The SEO Implications Of Major Web Design & Development Decisions

02/19/2017 04:31 pm ET Updated Feb 20, 2017

Every business leader will be faced with a major website overhaul at some point in life. It could come courtesy of significant updates to the content and user experience, in accordance with a company-wide rebranding effort, or because they have started a new company and need to build a site from scratch. In any case, these changes, however sweeping or minute they may be, can have a drastic impact on your SEO performance.

By understanding how your website content affects your search engine rankings, you can be prepared to preserve or improve your organic search results in certain areas, regardless of the types of changes that are being implemented on your site.

Minimizing the negative impacts of a website overhaul

The first step on the road to preserving or increasing SEO performance in the face of a major website overhaul is to make an organizational commitment to specifically evaluating the process in terms of SEO. If you’re working with a third-party design agency, schedule a meeting with the designers to cover specific SEO issues that are important to you and need to be addressed throughout the redesign.

Your next task is to perform a thorough audit of your current website and note SEO performance of various pages accordingly. This way you’ll know immediately if certain areas of your website are underperforming once the new site goes live, and you can quickly enact measures to get your results back on track through targeted efforts. It will also give you a concrete list of areas that already need to be worked on so that you can incorporate them into your SEO goals for the redesign.

Consistent use of alt tags helps your rankings

Employing alt tags or alt text throughout your website may seem like a minor concern in terms of your overall digital strategy, but this practice can actually have important implications on your SEO performance. Alt tags are one of the most overlooked aspects of web design, and they can easily be left behind whether you are building a website from scratch or embarking on a significant rebranding effort.

You need to make sure that your alt tags are employed consistently throughout your website, accompanying every image no matter how prominent or subtle. Best practices for alt tags dictate that you keep the text as specific and brief as possible. Describe the content of the image in clear and precise language, but resist the urge to use this space as a place to force keywords. As in all circumstances, keyword stuffing will do far more damage to your SEO rankings than it will improve it.

Optimizing your website navigation for users and SEO

Most people are aware that the structure of your website navigation plays a big role in shaping a customer’s experience with your brand. It’s estimated that improvements related to issues such as navigation and information flow can deliver up to an 83% ROI for your company. What many business leaders don’t realize is that website navigation practices also affect SEO performance, and even small changes can make a major impact on your numbers.

Imbuing your site with a sound structure means first understanding specifically why users visit your site, what search terms they use to get there, and how they interact with your site once they’re in. It also means that important pages that are dense with value-added information for users are easy to locate and logically placed in the customer’s journey. You also have to ensure that your URLs follow your site structure as well. For instance, a visitor should be able to look at the URL: www.daveselectronics.com/tvs/4kultra, to know that on the Dave’s Electronics website they can click on the TVs menu and then the 4K Ultra submenu to get to the same page.

The benefits of proper internal linking architecture

Proper internal linking is crucial to spreading high-ranking pages throughout your website, rather than concentrating them in a single area. Every page on your site needs to link internally somewhere, but just as with keywords this practice can be done well or done poorly. Including internal links that don’t make sense alongside irrelevant content is akin to keyword stuffing; it confuses users and reduces the effectiveness of your SEO initiative overall.

Beyond SEO concerns, good internal linking practices allow you to guide users through your site in a way that prepares them to purchase. You can give them exactly the information you want them to have at the right times, controlling the experience in a coordinated effort to provide them with the most value.

Combatting high bounce rates

High bounce rates can negatively impact your organic search rankings.

If users are quickly leaving your site after clicking through, it could be a sign that your website either fails to engage users, lacks the information they seek, or is just generally uninviting and unusable. Consistently housing high-quality content on your site is one of the clearest paths to SEO dominance, and your bounce rate can provide you with a clear picture of your results on that front.

Remember that website changes are perfect fodder for testing

Building a website from the ground up, working on a top-to-bottom redesign of your digital experience, or visually rebranding can all seem like daunting tasks. After all there are so many elements to consider, and any number of them could be the key to a future filled with robust growth or disappointment. However, innovative leaders look at these experiences and see countless opportunities for testing strategic changes and receiving real-time results.

Almost every component of your website—from alt tags to images themselves to navigational menus to internal links—can be tested and tracked according to your desired metrics. The good news is that you don’t have to flail in the wind wondering if certain changes are going to have the impact you had hoped. As long as you are dedicated to tracking everything, you can know exactly how the various changes are impacting both your SEO performance and your relationship with your users.

This post originally appeared on the Big Drop Inc. blog and is republished with permission.

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Danny Wong is the co-founder of Blank Label, an award-winning luxury menswear company. He also does marketing at Conversio (your all-in-one ecommerce marketing dashboard), Tenfold (your modern phone intelligence platform) and Big Drop Inc. (your preferred web design and development partner) . To connect, tweet him @dannywong1190 or message him on LinkedIn. For more of his clips, visit his portfolio.

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