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The new site design was finally launched.

You couldn’t be more pleased with how everything looks. But instead of sales going up, it’s actually going down. A closer look at the analytics reveals that traffic took a complete nosedive after the new design was implemented.

What happened?

Business owners make the mistake of assuming that a new website design is the answer to increase sales but this rarely happens without a strong SEO foundation in place. A great design is much more than simply how something looks. It also considers all underlying aspects that drive visitors to your site.

A flashy design isn’t beneficial if pages are inaccessible via search

Implementing SEO Best Practices From the Start

Design and SEO are strongly interrelated.

A site that ranks high in the search results will fail to convert if the design is lacking. Likewise, a site with a gorgeous design will have low visibility online without a strong SEO foundation. This is why SEO needs to be ingrained in a redesign strategy from the very beginning.

Search engines strive to deliver the most accurate and relevant results for each search query.

But this extends beyond content. Sophisticated algorithms weigh hundreds of different factors from domain authority to backlinks and even social signals to determine rankings. Which means that just having quality content alone on your site isn’t enough.

Visitors are quick to make an impression. Even if the content on a page is high quality, a poorly designed site is more likely to cause visitors to bounce. According to research from the Nielsen Norman Group on average visit duration:

“The probability of leaving is very high during these first few seconds because users are extremely skeptical, having suffered countless poorly designed Web pages in the past. People know that most Web pages are useless, and they behave accordingly to avoid wasting more time than absolutely necessary on bad pages.”

Correlations have been found between user signals (e.g., bounce rate) and rankings. Optimizing content improves visibility in the search engines but design is ultimately what builds trust and credibility with your target audience.

Here we provide an overview on how to incorporate SEO into your redesign strategy from the start.

1. Audit Your Existing Site
Conducting a thorough audit is a critically important step. You simply cannot undertake a redesign without first evaluating key metrics. Start by compiling the following data into a spreadsheet for each page:

  • Unique visitors
  • Top performing keywords
  • Average time on page
  • Number of backlinks
  • Bounce rates
  • Page value
  • Meta tags (titles, headers, etc.)

Use tools such as Google Analytics and Google Webmaster to gather this information into your spreadsheet. There are also a number of software tools available such as Screaming Frog that streamline the auditing process.

This type of data is incredibly invaluable as it informs your SEO and design strategy from the start. It also helps you make informed decisions on which pages need to be revamped or even removed during the redesign process.

2. Think About Target Keywords
What keywords are most relevant to your business?

Even with a gorgeous design, visitors visit your site because of the content. Keyword usage needs to be considered right from the start and cannot be neglected. A page stands a much higher chance of ranking well if it’s properly optimized including the title and actual content.

As explained here to create a more Google-friendly site:

“In creating a helpful, information-rich site, write pages that clearly and accurately describe your topic. Think about the words users would type to find your pages and include those words on your site.”

A redesign simply isn’t enough to increase traffic if the content itself is lacking. This is also why conducting an audit is beneficial. It gives you a clear overview of which pages are lacking so you can take steps to better optimize them.

Use tools such as Keyword Planner to identify potential keywords to target for your site. Then optimize your pages during the redesign process to improve visibility.

3. Opt For Responsive Design
As mobile usage becomes more widespread, your site needs to be easily accessible.

Responsive design is the recommended configuration for building mobile-friendly sites. Unlike setting up a separate site for mobile, sites with a responsive design have the same URLs across all devices and serve up the same HTML code. This helps Google discover and crawl your content more efficiently.

Responsive is beneficial for another reason: Conversions.

Research tells us that visitors are more likely to exit a page if it fails to meet their expectations. This also applies to users on mobile devices. If visitors are leaving your site, conversions and revenue will suffer as a result.

A survey from Google found that 67% of users were more likely to buy from a mobile-friendly site. But 52% of users said they were less likely to engage with a company that had a bad mobile experience.

Friendly website design

A mobile-friendly design must be implemented. Google is even adding a new “mobile-friendly” tag in the mobile search results. These tags help users on a smartphone or tablet easily identify which sites are optimized with their devices.

Most people tend to neglect SEO during a site redesign.

But as discussed here, this can lead to devastating consequences and even result in lower rankings. Design and SEO are closely tied together as one without the other leads to a poor user experience. Both are absolutely important to drive internet marketing strategies.

Even the best website designs can fail right from the start without a proper SEO marketing strategy. Before undertaking a site redesign, conduct a comprehensive audit of existing pages. You can speed up the process by working with a small business SEO company.

Then perform keyword research to identify keywords that are most relevant to your site. Optimize all pages to increase their visibility in the search results. And be sure to also implement responsive design to make your site mobile-friendly. Taking these steps before implementing a new design will help ensure a strong SEO foundation.

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