Maybe it has been a long time since you have had a complete website redesign. Or perhaps your existing marketing strategy has changed.
No matter what your reason for it is, a site redesign takes a lot of planning and hard work. One of the biggest concerns when going through the whole redesign process is whether or not this can hurt your search engine rankings.
Why consider SEO during the website redesign?
Why do you have to consider SEO when revamping your site anyway? Well, it is because you have a lot on the line.
Perhaps your website is doing great. Your rankings are doing fine, organic traffic is coming in, and your business revenue is growing. Now, are you willing to undo all the hard work you have put in? Of course not!
When you do the entire redesign process right, you will not lose your traffic and rankings. In fact, you could even improve them.
Maintaining and boosting your SEO rankings and organic traffic during a site redesign has three primary components:
- A basic understanding of what works (and what doesn’t) with your current SEO.
- Knowledge of the issues that comes with a site redesign.
- A detailed plan of the changes that will happen during the process.
Moreover, you need to understand your SEO weaknesses. Doing so can help you identify the things that you need to focus on, especially when you are making gradual changes on your website.
Your goal shouldn’t just to maintain your ranking, but it should also improve following the redesign. That said, we have listed some hacks on how to create a website redesign plan that will not compromise your SEO efforts.
Take inventory of your site
Before you start changing things, take a look at your site first and note your traffic from your best keywords in Google Search Console. That way, you will have a reference point when you evaluate everything afterwards.
Here are some of the other things that you should take note of when doing a website audit:
- Your current SEO rankings: Know what your current rankings are for every main keyword that you are targeting.
- Crawl your existing site: Doing so can give you a clear view of what your current site looks like prior to redesign. Take note of the meta descriptions, current URLs, structure, and title tags so that you can easily match your new site with your old one. A free tool like Screaming Frog can help with this.
- Check for blocked content: Check the list of blocked pages so that they remain blocked even after the redesign.
Set-up current link structure
The next thing that you need to do is to establish the existing link structure of your website. You do this by taking your current site structure and replicating it in a spreadsheet.
For instance, your existing top-level pages are Home, Services, About, FAQ, Blog, and Contact Us. Place those pages in a spreadsheet, and then put a link for every page in a separate row beneath them. This will help you keep things organised when you are checking against your new site structure.
Create a redirect list
If you move your content from one URL to another and don’t set up a 301 redirect, users will see that annoying “404 Not Found” message. This affects your website’s overall user experience, not to mention that it can lead to an increased bounce rate.
That’s why there is a need to crawl your website before a redesign to get a full list of its pages. Then, map out your previous URLs with your existing ones to easily set up 301 redirects that will lead search engines and users to your brand pages.
Make sure content is consistent
It is only natural that when redesigning your site, you also want to make changes in your content. But you have to be careful with these changes.
As the adage goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So as much as possible, keep your content the same. If you’re not the only person working on your site, ensure that your dev and copy teams also know what things should stay the same. Only make changes that are well thought out, and necessary as part of the redesign.
To maintain your rankings, you should keep your meta descriptions, title tags, headers, and URLs the same. These items are commonly crawled by the search engines and will have a significant impact on your rankings over time.
Block your new site from search engines during the process
When you are sure of what your new site will look like, it is now time for the redesign to begin.
To start with, however, make sure that your dev team creates the new site on a staging environment or on a platform that is made specifically for testing. That way, you can check how your new website will look like without the need to publicly launch it.
It is essential to have a staging environment to ensure you are not messing around with your live site. This also prevents search engine bots to crawl and index duplicate content.
Establish Google Analytics and configure Search Console
Ensure that you place Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics even before you transfer your site. This can make a significant difference in making sure that your data will not be lost and will be indexed correctly throughout the process.
Finally, you should let Google know about your website redesign by utilizing the Change of Address tool found in the Webmaster Tools. You can also search for the Change of Address tool when you go to Webmaster Tools and then click the little gear icon.
If you have to move domains, you should also inform Google. This is to potentially avoid any conflict.
The Change of Address tool, as well as all the changes you’ve specified, will remain in effect for up to 180 days. Then, after that, your website should be indexed.
Double Check Everything
When you already have everything, make sure that you run it first in a staging environment so that you won’t miss out on anything. Also double-check for any duplicate title tags, H1 and H2 tags, and meta descriptions.
Once everything looks fine, run a couple of SEO tests, and also do an internal Quality Assurance check, making sure that everything’s responsive and working on various browsers and devices for when your site goes live.
If you keep these points in mind, you should not have any problems when redesigning your site. You should not fear ruining your search engine rankings either.
If you’ve already put in the effort to make sure that your site ranks well on search engines, then all you need is to properly (and carefully) redesign your website so that you don’t lose out on any of your previously earned search rankings.