One of my favorite quotes is “Nuke the entire site from orbit—it’s the only way to be sure” from the movie Aliens.
It gave me nightmares for years. (Still does.)
The quote is great because it applies to so many situations—even your website.
If you want your site to attract traffic and support your business, it needs to have elements of good search engine optimization (SEO).
Often, you can update your current site to help it perform better in search, but sometimes a website just can’t be saved. Maybe it was developed years ago and never updated, or perhaps it has been updated, but it's also become such a monster that even an alien queen would run in fear.
Here are some of the technical reasons that your website needs to be put out of its misery and rebuilt with a good SEO strategy and tactics in place.
1. Speed: The Site is Just Too Slow
Do you have a large site, or one built on old technology that takes forever to load? That’s going to be a problem, and it's going to affect your user experience. Even if your website takes only 4 seconds to load, you've already lost 25% of your traffic.
It may not be enough to reduce your image sizes. You may need to burn the whole thing down and start from scratch, especially if your site’s functionality requires a lot on third party technology. Having to load content from other websites can impact your site's load speed.
2. Built with Flash: A Terrible Choice
Are you still using flash on your website? STOP IT!
It’s been said over and over again that a flash website is terrible for SEO. You can’t bookmark pages in it. Google can't crawl the individual elements, and mobile devices can’t load it.
If your site runs on Flash, you're going to need to rebuild it. There's simply no other way around it.
3. Not Mobile Responsive?
If your website was built before 2007, the launch of the iPhone, it was not designed for use with a mobile device. Even if it was constructed after 2007, it's still likely to have mobile issues.
Mobile has surpassed desktop in web traffic, and, in the not-too-distant future, if your website is not mobile responsive, it is going to dramatically hurt your site traffic.
Google already takes into account whether or not your website is mobile responsive when ranking websites, so take seriously the fact that your desktop-only website is already being penalized.
Modifying your website from desktop-only to device-friendly is not as easy as adding a little bit of code. The whole thing needs to be redesigned with modules that tell the content how to respond at different device sizes.
And it’s not just the device size that affects how humans interact with your content on their iPhone. Do you use any on-page elements that require your cursor to hover on an item, like a drop down menu or text over an image? Now let me ask another question: Does your Android phone have a mouse cursor?
You can still use some elements that require a cursor, but you will need a mobile option that removes or modifies the behavior of those elements. If these situations apply to you, it’s time to take a long hard look at a bottom up redesign.
4. Poor Site Structure
How old is your site? How large is your site? Have you been adding to it for years—decades? If so you probably have a site structure that is inconsistent.
Does your typical page URL look like this?
Or perhaps you have some pages that are structured differently.
People don’t like that. Google does not like that.
Google and web visitors like a consistent URL structure. Users also like a flat website structure. If you have pages that take more than 3 clicks to get to, you have a problem.
You may be able to fix one or two outliers, but too many variations on your sitemap means it's time to hit the delete button and start fresh.
5. No Keywords in the URL
As you should know, there are several places that Google and other search engines look for relevant keywords. H1 tags, page titles, and body copy are important, but perhaps the most critical position for keywords is in the page’s URL.
Maybe the keywords you first targeted for your website are no longer relevant to your business. More likely than not, the last time your created a website, you did not do any keyword research.
To make an impact with URL keywords, you probably need to restructure your site.
Going back to square one will let you do some bare bones keyword research to find the best ones to get your website found. You can then rebuild your sites structure to better target your pages and content to get found by the right people.
SEO Headache or Opportunity
Hearing that your website needs a complete redesign or overhaul may sound like a real pain. Many businesses do not want to deal with the fact that their website is not meeting their business needs.
I like to take the opposite viewpoint. A bad website that needs rebuilding is a tremendous opportunity for you to create what should be your most valuable marketing tool.
Either way, you still need to nuke the old site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.