Website redesigns can have a significant impact on search engine optimization (SEO). Improved user experience (UX) can boost rankings, but if the redirects aren’t carefully mapped, it can lower your authority and result in losing a lot of organic traffic. What does this mean for your company? In short, you have to be cautious in redesigning your website to ensure the steps you’re taking aren’t accidentally negating all of your efforts.
Let’s take a minute to step back and delve into what redesign looks like and how you can use it to bolster your SEO efforts.
Why Should You Consider SEO When Redesigning Your Website?
When brands get excited about website redesigns, they put a lot of thought into what they want their new user experience to be. They consider branding, logos, and navigation, but they often fail to consider what might be left behind – already-earned SEO.
Why are you redesigning your website in the first place? Often, the answer to this question is that companies want a more appealing site that can ultimately rank better with the search engines. If you have profit at the forefront of your mind or are looking for ways to make it easier for company to find the answers to their questions, use dropdowns and links. These are great initiatives, but don’t overlook that a website redesign means you already had a website up and running that’s at least earned some authority over the years. Keep SEO in mind, or you’ll neglect your prior investments and significantly lengthen the time it takes for you to gain traction online with your new site.
How Do You Redesign Your Website Without Losing SEO?
Inventory and Category
Before you begin any redesign, you must take inventory of your pages. You want to be sure you don’t lose anything in the process of your redesign. Utilize your sitemap, a crawler, or Google’s Search Console to categorize all the existing pages on your website.
You don’t want to make changes to your live site before you’re all set to go. You must ensure that your current, public-facing URL is unaffected. And your team can work to optimize the new site without altering your existing SEO rankings.
You’ll also want to audit the existing content on your pages so you don’t publish duplicate content that can hurt your SEO rankings in unexpected ways.
Be sure to utilize 301 redirects, which forward old URLs to new URLs of your choosing. This action tells the search engines this is a permanent change, which is very important to continuing your rankings. Although it may be a little tedious on the backend, this action preserves website functionality and your previous link-building investments.
How to Improve SEO with a Website Redesign?
So, we’ve talked a bit about keeping the SEO you’ve already accumulated when you redesign your website. How can an overhaul of your existing site help you improve SEO? Let’s take a look!
Establish an SEO Baseline
You won’t be able to know if your redesign is successfully boosting your SEO unless you know where you’re starting from. You need to conduct a complete search engine optimization audit of your beginning site before embarking on your redesign. This will help you identify your SEO baseline and any structural issues preventing you from gaining better tracking in your search rankings.
Determine Your SEO Goals
So you’ve set a baseline and understand what search engine rankings and traffic you need to keep (or make better). How can you improve them? Set specific numbers on your goals to make sure they’re measurable.
Do you want to increase your rankings by 15% in the next 12 months? Are you trying to double the number of unique visitors you have to your pages each quarter? How about growing organic traffic in ways that exceed paid traffic?
Be realistic about your goals and ensure they align with your overall marketing strategy. Your goals should be SMART:
Inventory High-Performing Content
As you analyze your site, keep notes on the pages that have the most shares, views, and inbound links. Also, keep tabs on which keywords these pages are ranking for. These are assets that exist on your current website that need to be protected during your redesign. You might seriously damage your SEO if you don’t factor these elements in.
Don’t Fix What’s Not Broken
Where you can, it’s best to keep things the same – URLs in particular. If you can keep the same URL structure and page names, there’s less chance of something going wrong during your redesign. If you have to make changes, be sure they’re for the greater good and that you’re not just doing so for the sake of change.
Future-Proof Your URL Structure
One of the undeniably imperative things you can do for search engine optimization when you’re redesigning your website is to choose a standard formatting structure and stay the course with that choice.
If you have various URL styles for each component of your website, you will encounter issues with your page rankings. This, in turn, will harm your Google results and the other search engines. Furthermore, your URLs are among the first elements people see when they visit your site. They should be logical and memorable.
Here are a few tips:
- Categorize your product listings within your URLs
- Add keywords to your URLs
- Avoid unnecessary jargon, prepositions, and conjunctions
- Always use dashes rather than underscores
- Keep URLs under 512 pixels to ensure they don’t get truncated
Use 301 Redirects
Redirecting old URLs to new ones should be the first job you tackle. When possible, it’s best practice to keep content on the same URLs. However, when you have to change the URL structure, create a spreadsheet that showcases all the URLs on the old site so you can easily implement and test your 301 redirects. Once the new site is live, you’ll want to crawl the old URL list to ensure everything 301 redirects as expected.
Optimize Your Existing Content
To achieve the best SEO, each page on your site should target a few keywords (maybe one or two) that are most vital to your business based on keyword research. This ensures your content strategy has a foundation focused on what your audience is looking for, rather than making assumptions.
Once you figure out which keywords you should use for each page, you can implement on-page SEO strategies to improve your possibilities for ranking. Use keywords in titles, intro paragraphs, headings, URLs, bodies, meta descriptions, and image alt tags to get the most out of your SEO. Also, add links to related information on other pages; this helps the search engines and readers navigate your site and understand the relationships between your posts and pages.
Make Your Website Redesign Google-Friendly
The best way to get in good with Google is to give the search giant what it wants. In this case, that means creating a site accessible and easy for Google to crawl. Make sure your new site is responsive by Google’s standards, allowing it to be crawl-friendly on mobile, too.
Make sure you pay close notice to what Google doesn’t want. For instance, avoid things like iFrames unless you include “text-based links to the content they display” within your pages.
Update Your Backlinks
Review your analytics to identify sites that send traffic to your site. Once you’ve created a list, reach out to those webmasters, and update your links where possible. At this point, you should have 301s in place, so you shouldn’t lose any sleep over this, but updated backlinks can help you get your new site indexed and ranked quickly.
Be sure to add internal links to your existing pages and blogs. You probably have lots of content that has been created since the days of your early blogs. Insert links to link to newer content to encourage readers (and the search engines) to keep reading more of the information you’ve put on the web.
Work with a Digital Marketing Agency
Whether you’re trying to optimize your website’s SEO or are interested in social media exploration such as YouTube SEO, a great digital marketing agency can point you on the right track. Reach out to experts who will happily audit your existing site and platforms and do their due diligence to get your redesign up and running.