A website redesign is not just a simple switch up and can be disastrous to your SEO, if it’s not done right.
Maybe you want to update to HTTPS, migrate to another CMS, or just modernise with a redesign. Whatever your strategy, you don’t want all that hard work and money spent on an SEO campaign to be lost. You wouldn’t want all the time and effort to be for nothing now, would you?
So why consider SEO in a website redesign?
Why do I even need to think about SEO? Surely, nothings going to change? It’s just the aesthetics of my site that will change, for the better, right? Now imagine you are doing great, your online visibility is through the roof you are killing it in organic rankings, and you are landing new leads and clicks every single day, all thanks to SEO. When a website redesign is carried out correctly, you won’t lose any traffic or rankings, in fact, it can help you improve even further.
At greyZIP, we believe that a well planned redesign can be essential to help you beat competitors to gaining more customers and appear as the market leader. Your website needs to move with the market, so keeping up with new and emerging technologies is essential.
Here are some steps we would recommend you take when mapping out a new website and migrating content from an existing domain from an SEO perspective. We’ll cover the SEO implications and would recommend hiring a solid web design company to overcome them.
Step 1: Start with SEO
The first thing that happens when people switch their sites is they build new pages and neglect existing ones. They chuck away valuable historical content that has tons of authority and trust. Instead, they create new pages and completely change every URL. So whats the issue here? They are starting from scratch. All the work that was put into researching, writing and optimising content is lost because they failed to redirect the pages. This happens because people fail to understand how Google reads a website and how existing pages hold authority.
Step 2: Audit your site
The second essential step is to run a comprehensive website audit. Our free SEO audit will do the trick, but we highly recommend you contact us directly to discuss your redesign in detail to ensure you don’t miss anything and understand all the requirements.
What am I looking for?
There are many things you should look for when running a website audit. Sometimes it’s worth going into more detail, but these are the primary action points:
Missing H1, H2, H3 and H4 tags
And, so much more. With the free audit, you will receive a complete list of action points that we can discuss with you, free of charge. You’ll know exactly what you should be planning for before you progress with your website redesign. This service gives you a complete understanding of what is working on your existing site and what you can do to improve.
Step 3: No-index your new site
It’s so painstakingly simple, but so many web developers miss this essential step. When building a new website, you are working with a copy of your existing site. That means everything is a duplicate.
Your images, pages and posts will all be active on your existing domain. Therefore, the content on your new site won’t have any value because it’s a duplicate. The original copy will be seen as the one that holds ‘true value.’ A site can be no-indexed easily with little effort – it’s a simple tick box. On WordPress, for example, go to ‘settings’ and tick the box that says ‘Discourage search engines from indexing this site.’
This will automatically insert some code into the heading of every page. If you don’t have a CMS, you will have to manually insert this for yourself.
Step 4: Crawl your new site
You need to crawl your new website to see if everything is in place and ready for the go live. Using platforms like Moz, you can find out everything you need at the click of a button. It will give you a breakdown of internal and external links, content and more technical aspects like schema and canonical tags. The data you should look out for include:
404 errors: If a page is a 404 it means that page no longer exists. To rectify this issue, you’ll first need to create a URL on the staging site. From there, you can redirect the URL on your existing site to the newly created URL. Make sense? Great.
Don’t forget that when you redirect a page, you lose a bit link equity. But you are telling Google to transfer the positive scoring of your existing site to your new one.
Rankings: Despite following all the above steps, you will still need to keep an eye on rankings. There will have been a considerable shakeup with your website, and you should check that everything works perfectly, spend time to iron out all the creases. In theory, if you have switched to a better CMS, SEO-friendly plug-ins, and fixed any existing problems, you should move up the ranks.
Content: Don’t delete any content unless absolutely necessary. You might think older blog posts don’t add much gravitas to your current site, but they are giving you authority you didn’t know existed. Similarly, you may be tempted to re-write your landing page content – out with the old, and in with the new, right? Now is not the time to play around with your existing content, especially if you’re enjoying a period of highly ranked pages.
Index your site: The final, and crucial step, is to ensure search engines can find, crawl and index your site. Switch back on indexing (found in the same location as above). Whichever method you use to block it, use the same to switch it back on.
Important things to note…
You should never take your site down unless you really, really have to – and if you do, make sure it’s only for a few minutes. Taking your website offline can damage your rankings massively. Many websites choose to do so and replace their usual site with a single page showing a message as ‘Under Construction’, sometimes for several weeks, causing traffic to decline massively before the new site is even launched.
Redesigning your site is the perfect time to review your keyword strategy. Research if you’re missing out on any keywords (especially long tail), and if that’s the case you’ll need to include those in your new site’s design and content.
Speaking of content, you should also take this time to refresh and evaluate your websites technical aspects. Are your page titles correct? Have you filled in all meta descriptions? Many websites lose their search engine rankings because their older content has lost some of its quality or because the new design has muddled things up – which is the opposite of what should happen with a good redesign! It should mean improvement across the board.
Try to keep your site structure the same, or as close as possible to the previous one. When you change URLs, your site can lose traffic from inbound links unless 301 redirects are implemented correctly.
Finally, you’ll need to make sure your Google Analytics account has been updated. If you have any goals or events set up for the old site, these will need to be changed and reflect the new website and layout.
After the redesign is complete
Did you follow all the steps above? Great! Now’s time to monitor your traffic, which you can do using Google Webmaster Tools (previously Search Console). Some things to do are:
Watch the Google Index status, so you can figure out which (if any) of your site pages have been de-indexed.
Check if any website crawl errors are preventing your pages from appearing in search results.
Watch your traffic (you can also use Google Analytics for this).
After a website redesign or migration to a new site, changes in traffic is completely natural and can’t be completely avoided. Every website will see a drop after the redesign, but following the correct steps during the process should help you keep at least most of your visitors and Google rankings.