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Website redesigns: How to retain and improve your SEO

Website redesigns: How to retain and improve your SEO
Columnist Marcus Miller explains how to make the most of your website redesign so that you not only preserve your SEO efforts but embrace the new opportunities that come with relaunching a site
Marcus Miller on January 19, 2018 at 11:24 am
A new website should be an opportunity to improve SEO, conversion rates and digital marketing as a whole. Unfortunately, it can also be an invitation for disaster — if the right steps aren’t taken to ensure a smooth transition from old website to new, you can damage the SEO equity your site has worked hard to build over the years.

In this article, I take a look at everything you need to consider during a website redesign to ensure you retain and improve your existing search engine rankings and traffic. (As a primer to this column, a good understanding of SEO as it relates to web design is essential.)

A cautionary tale
For many businesses, organic search can be the biggest driver of website traffic. And, in these cases, damage to SEO during a redesign can be catastrophic. During the 19 or so years I have been playing around at this, I have seen some real horror stories, but one in particular has always stuck with me.

The website was for a small multiple sclerosis (MS) charity in which I had some involvement. The charity promoted a diet-based approach to dealing with MS and, as such, was not terribly well-funded. The site had gradually built organic traffic to build awareness over several years but was desperately in need of a visual overhaul.

After a long and protracted website redesign process that involved two companies over 12 months, the new site finally launched. Everyone was super-excited about taking things to the next level. And then this happened:

Organic traffic dropped by over 90 percent… and pretty much stayed there. Excitement turned into panic. After a month of waiting for things to improve and receiving no support from either of the web design agencies involved, we got the call and took it on as a pro bono project.

To try and resolve these issues a month down the line is far from ideal. It’s difficult, and while there are ways and means, we really never want to get into this situation in the first place. This is especially true for a cash-strapped charity or a small business that relies on SEO and organic search for leads.

Fortunately, we were able to mostly resolve these issues over time, but it was painful for all involved. A historic domain was not re-registered, and that could not be recovered. The whole situation could have been easily avoided with some simple planning and consideration for existing organic traffic.

SEO & website redesigns
Maintaining (and ideally improving) your rankings and organic traffic during a redesign has three key components:

An understanding of what works currently with your SEO.
Knowledge of common issues that crop up with a redesign.
A detailed plan of what will change on the new site.
You would ideally seek to understand your SEO weaknesses as well, as this will help you identify areas to make improvements on the new site. Aim not to just maintain but to improve your SEO with your new site.

1. What works currently

If you are running SEO campaigns, you should (hopefully) have a good idea of what is working currently: keywords and topics that rank, pages that bring in organic traffic and so on. Doing this analysis so you know that what works is intelligence that should be fed into the thought process for the new site.

2. Common issues

There are many reasons for a site redesign, and this can be as much to do with branding and technology as it can be with traffic and lead generation. Things that typically can change or be problematic during a redesign include:

Content can be removed. (It won’t rank if it is not there!)
Content can be changed.
Content may move within the site’s hierarchy.
URLs may change.
Page-level optimization may change.
New content can be added.
New sections can be added to the site.
New technology or features may be used.
New technical issues can be introduced.
Internal link structure could change.
Domain name may chance.
Subdomain may change.
Protocol may change.
Any of the above can cause issues with your rankings and organic traffic. And if there are multiple issues, such as content changing and being moved to a new URL, then it gets harder to diagnose the root cause of issues.

If the domain name changes at the same time as the redesign, then this can be more problematic. I would usually caution against doing both of these steps simultaneously. The more variables we introduce here, the more difficult it can be to diagnose issues if they do crop up. A completely new site with content changes on a brand-new domain that introduces HTTPS, all implemented at once? Not such a good idea.

3. What will change with the redesign?

Armed with a knowledge of what works and what can go wrong, you can sit down and review the goals for the new site. Two key goals should be:

to preserve the existing rankings and traffic.
to improve the rankings and traffic.
Ideally, you will have a complete sitemap for the new site that you can use to compare against the existing site and create mappings for URL moves.

Best practices for a trouble-free redesign
Fortunately, with a little preplanning, avoiding SEO disasters and maintaining visibility during a website redesign is fairly straightforward. The following website redesign checklist will help ensure you preserve your precious rankings as you launch your new site.

