Tag Archives: website design

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Written by Caroline Cox on Aug 27 , 2021

Not only does proper website architecture help your users, but it can be a game-changer for your SEO.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What site architecture means
  • How this structure affects your SEO
  • Ways to make your architecture SEO friendly
  • How to build a website structure with SEO in mind

Imagine you’re in a home improvement store, shopping list in hand. Maybe this is your neighborhood shop or a brand-new spot you’re visiting for the first time. Either way, there are plenty of design decisions that were made to make your experience as streamlined and efficient as possible.

Think: similar product categories being grouped together, organized shelves, and signage telling you what’s on each aisle. 

This is how website architecture works. Its aim is to make navigating a website clear and intuitive. It also makes it easier for search engines to crawl your pages — a big factor when it comes to your SEO.

The best time to create an ideal site structure is when you’re building or revamping your website. But even a well-established site can be tweaked and modified to be more organized, user-friendly, and appealing to search engines. 

aerial view of an aisle at a home improvement store

Your site structure can help users easily navigate through your offerings to find what they’re looking for. (Image via Unsplash)

Let’s dig into how effective site architecture doesn’t just improve your rankings, but your overall website user experience (UX) as well.

What is website architecture?

As HubSpot explains, website architecture is the way your site is structured. Your structure can help users easily navigate through your offerings to find what they’re looking for. The quicker they can do that, the higher your chances are to drive conversions. 

In simple terms, website architecture refers to navigation elements on your website. This includes headers and footers (plus other internal links), as well as your URL structure.

Pro tip: Site architecture can also help you avoid keyword cannibalization, which is when two or more pages have the same intent and compete with one another. As SEMrush explains, “The right website structure can make it easier to stop this issue from occurring due to a clearly defined place on your site for a particular topic or piece of content.”

How does site architecture benefit SEO?

If someone lands on your website through an online search query but can’t find the information they’re looking for, they’re likely to bounce from your site and look elsewhere.

Having a clean, intuitive navigation allows people to find the pages relevant to them quickly, which keeps them on your site. For that reason, it’s best to always put the user first when considering how to set up your site navigation.

How does site architecture affect search bots? 

Good site architecture also helps search bots (which determine what to include on the search engine results page, or SERP) crawl and understand your site better. Generally, pages at the root of your map are given higher priority. 

Say you’re an e-commerce brand with a large amount of products. You may want to use “/products” in all of your product URLs. This signals to search bots that all pages under that parent category are related in some way. 

If all your pages are at the root, for example “site-name.com/name-of-product,” bots don’t recognize that these are related. This makes it more difficult to know which pages are the highest priority.  

The same can be said for site hierarchy. Tier 1 items should be top priority pages. Related pages can be linked underneath as Tier 2 items. Say you have “products” as your Tier 1 and underneath you have product categories on the Tier 2 level. (Use Tier 3 items sparingly. They tend to clutter up your navigation and can overwhelm users.)

hawksem: website architecture blog

In this example from Columbia Virtual Academy, “Program” is the Tier 1 item, while “Home” and the items below it are all Tier 2. (Image via cva.org)

Pro tip: Having a page linked in the navigation signals to search bots that it’s an important page. Google tends to give more credit to pages in the header navigation than footer. However, if you try to link every single page, it’ll ignore these signals and assume you’re trying to trick the algorithm.

How do you determine if your site structure is SEO-friendly?

There are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine if your current site architecture is set up for SEO success:

  • Do you use clean, easy-to-understand URL structures with parent items to categorize content? If not, you should. 
  • Do you use images in your navigation? If so, be sure you’re also using text links. Search bots can’t “see” images. They use anchor text as a signal for a page’s keywords. (Technically, navigation items are considered an internal link.) 
  • If you’re using text links, do your navigation items include keywords when possible? Again, search bots crawl these links and use the anchor text as a clue to the page’s content.
  • Is your navigation easy for a user to understand? You can dig deeper into this question with heat-mapping or other services that let you do user testing or screen recordings. This way, you can see if users are bumbling around on your pages or find what they’re looking for quickly.
  • How many items are in your navigation? There may need to be a lot. A generally good rule is to keep things as concise as possible. You (almost) never need to link every single page on your site in your navigation. Also, consider how many clicks it takes to get to a page from the homepage. Try to keep it to less than four clicks when possible.

Need more help with your website design or marketing? Let’s chat.

hawksem: site architecture article

At its core, site architecture is about improving a visitor’s experience on your site. (Image via Unsplash)

How do you create a site structure with SEO in mind?

Don’t panic if you’re realizing that your site architecture isn’t where it needs to be. There are changes and tweaks you can make that’ll get your site on the right path in a flash.

First off, use keywords in your URLs when possible (without keyword stuffing). If your site’s not already set up this way, work with a developer to see if you can redirect and update your URLs so they have parent items. They should also be clean and easy to read. This means no random scramble of letters, numbers, and symbols.

You also want to make sure there aren’t too many elements in your navigation. Having no more than seven Tier 1 items is a good basic rule to follow, if you can. And using internal links can help search bots and users get to relevant pages quicker

Humans read left to right, so think about how you can prioritize navigation based on what visitors most likely want to see. While it may make sense to you to put your “About” info as your first navigation link, put yourself in the user’s shoes. Most likely, they’re more interested in what you have to offer first.

