Through the years, I’ve been involved with many website redesigns. Each one has offered something unique in the way of technical challenges. No two are the same, but I’ve found that a lot of sites end up running into the same problems and making the same mistakes. So I decided to come up with a list of some helpful tips for when you’re ready to start planning your re-design.
1. Keyword-rich URLs – Include keywords within the URL structure. Not only can this help with rankings, but also allows
potential visitors to see the exact page they’re about to land on from the search result listing.
2. Make your sites shallow and keep your URLs short – I know you’re asking, “What do you mean shallow?” The concept is basically this, when you construct a site, ask yourself, “how many clicks does it take for me to get to this page, from the homepage?” More than likely, your home page is viewed by the search engines as the most important page. Spiders crawl the site, and generally will regard sites closer to the home page as more important than sites more distant from the homepage. Generally two or three clicks away from the home page is about as deep as you want your site to go. If pages are too deep, you run the risk of search engines not even indexing them. A shallow site has the added benefit of making your site easy to use. Deep sites leak users. Shallow sites encourage browsing. Hand-in-hand with keeping your site shallow, are short URLs. Keep your URLs as shallow as possible as well. Don’t bury them deep in directories if you can help it.
Almost always, it is better to have a URL that looks like: http://www.domain.com/keyword-rich than it is for a URL to look like: http://www.domain.com/keyword/keyword/keyword/keyword/. Keeping URLs short offers easier to copy & paste, read over the phone, write on a business card, etc, all of which offer usability and increased branding. From a search perspective, shorter URLs displaying in search results also creates an accurate expectation from users of what they’re about to see on the page. A URL should contain no unnecessary folders or words and characters for that matter. The advantages of shallow site structure are faster indexing and better link equity retention.
3. Internal linking – Proper linking between pages of your own website can be extremely helpful with regard to achieving strong rankings. If done right, internal linking with strong keywords will have the same effect of off-site links with strong keywords. Say, for example, you had a website for your business where you manage other company’s affiliate programs. You might want to make sure that whenever you write in an article something about this service, which is called outsourced affiliate program management, you link to it (see how I did that…?). When search spiders crawl your site, they credit you with a link like they would if they were crawling another site that had a link on it to you. While these links are probably not as valuable as a great link from a credible site. Stay away from using image based links if possible. Although search engines can follow these types of links, the link itself is less valuable. If you can help it, always use text-based links to help pass link popularity from one page to the next. If you must use image links, make sure to include strong alt texts. In image links, this replaces anchor text.
4. 301 redirects – Now that you have made some nice looking keyword rich URLs, what are you going to do with the old ugly URLs? If your URLs are completely different, you will need to redirect all old URLs to the new proper pages. Using a 301 will help pass any link equity from the old URL to the new URL. This will help with a couple of things; re-indexing the new pages by way of search crawlers coming from external websites. Also letting the engines know that “this is the new page, remove the old” from their search index.
5. Sitemap – This one is simple! Include a standard HTML sitemap. You can either construct this sitemap by hand, or you can use a tool and edit whatever the tool puts out. Either way, this goes to the point of having a shallow architecture. Putting a sitemap on your site, and providing the Search Engines a link in the footer of every page, will make every single page on your site no more than 2 or 3 clicks from the homepage. These are just the general basics. Your mileage may vary with limitations to your server or software. But rather, basic rules to follow when re-designing.