Designing a new website for your hotel is an exciting and exhausting venture. While the creative process can be rewarding, there are many technical pitfalls to avoid.
To make sure that your new website does not suffer any organic traffic and revenue losses, website redesign SEO needs to be an integral part of the process from the start.
What type of a website upgrade are you preparing for? Changing your domain name? Moving to a new content management system? Redesigning the entire website?
Either one of these needs planning from an experienced SEO specialist to avoid the risk of organic traffic loss during your website relaunch.
Let’s look at the 6 most important areas of SEO considerations for website redesigns.
1. Conduct A Website Audit On Your Current Site
Conducting an SEO audit
at the start of the redesign process will help evaluating the condition of your current website. It will highlight the SEO strengths and weaknesses of your CMS platform. You can decide what elements to be migrated or perhaps deleted. You can identify which sections meet technical requirements so that search engines can detect them.
Firstly, your site needs to be crawled to note all the URLs and to understand the URL structure. This is also a good way to measure the size of your current website. After a basic URL count, the number of URLs will indicate how much time and effort required to migrate the website.
Next, check the speed of key landing pages such as homepage, accommodation, dining and special offers. If the load time is slow, investigate the reasons so they can be corrected for the new website.
You can analyse what pages have the highest link authority by using the Moz Open Site Explorer tool. These pages will need extra care to carry the ranking value over to the new website - especially if they generate revenue.
Analyse the top 30 organic keywords so have a basis for comparison after the new website goes live. A keyword strategy that matches the old website's top keywords to the new platform's page structure is critical.
All in all, conducting a pre-design audit will help spotting potential issues as well as strengths that can be replicated on the new site.
2. Redirect Old Urls To New Ones
Redirects are one of the most important elements to implement during a website redesign process. They point the old website pages to the new website's equivalent pages so that there are no 404 'page not found' errors when someone clicks on a old URL. In addition, Google and other search engines can pass the PageRank from the old URL to the new one and index the new pages accordingly.
If this step is missed during the launch, you will loose organic traffic immediately.
You do not need a developer to implement 301 redirects as all good content management systems have a built in redirect tool. Redirects should point from the old page to a similar page, and not simply redirect every page to the homepage. Always aim to find the closest content match for page redirects.
For example, if your hotel no longer offers a Junior Suite, that page can be redirected to the generic suites page: hotelname.com/accommodation/junior-suites redirected to hotelname.com/accommodation/suites.
If you want to follow SEO best practice, do not change URLs for the new site at all. In this case, pages can keep 100% of their authority and usually their keyword ranking as well. Yet, during a website redesign, you can take the opportunity to review and improve your URL structure.
For example, hotelname.com/accommodation/suites could be optimised to hotelname.com/accommodation-in-london/luxury-hotel-suites. In this case a 301 redirect is required as the URL naming has changed. If redirects are not done, the new page's values is reset and the old page will drop out of ranking.
3. Set Up A Webmaster Tool Account
Both Google and Bing provide free webmaster tools that are great source of information on how each search engine indexes your website.
Many hotels considering a website redesign already have webmaster accounts, but it is never too late to sign up and check the health status of your current website on Google or Bing.
Once your website has a verified webmaster account, you can analyse what pages are indexed, have crawl errors and identify html improvements. Search analytics, search queries and click through data is also available for review. You can analyse keyword trends - for example how much traffic your site attracts for the keyword "hotels near Covent Garden" i over a three-month period.
You can submit a XML sitemap to the search engines through the webmaster tools account. It is a great way to carry out a health check prior to the new website launch. After the website redesign, you can fix any crawl errors in your account. (A crawl error occurs when the Googlebot is unable to access your website pages.)
Another useful feature of Google webmaster tool is the 'change of address' option. If you change your domain name, this is where you can tell Google about it. It will speed up the time it takes Google to reevaluate the page positions on the new domain. In turn, this will prevent traffic loss after the website launch.
4. Do Not Delete Pages
Your website has been on its CMS platform for several years and you achieved good keyword positions. Your digital marketing agency has been working tirelessly to develop and optimise the site’s content. The worst possible thing to do during a website redesign process is to discard your optimised pages and - as a result - lose all traffic they bring to your business.
For example, your website has a section listing local attractions with a specific page dedicated to each place of interest. You may assume that these pages do not generate much revenue but this type of content often brings people to the site. When customers look up "museums in central London" or "hotels near the London Eye", these organic searches can drive valuable traffic to your site. If you drop these pages, you will quickly lose ranking for important keywords.
Deleting pages causes a 'content gap' and Google will no longer considers your website relevant to these topics - losing valuable rankings and traffic.
5. Keep The Site Structure Intact
The structure of pages on a website is called site architecture and refers to how each page is connected to another. Items listed in the main navigation bar are primary pages such as accommodation, weddings or special offers. Optimisation for these sections is especially important to get as much attention from Google's ranking as possible. These primary pages pass the link equity down to the secondary pages on the same topic. For example, the weddings/weddings-packages page below the /weddings page.
Google passes value from one page to the next through internal links. Where the targeted page is located in the hierarchical structure will determine the value passed to these pages.
Internal links are implemented through navigation bars or content hyperlinks. Both can be utilised to connect with higher value pages if you want to push for more prominent ranking for a certain page.
During a website redesign, it may be suggested that a primary navigation page should be moved elsewhere. For example, ‘spa’ might be included under a new section called ‘leisure’. In this case, remember that link equity will be lost from the old website’s primary navigation as the internal linking structure would also change. Traffic for these ‘spa’ pages will drop and take some months to recover in the search results.
Try to keep the same site structure on the new website that existed on the old website to retain link equity.
6. Review Your On-page Optimisation
A website upgrade is a great time to review your current meta titles, meta descriptions, H1 tags, URL structure, optimised alt tags, past keyword research and any other on-page SEO
that has been carried out on your existing website. If this meta data meets best practice and your website has enjoyed favourable search engine rankings, do not change it. Migrate the meta data across to the new website as it will make the process smoother. Some pages of course will need extra attention and require new meta data and keyword research.
Follow these these 6 tips to avoid traffic loss during your website redesign and grow your traffic after launch. If you have any questions, please reach out to us.