Lastly, make sure you have an XML sitemap (and potentially an HTML sitemap). Submit these to Google Search Console so Google can see a full list of the pages you want indexed and can go crawl them accordingly.

Pro tip: The growing trend of mobile search is yet another reason to make your navigation as easy to use. When building or updating your navigation, you always want to make sure it looks clean and works properly on both mobile and desktop.

The takeaway

At its core, website architecture is about improving a visitor’s experience on your site and helping you rise in organic search result rankings. It’s also a way to keep your site clean and organized, even as you expand and build it out as time goes on.

Follow these tips to ensure your site is set up in a way that’s easy to follow and designed to help visitors find what they’re looking for.

This post has been updated and was originally published in May 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Aug 10 , 2021

Because a good user experience and a successful website go hand in hand. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • How website UX is defined
  • Tips for making your site user-friendly
  • What to keep in mind for mobile UX
  • Expert insights to boost your user experience

Recently, I started shopping at a new grocery store. 

When it came to food shopping, I used to default to the store closest to my house. But after a while, I grew weary of weaving through the too-small aisles, too-long lines with too-few cashiers, and a limited selection that often left me with items uncrossed on my shopping list. 

Now, I go to one that’s a bit further away, but the experience is so much better that it’s worth the extra minutes of my drive. 

This idea can also be applied to your business website. Especially if you find yourself in a competitive industry, the experience you provide your potential and current customers can be a game changer (both for site visitors and your SEO). And that experience often begins with your website. 

Whether you’re launching a new site or revamping an existing one, this checklist will help ensure that your website UX doesn’t fall to the wayside in the process.

woman working on computer

It’s crucial to think about the “why” behind your site’s design and offerings. (Image via Unsplash)

What is website UX design?

User experience (or UX) “focuses on having a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations,” according to Usability.gov.

With businesses, website UX design basically means creating a website with elements that make it easy for the visitor to navigate, read, and find what they’re looking for. 

Here are 6 ways you can set your site up for the best possible user experience.

1. Conduct a site audit

Before you start making plans and changes, take the time to examine where your site’s user experience currently stands. Ask questions like:

  • Do you have any dead links or 404 errors? 
  • Are there pages that are outdated or no longer relevant to your audience? 
  • Is there a pop-up or call to action (CTA) that gets no love and needs reworking? 
  • Does the About page still accurately reflect your company’s mission and team?

Once you have the answers to these and other similar questions, you’ll be able to properly plan for any changes. You may even be able to identify a few quick wins and fixes in the process.

2. Think about your user

Marketers talk a lot about intent. That’s because it’s crucial to think about the “why” behind your site’s design and offerings. Why are people coming to your site? What are they hoping to accomplish or find? What questions do they want answered?

For example, if your site has a login option, you’ll want that to be easily found on your homepage for the best user experience. You also don’t want to bombard visitors right from the get-go with a slew of pop-ups, CTAs, and offers.

Rather, information should be well-organized without too many visual distractions, so people don’t have trouble navigating to where they want to go. (We’ll get more into the UX design aspects below.)

3. Check your site navigation

Simple site navigation is one of the most important aspects of website architecture, AKA the structure of your site. You want it to be as clean, easy to understand, and functional as possible.

Some tips for creating site navigation with UX in mind include:

  • Clear page labels in the drop-down menu
  • Making sure navigation and labels are easy to access and use via mobile
  • Minimal header (and footer, if applicable) navigation links
  • No tier-two drop-down menus unless they’re absolutely necessary

You can also consider breadcrumb navigation. HubSpot explains this as “a design tool often used by UI designers to visually increase the usability of a website.” 

Similarly to a URL that might be structured as homepage.com/blog/blog-post-title, it helps users visually see the path they took to get to the current page they’re on. UX Planet adds that this is helpful because it answers the questions, “Where am I?” and “Where can I go?”

Pro tip: A speedy site enhances your visitors’ experience and helps them find what they’re looking for in a flash. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool will help you determine if yours is where it should be.

4. Avoid excessive pop-ups

First off, we’re not against pop-ups in theory. When done right, they can be effective and helpful tools to get users to take actions from subscribing to a newsletter to downloading a whitepaper. But when done wrong, they can annoy your site visitor and cause them to bounce in frustration.

The trick is using them sparingly and thoughtfully. If someone reads three blog posts about a certain product or service, you could employ a pop-up that offers a discount code or free consultation. 

But beware of leveraging pop-ups on your mobile site: this is almost always a poor user experience and doesn’t end with the visitor taking the desired action. 

Pro tip: Conduct regular A/B tests for elements on your site to see which ones people respond to best. This could be anything from the headline on your homepage to the color or verbiage of a button. Just make sure to only test one element at a time to get proper data.

man designing a website on a tablet

You can use visuals as guides to direct attention where you want it to go, such as having arrows or a photo of a person looking in the direction of an onsite CTA. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Be strategic about visuals

You may think whitespace (or the absence of images and text) is a waste when it comes to your website. After all, you could be using that space to attract and engage your visitor, right? Well, not exactly.

