How to Define Your Search Marketing Strategies for a Site Redesign
Experience tells us that high-level strategic thinking, research, and search marketing pre-planning is of particular importance to websites before ever building them or embarking on a re-design.
Results-driven Website redesigns that begin with proven search marketing strategies have happier clients in the end. There are multiple benefits to not just creating a beautiful-looking website but starting with a solid marketing plan so that it is used. Your website needs to be effective in communicating your business’s values as well as your products and driving sales.
Website redesign often fails if it is a whimsical or in-the-moment decision. A website design or redesign is actually a marketing activity and therefore requires a digital marketing strategist. It shapes your data footprint and future business goals, so it needs to be data-informed to move your business needle in the right direction, Spending money on visual appearances that may or may not produce the results you intend merits finding the right strategies and execution processes. This article will teach you the key points you need to know.
Every entity on your website becomes part of your on-going digital knowledge graph. This consists of a graph data store coupled with a knowledge toolkit. It creates a library of your domain’s data as entities and relationships that make sense through a graph model, which abides by an ontology. This is much more than which images you choose and fun widgets that move, like a slider.
Your website is still important, but search engines now use the continuous integration of data from multiple sources. Where your brand is referenced off-site and how your web pages display in Google-owned SERPs allows end-users to query this data graph effectively. They don’t have to go to your site to learn about you and your products like they used to.
Every website needs audience trust and integration across all digital-related brand references. People chose how and where they want to learn about you. Your website may become relegated to more of a business calling card without smart search marketing strategies informing every design decision. Both potential buyers and search engines draw inferences from existing information. To take charge of your information and have a website that is useful to end-users, know what builds your data graph. You want to be thankful in the years to come for everything that goes into it.
The web is a database. Consider how your business data graph can be used by Google Assistant to answer people’s questions. Understanding just how knowledge graphs work helps industries modify their websites and SEO. Visual design elements should amplify your data versus coming first in the workflow of owning a successful website.
Search Data will let you know if you Need a Website Redesign
In order to win sales in today’s competitive world of no-click SERPs, you need a current approach. By prioritizing search marketing strategies before you build or redesign a site, your business has a better set-up for long-term success. Visual appeal alone cannot drive revenue.
As a business owner or one responsible for the redesigned site launch, your time is valuable. It may not be practical for you to learn about how to implement structured data and what size your images should be for JSON-LD markup. Rather, this post gives you important areas that you should know about and delegate to a skilled search marketer who understands and executes your business plan. This typically includes critical, upfront research for you in the scope of such delegation. The accurateness and thoroughness of your initial planning will directly determine if the site redesign was worth it at the end!
Note: Dismay is often the result when resources are given to site design without early integration of Semantic SEO factors. We aren’t providing a pre-launch technical SEO checklist (testing your AMP code, htaccess file, robots.txt, consumer purchase journey, user intent analytics, social proof metrics, performance, and metadata implementation are intentionally omitted here). Instead, we have prepared a list of SEO-affecting elements that are harder to update after a website redesign is launched. If you just spent a significant sum of money redesigning your website, and then learn that you need to invest an additional sum into fixing the design so potential consumers can find it and use it easily.
Research and strategic search knowledge come before web redesign. A Digital Marketing Strategist can help you from start to completion by identifying/testing what information and strategies you need.
What is a Digital Marketing Strategist?
Digital Marketing Strategists handle achieving the client’s strategic brand and business objectives through research and analysis to provide teams with guidance. The strategy sets the frame for the creative people to work within to achieve the successful execution of strategies. They take into consideration current marketing trends, voice-activated searches, niche competition, consumer and patient reviews (if in the healthcare industry), and much more.
SEO and its scope have become so vast that many are unaware of how important and vast it is.
Google’s John Mueller was asked if updating a website’s design but leaving the content and URLs the same may possibly lead to SEO ranking changes. The answer is “yes, it likely will”. He added, “If you change design, you generally change the content: headings, titles, images, internal linking, URL structure, accessibility, speed, etc – they’re all critical parts of a site and I’d consider them as SEO content too.”
