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One of the biggest website redesign projects I have undertaken involved a website which had approximately 1.2m users a month and 90% of the traffic was organic. The website did not sell products, but rather created valuable content for a specific niche. Its profits came mainly from selling ads and promoting businesses.
I was initially asked to help with some advanced Google Analytics tasks but after talking to the client and giving them a few pointers, they saw the value of digital marketing research. The client had been trying for one year to redesign his website, but the attempts had not been very successful. I believe the reason for that was that he did not have clear defined goals and as it was, he had no idea what area to focus his efforts on or what steps to take.
This project helped me understand certain processes that are necessary when we are redesigning a website. Based on my experience, I have listed 10 steps that need to be taken to a redesign a website in a way that adheres to SEO principles. These steps should be done in order:
When redesigning a website, the first thing that needs to be done is to understand what the client wants to achieve. Is it about better user experience, increasing time/sessions or pages/sessions, increasing revenue, increasing various other conversions, improving the UI, adding some new content topics etc.? This is a very important step that will help us make appropriate decisions in the next stages.
By this I mean that it is important to understand how the customer gets value from the website. When the website redesign involves an ecommerce website, the factors that get us conversions are more obvious. But in a website like my client’s, there were many things that could affect conversions and these needed to be specified. It is important to understand what the client’s plans for the future are. Is the client planning to change strategies or do they want to optimize the ones used so far?
Note: STEP 1 and STEP 2 require a lot of communication with the client. Communication is absolutely crucial at this stage, as it will lead to both sides being in line and working together to achieve the desired target.
This step is very important to understand what brings traffic to the website. The Google Analytics account is well-set-up and you will also be able to understand which sources and mediums are the most profitable, which are the important landing pages, which keywords and topics bring organic traffic to the website. It will also help you understand the profile and behavior of the website’s users etc. When it comes to websites that have a lot of organic traffic, we need to be very careful when redesigning the website, because if we only think in terms of aesthetics and UX, we will most probably ‘kill’ the organic traffic and create a big problem for the client. It is extremely important to study all the info that can be found in Google Analytics and the Search Console.
This step will give us many ideas about how the website needs to be redesigned in terms of content to match what its target audience is looking for. It is absolutely a must as we need to understand the user behavior and the user intent. Depending on the topic/s and the type and size of the website, this step might require a minimum of 2-3 days and in some cases even a couple of months of research. The broader and more varied the topics in a website, the more time it will require, but it will still be faster and better than having a team of people working on a website redesign project, following a wrong path. This step will assist us in forming a strategy, that will be based on actual data and not only beliefs and intuition.
This is the last step before we attempt to do any wire frames. It is important to understand what the competition is doing, what brings traffic to their websites, which action calls they use, what type of conversions they have, what is their design style, how they interact with their users, if their traffic is generated through organic results. Researching their most important keywords will also give us new content ideas – something which we can take into consideration in our redesign process.
This has been my approach to redesign. There is one more step before we make a mock-up and it is based on the fact that every page is a mixture of content elements. An example of a usual page main content elements:
These are typical areas inside a website page, which might include additional content elements inside them (example, photo call of action, video, article listings, tab submenus, banners, search forms etc..). It is important to research the trends that exist in the client’s industry (competition search step) but also in the web in general (by researching and analyzing the content elements of the most popular websites in the world). The result of this research will help us follow the trends and it will give us ideas for our client’s website content and how to approach satisfying our users.
After doing all this research comes the time to design mock-ups for the client’s different page layouts. At his step, SEO professionals will need to cooperate with UX and UI professionals (if the project is very big). The number of the different page layouts becomes obvious when we reach this stage. I like to think of every mock-up as the combination of different content elements – just like a puzzle. Discuss every one of these mock-ups with the client before asking the front-end designer to take over. It is important to communicate with the client through all the steps of the redesign process, get his feedback and approval and proceed with a common plan.
Ask the graphic designer to make a design for your mock-up (and start by getting him/her to design the main page of the website). Even better if the designer is also a front-end developer. But don’t just give the mock-up to the designer and stop there. It is important to communicate the goals of the project. Give the designer info about:
And be in contact with him/her to answer any questions that might exist.
While the designer is working on the main page design, it will be important for you to focus on the landing pages that bring the organic traffic. You will have to optimize them based on the conversions you want to achieve. The more professional the CMS or Framework your client is using, the more easy it will be to create unique experiences per landing page topic. Every landing page, or should I say groups of landing pages with similar content, will require their own attention and action calls as they will probably lead to different types of conversions. Different types of conversions require a different approach, so it is important to know your goals.
When the designer has the first design for the main page ready, it is time to go back to the client and discuss it. Get feedback from the client and make the requested changes. Normally, if you follow all the previous steps, it will not be difficult to finalize the design, as the final design will not be something very different from what you had communicated and discussed with the client in all the previous steps.
This is not a single step, but will actually require a sequence of steps, which will depend on how the front-end and back-end teams are formed and operate. If the project is big, a manager is absolutely necessary to ensure that everyone understands what has to be done and which is his/her part in the project. And of course, the manager needs to ensure that the project deadlines are met without exceeding the forecasted budget.
Some additional comments about the Website redesign services and steps
The steps mentioned above are recommended for website redesign projects that aim to improve the aesthetics of a website and want to make sure that no organic traffic will be lost. These steps can also help us improve the organic traffic of a website after the redesign, but they are not enough if a website has technical SEO problems, or it initially targeted the wrong topics etc. In projects where step 4 (SEO marketing research) uncovers such issues, more steps need to be taken to ensure the correct transition from the old website to the new one. This is because in these cases the structure of the new website will most probably be very different and it will require more work from an SEO point of view and from the developers.
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You might be wondering if all the websites require the same type of SEO consulting services and how these services might be different per website. From my experience all these years I can say that the SEO principles are the same but the effort and continuity that is needed for sure are different not only per website type but also per business industry, size, location and even the CMS that is used. If you would like to learn more please follow any of the links below.