As the Interaction Design Foundation reports, marginal white space surrounding paragraphs affects the user’s reading speed and comprehension. It allows the reader to fully take in your content without feeling overwhelmed. 

Other strategic UX design elements include being thoughtful about the images and graphics you do use. Make sure any icons are designed with your target audience in mind and mesh well with your overall brand aesthetic. You also want any images to reflect your audience. 

Moreover, you can use visuals as guides to direct attention where you want it to go, such as having arrows or a photo of a person looking in the direction of an onsite CTA. 

Pro tip: No matter how much text your pages feature, you want it to be easy to digest. Opt for elements like headings, bullet points, and hyperlinks over big blocks of text. This can improve your site UX and ensure you get your message across properly.

6. Analyze the data

You can learn a lot about how people use and navigate your site through data. For example, heat map tools like Hotjar can tell you what areas people are clicking and gravitating to most on certain pages.

Analytics reports can show you which pages people bounce most often and most quickly from. (Though a high bounce rate doesn’t necessarily mean a page is unsuccessful.)

If you’re relaunching or revamping your site, or just want to get a pulse check on usability, have team members or stakeholders click around then fill out a short survey to get their thoughts on any snags or challenges they run into. 

The takeaway

You may or may not have a lot of the main tenets of UX baked into your site already.

Either way, it’s wise to be conscious about the aspects that go into a strong user experience so you can make sure to keep them prioritized as your company grows and iterates. 

If you want visitors to have a positive, seamless experience when landing on your site, prioritizing website UX is a great way to do just that. 

Need more insight into creating a positive user experience through digital marketing? Let’s chat.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jul 14 , 2021

How sitemaps keep your website organized, help search engines crawl your site more easily, and more

Here, you’ll find:

  • What different types of sitemaps are
  • Key benefits of using sitemaps
  • How to create and submit a sitemap
  • How these maps affect SEO

Whether you’re building a website from scratch or revamping an existing one to boost your SEO, you need to factor in your sitemap. 

That’s because a sitemap is an excellent tool that can help simplify website navigation for both search engines and visitors.  

By providing a sitemap, you make the search engine crawler bots’ job simpler, which helps them index your website quicker. Without a sitemap, it’s easy for crawlers to miss important pages and slow your SEO efforts down as a result.

Let’s take a closer look at what sitemaps are all about.

hand putting pins in a map

XML (which stands for eXtensible Markup Language) is a document formatting language that’s easily understood by both humans and machines. (Image via Unsplash)

What is a sitemap?  

A sitemap is a structured list of all the pages on your website. Search engine crawlers use this information to find content, understand the layout of your website, and determine the relationship between its pages and files.

Without a sitemap, a crawler would have to use internal links to find other pages on your website. Unless all of your pages are perfectly interlinked, a search engine is likely to overlook some important pages, which hinders your SEO efforts.

Types of sitemaps

Four common types of sitemaps exist:

  • XML index sitemap – the most common type of sitemap that helps search engines index your web pages
  • Google News sitemap – helps crawlers find content on websites that can be used for Google News
  • XML video sitemap – helps crawlers track the video content on your pages
  • XML image sitemap – allows crawlers to find all images on your website

There’s also what’s called an HTML sitemap. This type of sitemap has (no surprise here) an HTML format. It’s designed to improve the user’s interaction with your website. These sitemaps are created to simplify navigation and/or replace the search feature.

XML sitemap example

Here’s a basic XML sitemap that includes the location of a single URL. (Image via Google)

Understanding XML sitemaps

XML (which stands for eXtensible Markup Language) is a document formatting language that’s easily understood by both humans and machines. 

An XML sitemap looks like a list of URLs with additional information attached. This information is in the form of tags that demonstrate:

  • Update date – shows the date when the webpage was last modified
  • Update frequency – the more frequently the sitemap is updated, the more often it needs to be crawled
  • The page’s priority – gives crawlers an understanding of which pages are the most important to your website

Search engines only crawl a certain number of pages when they visit your website. If you don’t create a sitemap with the right page priority tags, the crawler may overlook important pages during its visit.

The higher the page’s update frequency and priority, the more frequently the page is crawled.

Pro tip: Sitemaps can’t contain more than 50,000 URLs or be more than 50MB in size. If your sitemap is bigger than allowed, you probably need to create more than one.

The benefits of having a sitemap

Sitemaps can provide benefits for both your website and digital marketing campaigns. The key benefits include:

  • Properly structured XML sitemaps help search engines crawl your pages more efficiently than they would without a sitemap.
  • Sitemaps allow you to set priorities for the URLs. This helps you to direct crawlers to high-priority pages.
  • You can change update dates and update frequency details to bring crawlers back to your website when necessary.
  • If you’re creating a new website, a sitemap can help crawlers discover it more quickly. The same is possible when you create new web pages and other pieces of content.
  • XML sitemaps help you avoid duplication issues. If another website copies your content, you can use the sitemap’s “last modified” information to show who the original content creator is.
  • Sitemaps automatically notify search engines whenever you update your pages, so they come and crawl them faster.
  • A sitemap report can help you discover errors in your website structure.

