In the past few months, I’ve been the technical SEO consultant to 6 companies who have been in the process of redesigning their websites. The companies range in size from a one-person show to a world-reknowned Boston hospital, and everything in between. All of the companies were smart enough to know they needed expert SEO eyes as they developed their new websites—which is more than I can say for most companies who embark on a website redesign. Typically, we get the dreaded “my search engine traffic has tanked since our new site went live” call.
It’s been interesting working with many different companies, website developers and agencies throughout the process. I’ve seen quite a range of SEO knowledge amongst those I’ve dealt with – from the one developer who had accumulated lots of old (and bad) SEO information and basically held the site hostage by refusing to implement 301-redirects, to the highly professional agency who has intelligent SEOs in-house.
In all cases, I pointed out potential spider traps in early prototypes, wireframes and backend content delivery systems while providing recommendations on how to avert these. It saves so much time and money to spot these possible SEO snafus at this very early stage rather than waiting until the CMS and information architecture are set in stone.
In light of these experiences, I’ve accumulated some DOs and DON’Ts related to the process of working with a technical SEO consultant when you’re in the midst of a website redesign.
DO bring on a technical SEO consultant at the very beginning
Let me repeat…the very beginning. I would go so far as to say that you may want to have your SEO consultant in on the choosing of the design agency. Most developers and designers talk the talk that they are well-versed in SEO, but very few actually walk the walk.
DO provide your SEO consultant with complete access
This includes access to everything and anything that’s going on within the development process, even if you think he or she wouldn’t need it. You and your developers never know what little things an experienced SEO might spot – it could be the difference between a whole section of your website dominating the search results or being completely invisible.
DO allow your SEO consultant to speak directly with the developers
Your SEO knows how to speak geek just like your developer. Let them geek it up and hash out the technical details that will provide you with a completely crawlable website, rather than having your marketing team try to translate.
DO hire a technical SEO consultant even if your agency has SEO expertise
It never hurts to have another pair of SEO eyes on your project. All SEO’s work differently and one may have some ideas on things you can do based on prior experience that the other does not. While one company I was consulting with had most of the SEO tactics down pat, there were still some advanced areas I was able to help with, which should make a huge difference to search engine traffic when implemented on the new site. Think of it this way: if you’re paying 5 or 6 figures to develop your new site, what’s a few thousand for an SEO consultant in the greater scheme of things?
DON’T show your SEO the new wireframes too late
Don’t expect show them the prototypes for the first time and tell them that they need to be locked down and approved that very day. If you followed the DO’s above, this should not happen, but sometimes people get so wrapped up in the creative process that they forget they hired an SEO to review these things and that they actually might have some important recommendations. The suspicious side of me suspects that some designers purposely try to keep the SEO out because they’re afraid that their creativity will be stifled. Be wary if your development team tells you that your SEO doesn’t need to review any particular piece of the pie.
DON’T forget that your technical SEO consultant is only making recommendations
In most cases, there can be many different ways to create a crawler-friendly website that brings in tons of targeted traffic. If you simply cannot implement some of the workarounds recommended by your SEO, ask them for alternative ways of covering the same ground. They will tell you if something absolutely, positively has to be done in a specific manner—but there’s rarely anything set in stone that way when it comes to SEO (other than perhaps 301-redirects.)
DON’T be afraid to launch a new website if you’ve covered all your bases
There’s no reason to worry about lost rankings and search engine traffic if you plan ahead. If you’ve taken the right steps in hiring an SEO, implemented the SEO’s recommendations and keeping them consistently in the loop, everything should go off without a hitch as far as search engines are concerned.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.