So even if an article author thinks they are making zero changes to anything outside of how the page reads to users and supports the business, there are probably making changes that Google will pick up on in terms of your SEO, ontology, data knowledge graph, internal linking, accessibility, page speed, whether or not essential e-Commerce schema markup can even be applied, content positioning and much more.
HOW TO CREATE SEARCH MARKETING STRATEGIES FOR A SUCCESSFUL SITE REDESIGN
12 Search Marketing Strategies that Lead Site Redesign Processes
1. Goal-focused site redesign: Website communicates and aligns with mission statement.
The site’s design can help — or hinder — your progress toward your business goals. The mission statement needs to be crafted and communicated clearly to establish business credibility and trust.
After defining your core marketing ‘value proposition,’ plan how you convey and market it. Are the keywords or page elements clearly describing and answering the customer’s problem? If your business niche or value proposition has few search query phrases, craft a clever brand association with your problem-solving solutions that answer your target audience needs.
Do you have the needed resources to compete? If you are jumping into an arena that is too competitive, find alternate wordings or explore long-tail variations that describe your products. Or develop a product that has more demand and fits your mission and optimize for inclusion in mobile product carousels. Establish your strategic business and search marketing decisions before a web designer or web developer is engaged to build your digital world.
Do you know how to decide on your site’s identity and purpose? Or how a redesign can reflect your niche? Or who has the skills to determine where, what, and how your site can help you realize your end business goals?
The key limitation to your site redesign’s success is how well you have planned for its impact. Have you researched how it can show up in new visual search featured snippets? Start by understanding the different paths you can take to reach your goals. Avoid limitations by a web designer who only knows one WordPress theme, or one CMS, or relies heavily on plugins to get it developed. Your site will either be remarkable because it’s discoverable and useful or invisible if it doesn’t surface in both typed and voice-activated search. Make informed choices.
Then go for a face-lift!
2. Website Design by Market Segmentation: Know your customer segments
- What is your market footprint? Is your target audience size growing or shrinking?
- Are your buyer personas accurately defined — their geo-locations, needs, intent, roles, top questions, and needs?
- Where do they interact online and offline? What are their common touchpoints in each state of their journey to purchase?
- Is your site striving to reach too broad or too narrow of an audience?
Outcomes are better if you have your most important business goals and customer segments in your marketing considerations in place. It is a better project sequence to do this before ever going all-in with a new website look.
Uninformed Website Redesign is Risky
Include your principal stakeholders and team players in your company when determining your customer segments. Most opposition to user research can be defused by stating a simple truth: Making changes to the design down the road in the process—when development resources are concerned — is very, very costly. Performing user research upfront and often lessens that risk.
It also safeguard that the functions in your redesign are truly what your customers want. If they don’t, audience trust and engagement will drop. That is a huge loss.
“Website redesigns are a huge risk. You can throw away years of incremental gains in UX and site performance — unless you have a battle-tested process. How do you know if your team — or the one you’ve hired — is focusing on the most important things? Many areas yield minor improvements, but to make a real difference, and protect past progress, you need a repeatable, evidence-based approach.” – Zach Watson of conversionxl.com*
You can avoid weak assumptions about who your target audience really is, page structures, linking structures, how to create topic clusters, targeting, and other areas when search marketing informs design. Hastily launching into a site redesign project could mean organic traffic plummets. You don’t want your business to lose its organic search-driven revenue streams. Instead, it can gain a better reach if well-planned to connect with the right consumer audience. And then focus on the customer from a site’s usability perspective.
Start by truly understanding what foundational SEO is.
3. Domain History/Trust: Know what Google knows about you – historical web traffic data.
Often we find that a business has a new owner, or someone has an inspiring new direction to take, and they think that a full flip will work. What happens is that then search engines aren’t sure who you are and if sending web traffic your way may cause user confusion or disappointment. Don’t risk losing converting web traffic from existing high keyword ranking positions.
Know your business history before taking off with a new design. Know what works for you, what has/is failing, and where you can head into something new and have a realistic chance of being successful. Audit your Google Business Listing and see how Google sees you. Should the need to later remove content from Google arise, it is far more challenging than simply updating a website. How Google views your business historically/currently influences the degree to which it sends organic traffic to your website.