An XML sitemap is a key part of your overall SEO efforts. Meanwhile, an HTML sitemap can improve the user experience on your website, which can mean boosting its popularity and stimulating conversion rates.

three people's hands pointing at a map

Once you create a sitemap, you have to submit it to the search engine. (Image via Unsplash)

Are sitemaps necessary?

Technically, search engines can find your web pages without a sitemap. However, by including pages in the XML sitemap, you’re showing crawlers that you prioritize them.

Sitemaps are especially important for websites that:

  • Are brand new
  • Have hundreds or thousands of pages (such as an e-commerce site)
  • Have a deep website architecture
  • Add new pages frequently
  • Update existing content frequently
  • Have weak internal linking
  • Have a weak external link profile

Submitting an XML sitemap doesn’t automatically attract search engine crawlers or cause your web pages to get indexed. However, doing it helps increase your chances of being noticed quickly.

Even if your website is small and has a strong linking structure, you may still want to submit an XML sitemap.

Creating an XML sitemap

To create an XML sitemap, you can take advantage of one of the available tools provided by your content management system. Alternatively, you can leverage an XML sitemap generator like Screaming Frog or XML-Sitemaps.

Once you create a sitemap, you have to submit it to the search engine. To submit the sitemap to Google, you need to:

  • Go to Google Search Console
  • Choose “sitemaps”
  • Paste the sitemap’s URL under “Add a new sitemap”
  • Click “submit”

You should also add the sitemap to your robot.txt file. The file is located in the root directory of your web server. To add the sitemap, you need to open the file and add a line that looks like this: “Sitemap: <sitemap URL>.” Submitting a sitemap is free.

The takeaway

Basically, a sitemap is a useful tool that helps search engines and users navigate your website. As mentioned above, while a submitted sitemap doesn’t automatically improve your SEO efforts, it can increase your website’s visibility for search engine crawlers.  

You don’t need any special skills to create an XML sitemap. However, adjusting it efficiently may require technical SEO experience, so don’t be afraid to enlist the pros

Want to learn more about sitemaps and other aspects of technical SEO? We’re here to help.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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Written by Caroline Cox on May 14 , 2021

Think it’s time for a company website redesign? Read this first. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • Common steps to a website redesign
  • Expert tips for revamping your site
  • What mistakes to avoid during the process
  • How to set up your site for success in the future

There are plenty of reasons why a business would want to invest in a site redesign. From new technology and sub-par sales to user complaints and updated branding, it’s always a good idea to make sure you’re putting your best “face” forward online.

But while a website redesign may be necessary, the prospect of such an undertaking can also be overwhelming. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be. With some planning, organization, goals, and the proper resources, you can conduct a site redesign that keeps you in the running against competitors and ensures you don’t lose any precious SEO in the process. 

Common steps of a website redesign

There’s no single way to complete a successful site redesign. However, the common steps to take include:

  • Planning
  • Wireframing
  • Designing
  • Creating and updating content
  • Testing pages and links on a staging site
  • Implementing any necessary tweaks
  • Pushing the new site live
wireframing website redesign in notebook

Knowing where your site currently stands will help you when you create a list of what you’re looking to accomplish with your new site. (Image via Unsplash)

Determine your goals 

So, you’ve decided that it’s time to revamp your website. From there, it’s a good idea to start by determining what goals you have for your new site. These goals could include things like:

  • Keeping visitors from bouncing off your pages so quickly
  • Making your library of downloadable content more accessible
  • Building more informative pages
  • Making your site more visually aligned with your brand
  • Improving navigation to average more pages per visit
  • Boosting on-site SEO

Once you figure out what your goals are, write them down so you can refer to them throughout the process and when making decisions about your redesign.

Audit your current site

Next, it’s time to audit your current website. What are your most popular pages? Is any information outdated? Are there any 404 errors, broken links, or images that are no longer loading? 

Knowing where your site currently stands will be helpful when you create a list of what you’re looking to accomplish with your new site. This is also a time when you can make a note of things like updating the team photo on your “About” page or making edits to outdated content. 

Pro tip: Check out the traffic data for your current site in Google Analytics. This will show you what pages are most popular, where people are bouncing from, and which blog content needs to be potentially built out or updated. 

Find inspiration

Visuals are a great way to bring ideas to life. That’s why images help when you’re trying to explain what you want your new site to look, feel, and operate like. Browse the sites of your competitors and those adjacent to your industry to glean inspiration for your own site.

You don’t have to stick to your specific niche when it comes to inspiration, of course. Maybe you like how your favorite online publication leverages color-blocking or implements lazy loading. Keep a folder of screenshots of sites and pages that appeal to you, then see what patterns emerge and if you can incorporate these elements into your new site.

Create a wishlist

Once you’ve completed your site audit and found some good inspiration, you can create a wishlist of things you want to see from your new website. Revamps can be quite an undertaking. For that reason, it may be a good idea to divide your list into “must haves” and “nice-to-haves.” This way, you can be mindful of your desired timeline and budget.