▢ Keep the old site live. If you can, keep the old site live on a temporary web address. Make sure the site can’t be accessed by a crawler. Some HTTP authentication is best, but having the old site to refer to when you hit a snag can be a godsend. Often, some or part of the site will be on the web archive, but having the real thing is way better.
▢ Save crawl data. Save a crawl of the old site, even if you have the site on a temp URL. Screaming Frog is great for this, and again, you can load up the old site crawl if you need to do any analysis.
▢ Don’t fix what is not broken. Where you can, keep things the same — URLs in particular. If you can keep the URL structure and page names the same, then there is way less that can go wrong. If you have to make changes, so be it — but make sure they are warranted for the greater good and not just done for the heck of it.
▢ 301 redirects. Redirecting old URLs to new ones should be the first job on your list. If possible, when redesigning a site, keep content on the same URLs. For instance, a WordPress redesign may be able to keep the same permalink structure. This is desirable. If not, then you will want a spreadsheet of all URLs on the old and new sites so you can implement and test your 301 redirects. When the new site is live, you will want to crawl the old list of URLs (another time that saved crawl comes in handy) to ensure everything 301 redirects correctly.
▢ Content. Where you have content that currently performs well, you’ll want to minimize changes (or keep it exactly the same). There will be plenty of opportunities to tweak your content in its new home after it is indexed and ranking, but for now, aim to minimize the variables of change.
▢ On-page optimization. Crawling your old site will allow you to easily export all the key on-page elements: page titles, meta descriptions, headers and so forth. Keep this largely the same (unless there are some absolutely obvious improvements that can be made).
▢ Update your backlinks. Review sites that send traffic in analytics along with your best backlinks in the typical link index tools. Once you have a list, reach out to the webmasters to update these where possible. You should have a 301 in place, so don’t lose any sleep over this, but updated backlinks can help get the new site indexed and ranking quickly.
▢ Internal links. Be mindful of any changes to internal link structure. Again, your crawl data can be useful here. If you have pages that had thousands of internal links previously but are now barely linked, then this can have an impact on the rankings for that page.
▢ XML sitemap. Update your XML sitemap and submit it to Google and Bing. We want our 301s, page structure, navigation and XML sitemap to all align and indicate the new site structure to help search engines understand the changes as quickly as possible.
▢ Monitor rankings. You can expect some fluctuations, but you would want to be back at a baseline within a month or so of launch (and ideally sooner). If you have issues, investigate them now so you can identify and resolve them. Sometimes, with larger sites, it can take a while longer for deeper pages to be recrawled, so be mindful of this.
▢ Monitor organic traffic. You can never rank-track every possible keyword that drives traffic, so also monitor traffic to key pages to ensure you see improvements.
▢ Technical site audit. Ideally, use a technical site audit tool to give you proactive information on any technical issues. There are many tools out there (e.g., Moz, Ahrefs), but one that can really help is DeepCrawl, which will also monitor log files, so it can help you spot issues before they become problems. All of these tools can help you quickly identify and resolve any new technical SEO issues that crop up.
▢ Use Google Search Console. Google Search Console keeps getting better and will give you diagnostic information directly from Google. Tracking your 301s and 404s here will help ensure these key steps are all working in your favor. The Search Traffic > Search Analytics tab is a treasure trove of information covering clicks, impressions, CTR and average position. If you have issues, then these diagnostics can provide insight.
The key components to maintaining your rankings and SEO during a site redesign are:

knowing what works on the existing site.
understanding any areas that could be improved.
carefully planning the new site.
301 redirecting all old URLs to new.
carefully monitoring the results.
A redesign should be an opportunity to improve your SEO and conversion rates. However, for sites with strong organic search traffic, this should be undertaken with care to preserve your SEO. Following the instructions in this article should ensure you only see positive improvements.

10 Amazing, Must-Have Tools for Enterprise-Level SEO

The great thing about search engine optimization (SEO) for an enterprise-level business is that you start, if not on third base, at least on first or second base. Most enterprise domains contain many pages that, with a little on-page optimization and link building, can easily make up ground in the rankings against competitors. Enterprises also have bigger budgets for SEO, so they can afford high-quality tools to accomplish their SEO goals.

Most enterprises find their own magical blend of outsourcing and in-house work when it comes to SEO. According to data from MarketingCharts, 81 percent of companies either exclusively outsource SEO or get strategy tips from SEO specialists while executing the work in their own marketing departments. If you’re going to do at least some in-house work, you need powerful enterprise-level SEO tools. Here are our top 10 picks to help you get the job done.