4. Marketing Plans: Know how your business is positioned in the overall cloud market
Before a search engine ever sends anyone to your site, they first evaluate who is the best response to each search query. You have to know if you are the best answer or how to become the winning click. The crowded Cloud Marketplace is undaunted by our opinions; you are up against everyone else in your niche and geolocation. Earning the searcher’s click comes before they ever see what your site or web page looks like. Your search marketing strategies directly impact your revenue streams. It is not a popularity contest for the best-looking web design.
This knowledge empowers you to craft your site architecture around your customer’s real needs and helps them attain their search intent faster. When this is fundamentally established, well in advance of a site design-build, it will inform what content you need, how it is added to a page, how to target specific user intent, and which search phrases best signify them.
5. Benchmarks: Know existing Performance Metrics and Crawl Budget
A key component is your site’s performance.
Since GoogleBot is the leading referral for most businesses’ referral traffic, see what glaring fixes are needed first. Set yourself up for faster success by making what on the live site is functionally correct and useful.
For example, if you currently have a faulty backlink building penalty or a sitewide spammy markup penalty, they should be fixed before taking on a redesign.
Google also lets you know here what is missing or misaligned and if improved, they can send more traffic. Have a data analyzer scout out your Google Search Console reports for insights.
Identify the most valuable content with in the site; what pieces are outperforming others. It should be your evergreen content. Then ensure that is a focal point during the redesign and relaunch process. By reviewing your past data it is possible to align your crawl budget to these pages.
6. Keyword Research: Identify head topics and keywords that reach users
Search is no longer keyword-based like it used to be. Your site’s data graph in search is now topic-based. How you interlink your content and how you use semantic search to discover which keywords phrases work naturally together should lead your content creation.
Topic, keyword research, and competitor research are the best guides to which pages should remain, be improved, or be created. Next, the manner in which these pages are grouped and connected should be user-focused. Search engines and users map out relationships between your web content with a card sorting technique. Which keyword phrases are used in link anchor text plays a huge role.
If your company goals and marketing strategy have changed then your website should reflect that. Content hubs are harder to change than supportive blog posts. But your head topics should closely mirror top-tier company goals. Be crystal clear about the intent behind doing the site redesign in the first place. It is not so much about the design’s “appearance”. It’s more about supporting the direction that the company is going. Tie in design and keyword changes to measurable results on multiple search engines and devices.
If your website redesign helps you reach more people in your targeted audience, you can also increase your word-of-mouth referrals. This means having the type of content they engage with and share.
7. Machine Learning: Address machine readability Issues (Flash, JS, iFrame) that impede the customer experience.
Plan constructive tags that identify entity families within your website. This improves machine readability.
Don’t just chop challenging content to resolve this. Skipping on upfront market research can be disastrous. It may be better to recreate it in a machine-readable format.
“If you end up removing a page from your site that has accumulated a high number of inbound links, you could potentially lose a lot of SEO credit, which will make it increasingly difficult for you to get found in search. Keep in mind that many web designers don’t consider this step because they are neither marketers nor SEO specialists. Don’t hesitate to remind them about this step, and help them along by auditing your site and providing them with a list and strategy for maintaining or updating critical pages on your site.” – How to Develop a Website Redesign Strategy That Guarantees Results by Hubspot
8. Digital Transformation: Ensure ease of editing and flexibility.
Google frequently updates its recommendations and requirements. Your platform and who is in control of it need to be flexible/skilled enough to make quick changes at scale on your site. Web developers that align with SEO’s and make their recommended adjustments quickly will save the company time and money. Ian Lurie of Portent says it well.
The aspects of design should be evaluated initially by the search marketing team in order to avoid a future redesign. By the time a site redesign is complete, you may feel forced by the rapid pace of digital transformation to rethink and reassess your website platform.
9. Customer-Centricity: Ensure baseline metrics are stored and tracking is in place.
Developers typically carry the job of installing tracking onsite.
