Nowadays, most website redesigns are done for one noble reason: to increase profits (hey, we’re not judging here, we do it as well!). However, it’s easy to neglect the clear-cut relationship between design and search engine optimisation (SEO) when doing a redesign.
You see, when performing a redesign, a lot of elements of your website are altered including its core code and pages. And if these changes are not handled properly, they can negatively affect your website’s SEO. This in turn can badly affect the long-term growth of your site.
If done properly, however, redesigning a website can end up improving your SEO rather than hurting it. And to demonstrate that, we’ll discuss the importance of SEO for website redesigns in this article, how to avoid hurting SEO, and more.
Without further ado, here’s how to redesign a website without losing SEO.
SEO and website redesigns
As we’ve mentioned earlier, such a drastic measure as redesigning your website usually boils down to profit. In most cases, it’s an investment that aims to increase revenue in the long run by improving both rankings and traffic.
Years into business, you probably gained a good idea of what your website could look like according to your target audience. And in theory, a website that is more appealing to your core audience will generate more revenue and produce a better ROI (return on investment).
And if we were to boil down the functionality of a website to two main points, they would be these:
- Attracting your target/core audience
- And, engaging and converting this target audience once they visit your site
So, redesigning your website without considering search engine optimisation (SEO) can significantly hurt the first function. You’re at risk of ruining years of hard work if you don’t handle SEO components properly when redesigning.
This, in turn, could significantly hurt your company’s profits.
How to redesign a website without losing SEO
When your redesign your website properly to ensure that you don’t lose any SEO value, chances are, you’ll end up strengthening it and attracting more potential customers are a result.
And in order to help you with this, we have put together an SEO checklist to follow you navigate through the redesign process without losing any of your hard-earned rankings. Here’s how to redesign a website without losing SEO:
1. Keep an account of all pages on your website
When it comes to search engine optimisation, every page on your website is an asset with some being more valuable than others. Besides backing up your best-performing content which is a no-brainer, you should also keep an account of all the different pages on your website. Now, this can be done in numerous ways.
Using a crawler
First off, you could use a crawler to do this. We personally recommend Screaming Frog. This tool provides great value and is very good at what it does.
In case you’ve never used the tool before, you can always read their user guide which provides a detailed overview of how to do it. What’s great about Screaming Frog and other crawling tools in the market is the fact that they have other features. So, besides helping you take inventory of your web pages, Screaming Frog can also help find technical SEO issues such as broken links, oversized images, missing HTML tags, and more.
So, you end up taking inventory of all the pages on your website as well as trying to fix other SEO issues.
Using your sitemap
If you’re using a content management system (CMS), chances are you already have an automatic sitemap generator in place. And if you’re not leveraging a CMS then you probably have a manually compiled sitemap.
Either way, having a sitemap is important and can help you keep an account of all the different pages on your website before a redesign.
Using Google’s Index
This method is perhaps exclusive to small websites. You simply perform a Google search by typing in “site:yourwebsite.com” and the returned results will be all of your unique pages that Google knows about.
We said small websites simply because combing through pages of search results for larger sites simply isn’t very feasible.
On a more important note though, keep in mind that Google might exclude some of your pages if they deem them as duplicates.
Why go through all of this? You might wonder. Well, my friend, it’s because a redesign usually means changes will affect the URL re-structure. So, it’s very important to have some sort of backup to eliminate the risk of impacting your website ranking.
2. Implement your redesign on a test site
Now that you’ve properly taken inventory of all the pages of your existing website, you can begin redesigning a new version. And the next step in your journey of maintaining your SEO while redesigning your website is to test the redesign on a staging site (also known as a “dev site” or “test site”).
The main reasoning behind this is to avoid search engines crawling and indexing a version of your site that is incomplete. Indeed, you don’t want users to access web pages that are still in the process of being redesigned.
3. Audit your redesigned website
Let’s say that your redesign process only involved “reskinning” your existing pages. Well, in this case, there won’t be much new information to audit.
However, if you’ve implemented a more drastic redesign, you’ll want to perform a complete SEO audit. There are numerous tools that can help you with this. These include SEMRush, WooRank, Screaming Frog, SpyFu, Surfer SEO, and more.
4. Use 301 redirects
A 301 redirect refers to forwarding users who visit an old URL to a new URL of your choosing. Not only is this helpful for users but it also notifies search engines of your new, permanent changes.
Moreover, when using a 301, most of the SEO value attributed to the old page will be transferred to the new one. So, it is somewhat essential to set up proper redirects when redesigning your website. Not only will you preserve website functionality, but you will also keep your previous link-building investments.
If you’re using WordPress, implementing a 301 redirect is quite easy. There are numerous plugins out there that can do this. You simply download one through the plugin directory and follow the easy instructions that come with it.
If you aren’t a WordPress user though, chances are your CMS has a built-in redirect functionality for pages. A quick google search about your CMS will do the trick.
5. Time to go live!
Once you’ve tested your redesigned website, it’s now time to unveil it to the public. Make sure to double-check everything while you do this.
For instance, in step 2, we’ve discussed how you prevent search engines from finding and indexing your site. Well, make sure to remove this functionality once your redesigned site is up and running.
6. Google Search Console
Google Search Console, formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools is a tool that you need to set up for your website once you redesign it. This is a key step for search engine optimisation purposes and is quite the process.
So, simply check out this guide from Google which helps you get started. The most important step in regards to the Google Search Console is to submit your sitemap URL. It will help Google to identify and crawl all the indexable pages on your site with ease.
7. Monitor any ranking changes
If you’ve reached this point, it means your work is done (for now!) and it’s time to monitor new data from your redesigned website. Anything from conversions, rankings, and overall performance is the stuff that you want to take note of.
Always keep in mind that a properly implemented website redesign does not immediately yield good SEO results. And that is totally fine! After all, your goal is to maintain the SEO value of your site and not lose any.
Still, if your designers and user experience (UX) do a great job at redesigning your website, chances are it will engage far more users and conversions. This will in turn lead to better yields in terms of SEO value.
Need help redesigning your website?
If you’re still worried that you might mess up your website’s SEO when doing a design overhaul, book a discovery call with us. One of our experts will show you how we can help with the process without affecting your rankings.