4 Complete Enterprise SEO Tools

A big company needs a complete tool that can perform research, execute tasks, and maintain SEO strategy. These four applications provide centralized, all-in-one SEO management for today’s enterprise-level marketing departments.

Best SEO Tools: seoClarity

1. seoClarity

seoClarity allows you to create customizable SEO dashboards that your entire marketing team can use. You can perform site audits and deep crawls to detect duplicate content and site errors.

For enterprises that segment business based on location, seoClarity offers a Local Clarity function enabling you to take advantage of local keywords. Use the Keyword Clarity tool to discover which of your domain pages can make the biggest SEO gains right now. Link Clarity will show you which pages need inbound links the most, and it will alert you to broken links and changes in page rank for connected domains.

Best_SEO_Tools - Linkdex

2. Linkdex

Linkdex, as you’d guess from the name, offers outstanding link-building tools. In addition to seeing which domains link to your competitors and your pages, you can jot down notes for each link you’re cultivating to show your team where you are in the process. If you’ve emailed a publisher, gotten a rejection from a webmaster, or tried to disavow a link, it’s all there.

In fact, one of the coolest Linkdex features, from a management perspective, is its task management capability. You can assign, check off, and communicate about separate SEO tasks all within one convenient dashboard. You can also use Linkdex’s powerful tracking and forecasting tools to see which optimization changes will make the biggest difference. Then, you can fine-tune your analysis down to the zip code.

Best SEO Tools: Brightedge

3. BrightEdge

BrightEdge offers a unique proprietary metric called Share of Voice, which is an overall measure of your visibility based on your local carousel, videos, images, links, videos, and e-commerce signals. This combination of factors helps you prioritize tasks as you tackle your SEO challenges, and it’s easier to use for teams with less SEO expertise.

Additionally, BrightEdge provides in-depth competitor analysis, giving you insights on the pages, page templates, and inbound links that are driving their search rankings success. You can use BrightEdge’s discovery tools to see which keywords are winners for your competitors as well as opportunities that you’ve underutilized. By integrating your domain analytics and social data with your SEO information, BrightEdge helps you create a 360-degree view of your digital marketing strategy.

Best SEO Tools: Conductor Searchlight

4. Conductor Searchlight

Conductor Searchlight leverages integrations with Adobe Omniture and Moz OpenSite Explorer to provide a complete, daily snapshot of your search rankings. It also provides tools for analyzing which content is most in demand, enabling you to create and promote content that impact your rankings.

In addition, Conductor Searchlight can help you identify easy changes that will improve page rankings. For example, if a page is ranking well for a keyword, but that page isn’t your preferred landing page, Conductor Searchlight will suggest that you add an internal link to your preferred landing page, using your keyword as anchor text.

You’ll need a team with some SEO knowledge to use Conductor Searchlight; although it suggests tasks and offers great insights on what to fix, it doesn’t always help you choose your top priorities. If your team is knowledgeable about SEO, they’ll appreciate the in-depth analysis as well as the beautiful user interface.

What is the Difference Between a Graphic Designer and a Web Designer?

What is the Difference Between a Graphic Designer and a Web Designer?

Even though the responsibilities of the two occupations may appear similar at first glance, there are some significant differences between a graphic designer and a web designer. The focus of this article, then, will be on the general differences between a graphic designer and a web designer.
The Categorical Differences

The first telling difference between graphic designers and web designers is the category that each falls under with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics . Graphic design falls under the category of “Arts and Design.” Web design falls under the category of “Computer and Information Technology.” The categories show that graphic designers concern themselves mostly with the visual and artistic aspects of a project, while web designers concern themselves with the technical aspects of a project. This is not to say that graphic designers never use technology or that web designers rarely incorporate the graphic arts.

Graphic Designers

As mentioned, compared with web designers, graphic designers are much more involved in the artistic and (as obvious as it may seem) graphic side of a project. Graphic designers create images by hand and with technological aids. They are concerned with the presentation of a project. Graphic designers are often involved in advertising and promotion, making sure each project has the appropriate and desired look and feel. Those interested in graphic design, its employment outlook, and its earnings should consult the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even more detailed information can be found at O*NET, “the nation’s primary source of occupational information”. There are also at least two professional associations for graphic designers: the Graphic Artists Guild and the American Institute of Graphic Arts .