Depending on how granular you want to get, you can also have different tiers of wants based on things like your budget. For example, maybe you want new graphic icons throughout your site. The top-tier choice would be to have a designer create custom, exclusive icons, while the more budget-friendly choice would be to create them from existing graphics via a site like Canva.

website redesign plan

Avoid losing any of the SEO you’ve worked to gain by moving valuable content and implement redirects as well as meta tags. (Image via Unsplash)

Think about longevity

Because a site redesign is such a multifaceted project, keeping longevity in mind is key. While it likely won’t be the last redesign you conduct, you shouldn’t have to start from square one every year or so. 

Now’s the time to make sure the updates you’re making are conducive to future tweaks. For instance, creating templates of pages on your hosting platform (such as WordPress) will make it easy for you to add additional pages in the future without needing to enlist a developer. 

Leverage the pros

We like to throw around the phrase, “work smarter, not harder.” Enlisting the pros is one way to do that when it comes to your site redesign. After all, why would you waste valuable time trying to figure out how to code when you could just enlist a developer who can bring your vision to life in no time?

Whether you have an in-house dev team or partner with an agency to bring your new vision to life, we bet you’ll be much happier with the results than if you tried to pull off a total site redesign yourself for the first time. 

Avoid common redesign mistakes

Before you hit “publish” on your website redesign, make sure you haven’t fallen prey to any of these common missteps during the redesign process:

  • Copying what everyone else is doing
  • Getting carried away with cool or trendy elements
  • Not focusing on the user experience
  • Not using a staging site to test visuals and links
  • Eliminating content that’s driving traffic
  • Moving to a subdomain (getting a subdomain to rank can be more difficult)

Pro tip: Avoid losing any of the SEO you’ve worked to gain by moving valuable content and implementing redirects as well as meta tags. It’s also wise to ensure an XML sitemap is in place before going live and that tracking is set up correctly to continue to gauge SEO performance.

The takeaway

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your site’s search engine results page (SERP) visibility may take a hit after a redesign. However, as long as you’ve taken a data-driven approach and implemented best practices during the process, things should return to normal in a few months. 

By promoting your revamped site, regularly adding new relevant content that makes you authoritative, and targeting terms you want to rank for, you can be confident that your site it set up for success.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Feb 17 , 2021

New website, who dis?

Here, you’ll find:

  • Different types of site migrations
  • Tips for planning a site migration
  • Steps to take during the migration process
  • Common migration missteps to avoid

Whether you’re opting for a more secure site, getting a design refresh, or moving to a new CMS, there are plenty of reasons to take on a site migration. But this project is one that shouldn’t be taken on lightly.

Migrating your site is a technical, multi-step process. A misstep can result in broken links, a poor mobile experience, and loss of significant website SEO you’ve worked hard to build.

But before you break into a cold sweat, don’t worry. Jessica Weber, one of our senior SEO & SEM managers, is here to help break down just a few of the big steps to take for a successful site migration.

Different types of site migrations

First things first: It’s important to know that site migration comes in many different forms. For example, a migration from an “http” to “https” URL is completely different from a redesign, which is different from a domain migration. 

The nature of a site migration is often a complicated and technical process. Because of this, it’s crucial to have a detailed plan for how to tackle this project before, during, and after the migration itself.

Other types of site migrations include:

  • Moving to a new domain
  • Changing URLs
  • Updating navigation or architecture
  • Adding mobile functionality  
  • Migrating part of a website
  • Moving to a new host or server
  • Moving to a new CMS or framework
  • Website redesign or template change
HawkSEM: How to Successfully Perform a Site Migration

When you’re working on a site migration, it’s wise to execute and test everything in a staging environment before it goes live on your actual website. (Image via Unsplash)

Before the site migration

Jessica says the “before” stage is the most important phase of a site migration. That’s why our #1 piece of advice for site migration is to plan ahead

One of the first steps you take should be to create a site mapping document. This includes a list of your URL redirects. It works from the old site to the new site to make sure you’re passing all of your site equity onto the new site so you don’t lose it.

Site equity refers to the fact that your old URLS have been around longer and thus have had more time to drum up page authority and traffic. You don’t want to lose that when you migrate your site. Essentially, you want to make sure your new URLs (if applicable) reroute from your old URLs so no pages are lost or dead-end with a 404 error. 

Pro tip: When you’re working on a site migration, it’s wise to execute and test everything in a staging environment before it goes live on your actual website. Sites like WordPress can walk you through the creation of production, staging and development environments.

During the site migration

As you migrate your site, be sure to implement your comprehensive list of 301 redirects. Moz explains that, when the new site URLs are different from the old site URLs, 301 redirects “tell search engines to index the new URLs as well as forward any ranking signals from the old URLs to the new ones.”

You need to use permanent 301 redirects if your site migration entails:

  • Moving to or from another domain or subdomain
  • Switching from “http” to “https”
  • Parts of the site being restructured in some way

Next, you’ll want to update all of the canonical tags on your new, old, and other sites, if applicable. If your site has a page that can be accessed via multiple URLs, Google will view this as duplicate content — that’s where canonical tags come in. 

