Reinventing the Brand doesn’t Mean you Need to Restart your SEO
We get hit up at Zupo all the time to help agencies manage transitions for their clients and of course clients themselves. These can take shape in a number of different ways, but what is most common is a Site Redesign.
This can take the form of a site refresh or a complete site overhaul.
Regardless of what it is, we get asked to come in all the time to help ensure that traffic and SEO will be fine throughout the process.
Today I’ll walk through some of the SEO mistakes I see agencies making and best practices to follow to make sure you don’t get that call from an angry, frantic client.
You Are Starting Too Late
Like I mentioned, Zupo does a ton of work with fellow agencies. Whether it be for their clients or their agencies themselves.
So we’ve worked on many site transitions and we’ve been in discussions with many more.
And the common theme we find is that we get brought in way too late.
It’s understandable, with so much that has to be done to get a website ready and on time, SEO is not something in a typical creative agency’s priorities.
Yes it was sold in the proposal, but let’s be honest. It was sold as an add on, kinda like those insurance policies for rental cars.
So we typically get brought in 3 days before a launch or worse yet, a couple weeks after the site has already been launched.
I can say with personal experience, with 3 days to go, there’s not much we can do to safely ensure that everything will go right.
Tapping the SEO team after a launch is worse. If the site has been already been moved over for a week or 2, it may very well be too late to do anything if rankings and traffic have started tanking.
So When’s a Good Time to Consider SEO
I’m not going to give you that annoying answer many professionals give “as early as possible”.
I personally hate when I read those type of answers because it insinuates that their profession is the most important.
Now when it comes to preparing for the transition, it depends on the size of the site, but typically we aim for at least 30 days before the planned site launch.
This gives the SEO team time to understand the old site, learn what changes are happening on the new site and then start mapping out what SEO work has to be done to ensure rankings are fine.
I don’t want to get too far into the weeds and make your eyes glaze over, but I do want to spend just a little bit of time explaining what our SEO team will be doing.
Mapping All Top Ranked Keywords and Pages
The most important work that we do when the SEO team is working through a site migration is making sure that all the rankings that the site used to have get transferred over.
This means that everything comes down to pages and keywords.
What pages are rankings and what keywords are they ranking for.
This is where we encounter the largest issues with the web and UX team. The most common theme we see in many site redesigns is that the team wants to consolidate pages.
There are too many pages that users don’t know what the natural flow of the website is and they therefore can get lost.
All of this is true, however, pages aren’t just a part of the user experience and flow of the website. They are also the medium that your website shows up on Google and attracts visitors.
You see where I am going with this?
What often happens is that pages that can be vital to Organic Search and SEO are cut in the name of consolidation.
So what does SEO do to make sure this doesn’t happen.
This is where the good ol’ interdepartmental discussions have to happen. Where we sit down with the client, design, developers and the SEO team to discuss how we can balance the new user flow while still keeping old pages and rankings.
You’d be surprised, more often than not there is a very happy medium that can be met.
Maybe pages that aren’t as important for the user journey are not placed in the main navigation but can be navigated by a link on a page.
Though this isn’t a perfect SEO situation, it is way better than not having the page at all.
So that explains why SEO needs to be brought in at least 30 days prior, because invariably there will be discussions on pages needing to be re-added which the design and dev team will need to get working.
Balancing SEO Doesn’t Mean Changing Your Sales or Service Methodology
I think a natural thought that comes into a lot of our agency counterparts’ heads when we start discussing SEO and site redesigns is that it will go against how they communicate their value to the clients.
Usually site redesigns or overhauls are pitched as this beautiful and exciting new beginning where the baggage and obsolete functions and content will be jettisoned for a new home.
Having SEO come in and ensure that certain pages will stay will not ruin this.
Typically the main selling point for any creative agency is that buyer and user journey. That’s what a majority of both the client and the agency focus on.
However, it’s just a simple pivot in getting SEO to be factored in without dampening the excitement of the new user journey.
For all the pages that are needed for SEO purposes, they can be organized into the site structure where they themselves will not be within the middle of the bottom of the funnel of the journey.
Rather they are entry points, or in other words, top of funnel pages that help lead people into the user journey that is being built.
These pages can then be organized in a way that doesn’t detract from the proposed site design, but keep SEO integrity.
Let’s look at a couple of examples.
- Series of blog posts that rank very well. Instead of cutting them, keep them in the new blog. Or if the client is insistent that they want the blog to start fresh, organize them onto the site where they can be a subsection of the blog that isn’t displayed first on the main blog
- Service pages that rank on the 1st page but will be consolidated. What we recommend here is that typically there still will be a page that lists all the capabilities of the agency or business. Here is where it’s perfect to add an internal link to that page, without having to add it to the navigation.
Don’t Let Your Site Redesign Destroy Traffic
At the end of the day, any site redesign is going to have inherent risk. Any SEO will tell you that.
However, there are many things that we can do to mitigate the risk for our clients and ourselves.
What I spoke about above is the way of thinking that will help you ensure that the team properly plans around SEO and ensuring that clients are as safe as can be.
We do a lot of site migrations, so if you are in a position where you want to talk about safeguarding traffic, give us a holler.