SEO Mistakes to Avoid During a Website Redesign
I recently received an email newsletter from a design agency that was touting their recent clients. One of them being a law firm. This of course peaked my interest since I have had a ton of experience working with lawyers and law firms.
I clicked over to the design agencies website and read the case study. The site looked great, so I clicked over to view the live site. That’s where my excitement ended.
I’ve been in the SEO industry since 2004 and even then I expressed the need for design companies to work with an SEO person. Many times design agencies just focus on the look, feel and function of the site, but take little into account when it comes to how Google will look at the site.
When I went to view this site I noticed that all of the practice areas were on page. This is not ideal, you can’t effectively rank for multiple practice areas on one page. This also impacts the ability to use internal linking effectively.
I also noticed that all the content is hidden unless you expand the boxes. This is also a bad idea as Google pays less attention to content that isn’t visible to users and there is a lot of content hidden.
What does Google say about expandable text?
November 2014 – Google’s John Mueller stated that Google “may not” index or rank hidden content.
21 July 2015 – provided clarification of this by stating that this type of content is given “way less weight in ranking”
27 July 2015 – In a separate thread on the same topic, Gary Illyes again confirmed that “[Google] will index that but the content’s weight will be lower since it’s hidden”
Navigation is important
There is also a blog on the site that doesn’t have any breadcrumbs or categories to tie these blog posts together. This will cause these blog posts pages to become “orphaned” because they are not tied together by a navigation. A rule of thumb is, you should never need to hit the back button on a site. There should be a navigation that takes you back to the previous page.
As with most law firms, this one is a locally owned business yet the NAP (Name Address & Phone) is not marked up with schema. This should be common practice for developers. Same goes for H1 tags, meta description and alt attributes on images which are missing from many of these pages.
I’m not writing this article to bash the design agency. My goal is to help agencies and clients alike by educating them both on the importance of using SEO during a site build. Even back in 2004 when I would speak with new clients after a recent redesign, I hated telling them that their new site has to be reworked because it wasn’t SEO friendly.
Over a decade later and this is still an issue. Even if a design agency claims they will use SEO best practices, ask if they have a SEO expert that will over see the design. If not, hire your own to work with the agency. The SEO person should record rankings and the pages of the site. The SEO can then ensure redirects are implemented properly or if new content needs to be created based on your needs. The SEO will also work with the agency so that best practices are being used and you can measure the impact of the new site has on rankings.