How to perform a website redesign without affecting SEO
Are you considering a website redesign? Today, I'll show you exactly how to redesign your website without compromising SEO.
This comprehensive guide describes:
How can a website redesign have a negative impact on SEO?
Why redesigning your website might be a good idea anyway
A step-by-step guide to safely redesigning your website
Therefore, if you want to learn how to plan and carry out a website redesign without compromising your website's existing SEO, this post is for you.
Why redesign your website?
In the early days of the Internet, businesses didn't have to do much to get attention online, except through websites. But back then, it was a long time ago. Nowadays, corporate websites are uselessly good unless they are designed to be ranked by major search engines.
And that often means investing a lot of time and money in search engine optimization (SEO). According to some estimates, the average SEO project for a website can cost over $ 30,000. And most of these projects take 612 months to display the initial results.
Still, most marketers may be surprised that companies insist on redesigning their website every 1.52.5 years. This is because web technologies are so fast that brands can't risk getting their websites out of date.
But there is a problem here. Redesigning your website can ruin your SEO progress.
Unless you know how to do it right.
Impact of Website Redesign on SEO
One of the big misconceptions about modern SEO is that there is a unified approach to improving search performance for websites.
That is only partially true. The reason for this is simple. Search engines like Google don't want anyone to know how to rate a page. Otherwise, the entire ranking system will be meaningless.
However, through a combination of careful testing and constant research, SEO experts believe that they have identified at least 200 ranking factors used to evaluate websites. And no one (except Google) knows how many in total.
Some of these 200 ranking factors can confuse website redesign. The biggest one is related to links.
Incoming and outbound links play a major role in the search rank of a particular website. The internal structure of the site itself is similar. For example, if your site has multiple pages that focus on different aspects of a particular topic, they can relate to each other and reinforce each other. All you'd have to do is change one URL in the cluster to cause a cascade of SEO problems. Internally, those pages would all feature broken links.
And if an authority website has content linking to your cluster, they'll end up with a broken link, too. Next thing you know, some clever SEO expert will swoop in and offer the authority site a link replacement, and boom – your SEO damage is permanent.
So why take the risk of redesign?
Redesigning a website carries some SEO risk, so it's strange that companies need to get a chance to complete their website, of course. And there are several answers to that.
The first is that aging websites are a terrible reflection of the brand. Second, customers expect an innovative web experience and flock to all the companies (including competitors) that provide it.
But the most important reason is also the most contradictory reason. That's to maintain and improve SEO performance.
Yes, you read that right.
Search engines like Google are always on the lookout to provide users with the best possible experience. And that means they are constantly developing their ranking criteria to reflect their users' wishes. For example, in 2015, Google changed its ranking criteria to prioritize mobile-friendly websites for search queries from mobile devices.
Suddenly, websites of all generations have become almost obsolete. Companies also had to redesign their websites to be mobile-friendly. Otherwise, you run the risk of giving way to a significant search audience. If you haven't paid for SEO so far, it's because Google has been the first mobile in every search ever since.
But that's not the only change Google has made or is about to make. And that means that if a company wants to catch up, it needs to change shape as needed. Therefore, despite the risks, planning and implementing a website redesign is usually well worth the effort and expense.
6 Steps to Perform an SEO Neutral Website Redesign
By incorporating SEO into the redesign process from the beginning, you can avoid costly SEO mistakes. If you're doing a good job, your redesign should be SEO neutral. If you do extraordinary work, you should end up with even better SEO performance.
This is what to do.
Step 1: Perform an SEO analysis of an existing website
Before thinking about designing a new website, you need to analyze the SEO performance of the website you already have. This means doing an SEO audit to check the status before making any changes. The best way is to start by crawling an existing website with your favorite tool. Here are some great options:
The idea is to make sure that all of your existing websites are working properly from an SEO perspective. Otherwise, when you start migrating to a new theme, you will also duplicate existing issues.
And once you've verified that everything is working the way you want, you also need to collect performance data from your existing site. This allows you to measure the impact of redesign on SEO performance.
The data points to collect are:
Search ranks for keywords already targeted
Number of unique visitors
Average time on site
Current domain permissions
Step 2: Clean up the backlinks
Now that we've collected data on an existing website, the next thing to look for is an external factor that can damage SEO.
