You have a real estate marketing site that shows up in search engines for your most important key-phrases. This has worked for you since you originally launched your site. But your site is starting to look a bit tired. You see your competition launching redesigned websites and yours is starting to look tired….really tired.
If You Redesign Your Website, Will it Hurt Your Search Engine Rankings?
The answer is yes. But only if you don’t do it right. The first step is to make sure you are redesiging your site for the right reasons. (See our Real Estate Website Redesign Kit for more detail.) That said, if you hire a development team that knows SEO, it will be built correctly and you can focus on content creation, lead generation and audience engagement. A thoughtful redesign of your website will create value that far outweighs any temporary ranking adjustment that will happen when you do the upgrade.
Your Keyword Phrases: What do You Have to Lose?
See what keyword phrases you’re ranking for. Use a ranking monitor to find all the phrases you rank for and the associated pages. Set benchmarks for these phrases, on a spreadsheet that shows the key phrase, the rank, the corresponding page and the date.
Your Pages, Which Ones Really Work?
There are lots of analytics tools out there to help you measure the traffic passing through your site. You want to see which pages get the most search traffic and then make sure the new site includes these pages. You don’t want to drop a page that already gets good traffic. You also want to make new pages for your old keyword phrases. Your newly redesigned site needs to have a corresponding page for each high ranking page on the old site, and ideally a page for every page in Google’s index.
Some Things That Matter: Site Structure and Internal Links
If your domain has juice, keep it. You lose all of your “domain authority” with the search engines if you change it. Changing to a new URL is only good if it will bring you more organic traffic. (See our Guide to Choosing a Real Estate URL to get more insight.) For sites that have some real history and good ranking, the rule of thumb is; don’t change your URL and don’t change the URLs for the most important pages. Unfortunately, it’s often easier said than done, since the goal of the redesign may be to upgrade your site platform and improve the URL structure. If the URLs must change, it imperative that they change to something key phrase rich.
Add internal links. It’s important to link between pages as much as possible. Think of using the content in the body of the page, the sidebar, the footer and the sitemap. Create key phrase centric links, specifically make sure that the anchor contains the key word phrase you’re targeting so that the search engine applies that context to the page. Not only will those contextual links keep visitors on your site longer and make your site more usable, but all of this provides a guide for the search engines to better rank pages.
Don’t Forget to Redirect Your Back Links
Back links are one of the most important tools for improving your SEO. Knowing where your back links are coming from will help you create redirects to the newly create pages on your new site. You won’t be able to update links on other websites, but you can make sure they aren’t broken. Use a back link checker to list out the pages on your site others are linking to.
Research your indexed pages. Use something like Google Webmaster Tools to see all the pages that are indexed by Google, not just the ones that rank high – don’t forget those.
Now that you have a list you can create redirects to send visitors and the search engines to the corresponding new pages. Use a “permanent 301” redirect for each to new or similar page on the redesigned site. This process will help
Prepare For The Indexing
Create a new sitemap.xml file. Sitemap files help the search engines find pages on your new site. If you are using a CMS like WordPress, there are great plugins that will create a sitemap for you. Also remember to update your robots.txt file. If you’ve added any additional functionality your new robots.txt file will be a bit different, especially if you have switched to a new CMS, added a login area etc. The robots.txt file lets search engines know what not to index.
It’s Launch Time
Once you launch, check for crawl errors. Use your web tools to check for 404 errors (page not found!). Also, make sure the XML sitemap is functioning properly.
Most companies avoid redesigning their website because of fear or for lack of a better term, ignorance. Many are just not aware of how much business opportunity is lost by having a poorly designed website. If 86% of consumers start their purchasing research online and your site is not providing a useful engaging experience for your target audience. You are not answering your customers questions when and where they want the answers. Trust me when I say that the customer will find the answers somewhere.
Redesigning your website does not have to be painful. It only needs to be thoughtful. Search engines and people like fresh content and thoughtfully redesigned websites. So, have no fear of redesigning your website, just keep your focus on SEO and functionality during the process. When in doubt, talk to an expert.
A. Make sure you use your key phrases. If done correctly, your new pages will be just as relevant as the old pages. Match or exceed, the “key phrase frequency” and “key phrase prominence”. Your key phrases should appear at least the same number of times in the same spots (headers, titles, body text, meta descriptions…)
B. I also like to create a custom 404 page. Just in case you missed something, make sure you have a nice “Sorry, the page you’re looking for isn’t here” page. This page should link to other useful pages.
C. Use your keywords properly: don’t forget to optimize your title tag, meta tag descriptions, headings and the main content. There’s never a need to over due it, keep it natural and valuable to your site visitors.
Seth is a brand and marketing strategist with 20 years of digital marketing experience. He’s a founding team member and VP @Placester, author of the bestselling small business marketing book, The Road to Recognition and host of The Craft of Marketing and Marketing Genius podcasts. As a speaker, writer, and marketing workshop leader, Seth brings levity, mentorship, and a dose of reality to the businesses and entrepreneurs he coaches.