Website Redesign Transition Plan

by oskarokupa on December 26, 2008

A software vendor client was ranking really well for several important keywords that were driving a lot of traffic to the site since we got involved in the project back in early 2000. The site outranked the competition for most of the selected terms. However, by analyzing closely our web analytics tool, we could notice that the visitors that arrived to the page were not hanging around as long as expected and the number of page views wasn’t as high as expected. As a result, the client and we agreed that it was time to get the best out of the organic traffic being generated by the optimisation, by giving the site a makeover to adapt it to the new times.

When things are changed in a website there is always the risk of falling out of the SERPs (search engine result pages). For search engines new is not necessarily better and they are all (and Google in particular) focused on trust. Search engines need to trust the new design as much as they trusted the previous one, and ideally enough information needs to be provided to them so that they know is still the same site.

So in order to freshen up the design while keeping enough consistency with the successful former site, we put together a redesign transition plan to break-down the steps needed to keep the rankings that took so much work to build.

Redesign transition plan

  1. Url Optimisation. Since we wanted to keep consistency with the previous site and were not going to change site architecture dramatically, the best case scenario was to keep the same SEO friendly URLs with relevant keywords embedded in them and create new ones with the same criteria.
  2. Internal Link Structure. We believed that a big part of current rankings was due to an effective internal linking structure that was reinforcing very clear site architecture. For the previous site, we used a site architecture technique called siloing, what simply means to split the focus of a site into multiple themes. The goal behind siloing is to create a site that ranks well for both its common and more-targeted keywords. The main objective here, was to make sure that the site structure remained the same and the site architecture followed the same principles, despite adding new pages.
  3. Dealing with the content / adding new content. Since we managed to keep the site structure consistent, we also decided not to make big changes to the content that was working so well, but fine tuning some of the terms used and recommending additional content for some pages, as well as optimise content for the new ones, by optimising metatags and giving recommendations to the content creators on how to write the new content in a SEO friendly manner. Additionally, the site needed to incorporate media formats that could add dynamism to the text content. New videos were included to cater for that need and best practises were provided to optimise them accordingly.
  4. Fractionation. We recommended to make the changes in small chunks and be involved in every step of the process, to ensure everything would work smoothly. This way we could manage any risk that could arise quickly and efficiently without being overwhelmed.
  5. Monitoring. After the launch of the new design, we kept a very close look into rankings, visitors and page views to be ready for any major drawback. In addition, we tested the compatibility of the new design with the major browsers and gave recommendations on how to sort small incompatibility issues out.

In conclusion, as a result of an understanding of the possible caveats during the process and how search engines work, we and the client were able to keep the same rankings for the major selected keywords, increase rankings for some very competitive ones and increase the number of page views substantially, in addition to give the site a more modern and professional look.

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