So, you’re ready to give your website a makeover. You want something really cool with the latest and greatest design and tech, right? Absolutely.
A site refresh is an exciting endeavor for any business. A well-thought-out redesign has the potential to bring all the right traffic and new leads. It can improve your branding and visitor interaction. But while redesigning, you also need to consider how to maintain your SEO rankings during the redesign.
Before You Start Redesigning Your Website…
Consider this: what if your site ranks high in search engine results? Including ranking for those critical key phrases and keywords important for your business. If you take the leap to a new site, will it hurt your search rankings?
The answer is no, but only if you do it the right way.
Maintaining Your SEO Rankings
What’s the strategy to maintaining your organic SEO rankings when redesigning your website? You must design with SEO in mind. Following these steps will refresh your site while keeping your valuable traffic:
- Understand Your Current Keywords: Does your website already rank well and drive quality traffic? You may already have an understanding of which phrases people are using to find you. Use a rank checker (such as Moz or SEMRush) to see all the phrases you rank for and to which pages they lead. Create a spreadsheet showing the date, phrase, page, and current average rank. With this, you can compare after the update. You’ll want to ensure their performance maintains, or see if changes are needed.
- Know Which Pages Bring Traffic: Check your analytics program. Don’t have one? Google Analytics is a fantastic—and free! Install it on your site to see which pages are getting the most organic search traffic. Make sure your new site includes these pages—you don’t want to remove a high-performing page. Understand the key phrases that brought visitors to the old pages. If you are using new content, make sure it is just as relevant as the previous content. If possible, use the same URL structure on the new site.
- Understand Your Site Architecture: Site Architecture refers to how your site is set up, including navigation and internal linking. When redesigning a website, there is a good chance your URL structure will change at least slightly. It’s important to inform the search engines where the old URLs have moved. If you do not take this step, it can destroy any SEO power you had with the search engines. Fortunately, you can use several tools to crawl your site to understand the current architecture and how to migrate or redirect pages.
- Analyze Your Inbound Links: Inbound links are links leading to other pages on your site. (Like this one to our SEO capabilities page.) They are immensely important to the SEO power of a website. If your site redesign changes your URL structure, fails to migrate essential pages, or does not redirect correctly, you’ll lose your inbound link value. That means it’s quite possible you will also lose your valuable traffic. Run an inbound link analysis. You will understand which pages are linking to you and where your pages are linking.
- Create A Redirect Plan: Once you understand which pages are receiving the most traffic and the most inbound links, you can create a redirect plan. Properly redirecting old pages to their new versions using 301 redirects is a crucial piece of migration from an SEO perspective. Using 301 redirects safely passes any PageRank from old pages to new ones and will maintain your rankings and your traffic. If your pages are not 301 redirected correctly, your website will pay for it.
- Update Your Robots File: When you migrate to your new site several things may change. These can include your login area, shopping cart, and your content management system. Your Robots file tells search engines which pages they should not index. It should be updated to match your new site structure.
- Create A New Site Map: Along with telling the search engines which pages they should NOT follow, you will want to tell them which pages they SHOULD follow. And help them find those pages as quickly as possible! Your XML sitemap does just that. Most CMS programs—such as WordPress—have plug-ins to help you create a site map. Any good development company will be able to help with this as well.
- Set Up Webmaster Tools: After your redirect plan, setting up Webmaster Tools is the most critical step. Both Google and Bing offer webmaster tools and provide great insights. For example, these allow you to verify website ownership as well as other website diagnostics. Both search engines will even alert you when something is wrong. Additionally, if you are changing domain names, Google has a way to let them know you are moving. Webmaster tools are the best way to monitor your site before, during, and after migration to ensure everything is going well.
As you can see, there are many things to consider when redesigning a website—and many things that can go wrong. But with the proper planning, you can successfully redesign your site without negatively affecting search rankings or organic traffic.
Enlist The SEO Experts
Gatorworks is a website design and SEO company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. If you’d like to redesign a website without losing your SEO momentum, we would love to talk with you about how we can help. Contact us here.