Here’s a scenario: You’re redesigning a site – maybe it’s yours or your client’s site – and you’re concerned about how the redesign is going to affect your current SEO state. The redesign is anticipated to launch about 6 months to a year. You decide that, to make things easier for your “redesign,” and for fear of becoming a victim of another Panda update, you hold off on all of your SEO optimization until the redesign is done. Which means no content updates and no on-page or off-page optimization, among other SEO campaigns you’re running on the site. And to make it fair in your mind, you plan on saving or cataloging your content so that you can maintain that “ranking content” when your site goes live. Sounds like a plan, right?
As the words of one of the greatest rappers of all time, LL Cool J, plainly put it: “I don’t think so.” And here are reasons why it’s a bad idea to postpone your SEO:
Content is STILL King
Your content still matters to your audience, and by that measure alone should be reasons why you cannot stop your SEO. You need to be able to continually revise your content to increase your exposure and engage/re-engage your audience into your site. If halting your SEO campaigns for a period of time is your choice of measure, you’re not updating your site with fresh, relevant and usable content for your audience. Think about the long-term snowball effect this has on your content production: stale content over a fixed long-term range can damage your content appeal to your users, which will force users to look elsewhere for what they need to find. When users look elsewhere for the content they need, search engines won’t see your site and your content as relevant and useful to the users looking for it. This will force your content to be perceived as little value by search engines, primarily Google, and thus your page ranks and perceived value will decline.
Metrics? We Don’t Need No Stinking Metrics?
That’s exactly what is going to happen when your SEO is postponed: your metrics will be shot. I can’t say for every site that your traffic, page views, conversions, etc. will fall dramatically, nor do I guarantee that at all. However, I do know that you will experience a drop or dip in some way, shape or form on your site. How dramatic of a drop will depend on how long the redesign will take, how big of a redesign your site will span, and the number of pages will be affected.
It should be noted that your metrics and analytic reports should be part of the equation when planning on redesigning while postponing your SEO. If metrics are not part of the marketing strategy behind this redesign, then I suggest educating your managers, directors, and/or executives on the potential issues that will show up on your reports. Make them aware of what will happen before and after the work stoppage and how much work it will take to get back into the search game.
Bye, Bye, Bye (Rankings)
Google has stated that they take into consideration user interaction and engagement towards your content in its algorithm to determine site rank, weight, and overall value. If your users don’t see your site to be relevant in the time that you do the redesign, search engines will take note of that and use it against you. By not changing and refreshing your content over that period of time, you’re providing your users with more useless, irrelevant information that, in this “give it to me now” day and age, will be seen as “so 10 minutes ago.” Not engaging your users with relevant, up-to-date information, you’re more than likely going to lose your rankings and your search exposure due to stale, unchanging and boring content.
Redesigns And SEO Can Co-Exist, But Only If Your Managers Know How
I know this for a fact that redesigns and SEO can work together and in unison. I have done it as a Senior SEO Specialist for a marketing agency, working with content developers, designers and developers, and IT to create redesigns, newer/fresher content, along with revamped on-page and off-page optimization. It’s not too difficult to do in most respects, but the knowledge and best practices of managing your redesign and SEO should be passed on from the top down. Think about it: If you’re an SEO expert in your company, and you’re told to stop your SEO campaigns/optimization because of a redesign, and the reasons given to you are a load of crap by industry standards, then it looks like the managers, directors, or C-level executives responsible do not know the massive implications of this tactic.
You’re Not Using Technical Assistance That Can Help Your SEO
Are your managers and directors not helping you argue and protect your SEO investments? Your managers are probably afraid that by doing the redesign, they’re going to screw up any optimization (and results from those optimization campaigns) already done throughout the site, such as keyword-rich URLs, title and description tags, landing pages, etc. If that’s the case, let your IT team help out with 301 and 302 redirects during and after the redesign. This will help your site get positioned to visibility while your managing the redesign and the work after that has transpired. Moreover, sitemap submissions conducted on a regular basis will keep spiders up-to-date on what’s hot and what’s not on your site, including relevant temporary or permanent redirects that can push your older contents aside for fresher meat.
Social Media Won’t Be Enough To Replace Your Search Position
If you think that pure social media alone will help you offset your SEO, think again. Do you really think that tweeting and posting content on your social platforms pointing to your outdated site is going to make your site have a stronger relevancy on your searches? Do you really expect to push old and stale content to your users who are looking to the here and now? Social media needs updated content just as much as SEO does, and the integration of two will create more firepower for your brand online. So why screw your SEO campaigns over?
You’re Screwing The SEO Work Previously Done To Get You Where You Are
By conducting SEO stoppage on your site, you’re basically screwing the work that was previously done to get where you are on a search visibility scale. If you’re the marketing genius who wanted to stop the site from being optimized while you’re redesigning, do you really think that picking it up again later on (whether it’s 6 months, 1 year or worse) will put you back in the map automatically?
If you’re the SEO person, content writer, or SEO team involved (or chosen to NOT be involved) in this predicament, are you already conducting a short-term and long-term strategy to help decrease the time that you’ll be gone from your user’s search? If not, I believe that you and/or your team should have a back-up plan, and plan it well.
You’re Screwing Your SEO Foundation, Then Starting From Scratch
SEO is the grounds that hold the foundation of your online marketing. Halting and restarting your SEO campaign is like taking out the foundation of your existing house, and then re-building the foundation under the weight of the existing house. It’s going to take a lot more effort from an SEO perspective to get back the ranking and relevancy you would lose if you were to continue to halt your campaigns. Imagine the amount of work that your content marketers, SEO specialists and other online marketers will have to do to ramp up back to the relevancy that you probably enjoy now. Now, imagine the time it will take for that work to actually produce fruit for your site.
If it was up to me, I would not halt any SEO work during a redesign at all. Not now, and not ever. If you’re not too concerned about SEO like some companies I know of, then this is up to you to conduct and likely at your own risk. However, if you are concerned about your overall visibility and you’re conducting the halt anyway, then I suggest conducting a vast project management and risk assessment before proceeding with your redesign project. Having a solid SEO strategy for your website is great for long-term benefits, but these long-term benefits depend on your short-term work. If your short-term work involves no SEO whatsoever, then your long-term SEO strategies are useless, like microphones given to Milli Vanilli.