Your site has been up and running for quite a while, with only minor updates and changes. You have a solid SEO position and plenty of traffic. There are just two things bothering you. Your traffic is beginning to plateau, and your competitors have amazing websites that are pulling in lots of visitors/users.
You are right to worry about this trend. It can mean a slow-down for your business.
The solution? Your website probably needs a major overhaul – one that reflects the newest design trends and the latest technology – things that will engage visitors and make them want to stay.
In a redesign, though, there will be risks. How do you keep your current customers/users and your SEO position during and after this redesign?
A website redesign will include a lot of thought and consideration and shouldn’t be launched without a solid strategy. Here are the steps to take.
Before You Begin to Look for a Designer/Design Agency
Set the Goals
Your team should meet to determine the goals of website design. Consider the following:
- What is the target audience? Has it changed? Are there new targets not being reached?
- What aesthetics need to change?
- Are their newer technologies (e.g., chatbots, AR/VR) that should be incorporated?
- Does the website need to be more responsive to mobile devices?
- Do pages need to be better organized with faster navigation?
- Does the textual content need to be improved? How about the visuals and other media?
- Do pages need better SEO optimization? Obviously, some things are working, because you have a decent SERP. Identify what is working and then look to see how other efforts could even improve it.
- Is the blog well-organized and optimized for social media as well as SEO?
- If an e-commerce site, do purchasing and checkout processes provide a simple and streamlined experience?
- Do CTA’s need to be more effective?
- Are there better ways to promote conversions?
- Does the site provide customer self-service as well as easy methods for contact with questions, issues, etc.?
When all of these questions have been answered, you are ready to narrow your goals to the real needs that you believe a redesign should meet.
Setting Up the Architecture
This refers to the organizational structure of the site – the menu, the pages, the navigation, the mobile responsiveness, etc. Are there pages that should be eliminated? Should some be added? Does the designer need to improve mobile responsiveness that is crucial for customers? Is there a blog? How is it structured? Should there be features added for discussion, social media sharing, etc.?
One of the best ways to design the architecture is to establish a sitemap because your new architecture can then be structured around it. According to Bill Goodwin, in charge of website maintenance at Studicus, “Creating a sitemap was the first thing we did as we moved into our redesign process. It drove how we set up our pages, navigation, links, and more, and kept us organized throughout the whole process.”
Search engine algorithms place a lot of emphasis on rich and unique content. If your team does not include gifted and creative writers, then it is time to find an experienced freelancer or a writing service that can craft this copywriting for you. Check out a few agencies, like Trust My Paper, Supreme Dissertations, or Wow Grade, each of which has experienced journalists and copywriters in a department dedicated to digital content. Or look at the portfolios of freelancers on such sites as Upwork or Freelancer for individuals with successful backgrounds.
And don’t forget the keywords and keyword phrases that “brought you to the dance” in the first place. Some of them are still critical for SERP; new ones may now be more popular. This requires some research, either done by you and your team or by agencies/freelancers you employ.
If you market products or services, those descriptions must be compelling and creatively written. The same goes for the titles of your pages.
The goal is to make your content so engaging that visitors and customers will act upon it and want to share it with their communities.
Plan Your Redirects
If you are eliminating pages, then be certain that you have a 301 redirect in place – it will help preserve your SEO. Avoid 404’s if possible, unless a specific link is no longer required. If you have a large site with lots of pages, this is going to be a time-consuming process. The best advice? Have this done as a part of the redesign and before the launch. Doing it afterward is messy and can result in loss of SERP.
Ready to Find the Designer/Developer
You are now ready to find the perfect individual or agency for the actual redesign. You probably “know the drill” on this one. You need to look for those that have a history in your niche, or at least your sector. Check out their portfolios and references.
This is not the time to be a “scrooge.” Just like anything else, you get what you pay for. Hire a designer/developer that will listen to you, can give you all the “bells and whistles” you have listed, and who will have the expertise to make good suggestions along the way.
Here are a few things to cover, along with your sitemap and your desired architecture and content (the content should already be in place).
- Make sure all redirects are in place and that they have been checked
- Make sure that page speed is at an optimum
- Be certain that the site is tested on all possible devices
- Have the designer submit XML sitemaps (easily accomplished through the CMS you are using) and you might want to ask that he submit it manually through Google Webmaster tools.
- Be certain that Google analytics is added, so you can collect the data you need for future changes
- Make sure that you have easy administrative control to make modifications in content as you run your analytics.
- Make sure there is post-launch support so that any bugs will be remedied.
Good designers already know to do these things, but it does not hurt to confirm them in your discussions.
The Rest is Up to You
Once your redesign is launched, it is up to you to keep the content current, to add new and unique content through your blog, to run the analytics, and to make the adjustments and modifications that will keep visitors and users coming back for more.
Today, websites have a “shelf life” of about 4 years. Newer technology, consumer preferences, and changes in your industry will demand a redesign. Keep your “ear to the ground” and an eye on your competition, so you know when it is time to begin the process again.