Sure, the new site may mean you are no longer embarrassed by your website and no longer find yourself making excuses for it. And there is a definite value to that. But is it actually bringing more business your way? Very often the answer to this is ‘no’. Even worse, it frequently leads to a reduction in traffic to your site. Now that’s a nasty surprise for the CEO.
Well, there are a few reasons normally.
Unless you replicate your old menu, you will have a lot of new urls. This means your old urls (which have built-up SEO value) will go to waste. To avoid this, your web company needs to create redirects from your old pages to the most appropriate new page. These should be permanent 301 redirects.
You will naturally be rewriting content and the same thing applies to a certain extent. Because, for all that search engines love new and fresh content, your old content will have built up some equity. So you need to make sure that any of your old content that was ranking well is not just thrown out, but is built upon.
Thirdly, if you don’t submit an updated sitemap to the search engines, this can also hurt your traffic in the short term. So you need your website company to attend to this as well.
In short, sometimes SEO is an afterthought in the excitement of getting a brand new, shiny website.
Oftentimes, the old website had SEO bits and pieces done for it over the years. And when the supersmooth new website was done by the supersmooth website guys, the focus was all on the visual and the content, but not on the SEO. Which can lead to a nosedive on the traffic front.
For instance, the number of keywords may be less on the new site, because, well, keywords aren’t really their thing. Or SEO wasn’t built into the price. So they don’t do it. They weren’t asked. Because the person commissioning the website wasn’t a marketing expert, much less someone well versed in the intricacies of SEO.
But when the new website is launched we see one of two phenomena quite a lot.
The first is where the site is left to sit there in some forlorn expectation that it is going to bring more traffic (because it looks better? Hmm.). However, unless there has been a significant improvement in the technical SEO of the site along the way, this isn’t going to happen. There may be a slight shift in SERP results due to the content being more engaging and visitors spending more time on the site, but it’s unlikely to be a game-changer.
Google looks for regular updates of content and if that’s not happening, you are unlikely to build the value of the site and to increase your traffic.
But we also see a second thing happen after a website redesign. The website redesign agency tells the client that they need to publish fresh, relevant content on a regular basis. So the client mobilises the team to write blog articles. However, after a while it is not evident that all this work is actually paying off and enthusiasm begins to wane. They feel they have done everything right, so what’s the problem?
They are not using keyword analysis to inform their blog efforts. As a result they are writing content (for both regular pages and blog pages) that are not answering people’s search queries. They are often actually told by their marketing agency that if they just write on the areas that they know about and their customers are concerned about, then they will thrive.
There is a certain amount of truth to that, but it is setting the client up for a lot of inefficiency in their ranking efforts.
To give you a very immediate example, I just changed the keyphrase of this blog post from ‘website redesign mistake’ to ‘website redesign agency’ based on a quick analysis of keyword volumes in this area in Ireland. Because there are approx. 70 searches per month for the latter compared to none for the former.
I regularly look at what search terms are actually bringing traffic to a client or prospective client’s site. In fact, just this week I have looked at two firms in the same business – financial planning – and seen how dramatically different their results are. Both sites are blogging, but for one of them 99% of the traffic to their site is coming from branded keywords (i.e. words that are either their name or variations thereof that signal that the searcher is looking for that specific company or brand).
In other words, their blog, and indeed, their website, is not attracting anyone that wasn’t already looking for them. The second site is also blogging and 56% of the traffic to its site is being driven by unbranded keywords. In fact, they were both getting in or around 500 organic search visits per month.
Because their organic traffic numbers are similar to their competitors, a business owner may think to themselves that they are doing ok. But what they need to look at is the % of that organic traffic that would be coming to them anyway – the internet as directory enquiries – and the % that is coming to them because they are featuring high on searches for keywords and phrases that are being searched for in volume.
This analysis can tell a very different story. And central to that story is that the website that is attracting visitors through unbranded keywords is the one that is doing keyword analysis to inform their content, targeting high volume keywords that they have a chance of ranking on page 1 for and monitoring how they are performing against their competitors on those target keywords.