If I'm redesigning a website, when should I start thinking about search engines?
If you’ve already started redesigning your site, STOP! You should already be thinking about search engines. If you planning on redesigning your site in the new future, then start thinking about search engines now, before you hire a designer.
The first step in designing a website is to go and see how people are searching related to your products or services. When you know what people are seeking, you will be able to create content and a site map that gives them what they want. That means happier visitors, and smoother customer relations. By creating content based upon keyword research, you can position your site to win for a wide range of specific keyword phrases.
By creating a site map based upon the known searching behavior of your potential customers, you are increasing the usability of your site. You are “speaking their language, ” so to speak.
When redesigning a website, it is critical that you preserve whatever search engine listings you have already achieved. Starting over with a new design and content doesn’t have to mean losing the indexing you already have. There are two important considerations, files indexed by the search engines, and files which have links pointing to them from other sites.
First, you need to take special care to preserve the filenames of pages on your site that are already indexed by Google, AltaVista, Alltheweb, Teoma, and Inktomi. The most important files to preserve are the files which Google has already indexed
Go to Google and search for “domainnamesite:www.domainname.com” to see almost all the pages on your site which have been indexed. For us, that would be “seologic site:www.seologic.com”. Replace domainname and www.domainname.com with your site’s information.
When you redesign your site, it is important that you preserve the file structure to the extent that you can to preserve listings. I.e., if a page has been indexed, keep that page – either put some new content on it, or just update the content and design. It will dramatically speed up the process of getting your new content indexed, and it will eliminate the problem of people finding dead pages on the search engines when they search for your site. If you are changing file types (for example, changing from HTML to PHP), or are set on changing the file structure, then read, “Will changing our URL affect our search engine rankings? How can we change urls without losing the traffic we’re already getting?“.
Second, if other websites have linked to specific pages on your site, do everything within reason to preserve those addresses on your site. You can use the search engines to find Web pages which have linked to your site, then visit those pages to see specifically which pages on your site are involved.
On Google, you can find websites that have linked to your site by searching for “link:www.domainname.com.” Replace www.domainname.com with your domain name.