SEO After a Site Redesign – 6 Things to Remember
Website redesign is a serious business.
It can affect your company’s performance.
Confuse your customers.
And cause your traffic to disappear.
But no matter how much you may love your current design, at some point you’ll want to change it.
Eventually it will start feeling dated. Or you’ll finally decide to launch a mobile site. Your might be changing your business model too transitioning it from traditional business to an ecommerce store for instance. And you’ll need a new look to reflect that.
The thing is,
Site redesign is one of the greatest SEO challenges for an established site.
A simple error can cause drop in rankings and loss of traffic.
If you’re thinking of site redesign, or are in a process of doing it already, check out those few things to remember.
Manage Your URLs
If possible, keep the same URLs and you’ll avoid problems with indexing or losing pages from the index.
This however is not always possible. Your URLs can change because:
- You implemented a new CMS as well, had to recreate all pages and the system uses a different URL structure.
- You decided to change your strategy. This often happens when you also consolidate few smaller websites into one.
- You want to fix a poor URL strategy.
In such situation create proper redirects from old URLs to the new ones. Use 301 Redirects to ensure that PageRank and link juice is passed onto any new URL.
Also, create a new sitemap to tell Google where do those old URLs are now.
Monitor Your Inbound Links
URLs change will have one other effect on your site’s SEO – it may cause losing many valuable backlinks.
Many of your old URLs have had links pointing to them. Changing those URLs will result in many backlinks pointing to pages that no longer exist.
There are however few strategies to overcome this:
- Use Ahrefs to review your backlink profile. Pay attention to links pointing to inner pages on your site
- If possible, redirect old links to point to new, relevant URLs. This unfortunately can be quite a time consuming strategy. So as an alternative,
- Use 301 redirects to point most of the links from old page to the new. This will not amend the link but will pass Page Rank from it to the new page anyway.
(Re)-Optimise Your Content
In theory, your content should stay intact during a redesign process.
In practice however, your pages can get de-optimised and lose a lot of their previous search potential.
Description tags might have got dropped from the template. Their settings might got deleted or amended by mistake.
Your new template might also display information in a different way. Sections of content might get hidden behind some scripts for instance, rendering them useless from SEO point of view.
Monitor your content to ensure nothing gets lost and at the very least, the old level of optimization is maintained.
Create a Breathtaking 404 Page
Try as you might, if you manage a large site, there is a chance that some pages will get lost. A typo in a redirect or unnoticed link may cause a page to disappear from your site.
But some users might still try to access it.
They might have the URL saved in their bookmarks. Clicked on a broken link on your site or Google still shows the page in their results.
To prevent losing those visitors, create an amazing 404 page. It should keep them on your site, explain that they are in fact in the right place and provide with a way to locate information they’re looking for.
Design Shack lists 4 crucial elements every 404 page should have:
- A headline explaining the user whey they are here.
- Search functionality.
- Links to homepage and sitemap.
- Call to action telling users what to do next.
This step should go without saying. Once your new site is ready, update your sitemaps to include new URLs and new navigation structure. This way you’ll tell Google of any changes you’ve made to its structure.
Conduct an SEO Audit
Lastly, conduct a full-blown audit of your new site to understand what needs to be improved.
Your old site was working and you had everything perfected. But the new one is like starting from scratch. You need to once again painstakingly ensure that all errors and warnings are fixed.
Last But Not Least
Monitor your rankings. If there’s any problem after redesign, it will show in a drop of keyword rankings.
Similarly, keep an eye on your traffic too. It can indicate if there are any problems following a redesign.
Two more things to keep in mind
SEO should be part of the process from the start. Don’t leave SEO to take over the project once new design is done and the site built. Instead be involved in the project throughout the entire process – from planning to implementation.
Don’t rush it. It’s only natural to want to have a new design live as fast as possible. It may almost feel as if your customers are eagerly awaiting your new look. But don’t rush with optimising your new site. Ensure that the site not only looks good but also is equally well optimised.
Creative commons image by Elliot Brown / Flickr