Search Engine Pitfalls & Remedies of Redesigning Websites

    January 10, 2008

After a couple of beers and a bit of soul searching on the web planning front my SEO specialist friend and I noticed that many businesses that have new websites aren’t aware of the effects changing of host servers and web page names can have on their search engine ranking. What’s more shocking is that many web developers don’t advise clients about the down side of changing or redesigning web sites, or even recommend best ways of reducing loss of ranking.

So what are the things that we should look out for and how can we reduce the impact it has to our own websites and our clients?

Well, this is what my SEO friend and I came up with and I’m sure there are other techniques that could provide solutions but before we suggest solutions one needs to understand the problem.

Problem 1)Web site owners who upgrade to a new website often change the page names or URL’s to something different; even delete them. This can cause a problem because other websites may link to that old page and now that page has been renamed or deleted the ranking influence of those incoming links has been wasted.

Solution 1) Try to keep the same URL’s by keeping the same page names. You can only do this if your new web site is written in the same type of code e.g. PHP, HTML, etc. By keeping the same page names you will also keep the search engines happy as they now have new content to index and new content can be beneficial.

However, should your website be an excessive improvement and change of content you should go with what URL’s or page names that are best for the optimisation of those pages. In the case of the new website being written in a new programming language or page names being changed for optimisation purposes correct 301 redirect implementation can ensure all “link juice” and Page Rank is passed to the relevant pages.

Problem 2) New websites are hosted on brand new domains. Although it is often the case that new domains are chosen for marketing purposes, it can be catastrophic on Search Engine Referrals to a site. There may be duplication issues, link popularity lost and even the chance that your new domain wont rank in search engines for months.

Solution 2) With correct 301 redirection the entire site can make the transition smoothly. This includes websites on new domains with

the same page names, as well as new domains and new page names.

Problem 3) Website owners will often change hosts after new website redevelopment. Search Engines use ip address location to determine the nationality of a website, so, for instance, if your hosting server is located in the US your Google UK results may not be as high as if it was hosted in the UK.

Servers can become blacklisted by search engines if any site on the shared server uses “black hat” techniques.

Solution 3) Ensure your websites hosting server is located in the nation you would like to achieve best rankings in. If using shared hosting make sure other websites on that server are ranked in search engines.

Problem 4) Some web design companies still use basic HTML design techniques and do not use search engine friendly design and coding techniques common in today’s web sites such as CSS.

Solution 4) Use CSS or ask your developer about CSS. The best types of CSS are those that don’t just cover text but tables, borders, colours, and much more. CSS means less work for the search engine and the users browsing and that’s a good thing from both perspectives. Plus CSS saves space within each web page code, which speeds things up. You can learn more by typing ‘optimisation CSS’ into any search engine.

Problem 5) Most web sites, including ones developed today, are not designed with SEO in mind. Commonly, designers make websites and then SEO after (if at all). This makes SEO harder and as SEO is designed to bring a website business and traffic the harder it is the less successful it will be. Now wonder how successful a website would be if SEO was part of the design process…!

Solution 5) If you are serious about making money on the Internet or you are a company that wants the same thing for your clients then the designer should really consult with an SEO specialist either before or even better during the design process. And should that be to costly or unobtainable then the designer should learn about SEO in the aim of making better performing websites.

Problem 6) Broadband and well written, user driven, easy shopping websites have changed users habits and expectations. This means that web design; as its always been; has become psychological and very little to do with aesthetics or even design flare. It’s almost taking on the principles of retail merchandising except the user does not have to physically move, and if that’s the case then speed and easy to find information is imperative. Yet, today websites are still developed on what the designer is limited in making, what the owner demands, or how simple it has to be so the not so design and IT literate owner can update it via CMS.

Solution 6) Understand what usability or websites really mean and aim for W3C compliancy. Read books like Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think, and remember what you goal is with your website. If you want to make money go for all the advice above. If you want money to trickle in then do some of the advice above. If you don’t want to make any at all then you just wait for the website to perform.

Finally, if you can’t implement any of the above you should at least be aware or advise your clients that new websites and redesigned websites can take a while to gain ranking or even drop in ranking. And if time is factor then measures should be discussed so informed decisions can be made.