Does your Web Developer understand SEO?
As SEO professionals we can’t help but cringe a little bit when one of our clients mentions that they want to redesign their site. If the website is generating a significant amount of traffic from the search engines and other sources, and those visitors are converting we would prefer that a client take the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it approach”. But on the other hand, we get it. The look of a site is important, and it’s important to refresh the site every few years just so that it looks and feels current. Sometimes a website redesign just has to happen.
What website owners need to understand is that even though SEO and web design/development are different things that are handled by different people (or should be anyway!) they are closely tied to each other. When seeking out a web designer/developer to execute a site overhaul, it’s important to look for a professional that at the very least understands SEO on a basic level and is willing to work hand in hand with an SEO professional throughout the process.
Once the web developer has been selected, the SEO professional should be brought into the process very early on. There are certain elements of SEO that a web developer might not be thinking about, and they might need that reminder. After all, web development is more about the usability, look, and feel of the site, it’s not so much about making sure that the search engine spiders can properly crawl and index it. That’s where the SEO professional steps in. After all, a great looking site isn’t going to do you much good if it’s not generating the traffic that it should be.
During the website development process there are two elements that are most closely tied to SEO and that is the URLs of the site and the text content on the site. During the redesign process it might make sense to eliminate some pages of the site, merge a few pages into one, and create entirely new pages. The web developer that is responsible for doing this needs to understand that it will require a few extra steps in order to preserve as much of the SEO success as possible. In regards to eliminating URLs or merging a few pages of content into one page, the URLs that are eliminated can’t just disappear. Instead, these URLs need to be redirected with a 301 redirect to the page of the site that is the most related. This is because a page may have inbound links pointing to it. Eliminating the page without a redirect will lose all of that trust that was established from the links and will also mean that a visitor coming from one of those links will land on an error page.
If the text content on the site is changing, it’s important to look at Analytics to gauge what keywords were delivering traffic to that page. Those same keywords will need to remain within the on page content and within the meta information. If the context of the page is changing and the keywords won’t make sense anymore, you will need to consider whether that makes sense from a business standpoint if existing keywords are generating traffic and sales.
A web developer doesn’t need to be an SEO pro, but they should understand that there are SEO elements that can be disrupted by web development if the right precautions aren’t taken. It may take some extra time to keep everything in place, but it’s better than the alternative- watching your traffic dip after re-launching the site.