You’ve finally gotten around to redesigning your website. You’ve taken all the careful steps to make sure this iteration of your digital presence is properly branded, matches your company’s vibe and feel and is easy to navigate for potential customers. To top it all off, you’ve committed to producing regular blog content to share your expertise with a digital audience filled with prospective customers.

Then disaster strikes. All of a sudden, you’ve disappeared from search engine results for keywords you routinely banked on to drive people to your site. Google no longer thinks you’re an authority on the search words you’ve built your brand around and relied on to send qualified customers your way. Tragedy!

Let’s rewind a second and dive into what’s happening in this scenario. Put on your detective hat – it’s time to get to the bottom of this issue and build a sustainable plan to avoid a search engine catastrophe.

The Breakdown

Search engines are (mostly) efficient at serving up results to audiences based on what they determine as most relevant. Almost every web page out there is at the mercy of search engine algorithms- those mile-long blocks of complex math which tell the search robots what your web page is actually about.

While the science isn’t perfect and probably never will be, it’s worth the effort upfront for webmasters to provide quality written content and information for search engines.

What happens when you completely redesign your website and remove or dramatically change the content search engines were using to rank and categorize your site? Simple: they go blind and assign red flags. Your site literally isn’t filled with the same content it had when last indexed and that can mean serious bad news.

Although your redesign was completely well intentioned, the robots see this dramatic shift in textual content at worst as a potential scam or, at best, not worthy of sharing with searchers. This is likely why you’ve been dropped from your old rankings.

You can avoid the issue or repair the damage with a bit of proper planning. Hopefully you have access to a cached version of your website somewhere to draw content and inspiration from. Try finding one on The Wayback Machine.

Copy the content into a Word document for each specific page before moving ahead with a full redesign.

Building a Comprehensive Plan

This is where a bit of technical maneuvering and web architecture planning will save you plenty of headaches. After you’ve agreed to a website redesign either internally or with an outside vendor, come to the content coordinator with the following questions and points for discussion:

  • What are the 3-5 keyword phrases that best describe my company and services? Are these currently on my homepage?
  • How many pages of meaningful content do I currently have? Are we keeping them in the new architecture?
  • How much content currently lives on my homepage? Is it staying or moving if we drastically change the design?
  • What content will need to be written to flesh out new product/service/blog pages?

These are just a few of the starting points to get the content conversation rolling before the redesign. Make sure to add any questions specific to your business or industry as they come.

Your Options

Now that you’ve worked through the preliminary points for your web copy for your redesign, you’ve got a couple generally accepted options for moving forward. Either way, make sure to start with a firm grasp on the most important products, services and keywords you want to preserve during the transition. You’ll also need to build in time to add authorship to your pages, but that’s a discussion for a different day.

Option 1: Build a beautiful, simple homepage with clean navigation, enticing calls to action and limited copy. This option is ideal for small businesses or eCommerce sites looking to entice consumers right off the bat and convince them to buy quickly. A laser focused web site is also good strategy for established brands who already drive traffic to their homepage based on brand name alone.

You’ve got to be careful though – if the original version of your homepage was text and link rich, you’ll need to have a plan to move all of that quality content to internal pages, preferably only one click away. Moving to an airy homepage and failing to reassign your copy somewhere else on the site sends confusing signals to the search engine gods and you’ll likely lose your rankings.

Option 2: Stick with a content rich homepage and re-imagine the design around what works. This approach works well for businesses that don’t have a lot of relevant content to put on additional pages. I would argue  all good companies have plenty of exciting things to say about their products, services and people, but I understand not everyone has the luxury of time or the money to buy new copy.

If you choose this strategy, consider refreshing the content living on your homepage. Be cognizant of which keywords currently on the page rank well in search and drive traffic to your website. Write more interesting copy around those topics. Refresh the content with something you’d like to read as an average consumer. You may just end up with enough copy to shift your strategy to Option 1.

There are plenty of ways to go about redesigning a new and exciting website for your business. These options are only a sampling of the strategic paths you can take to better your brand and your web presence. No matter which path you choose, keep your content relevant, updated, consumer focused and above all interesting.