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How to avoid an SEO disaster during a website redesign?

Let’s say your site is performing great. Rankings are strong, organic search traffic is on the rise, and so is your revenue. But it’s time to give it a mini facelift – change the look and feel, move to a new CMS, improve its UI/UX, improve the speed. This is great! Because google’s algorithm loves to reward sites that provide a great user experience.

But what will happen to your existing rankings & your organic traffic? Will you end up losing your existing SEO value? And how will the new site perform in the search engines?

These are just some of the questions you will encounter when you start thinking seriously about redesigning your site. Although it might seem like a daunting process, but if done properly, it can be smoothly executed. Let’s take a look at the steps you can take to make sure you don’t lose your site’s SEO during a redesign.

Top things you should be doing SEO-wise when redesigning your site

Step 1: Crawl your site

It is highly recommended that you crawl your existing site, before starting to redesign it. This is an important step as you need to understand your existing site’s structure, meta data and URLs in order to identify exactly what needs to be changed in the new site. You can easily do this by using tools like SEO Crawler & Screaming Frog.

Step 2: Have an SEO audit

This step will help you spot the areas that the search engines like or don’t like about your site. Go through all the pages of your existing site and determine which pages and content have a high click-through rate (CTR). Identify the low performing pages with broken internal/external links, missing page titles, duplicate page titles, missing meta descriptions or missing H1 tags. Now you will know what pages need to be retained and which ones need to be improved. A free tool you can use for this is Woorank.

Step 3: Implement 301 redirects

Keep your URL structure the same, if possible. This will save you a ton of work and make your life a lot easier. But if you must change the URL structure, then this is the most important SEO aspect to consider. Make sure that you implement 301 redirects for all pages that have a new URL in order to ensure that the user gets redirected to the new page. Do not miss this step, or you will end up losing all your traffic from inbound links.

Step 4: Perform Inbound Link Analysis

An inbound link is a link from another website that points back to your site. You want to make sure that when you are redesigning your site, these inbound links are not lost. One would argue that setting up a 301 redirect should take care of this. While this is true, it is always good practice to perform this step, as inbound links are incredibly important for your site’s SEO and you don’t want to risk losing them. Some tools you can use to do an inbound link analysis are Majestic , Moz Open Site Explorer , Raven, Ahrefs.

Step 5: Create A New Site Map

This is one of the most commonly missed step. Most people think that setting up a 301 redirect is enough to inform google to index your new site. But an up-to-date sitemap will help the search engine discover new URLs and provide a lot more specific information about the structure of your new site.

Step 6: Submit A Change of Address For Your Old Site

The final step if you are moving domains is to inform google that your old site has moved. Verify your new site in google webmaster tools and request a change of address for the old site. Learn more about it here.

Once your new site is launched, it is important to keep an eye on its performance. Make sure you closely monitor any loss in keyword ranking, drop in organic traffic, indexing of pages or any crawl errors. This can be done using Google webmaster tools.

Here are some other do’s & don’t to consider

  • Don’t take down your site completely for several weeks as you will end up experiencing a massive decline in traffic before the new site is even launched
  • Optimise all content on all pages of the new site
  • Do a keyword analysis. Identify any keywords that your site may be gaining traffic from and include it in your new site.
  • Don’t use 302 as it only temporary redirects and does not do anything for your site’s SEO
  • Don’t delete pages. If possible change the content of the page or redirect it to another page.

Every site experiences a bit of fluctuation after a redesign. But if you follow the instructions in this post, you will be able to successfully move to the new design whilst retaining most of your site’s SEO.

Still have some concerns regarding your site’s redesign affecting its SEO? Contact one of our experts today! And if you think we’ve missed out on anything, please post in the comments section below.


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