- Track how users search onsite. Leave offsite user metrics to your search engine marketer. By storing and evaluating onsite query data you can learn a lot. Know where it is filed and how you can get to it quickly. This can help to avoid sending regrets later when the SEO department asks for it.
- Track how site visitors navigate across your own domains and subdomains. If your business runs several domains or divides content across subdomains, developers need to provide SEO’s data on what users do across all of those properties.
- Filter users by IP in order to track your target audience. Exclude your internal staff and project partners for cleaner data. You want to know what your competitors are doing. This will influence what you need to do to win in competitive niches. It will influence how you place and connect content entities.
- Track on-page user actions. Put the code in place that your analytics and AdWords team give you. Use “hooks” to trim valuable time later on.
The right sequence in your workflow will always save your company money.
On-Page foundational SEO needs to be woven into interactive responsive design. It should not be an afterthought or “next step”. Tracking user engagement and trust before and after a site relaunch helps businesses make future data-influenced decisions based more on facts.
10. Content Marketing: Ensure ease of onsite navigation to consume content.
Where possible, try to create a flat site structure with good taxonomies that will keep pages no deeper than 4 clicks from the homepage; 3 is preferred. This aids search bots and site visitors in finding content in as few clicks as possible. If crawlers struggle to access and decipher the content, it’s unlikely these pages can rank well. Site architecture and internal linking are about usability. These decisions are the best when led by the SEO professional.
You need to understand pillar content placement, topic buckets, content relationships, the consumer’s onsite journey to purchase, and how your data gets linked.
Redirects and URL structure
Both missing and misconfigured redirects are the most common mistake we uncover. It confounds or slows and users’ ability to get around. So, even though this is not a list of technical issues to pre-check, we’ll cover it briefly here. Before hitting the button on a site migration, ensure that all pages either:
- Maintain the exact original URLs (ideal)
- Correctly implement 301 redirects from former pages to new ones
A site owner I met with recently had trusted the developer when they said they knew SEO; but rankings and traffic had derailed the former level of successful lead generation after migration. The dev team had tested the redirects and assured him that all was okay. When my technical SEO audit analyzed the headers, they were actually all 302 temporary redirects. I fixed them and traffic bounced back to usual levels. And we won a long-term contract to be the Digital Marketing Lead going forward.
In another emergency “Site Design Recovery Project”, the web designer/developer team had tested all former URLs and concluded that each had a 301 redirect in place. Later they were embarrassed as they never noticed that the pages they were redirected to were all 404s.
Because URL structure assists users, we recommend always hands-on verifying all-important redirects before migrating to a new design. For redirection validation, we use the paid version of ScreamingFrog, among other header tools, to ensure that 301 redirects actually point to a live page. Also, keep the percentage of 301s as low as possible, and point to the page that correlates closest to the referrer page. Common mistakes are pointing too many 301s to the home page or blog page.
In the developer’s eyes, a page is unique if it has a unique ID in the website’s database, while for search engines the URL is a unique identifier. A developer should be reminded that each piece of content should be accessed via only one URL. Duplicate content issues may arise when Google can access the same piece of content via multiple URLs. Without one clear version, pages will compete with one another unnecessarily. – Strategic SEO Decisions to Make Before Website Design and Build by Moz*
“Often …the site launches. Organic traffic tanks. And then panic sets in. Unfortunately, I get a call like this every week. Most often from small business owners where the loss of organic traffic means that leads or sales slow down and put the business at risk.” – Writer on Search Engine Land**
11. Measurable Business Objectives: Is responsive design and AMP reaching more users.
New devices and new mobile UX requirements continually surface along with shifting behavior patterns of mobile device users. Google will be looking for the ‘mobile version’ of your site first. It is no longer a separate or secondary channel and instead is already an underlying technology for most users accessing the web. Google is preferring AMP pages.
Therefore, any design changes should be centered on creating a seamless and consistent user experience on mobile-first and then across all devices. Incorporating data science into your site architecture should be one of your top priority search marketing strategies. In the interest of reaching the most people, dynamic serving methods can assist with creating the best device-specific user experiences. If the interest of pleasing users, AMP pages load the fastest.
