The decision to redesign your website should not be taken lightly. It’s a huge task and a massive investment for any organisation, regardless of their size. After all, it’s not just about creating a stunning, mobile friendly website with leading edge design, you need to ensure you don’t hurt your rankings during the whole process. Damage to your rankings means a reduction in your web traffic and as a result, a loss in prospective sales and income. So before you make the decision to dive into your website redesign project, stop and ask yourself the question; do you really understand how your website works and why it gets the level of traffic it does? It is this knowledge that will help steer you successfully through the transition from old site to new whilst protecting your SEO.
Strategically plan the switch
Even if you feel the last thing you need to do is add to your workload, be aware, you will be grateful you made the decision to plan and escape potential SEO disaster as a result of your effort. So if you really want to avoid undoing all your hard work, an SEO audit will help. What do you need to consider before you launch the project? Well truly understanding how your website performs means you need to study your current structure of your site, URL’s, inbound links and on page optimisation. You also need to look at page performance and review the content.
Changing site structure and domain?
Are you changing the site structure such as the number of pages? Remember you will need to set up 301 redirects that will advise Google about any additional pages as well as those that have been removed. This is also essential as it passes the authority on to the new page. 301 redirects can go wrong however so be sure to get the help of a trustworthy web developer. You could save yourself the trouble and keep the same site structure though!
If you are changing your domain, once again, you also need to inform Google through your Google Webmaster Tools account. If you don’t have an account then be sure to set one up before changing your site. This will enable you to receive messages and alerts from Google allowing you to make the recommended changes during the redesign process as well as notifying them of domain changes.
How does your content perform?
Analysing the effects of your content is vital. This analysis of your site reporting using tools such as Google Analytics allows you to see if your target audience is engaging with your content. You will see which pages are visited and how popular they are as well as the referral sites that are linking back. Your analytics are a valuable tool giving you the vital information needed to ensure your website pages are performing to their optimum.
Retain your optimisation
Imagine, you’ve just had your website redesigned and Google crawls your site before checking your on page optimisation! Google will adjust your rankings and before you know it, your website performance is damaged. So how do you avoid dropping out of the rankings? Well you have to maintain on page optimisation so make a note of all optimised pages and understand how it’s been done so you can add it before your new site goes live. This will also give you the opportunity to review your current optimisation and make amendments where necessary. Remember, it’s about doing things in the right order, don’t go live without checking your on page optimisation.
Check your links
Crucial to SEO, inbound links help you develop page and domain authority so bear in mind if you remove some pages, you will lose the links attributed to those pages and in turn lose the power. Tools such as Google Webmaster Tools and SEM Rush provide you with a report that shows all the links you have achieved. It is also good to note any that may damage the performance of your website so you can submit a Google Disavow. If you plan to remove pages that have inbound links directed to them, then a 301 redirect will solve the problem of power loss by passing it on to the new page.
Make it a smart move
So it sounds like a lot of work I know but it’s less work to prepare in advance than to scramble around after the redesign in an attempt to regain the traction your website has lost. It will be devastating to loose rankings, authority, traffic and business and even harder to start optimisation all over again in a bid to reverse the impact of the redesign. If you don’t know where to start then your SEO agency will be able to guide you through the process.