Web Designers

Depending on the organization, web designers have a few different titles, such as web developers. Compared with graphic designers, web designers are responsible for the technical, behind-the-scenes, computer-related aspects of a project. More specific, web designers almost always use computers and are often responsible for programming or writing code, such as HTML. Although often responsible for the “look” of a web page, web designers collaborate with graphic designers to determine artistic layout and effect. Web designers may work with a variety of clients to support needs for web sites and gaming applications, to name a few. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers up-to-date information on web developers. Even more detailed information can be found at O*NET . Those interested in benefiting from a professional association for web developers will want to investigate the World Association of Web Masters (WOW).

Interestingly, despite its less stringent entry-level educational requirement of an associate’s degree, web design has a higher median income ($62,500 per year) than graphic design, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Graphic design, with a more demanding entry-level educational requirement of a bachelor’s degree, has a significantly lower median income ($44,150 per year). Nevertheless, the occupational differences between a graphic designer and a web designer can be summed up in a general way: a graphic designer is primarily responsible for visual concepts; a web designer for technical, computer-related aspects.

9 innovative ecommerce companies, for inspiration

Happy holidays, ecommerce family! 2017 has been a good year for FringeSport. 2018 looks to be even better.

Many ecommerce brands inspire my work. In this post, I’ll list several of them. I am a friend of the owners of some of these companies. Others I have no connection to. All of the companies are innovative.


Rhone develops and sells men’s luxury sportswear, utilizing its own ecommerce platform as well as pop-up shops in Equinox gyms.

Rhone first came to my attention when it commissioned a few photo shoots of CrossFit athletes and CrossFit gyms. I bought a few sets of Rhone’s clothes, which I loved. Many companies make clothes for runners, soccer players, basketballers, and other athletes. But few if any companies make premium activewear for men that actually looks good, feels great, and performs.

If you are a weightlifter, you likely know what I am talking about. The problem of a small waist and huge thighs can easily mean you look comical in shorts for a “normal man.”

Beyond the high-quality clothes, I also love Rhone’s niche focus and its unique go-to-market strategy in blending online with pop-up shops.


GoRuck sells backpacks — high-end, military-inspired backpacks. The principal marketing channels for these backpacks are GoRuck’s own signature events, where participants pay to be put through the wringer for 4, 14, 24, or even 48 hours in military-inspired “challenges.”

It sounds a little crazy. But I’ve participated in a few events, and I still keep up with a number of people I’ve met on there. When I see someone carrying a GoRuck backpack, I tap him on the shoulder and state, “Nice ruck.” Can you say that for any other backpack supplier?


Similar to GoRuck, Cotopaxi’s main marketing channel is a recurring event called a “Questival.” Unlike GoRuck, Cotopaxi designs camping gear and packs with more of a Patagonia-vibe. But it builds customer loyalty through events in a similar manner.


Kammok designs and sells high-performance camping gear. The company is based in Austin, Texas, where FringeSport is located. Being an industrial design dork, I love how Kammok approaches camping “problems” with a fresh eye and comes up with innovative designs to age-old problems.

Plus, I’ve had enlightening conversations with the Kammok crew over its distribution strategy, the double-edged sword of Amazon, and more.


Beardbrand is another Austin-based brand. I greatly admire the company’s content strategy. Beardbrand says its ideal customer is the “Urban Beardsman.” All of its marketing revolves around helping this person. Got a question about beard grooming? Growing a beard? Or, God forbid, shaving a beard? Beardbrand’s YouTube channel reveals all.

The idea of helping consumers so much that they can’t help but buy from you is extremely compelling. It’s seemingly the consumers’ way of saying “thank-you.”


FluidStance produces “beautifully designed tools that bring motion to any common work or meeting areas.” I’m a recent convert to the standing desk movement. And I recently picked up a FluidStance balance board to help minimize my fatigue while I work. The thing is beautiful. Having an interest in industrial design helps me appreciate the astounding engineering work that went into FluidStance’s boards.

Natural Stacks

Natural Stacks formulates and sells nutritional supplement. Working in the health and wellness industry makes me skeptical of dietary supplements. They are lightly regulated with questionable claims. But I love Natural Stacks.

I love the company’s marketing and the ethos behind it. Natural Stacks is much more reputable than similar suppliers. And the effort it spends (similar to Beardbrand) putting out solid content to help consumers, rather than just using celebrities to sell high margin products, is admirable.

MeUndies, Mack Weldon

Finally, MeUndies and Mack Weldon recently came on my radar since I needed new underwear. I purchase some from each of these companies and I am now fascinated by the underwear space. Among other things, both companies have a policy of “it fits or it’s free” for your first pair of undies. I had to utilize this policy due to my previously-mentioned “weightlifter proportions.”

