Redesigns are difficult, time intensive, frequently expensive, and often frustrating. Religious wars can be waged over anything and everything (the messaging, style, imaging, layout, and infrastructure, etc).
These wars can create the kind of hostility and hard feelings that can last for years within an organization.
Redesigns can become contentious because the dedicated actors within organizations frequently have very different beliefs about the makeup and future of a company. The worst thing that can happen is that subject opinion blossoms into a vision that won't be compromised under any circumstance.
There are a couple important reasons you should never wait until after the redesign to get your search engine optimization (SEO) firm involved:
- A sound SEO strategy can help swing internal debates such as choosing the right platform, programming language, and layout.
- Getting an SEO involved early in the process will remove the possibility of additional development work after the launch.
If you don't have an SEO firm, select one that can effectively communicate and coexist with your development firm. Try asking bidding development firms to recommend a search company with whom they've already had successful engagements.
While some might consider this a conflict of interest, copacetic agency coexistence can reduce petty sniping and encourage cooperative collaboration. This will reduce the cost of the project, mitigate risk, and assist in meeting the launch date.
Understanding the Difference Between Optimization and Compliance
As a general practice, web development firms frequently boast their ability produce search engine friendly sites. While this assertion is generally accurate, it should never be confused with SEO.
While a web development firm will be invaluable in creating an SEO compliant site, they should not be conducting site optimization. Few development firms are properly equipped to conduct market/keyword research, conduct analytics reviews to find soft spots, or generate a content plan designed to generate traffic.
However, a development firm should be able to perform basic tasks such as ensuring search engine compliance through the creation of web friendly code. Any development agency worth its salt should be able to provide clean, div-based code that is clean and lightweight.
Additionally, an SEO firm should be able to quickly supply a standards manual to ensure full compliance.
Utilizing an SEO During a Redesign
Budget will indicate the level of SEO involvement, but you should use an SEO in the following disciplines of a redesign:
- CMS Review: Unless you plan on using WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla (all of which are friendly), it's generally a good idea to have your SEO review the CMS you plan on using. I once reviewed a site for a Fortune 500 company that was submitting hundreds of blog posts a day, all of which were completely blocked by search engines.
Niche CMS platforms often have fewer input fields for content publishers, which can also hurt on-page optimization. A brief review might only take an hour or two of an SEO's time, but might save your company thousands of hours in the long run.
- Information Architecture/Wireframe/Template Review: An SEO should work with the key stakeholders to help create an IA that will be great for the user experience and drive relevant search traffic. This will mean ensuring that important sections of the site are prominently featured in the hierarchy.
Additionally, the SEO should give a quick review of all finished templates to ensure the development team adhered to the guidelines submitted in the SEO standards manual.
- URL Transition/Redirect Strategy: If the redesign is going to be accompanied by a new CMS, it's imperative that a proper redirect strategy be implemented in order to prevent a significant lose of referral traffic and link juice. Making sure this transition is executed properly is one of the most fundamentally important (and often overlooked) pieces of a successful redesign.
- Content Optimization: The SEO should review every traffic-driving page on the website to make sure the pages properly integrate keyword research and are optimally positioned to meet their ranking objective. Additionally, the SEO can use this opportunity to build cross-linking authority silos within the content to assign keyword relevance, pass rank, and ensure page spiderability.
- Final Review: Before the site goes live, the SEO should simulate spider crawls and check for errors such as broken links. This can be performed by a savvy in-house using IIS SEO Toolkit.
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