Delegate tasks on how to implement structured data and whether JSON-LD is better than Microdata to the implementation expert. It takes a keen understanding of how structured data works and how unstructured data impacts your knowledge graph and work with AMP versions. Also schema updates often, as well, Google frequently rolls out new schematic opportunities.
12. Strategic Thinkers: Ensure that everyone is on-board with a research and search marketing strategies-first approach
To their credit, most web developers and web designers that we know are very busy. They know that most clients want to be dazzled with how their website looks. It is very important. And there is a ton of pressure on them to roll out new sites all the time. Most often, they are not able to stretch as far as staying current with changes in the demands of creating top User Experiences and which technicalities and best practices updated last week.
A good search marketer champions and aligns their efforts to ensure that their end success is reached. It is easiest for everyone if this partnership is functioning before the web developer and designer begin. The end goal is not only to present content visually well but it must be valuable content that serves viewers’ needs and is findable.
Search engines place great emphasis on web page URLs; they are a lead indicator of what the page is about. Therefore, try to avoid someone dropping or changing URLs before the launch of the concerned website without prior examination. Search engines need this to identify what your web pages are offering to display your pages in search results to the correct people.
Frequently web designers/developers have thin SEO experience and comprehension of its depths. This can totally tank a site. Or not move it forward. We all know that tomorrow it will be tougher to play in the digital space. Average SEO doesn’t compete. It takes better-than-most SEO to be effective and command a competitive edge.
Recently a client of mine was convinced by a fairly new web design firm that they’d save money if they were in charge of the site redesign and SEO package. Most likely their proposal for providing SEO services was considerably less. Often we find that in the reach to expand services, someone tags SEO on. AFTER they had possession of the site through an Agency WordPress Dashboard and published it, they indicated they’d have more time for search marketing strategy input. It was a disaster for the business.
Note the drastic plunge in the weeks after the site redesign went live without a solid migration strategy and mobile-first content approach. The losses could have been avoided. Though they can be regained, this hurts the business’s search history and recovery will be at a higher price tag. A site redesign should help not hurt your efforts to build online credibility.
Working within Limitations and Supporting Developers to get the Right Resouces
This Dec 29, 2021 webinar with Google’s Martin Splitt and Bartosz Goralewicz CEO of Onely really resonates with me. They discuss an approach for SEOs to work well with web developers. You must have an understanding of how decisions are best made within each context. The holy grail is when you have alignment between devs and SEOs; it often occurs when getting the stakeholders involved.
Getting over deal breakers…SEOs and devs need to leave all of the conspiracy theories or urban legends behind. Just fall back on documentation and that’s it.” – Martin Splitt and Bartosz Goralewicz
It takes Technical SEO for a Website to Function Right
It’s all about function.
- The site needs to function in a way that search engines can match its content to someone searching for it.
- Then it needs to function efficiently for the person who visits it. Users often could care less about what is in the sidebar, header, or footer. They want the answer or information that they searched for.
A skilled technical SEO professional can audit a site in development before it ever goes live. This puts your best-foot-forward with each search engine that you’ll be wanting trust and favor from. Additionally, it may save you the embarrassment of apologies when a site loads too slow or has other issues. It is an all too familiar story that site rankings drop drastically after a redesign because someone thought that SEO could be an afterthought.
In addition to redirects, crawl budget issues, wrong or missing canonical tag placement, indexation – there is a ton that can go wrong. Your e-Commerce sales depend on technical SEO solutions.
“Of course, you can always choose to do SEO after you’ve implemented your website. However, you might be missing out on a lot of great ranking opportunities during this time. You may require a website change, content revamps, and other necessary remodifications in order to properly rank for search engines. Therefore, the process could get troublesome and costly for your business.
Search marketing, or what some still know as SEO, takes time. It’s a process that requires on-target planning and an ongoing effort in order to see worthwhile results. However, these results are long-term and extremely important in developing your digital data graph, brand, audience trust, and domain authority. Therefore, starting early is better than starting later.” – Should I Consider SEO Before Or After My Website Launch? by TechWyse
Put Your Money Where it Returns Profit
Why we have found that the above search marketing strategies help confirm if a web redesign is even needed or establish how to align end goals.