I was shocked at how easy the process was in each case. Now I have underwear that fits. Plus, both companies continue to send me new colors and styles. I imagine their repeat customer rate must be high.

I order many products and services online. I have been a believer in ecommerce since the 1990s. Many companies are still pushing and innovating the business model. Those are the ones that inspire me.

What do you think? Which companies, in your view, are doing interesting things in the ecommerce space? Let me know in the comments below.

7 Reasons Why SEO Is The Best Investment

7 Reasons Why SEO Is The Best Investment

With the ever-shifting market becoming harder and harder to track as time goes by, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has seen its fair share of traction recently. Over the years, SEO has become one of the most effective tools at a marketer’s disposal. Essentially, the concept revolves around optimizing a site stand out online, thereby boosting visibility and, as a direct result, internet traffic. This has made SEO useful and accessible to larger corporations looking to preserve their standing but also smaller ones, looking to get their business going and compete with the big fish in the proverbial pond.

1. It’s Everywhere 

Unsurprisingly, SEO has seen a large rise in popularity in recent times. With just about 3 billion people using the internet globally, opting not to tap into that resource would be a waste. Setting everything up is relatively easy, with some situations only requiring the installation of a plugin. By optimizing one’s site to cater to Google’s Hummingbird algorithm, businesses large and small get a shot of ranking among the top results. With benefits like these, it’s apparent that SEO is here to stay.

2. The Best ROI Out There 

When talking about SEO, the thing most people are interested is the ROI or Return of Investment. When SEO is concerned, continuous ROI improvement is almost guaranteed. The investment is extremely cheap if done correctly and pays itself off fairly quickly. Once a company does its homework and rises among its competitors via SEO, it will see a noticeable rise in internet traffic, resulting in higher conversion rates across the board. With a steady influx of customers and their numbers perpetually rising, ROI is one thing no one has to worry about.

3. One Ups The Competition 

Like in every business imaginable, there is going to be competition. By investing in SEO, people are given the unique opportunity of literally one upping their competitors. We are all very much aware that, when searching for something online, if it’s not on the first page – it might as well not exist. Going even further, most people have a tendency to only look at the top three results, making your ranking matter even more.

4. Visibility Skyrockets 

With so many people using the internet and, more importantly, search engines to navigate around it – sites have started to see an unprecedented amount of traffic and visibility. This visibility helps companies save on conventional advertising by giving them more than ample opportunity to find themselves at the right time in the right place. It is important to note that although SEO gives a staggering amount of traction, it is by no means a replacement for conventional online advertising, it’s just organic.

5. SEO Generates Crucial Organic Site Traffic 

Building on the point above, SEO’s true strength comes from its ability to generate organic traffic. What this means is that people aren’t bombarded by ads to go to a site, they are given the results when they want it. This sense of agency removes the bitter taste in most people’s mouths when going to a company’s website by making them feel like they initiated the visit themselves, unaware of what’s going on under the hood.

6. AMP is just around the corner 

With today’s tech turning more and more towards mobile, it’s only a matter of time until sites are required to be optimized for phones as well. AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pagesare slowly becoming more of a mainstream thing and a new industry standard, making pages load instantly on mobile devices through a highly-optimized way of stringing content together. This optimization help companies reach out to customers while they’re on the move as well. Having the entirety of a page load in a second or two could mean the difference between a sale and a frustrated visitor.

7. It Provides Real-Time Feedback 

When everything is set in place, comes the fun part – the metrics. SEO provides a unique look into everything that happens on your site like customer retention, are users local or global, conversion rates, what caught whose attention etc. Search engine optimization allows for concrete, quantifiable, convenient, and actionable analytics that not all business investments offer. This is an invaluable source of information which, as emphasized by theGreen Web Marketing Company, gives insight into what works and helps optimize troubled areas even more to stimulate growth. With all this information readily available and constantly offering opportunities to improve, it really is a no-brainer.


SEO is here to stay, simple as that. However sad it may be that we are purposely burying ourselves in digital realities instead of the one around us, it does provide a unique opportunity to get one’s point across. With a strong online presence, small businesses are pulling in more traffic than they ever would’ve dreamed of if they started i.e. a decade or two ago. This gives marketing a subtler approach, forgoing reeling in customers for the unique practice of letting them come in themselves.