According to Google, the search engine’s bots “will choose one URL as the canonical version and crawl that, and all other URLs will be considered duplicate URLs and crawled less often.” So make sure the canonical URL you’re directing to is the one that already has the most site equity.

Pro tip: Google offers a Change of Address Tool for sites migrating from one domain or subdomain to another. However, this isn’t the tool to use for changing from “http” to “https,” redirecting pages on your site, removing “www” from your domain, or moving without making user-visible URL changes.

Additional steps to take during the migration process

Along with the above, don’t forget to complete this site migration checklist:

  • Update all of the internal links on your sites so that they point to the new URLs.
  • Update all of your tracking codes.
  • Set up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools for your new site (if applicable).
  • Update your XML sitemap (if you don’t have a plug-in that will create it automatically) and submit the sitemap to Google and Bing.
  • Reach out to the owners or editors of any high-value backlinks and ask them to update the link.
  • Update outside links you control, such as Google My Business, social profiles, analytics, and anywhere there are citations, NAP (name, address, phone number) listings, or links back to your site, so they point to the new URLs.

Pro tip: Launch your new site during an “off” or slow period of time, if you can. That way, your team can test out all the live links and address any issues quickly before customers and prospects see them.

HawkSEM: How to Successfully Perform a Site Migration

There are endless reasons why site owners may see SEO changes after migrating a site, regardless of the type of migration. (Image via Unsplash)

After the site migration

Finally, the finish line! Once you’ve successfully moved over your site content, tweaked it all in a staging environment, and followed the steps above, it’s time to launch. 

After your new site is up and running, it’s a good idea to continue monitoring 404s and Google Search Console to make sure everything is tracking properly. You also want to monitor your rankings. If you migrated and, after a few weeks, your rankings aren’t where they were (or better), it’s time to conduct an SEO audit and see what might’ve gone awry.

Looking to up your SEO game? Check out our guide: 10 Quick Tips to Improve Your SEO Today.

How to avoid a drop in SEO after a migration

No matter how thorough you are with your site migration, it’s still possible to see a dip in your SEO performance. Jessica explains that there are endless reasons why site owners may see changes after migrating a site, regardless of the type of migration. 

A big part of this is because the Google algorithm is wary of big site changes, so you’ll almost always see a dip after migrating while Google reassesses. If you’re migrating to new URLs, you may also lose some equity through redirection. 

To ensure your SEO suffers as little as possible, avoid these common site migration mistakes:

  • Waiting too long to start the site migration process
  • Launching before you’re ready
  • Not comprehensively redirecting the proper way
  • Not updating canonical tags
  • Deciding to launch new sites that are not as optimized as the old sites
  • Not making a copy of the old site
  • Failing to transfer your disavow file that tells Google which of your backlinks should be ignored
  • Not completing and saving a crawl for reference (you can crawl your site with a tool like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb)

Website crawler tools allow you to crawl your websites’ URLs to better analyze and audit your technical and onsite SEO.

Don’t be afraid to consult a professional

It’s natural to be overwhelmed by the idea of a site migration. After all, it’s an involved project with a lot of moving parts. While we’ve laid out the main elements of a site migration, much more goes into it along with the above.

If it seems like too much to take on, we suggest consulting an experienced professional who can ensure your migration goes smoothly.

The takeaway

Planning and preparation are the most important phases of a successful site migration. Along with this, it’s key to remember that SEO is part of every page, and it should be one of the first things you consider during a migration. 

Give yourself peace of mind during a site migration by following every step necessary to ensure you don’t lose site equity, and keep a record of everything you do and need to do during the process. (Better yet, consider giving the job to a pro who can work with you to ensure the migration is a success.) Happy launching!

HawkSEM site migration checklist

Want more? Click to download our easy-to-follow site migration checklist.

This article has been updated and was originally published in January 2020.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Jun 24 , 2020

From lazy loading to dark mode, these are the design trends you need to know about before your next website overhaul.

Here, you’ll find:

  • The year’s top website design trends
  • Examples of these trends in action
  • How to decide which trends will work for your site
  • Tips for what to avoid

The first time I created a website, I used the Angelfire platform to make a page for my neighborhood babysitting services in the very early 2000s. (What can I say? I had an entrepreneurial spirit and wanted my own funds to spend at the mall.) 

Believe it or not, website design has come quite a long way since then.

With millions of business websites online today, you can’t simply lean on templates to beat the competition. Let these top website design trends of 2020 inspire you to make your own site stand out from the crowd.

hawksem: website design trends blog

Your website’s white space doesn’t have to actually be white — it just means the area is free from images, graphics, or text. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Whitespace galore

There are a few tell-tale signs of an outdated or spammy website. These include: too many intrusive pop-ups, hard-to-find CTAs, and an overall cluttered look that makes your eyes unsure of where to look next. Modern, well-designed sites, on the other hand, know having an ample amount of whitespace is key. 

Not only does whitespace make your site look clean, organized, and easy-to-navigate, but it makes the visitor less likely to get distracted from the reason they landed there in the first place. And, of course, your website’s white space doesn’t have to actually be white. Whitespace just means the area is free from images, graphics, or text.

