SEO: Working Around a Redesign
When a redesign or platform change looms in your site’s future, it’s easy to turn off all search-engine-optimization work and focus on planning the new site. After all, why bother making changes that will just be overwritten when you launch the new site? Focusing on a few key areas will enable you to continue improving SEO without fear of wasted work when the new site goes live.
Focus on Stable Areas
If the redesign doesn’t encompass the entire site, the sections that aren’t involved are safe to optimize. Oftentimes companies will revamp their primary ecommerce sites but leave the blog, promotional content, or other sections that are hosted on separate platforms out of the redesign project. Typically the portion of the site not being redesigned will also be a lower priority, so there may be resistance to optimizing it. However, if the redesign has you spinning your wheels in higher priority areas you can also think of this as the perfect time to gain some traction in the lower priority area.
Target Title Tags
Title tags are an evergreen optimization target because they’re the most influential SEO element on the page. They’re also typically easy to modify and require no development support. In addition, title tags can be optimized for pages that will be redesigned for a couple of reasons.
The title tag is not part of the creative design of the page. Because it lives in the head of the HTML code of the page, it does not affect changes to the design of the page. True, the content on the page will likely change and the title tag needs to relevantly reflect the content of the page. But the most optimal title tags are also typically descriptive rather than creative in nature. So as long as the topic of the page stays consistent around the same keyword theme, the title tag should naturally remain relevant to the content of the page.
In fact, title tag optimization can be considered a form of prelaunch testing. Consider testing the new and improved title tags planned for the redesigned site on the old site’s pages, assuming the page topics remain the same. By analyzing the impact the title tags have on the performance of the old site you can make some assumptions about their possible performance on the redesigned site.
Build Links and Shares
If the redesign is more of a reskin — where colors and images in the page templates change but the architecture, navigation and URLs remain the same — then it’s safe to focus on improving link authority. Even if the URLs for the rest of the site will be changing, at the very least the home page URL should remain consistent. This is a great time to focus on link-earning strategies like content marketing, social media promotion, relevant guest blogging, and infographic creation.
Each of these strategies takes a certain amount of creativity, research and the skills and knowledge to execute. For example, creating an infographic with the right balance of unique and interesting data, compelling and aesthetically pleasing design, and promotional gusto is a major project in and of itself. However, the resources needed to pull off a successful infographic that can earn links for your site may be different than the resources that are focused on the redesign. Or it may be the perfect time to work with an agency to develop it for you while others are focused on the redesign.
It may be that every ounce of design and development resources in your company is being used in the redesign effort, and there’s no money to work with outside agencies or consultants to accomplish SEO goals. There’s still one excellent avenue open for making SEO progress: building relationships with the goal of increasing links and shares.
Scattered all over the Internet, sites and social divas share your company’s interests. Some of them may already be writing about your brand or products. Others would if they knew your brand or products existed and what made them better than the rest. Still others share lifestyle-related interests that go beyond the products you want to sell but are still relevant to your brand.
Doing the research to find these scattered voices across Twitter, Facebook, Google+, the blogosphere, columnists, and new media sites takes time. Analyzing these voices to identify the most influential and most relevant takes still longer. After that you still need to devise a tailored plan to befriend the most promising based on his unique voice and interest, actually contact him, record and manage the communication, and hopefully progress to the point where you achieve a share or a mention or a link.
Remember, a redesign doesn’t have to halt your SEO efforts. Look at the areas of the site that aren’t impacted by the redesign. If there aren’t any areas unaffected, focus on title tags and link or relationship building until the way opens for SEO work again.