To do this, you need to perform a backlink audit.
Look for inbound links that are not from a trusted source. These links are unlikely to improve search performance and can damage your website's reputation.
Here are some good backlink auditing tools:
If you find a lot of rough backlinks, it indicates that your site may have been attacked by a competitor. Deliberately adding low-quality backlinks to competitors' websites is unfortunately a negative SEO tactic adopted by some malicious webmasters. Their goal is to reduce the search performance of your website and improve themselves in comparison.
For whatever reason, once you've identified unwanted backlinks, you can disable them using the Google Search Console. This counteracts the negative SEO effects of those unwanted backlinks by letting Google know that you are not responsible for them.
Once this is complete, you are ready for the next step in redesigning your website.
Step 3: Catalog the most valuable content
In most cases, most of your website's SEO performance comes from a few high-performance pages. These can be useful articles, walkthroughs, or product description pages.
It is important to catalog these pages before changing the design of your site. This is because anything that prevents search engines from finding searchers and directing them to these pages can negatively impact SEO performance.
In this case, the should focus on pages such as:
has a lot of high quality inbound links
Increase on-site time and lower bounce rate
Issue a large number of user approvals
Top ranked in SERP for target keywords
You can use a simple Word document for the top pages. However, if you want more organization, you can use Excel or Google Sheets. You can place inbound links, target keywords, user shares, and ranking tabs on the sheet. This way you can easily see all the details of all the pages listed.
Once you have a list of your most valuable assets, you should set it aside for review before launching a new site. At this point, compare the old version with the new version to make sure they are not overlooked or left behind.
Step 4: Set up the staging server and create a design framework
At this point, you should be ready to start designing your new website. However, it is important to complete the work without interrupting the existing site.
Therefore, in this step, you will set up your staging server using a subdomain different from your existing site.
If your redesign involves a domain name change (if you make a brand change or acquisition), now is the time to perform a domain name search to protect your domain.
While doing this, you also need to make sure that the selected domain has no negative SEO history. I don't want to inherit the problem from the previous owner of the domain. Even if it takes a few trials to find one, it's worth it.
The CVMaker owner ran more than 12 options before deciding on the current domain name. Malicious competitors have performed several similar names and have been found to be in a poor position in Google's eyes. If they didn't take the time to investigate, their business could have had an impact.
Now that you have set up your staging server, you need to configure the server to prevent search engine indexing.
This will prevent the half-finished design from appearing in search results before it is complete. This is very important if you want to use subdomains on your existing website.
Once this is done, you can create a new theme and framework for your new site.
Step 5: Create a transfer list
Once your new site design is complete, it's a good idea to go back to your original site to see which pages and content haven't moved to your new design. This allows you to remove poorly performing or redundant pages from older sites. It is important to do this very carefully.
The reason is simple. You should set up a 301 redirect for pages that don't exist on your new website so you don't lose inbound traffic. 301 redirects are a way to notify search engines of permanent changes in the structure of your site. It also retains the weight of existing links.
You should also use 301 redirects for pages that are converted to a new site design but displayed at different URLs.
If you do not do this correctly, many SEO issues can occur when a new website is published.
Step 6: Crawl a new site
Once you've created a new page where all your content flows into your new design and set up redirects for the omitted ones, you can move on to the next step. This means that you are crawling a new version of your website using the same tools you used in step 1.
The purpose is to update all internal links and make sure all new pages are working. As they should be. Ideally, you should be able to compare the results of crawling your old site with the results of crawling your new site to make sure you haven't missed anything. If all goes well, you should be able to launch a new site without any problems.
But be vigilant. Even after you start, you should monitor your website analysis for signs of problems. Fixing errors and omissions quickly is the key to keeping your hard-earned SEO progress after your website has begun to be redesigned.
Preparation, setup, start
Once you've completed the above six steps and are happy with the design of your new site, you can start with confidence. You should be able to do this without compromising your existing SEO. And that's not a small thing. Finally, if you stick to the 1.5-2.5 year recommended lifespan of an average corporate website, you don't have the time (or money) to start your SEO work from scratch every time you move to a new design. And now that you know what it takes to get all the hard-earned wins, you don't have to worry about this happening again.