See where you can inject more whitespace on your overall site design, whether it be at the margins, between blocks of text and images, or both.

hawksem: site design trends blog

An example of color blocking from our homepage

2. Color blocks

Color blocking is an easy way to add some flair to your website while keeping things simple. Ideally, you’ve got a handful of designated brand colors that you use across your site, materials, social media handles, and collateral for cohesion. It’s best to pick a few lighter and darker brand colors so you have more options to play around with when it comes to design.

Your brand colors should, of course, be complementary, so you can pair various shades together without clashing. This is where color blocking comes in. You can use color blocks to block off text, frame graphics and images, or as background elements that’ll grab your visitors’ attention.

hawksem blog - design

Hand-drawn imagery on the Mailchimp website

3. Hand-drawn text and icons

Thanks to technology advancements and the fact that it’s easier than ever to connect with a talented designer online, hand-drawn site elements have become a bona fide website design trend. And we don’t mean sloppy text and amateur sketches. Today’s hand-drawn text and icons still look polished and on brand.

Designers will often use software tools to create hand-drawn elements, allowing them to be easily replicated, reproduced and repurposed. Ideally, you should have access to your hand-drawn files so you can use them on your website, collateral, and other materials as well.

hawksem - lazy loading

A look at how lazy loading works on Medium’s website

4. Lazy loading

As Google explains, lazy loading is a design technique that means your website’s page elements (such as images, text, and videos) load as needed instead of all at once. This can apply to elements that only appear on the page as you scroll, or placeholders that turn into images as you move the page.

In addition to being an impressive design element, implementing lazy loading can potentially help your website load faster. Just beware that, if you set up something like a blog to lazy load, it may negatively impact your SEO, so it’s better to keep it to smaller design elements.

hawksem blog: website design trends

Dark mode proponents claim this design is easier on the eyes, saves your battery, and creates a better experience for people who are sensitive to bright light. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Dark mode

You may already have this enabled on your smartphone, but dark mode isn’t limited just to mobile. Dark-mode design is basically a darkened version of a website’s layout, wherein the background is dark navy or black. 

This trend really caught fire in 2019 when Google added it to Chrome and YouTube, and social media sites like Twitter did the same. Dark mode proponents claim this design is easier on the eyes, saves your battery, and creates a better experience for people who are sensitive to bright light.

While some sites allow you to choose between regular and dark mode, the level of coding involved here means it may be easier for you to try dark mode as your overall website style during your next site refresh, rather than trying to create two site designs.

hawksem blog - squarespace

Layered elements featured on Squarespace’s homepage

6. Layered elements

Having a website with layered elements can transform a simple design to one that’s modern and eye-catching. As Wix explains, a layered effect can be achieved through “placing elements on top of one another so that they’re partially obscured from view, or by allowing additional content to pop into view once clicked.”

Depending on how fancy you want to get, you can even layer multimedia elements, such as an auto-play video (without auto-play sound) over a static image. Just be mindful of spacing — you don’t want things to start getting cluttered.

hawksem - Minimalist navigation

Minimalist navigation on the Bolé Road Textiles e-commerce website

7. Minimalist navigation bars

Think about the purpose of a navigation bar: it’s like the beginning of a trail. You have a few different trailheads that’ll show you a few different types of scenery. But when you have too many trailheads, it can be difficult to know which one to choose — and you may just end up turning around entirely.

Keep this from happening with visitors on your website by keeping your navigation bar as minimal as possible. An easy way to do this is by having categories with drop-down menus to keep your site easy to use and organized.

For example: Instead of putting blogs, infographics, and your knowledge base in the top navigation, you can file all these in a drop-down menu under the “Resources” category. 

The takeaway

Whether you’re building a new site from scratch or hitting hard-refresh on your existing one, knowing about the latest website design trends can help you determine the best way to proceed.

Your website is where many people get a first impression of who your brand is — by making thoughtful design choices, you can make sure you’re putting your best “face” forward.

Need more help with your website and other marketing content? Let’s chat.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Dec 11 , 2019

Sure, you’ve got an impressive, well-designed website — but is it set up to convert?

Here, you’ll find:

  • How site design plays into conversion rate optimization (CRO)
  • Ideas for reducing e-commerce cart abandonment
  • Ways to make pop-up ads work for you
  • How to leverage heat-mapping and click-mapping data

You know an attractive website is integral for drawing users in, and you’ve taken the time to build one that dazzles. The design is clean, the images are eye-catching, and you think it’s ready to go. But there could be one component missing.

Your website might not be designed to convert.

HawkSEM: How to Increase Conversions Through Website Design

For the vast majority of businesses today, their website is what brings in customers and makes sales. (Image via Unsplash)

If your page has a high bounce rate — meaning that people are visiting your page and leaving almost immediately — despite a great look, you may want to consider redesigning for CRO.

If you haven’t started designing yet, you can build your site the right way from the ground up and save time later.

Let’s go over what exactly a conversion rate is, why you should care about optimizing it, and some ways you can design your site for CRO.

Why you should care about CRO-focused website design

As we said above, CRO stands for conversion rate optimization. While “conversion” means different things depending on your company, industry, and goals, the idea is that a user who takes the action you want once they reach your site is converted.

