A website redesign can be an exciting and terrifying experience all at the same time. Most likely you're redesigning your site perhaps because your business has grown and the site has become outdated and has functions and features that are no longer used. It may be the right time for a website redesign because the current site is not responsive and is not functional on all the different devices people use to access sites. Either way, it is an exciting time but can also be scary if you're worried about losing all the SEO steam your site has gathered. The potential of losing traffic doesn't have to worry you if you implement these tips.
Know your site
Before doing anything you must know the existing pages and structure of your current website. Perform a website audit that is designed to be a complete inventory of your site and identify the areas that need improvement; paying attention to site structure, SEO, and the overall quality of content. It sounds time consuming but it greatly benefit the redesign process. How else would you know what to fix without knowing what's broken?
Preserve inbound links
An extremely important indicator to search engines that your site is worth directing traffic to is the number of inbound links your site has. You MUST create 301 redirects for these pages as well. If you don't remap them you'll lose these precious bits of SEO gold! A great tool to use for this is SEOMOZ Open Site Explorer.
Have a 301 Redirect plan
You'll need a thought out 301 redirect plan in order to preserve your inbound links and to ensure it goes smoothly. In order to prep for this migration, developers need to be familiar with .htaccess, mod_rewrite, and ISAPI_Rewrite and how to use them to issue 301's and to rewrite URLS.
And don't worry, a properly designed responsive site will not hurt or hinder the redirect process and should not be a problem.
Develop new content
To compensate for any possible dip in performance, develop new content for search engines to crawl. An ongoing content marketing plan should have always been in place, but if it wasn't now is the time! Spiders always love new content to index and is an important part of SEO.
When you are indexing your site you are making sure that your site will be found along with the other websites in your niche. It is the process of gathering information from a recent site crawl by the Googlebot. To ensure the Googlebot crawl your site in a way that gets you notices is to create a sitemap .xml file inside of your new website. Also, you'll want to submit your sitemap to Google Webmasters tools.
Don't forget about optimization
A redesign is a great opportunity to go over your current optimization strategy. Look it over and document it making sure the new pages contain the same optimization. Don't forget to optimize title tag, meta description, headings, and content.
What to do after launch:
- Track search engine ranks for any fluctuations to intercept any problems quickly
- Create benchmarks of the before and after site launch. These include: a ranking report, running a website speed test, noting bounce rates, and checking pages indexed in Google.
- Create a custom 404 error page for any pages that did become obsolete
Sometimes when going about a redesign, all the attention is put on what new elements will be added to the site, and not enough attention is being paid to auditing what is already achieving rankings.
With these tips you'll be able to tackle that redesign without any hesitations. If you know your site, preserve inbound links and have a plan before you get started, you'll keep your SEO rank in tact after launching your brand new website. Don't be afraid of what a redesign could do to your rank but DO pay attention to all the details!