So, you’re ready to give your website a makeover? Something really cool with the latest and greatest design and tech, right? Absolutely.
This is an exciting endeavor for any business. A well thought-out redesign has the potential to bring all the right traffic and new leads, improving branding and visitor interaction with your website.
But consider this: what if you rank really high in search engines? Including ranking for critical key phrases important for your business?
So the question is, if you take the leap will it hurt your search rankings?
The answer is no, but only if you do it the right way.
There is a strategy to maintain your organic SEO rankings when redesigning your website, but you must design with SEO in mind. By following these steps during the redesign process, you will be able to bring your site to the modern age and maintain your valuable traffic:
- Understand your Current Keywords – If you have a website that ranks well and drives quality traffic you may already have an understanding of which phrases people are using to find you. Use a rank checker to find all the phrases you rank for and which pages they are associated with. Create a spreadsheet that shows the date, the phrase, the page, and the current average rank. This will let you check them after the site update to ensure they continue to perform the same, or if changes need to be made.
- Know which Pages Bring Traffic – Check your analytics program (or install one now if you are not already using one) to see which pages are getting the most organic search traffic. Make sure your new site includes these pages. You do not want to remove a page that is performing well. Understand the key phrases that brought traffic to the old pages and if you are using new content, make sure it is just as relevant as the old and, 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 your navigation and internal linking. When performing a site redesign there is a good chance your URL structure will change – at least slightly – and it is important to inform the search engines where the old URLs have moved. If you do not take this step, it can absolutely destroy any SEO power you had with the search engines. Fortunately, there are several tools you can use to crawl your site to understand the current architecture and how pages should be migrated or redirected.
- Analyze your Inbound Links – Inbound links are still immensely important to the SEO power of a website. If your site redesign changes your URL structure, fails to migrate important pages, or does not redirect the important pages to their new version, your inbound link value will be lost and it’s very possible you will lose valuable traffic. By running an inbound link analysis, you will understand which pages are linking to you and which of your pages they are linking to.
- Create a Redirect Plan – Once you understand which pages are receiving the most traffic and which pages are getting the most inbound links you can create a redirect plan. Properly redirecting your old pages to their new versions using 301 redirects is the key piece of your site migration from an SEO perspective. Using 301 redirects will safely pass 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, including your login area, shopping cart, and your content management system. Your Robots file tells the search engines which pages they should not index, and 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 site map does just that. Most CMS programs, such as WordPress, have plugins to help you create a site map, but 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 important step. Both Google and Bing offer webmaster tools and provide great insights, such as allowing you to verify website ownership as well as other diagnostics for your website. 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 the migration to ensure everything is going well.
As you can see, there are many things you need to consider when going through a website redesign, and a lot that can go wrong. However, if you plan well and take the proper steps, you can have a successful redesign that does not negatively affect your search rankings or organic traffic.
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.