Say you want them to browse through your e-commerce line and purchase the product that’s right for them, or you’re in the service industry and want visitors to request more info via a form.

In each case, the number of users who do so are conversions, and the number of conversions relative to the total number of people that visit your site is your conversion rate.

That rate is expressed as a percentage. Naturally, you want this to be as high as possible — that’s where conversion rate optimization comes in. For the vast majority of businesses today, their website is what brings in customers and makes sales.

If you haven’t implemented CRO-focused website design, you’re going to end up losing money. Smaller businesses are particularly at risk of dissolving into the ether if people can’t find them online.

The good news? It doesn’t have to be that way.

How do I improve my conversion rate?

You can optimize your website for maximum conversions by approaching design with a few simple rules in mind. Most of these guidelines revolve around user experience, and how intuitive your page is to visitors:

  • Don’t overwhelm the user with too many choices
  • Optimize your checkout process
  • Don’t bombard users with popups
  • Take advantage of heat-mapping and click-mapping data

Don’t overwhelm the user with too many options

This comes down to the paradox of choice: when confronted with an overwhelming number of things to choose from, people tend to burn out and not choose anything. This may seem counterintuitive — wouldn’t more choices mean happier users? Don’t people want more variety? Not necessarily.

Instead of including images of every clothing item you sell on your homepage, consider highlighting just one area (women’s jeans, for example) every week or so, and letting that item shine. If you’re worried you may turn people off who aren’t looking for that item, just make sure your top navigation bar makes it clear that there are other items on the site that might be more their taste.

Targeting a specific demographic not only helps you refine your message but lets you speak to the customers most likely to need or want your product.

This also goes for the design of your site. Design with your ideal customers in mind. Don’t confront them with too many buttons and sidebars — simple is almost always the way to go. Let them know exactly what’s available and where they need to go to get it. Guide them through each page with a good user experience (UX) design.

This also applies to calls-to-action (CTAs). It’s usually wise to include only one CTA button instead of several. Too many might make it unclear what the user is supposed to do first, and they’ll bounce from your site. Make sure buttons are clearly visible, appealing, and easily identified.

Pro tip: This may seem obvious, but design your site navigation menu to be easily navigable. Even the colors you use for certain elements on your page can have a significant effect.

Optimize your checkout process

You may think you’ve got the customer hooked when they get to the checkout phase, but beware. Cart abandonment — where users add items to their cart and leave them in limbo without paying — is a real issue. In fact, the global rate of cart abandonment as of 2019 is over 75%, according to Design Advisor.

As the owner of your site, it’s your job to prevent that from happening as best you can. You want to be sure a customer’s curiosity converts to sales. One way to do that is to refine your checkout process, making it streamlined and simple for the user to get right through to the end. There are several ways to accomplish that, including:

  • Minimal data entry fields
  • Not having customers enter the same data multiple times
  • Prominently displaying shipping charges, taxes, and any other fees associated with the purchase (don’t surprise them at the end)
  • Having a preview of the customer’s item in the cart so they can review their purchase
  • Including multiple shipping options

No one likes a tedious checkout process. With CRO-focused website design, you can make your customers’ buying experience an easy one so they don’t give in to second thoughts and click away.

Don’t bombard users with pop-ups

This should go without saying, but being met with multiple pop-up ads, especially right away, may annoy potential customers.

This isn’t to say that they’re not effective or shouldn’t be used — it’s all about how, how often, and when. For instance, maybe you have one pop-up message when a user lands on your page with a special offer or incentive, like 15% off their purchase if they sign up for your email newsletter.

Even that may be too much, and some companies are ditching the entry pop-up all together. According to the Online Marketing Institute, it takes up to 13 interactions with your brand on average before a customer decides to buy, so a pop-up ad probably won’t be the thing to convince them, especially if it’s their first time visiting.

A better alternative? Exit-intent pop-ups. These activate when a user is about to leave the site after they’ve had a chance to look around. They’ve engaged with your product, know whether or not they like it, and are more likely to commit. In fact, exit-intent pop-ups can increase conversation rates by up to 27%.

HawkSEM: How to Increase Conversions Through Website Design

Click mapping can show you if those CTA buttons are actually working, or if almost no one is motivated to click them. (Image via Unsplash)

Take advantage of click-mapping and heat-mapping data

Heat-mapping software converts your page into a color-coded scale, with the “hotter” colors showing where users spend the most time, and cooler colors like blue showing where they spend less or no time at all. Click-mapping works on the same principle by showing you where on your pages users click the most.

Heat mapping can show, for example, how far a reader makes it through a post on your blog. Click mapping can show you if those CTA buttons are actually working, or if almost no one is motivated to click them. You can use this data to deduce what part of each page is getting the most traffic, and change your site design if that traffic doesn’t line up with your expectations.

The takeaway

Now that you’ve got a better idea of CRO-focused website design, you can start making the changes you need to get visitors converting into customers.

Use our tips to build a foundation, then branch out and research what’s right for you. The right tweaks could make a world of difference.

Need more assistance in the website department? We can help.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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