You benefit by first knowing what it takes for web content to have a good chance of showing up in Google’s News Feed. Or how to gain a featured snippet answer box. Or what is required of a web page to get your products populating mobile product carousels.
It’s wild all the reasons we hear that a business thinks they need a new web design. In the long run, is it about winning new and recurring business? Your search marketing tactics should involve a sufficient amount of research and strategizing before you ever dive into a “new look”.
Many individuals redesign a site for the wrong reasons. They spend huge amounts of money and time on things that produce little benefit and never pay back that investment.
Thankfully, more clients are asking for SEO services before the website build. Formerly, most clients lacked the skills to know how consumers find a product. But they visually know what they like. So they start with a web developer and are sold on responsive design, when it may well be detrimental to the positioning of the website and future sales. A web page that is very “pretty”, can have very poor performance because of a lack of knowledge on contextual ontologies and taxonomies, images, support files, HTTPS, and code cannot be read nor rendered properly by browsers and search engines.
Avoid Troublesome Scenarios when SEO is an Afterthought
SEO strategies that lead web redesign keep you competitive.
Start by creating a list of which SEO elements need to be researched and decided on before the website brief is ever sent to designers and developers.
Without this proper workflow, the following scenario is all too common: a client asks why they have lost their organic rankings. After a diligent technical SEO audit, competitive market analysis, content audit, and a conversion funnel review, often one of the following serious recommendations ensue:
- “A site architecture redesign is needed”
- “A full site migration is the faster route to recovery”
- “You have to reassess your business model and goals because currently, you are not providing any compelling value.”
This can happen when SEO is an afterthought and is now intended to clean up the site and make it function properly for business. Too many college programs miss this overarching problem in their marketing mix. Many businesses overlook this area and less-costly workflow.
Search marketing (SEO) should not be delayed until after your SWOT analysis and pricing models; it is better if it’s in place before you design so that project supports your digital advertising strategy.
- Overall digital marketing strategic areas. For example , plan for Google Maps Marketing and Ads that will promote your business.
- Technical aspects: to be addressed with developers.
- Design’s visual appearance: to be addressed with designers.
A Website Redesign Should Add Value to Your Business
The 1 January 2019 write up by Gulsen Erkilic titled How To Create A Perfect Website Redesign Project Plan For Your Client talks about adding value to the business. Otherwise a redesign may offer a new look and some new elements but still fail to meet your business goals.
Erkilic references Standford University research that discovered that 75% of people judge the credibility of a business based on the design of its website. They don’t think about how they got there; your search marketing strategist has to think about that. People should enjoy your site and find it useful when they arrive. A perfect website redesign project plan may carry both you and your clients to a happy ending. That may sound daunting or like “pie in the sky”, but it can be achieved with brilliant site redesign research and marketing strategies.
SUMMARY: Search Marketing Strategies Save the Day
Remember that everyone prepares and tests plans differently. Usability testing and tweaking isn’t something you do 1x and then stop. Evaluate and retest after each iteration of your design for comparison results. This is where reporting and baseline metrics can establish if the new look is truly a business improvement.
Keep in mind: You are not your users. You need research to really know what they want. Consider using Google Dataset Search as part of your research. Every web redesign project is unique, so amend your strategies to fit its parameters. Hill Web Marketing can help you reduce the risk of a radical redesign and partner with you to ensure that you own a website that your audience loves. Our team of experts has the experience and resources you deserve to gain a world-class effective web presence for your company.
Once you’ve completed the research and strategy stage, you’ll be in a much better position for a successful website redesign. This workflow prepares you for better social media marketing and Google AdWords performance, as well as other types of paid marketing.
At Hill Web Marketing, we are ever learning and flex when it makes sense to. Check back as we add new search marketing strategies that successfully lead site redesign project planning with strategic thinking, research, and search marketing guidance. Fellow marketers, you are welcome to add additional areas/issues you believe should be addressed during the initial site redesign planning stages. Please use the comment section below.
Call Jeannie Hill, a digital marketing strategist, to talk and ask your questions. 651-206-2410. Schedule an Audit Coupled with Strategy & Research