Website redesign is necessary from time to time.
Trends change, and that requires websites to get a makeover. A new theme, better navigation, and a fresh set of fonts can do wonders. A website has to impress and for that, you need to give it a new look every few years.
Many site owners worry it would cause their hard-earned SEO ranking to drop.
Since site redesign causes modifications all around, there is some validity in the assumption.
But if you approach the project right and hire an SEO consultant, the chances of a decline are slim to none.
We provide a step-by-step guide to maintaining SEO ranking while your site gets a makeover.
Table of Contents
Tips to maintain SEO Rankings after Website Redesign
1. Perform an SEO audit
You need to know the status before the redesign—what is working and what can be done away with.
A website audit would help you understand which parts of your site get the most traffic. High-value content should never get deleted.
How redirects are mapped needs to be known so that they can be replicated.
The statistics you need to pay attention to:
- Which are the pages and sections that generate maximum traffic?
- What is the bounce rate?
- What is the page loading speed?
2. Maintain the URL structure
It is best practice to retain the old URL structure.
The main reason is due to the backlinks you have earned. It is impossible to chase down every single backlink and request the webmaster to change them.
Moreover, your pages might be saved as bookmarks with users.
Google has started to move away from site authority to page authority. Altering the website address would cause search engine ranking to plummet.
But as long as you maintain the URL structure, you can make adequate changes inside the page and move and delete content.
The only time you should make changes to the URL structure is when the site was created without any SEO in mind and the URLs barely reflect the content.
3. Go beyond aesthetics
Why redesign a website?
It’s usually because your rival has a snazzy-looking Divi theme that makes yours look like it was set up by Fred Flintstone with HTML 1!
Make sure that the new site does not have any on-site SEO issues.
Since you have operated the existing site for some period, you are used to on-page SEO and what it means.
Keep an eye out for:
- Descriptive URLs
- Meta Descriptions
- Content Hierarchy (H1, H2, H3)
- Keyword Research
- Keyword Placement
- Alt Text
- Internal Linking
- Schema Markup
4. Careful with 301
A 301 means a redirect from one page to another.
How does it work in real life?
Let’s say you had a page at www.mywebsite.com/how-to-redesign-website and quite a few external backlinks were pointed towards it.
But later you had a new webpage: www.mywebsite.com/the-complete-guide-to-website-redesign that had better content. You decided to delete the former URL and permanently send all traffic from it to the new page.
Now that you are redesigning your website, the 301 redirects have to work perfectly. Otherwise, visitors would receive a 404 Error (Page Not Found message) and your site SEO would drop.
5. Utilize better content
Website redesign without upgrading content is like running a new Mustang on decade-old tires.
If you are going for a redesign, get better content too.
But does that mean better content by discarding the old one or a lot of fresh new content?
When your website was young and probably your budget was smaller than it is now, the site content cannot have been very inspiring. Very few new websites have content that is polished.
We don’t mean the text on the Home and About Page alone. It also includes the blogs, and the images used.
If you are using a free image source such as Unsplash, perhaps it is time to sign up with Shutterstock or Adobe.
Get expert content writers to create perfect blog posts.
Of course, this means added cost, but trust us, it is money well spent.
6. Transfer Google Analytics
You would be surprised at the number of site owners who forget this critical task.
If your previous site did not have a GA account, now is the best time to create a new one.
One further aspect while on the topic of Google Analytics.
The changeover might take a day or two. The new site is best set up at a new temporary address. Buy a URL that is cheap and has low bandwidth and few amenities.
Get Google bot to not index that site.
Add this tag to every page of the dummy site <meta name=”googlebot” content=”noindex, nofollow”>.
When the site is fully set up, download the XML and upload it to the old URL.
It might be slightly more complex if you are not using WordPress but a website builder that also offers hosting support such as Wix.
Wix, Weebly, and Jimdo all have different protocols for a site redesign. Ask the relevant customer care.
7. Check mobile-friendliness
Old sites were not mobile-friendly. In fact, that might be the very reason you have gone for a redesign.
Read up a bit about responsive web design versus adaptive web design.
The responsive design shows the webpage based on the real estate available. It is reasonably straightforward and adapts the elements to the size of the browser window.
Adaptive design has a more complex approach. It already has several layouts stored. depending on the screen, it chooses the one that would be best suited and deploys it.
The last way is to have a website designed for mobiles alone. This is a more expensive option and is considered outdated.
If you are using an off-the-shelf template, it would most likely be a responsive design. An adaptive design template is specially coded ground up.
Google Search Console has a Mobile Friendliness Test, which allows you to test the entire site and also specific sections.
8. Submit an updated sitemap
A sitemap is literally a map that lists the hierarchy of your site. Think of it as a roadmap for the Google bot.
You should have an updated site map in place whether you redesign the site or not. But after a redesign, it is a must.
The site map is usually an XML file (for modern sites). Sign in to Google Search Console and submit it. Use a plugin like Yoast SEO. If your site is small enough, the free version of Screaming Frog is enough.
This also accomplishes another important task. It signals the Google bot to re-crawl your site.
Unfortunately, as yet, there is no way to inform Google that your site has been revamped and to crawl it entirely.
Take it slow
A website redesign is a massive task. In some ways, it is harder than creating a new site. That is, since you have to maintain and develop at the same time.
Like any renovation, it is going to take a lot of planning. Maintain a log and ensure that you don’t forget anything important.
Also, keep updated backups of your old site. With some elbow grease and a small amount of luck, it will turn out perfectly on the first try.