you can get some idea of how people are finding and using your website.
- Website statistics
Site Visits, Popular Content, Conversion Analysis
Screen size, browsers, Traffic sources
- Customer & User survey
Likes and dislikes
- Log files
404s, other errors
Project Scope: SEO Research
Now it’s time for your SEO research. The better and more detailed your research is, the easier it will be to optimise your site and let it reach its full potential.
After installing website analytics for the first time, or looking at your existing website analytics for the first time in a long time, the second step is to do some SEO analytics to try and ascertain what the rankings gap is between you and your competition. And I do not just mean where you rank in Google. This analysis should include a complete analysis of as many SEO factors that you can compare your sites on (Analytics SEO does a basic competitive SEO site audit in 15 minutes or so).
The third step is to get some qualitative data about how your current users and customers use your site. What do they like, dislike, need?
Once you have a nice pile of quantitative and qualitative data you can use this as your benchmarking data to measure your success. You can also use this to justify additional resource if you feel you can generate the return on investment (ROI). Simply run the same analysis at the end of the project and periodically thereafter to see how things have improved.
Consider the following at this time:
- Website Analytics
- SEO Analysis
Basic Site Audit – highlights obvious site issues – why not give our SEO software a try?
- PPC Campaign analysis
Which keywords are converting?
Consider using them in your redesign
- Strategic Planning Gap
How large is the gap between my site and my competitors?
Do I have the resources and desire to commit?
Here is an example of a basic SEO site audit…
And here, is a competitive SEO audit…
Project Scope: Project Goals
The next step is to set specific goals and stick to them. If you have a realistic target to aim for, then you will work more efficiently and you can see an indicator of the progress you have made very soon after the new site is live.
Set Project Targets & Benchmarks:
- Create a set of benchmarks that you can compare at Campaign Start & Campaign End
- Keyword ranking comparison
- Competitive benchmarking – League Tables
- Website Analytics KPIs
What you can pull in might depend on the power of the Website analytics package. But if you use Google Analytics you should be able to track the following: Revenue, Sales conversions, Visits, Goals, Unique Visitors, Page Views, Bounce Rate, Time on site, % of pages bringing you organic traffic, Brand engagement (% of organic search keywords using brand oriented names)
Project Scope: Project Planning
Plan your project using the following – it will make life a lot easier…
Here are a few pointers for good site architecture…
- SEO Friendly – information architecture, navigation URLs, Meta Tags, coding (separation of HTML and CSS) – Not using JS links
- W3C compliant
- Old sitemap and hierarchy vs New Sitemap & hierarchy
Treejack (“Analytics for a website you haven’t built yet”)
- Plan 301 redirects
- Plan to make it fast…
You want your redesigned website to look good and here’s where the visual design comes in. Don’t be too flashy but take some time to decide how you want your site to look.
- Sketches – sharing initial thoughts and ideas use a paper and pencil (or better still use Balsamiq)
- Wireframes – sharing with the client – use Balsamiq – there is a free demo version online and you can also buy a downloadble desktop version. in my opinion it is “drag and drop wireframe creation at the speed of light”!
- Test initial design – if you design in Balsamiq you do not feel too wedded to a design concept and can quickly start again without wasting any time or emotional effort on something that might have taken you hours. Show your mockups to all your stakeholders and then upload them to sites like Fivesecondtest to get some user reactions. – Internal team
– User groups
You can ask users to click and see where they go; and you can get them to record keywords and phrases that they can remember in 5 seconds. It’s very nice and you can get 5 users to test it for free.
Now for the site development. Here are a few key questions to ask yourself before beginning…
- Which Content Management System? In this day and age of real-time search you need a site that you can update in real-time. You need a CMS.
- Proprietary? For me it’s not a great option. Go down the open-source route and you get free software updated by thousands of developers worldwide. It’s future proof and you can always switch developers very easily – assuming you have all the necessary passwords ;-).
- Free/Open Source options – we love Drupal but there are others
- All of them have numerous SEO Plug-ins (see links at bottom of page)
- XML Sitemap generator – this is quite handy too
So here it is, the big question – what to put on your redesigned site and how to do it? OK, we’re not going to cover it in this blog post but sit back, take a deep breath and think about these key points and fun features you could add to your site.
- This is a Golden opportunity – How can you improve your site?
- What did your customers/users tell you?
“If you were running our business how would you improve our website?”
- Video – DIY Video Suite – Animoto – professional looking site videos in minutes. Or try Celeb on the Web – get a celebrity to talk to your potential visitors!
- Avatars – if it’s your thing try Site Pal
- Make it easy for people to link to your content, e.g. Addthis
- Organising Content – Optimal Sort
So you’ve done the hard part, you’ve done the planning, the research, the content, and you can see the finish line but first you have to test your site. Test, test and test again!
Here are some of the tools we use on website re-design projects. We don’t use all the tools all the time – it depends upon the project and client budget.
Type of testing:
- Functional & Performance
- X-Browser testing
- Friends and family
- Focus groups – internal and external
- Usability testing labs & eye tracking tools
Five Second Test – initial test of designs – clicks and keywords
Litmus – X-browser testing for websites and email
Crazy Egg – visualise user behaviour – heatmaps and clicks
Userfly – watch videos of your users
Mechanical Turk – Human Intelligence Task (US Only)
Jmeter – Scalability & performance – record interactions, playback multiple threads
Yslow, Google Web Toolkit – Browser plug-ins and developer toolkits
Here’s some example feedback from Feeback Army users. But for $10 in less than an hour you can get some great feedback about your site. What I also like is that you can delete any spammy or irrelevant or drunken responses (I’ve only ever had one – see 2nd image below).
We recommend Feedback Army to all our clients.
Use it, you’ll see why!
I’m sure you are asking yourself: “How much testing should I do?” Well, Jacob Nielsen, one of the best-known usability gurus, says:
“The best results come from testing no more than 5 users and running as many small tests as you can afford.”
The Big Launch
You’ve come this far and now its time to launch your site, but in all the excitement don’t forget to use the following to create a buzz that will surround your brand new redesigned site. This is a topic in itself and far too big for one blog post or presentation…but here are some fun things to consider utilising:
- SEO – Authoritas, SEO for Firefox
- PPC – Acquisio, Lyris HQ
- Social Media – Tweet Deck, Hash Tweeps, Ping.fm, AddThis
- Email – Dot Mailer, Mail Chimp, Lyris HQ
- PR – Free PR Sites, PRWeb, PR Newswire
- Video – Tube Mogul
Your site has gone live and now it’s time to reap the rewards and see the results, to find this out though, you need some help:
- Compare initial results with campaign start
- Post launch questionnaires and compare results with campaign start
- Feedback Tools
- Ensure you have a system for automatically monitoring website and SEO changes
What qualitative data points do you have before and after the project has been completed?
Benchmark Ranking Data Example – Keyword rankings
This should be self-explanatory!
Benchmark Ranking Data Example – Competitive League Table
This tracks all the keywords that are currently generating you natural search traffic. It then checks where you rank for each keyword and who ranks above and below you. It then estimates how much traffic they have relative to your traffic (as reported from Google Analytics integration) and creates a league table. Your site’s traffic is always indexed as 1; and your competitors’ traffic is expressed as a multiple of your traffic to give you an estimate of how much more or how much less traffic they have than you from the organic SERPs.
In this example, the site at No.1 has 6.1 times as many natural search engine visits as the site being analysed in tenth position.
This is a quick an useful way to realistically assess at the start of a project how much more organic traffic (and sales conversions) there could be for the keywords your site is already ranking for…..before you start thinking about new content and keywords.
Benchmark Analytics Data – Simple Site Metrics Comparison
Hopefully this is pretty self-explanatory too!
Ongoing Site & SEO Development
Your website should now be a massive success and you will hopefully be happy you decided to redesign, but keep your eye on the ball, because a site owner that becomes complacent, gets overtaken:
- Fresh content – update it regularly! Make a plan!
- Landing Page Optimisation
Ensure your analytics software tracks conversions
Benchmark against performance before redesign
Landing Page Checklist – Have you thought of everything?
Test – Split A/B or Multivariate
- Online PR campaign
- Link building
- Track your ongoing SEO Campaign – Authoritas
- Do interesting stuff and get people talking about it!
SEO Website Redesign Process Tools
I mention loads of different tools and resources in the presentation. We don’t use them all on every project (expect for our Analytics SEO Software tools of course) but here’s a list of resources and tools you should try. Please feel free to post other tools that you use too.
|Project Stage||List of Resources & Tools|
|1||Project Scope||Design Process – www.utexas.edu/learn/designprocess/
Questionnaires – www.web-redesign.com
Questionnaire Templates – www.esurveyspro.com
Survey tools – www.mailchimp.com www.4qsurvey.com
E-mail clients – www.dotmaile
|Integrated Website & SEO Analysis – 192.168.50.52
Project Management – www.basecamphq.com www.fogbugz.com
|2||Site Architecture||Webmaster Tools – Google Yahoo Bing||W3C Validation –
|3||Visual Design||Site Design – http://balsamiq.com||Initial Testing –
|4||Site Development||Content Management Systems – Drupal WordPress
Drupal SEO-plug-ins WordPress SEO
Organising Content – Optimal Sort XML Sitemap generator
|DIY Video Editor – Animoto
Avatars – Site Pal
|5||Testing||Usability Testing – Jacob Nielsen
Test Designs – Five Second Test
User videos – Userfly
X-Browser tests – Litmus
|User behaviour – Crazy Egg
Functional & Performance – Jmeter Google Web Toolkit
|6||Launch||Too many to mention!|
|7||Benchmarking||Automated SEO Tool||Feedback tools – Kampyle.com|
|8||Ongoing Development||Ongoing SEO Campaign Management
Landing Page Checklist
|Page Optimisation Tools – Maxymiser Pagealizer
Google Website Optimzer
|9||Celebration||It’s more fun if you take it offline!|
And finally, the best bit: the post-launch party! All your hard work calls for a celebration so sit back and take pride in your re-designed website – you deserve it!
But take your party off-line (even if you are a Second Life addict)! And don’t forget to invite us 😉