In general, it’s suggested that your company goes through a website redesign every 1.5 to 2.5 years. Of course, some businesses will need more frequent redesigns, while others can get away with longer stretches of time.
Regardless, the one thing you shouldn’t do is consider your site a “one and done” deal. Not only are design ideas always rising and falling, but things like search engine optimization (SEO) strategies are constantly changing as well. To not make room for changes is surely a death blow to your company.
But if your brand’s already ranking well for SEO, you may be hesitant to change things up.
Going through a website redesign doesn’t mean you have to start all over though. Here are some excellent tips on how to maintain your SEO ranking during a website redesign.
Find out Your Current SEO Ranking
If you don’t know how well your website is currently ranking for SEO, then you need to find out. If it turns out that you’re not doing so well anyway, then it’s definitely not worth it to preserve your ranking.
You can easily check your SEO ranking by yourself. All you need to do is go to Google Analytics and check out which keywords are bringing people in. Then, go to Google, type in those keywords yourself, and see where in the search engine results pages (SERPs) your website is.
If your site isn’t ranking on the first page of SERPs, then it may be worth it to just start from scratch for your SEO strategy instead of maintaining your current ranking. Users rarely look past the first page of results; some don’t even look past the first 5 sites or so!
On the other hand, if you’re ranking highly on SERPs, then you’ll want to keep optimizing your website for those keywords you found on Google Analytics. Make sure you save these, as they’ll be the key to SEO success.
Make an Outline of Your Website Before Doing Any Work
What you want to do when redesigning your website is to keep things as close to the old site as possible. By this, we mean preserving your site architecture, which is how your site is laid out for users to find the information they need.
If your pages aren’t ranking well, or they’re getting high bounce rates, then you may want to rethink your overall website architecture. Otherwise, you want to stick to something that your users are familiar with.
You’ll want to make a spreadsheet of your existing sitemap. Write down which pages you have (such as Home, About, Contact, etc.), their URLs, meta titles, and meta descriptions. This will make it easier for you to compare to your new pages later on.
You should make note of which pages are ranking well so you know not to tweak them too much. If those are performing well, then you shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken!
Of course, you can always revamp the aesthetics, but as far as the content (and linking structure) goes, you should leave those alone for a high-ranking page. That way, you can refresh your website without compromising how it ranks on SERPs.
Don’t Do the Redesign on Your Existing Website
Never, ever do your redesign on your existing website! This can cause issues for people who are currently on your pages. Plus, while it’s under construction, some unprofessional problems might arise, such as broken links, pages that don’t look right, or ones that just disappear from your site architecture.
You always want to do your redesign behind the scenes. The smallest changes on a live website can severely impact your SEO ranking, so you want to make sure everything’s in order before you push it live.
You can always do your website redesign on a temporary URL and then switch it over. If this is too complicated to do on your own, you can have your developer or hosting company perform this for you.
Check That Everything’s Working
A website redesign is a great time to do some housekeeping and ensure that everything’s working. For instance, your blog articles and landing pages may have broken links, especially if they’re several years old.
Not just that, but you should check that everything is still relevant. For example, you’ll want to take inventory of your blog articles and either delete or archive ones that aren’t evergreen.
Exceptions would be ones that bring in lots of traffic. So let’s say you have a blog article about an event your brand attended 3 years ago, but users find it interesting. In this case, it’d be fine to leave up, as users will understand it was an event that’s already come and gone a long time ago.
Make Sure to Set up URL Redirects for Old Pages
One of the most annoying things about website redesigns is when users hit broken links. This can cause them to click off your website and choose your competitor instead. It can also prevent a high-performing page from ranking as it used to; if users can’t access it, it’s not going to get traffic, after all.
To prevent this from happening, you want to compare the new URLs of your pages to the old ones on your sitemap spreadsheet. If any have changed, you need to set up URL redirects.
The good news is, you don’t always have to spend a ton of time doing this. If you’re using something like WordPress, you can download a plugin like Redirection Plugin to make things go more efficiently.
Go Over Your Meta Titles and Descriptions
Meta titles and descriptions are the blue words that pop up underneath a website when you Google them. Not only do these provide users with some useful information, but it also helps to push your website to the top of SERPs.
If you don’t create meta titles and descriptions on your own, then Google will do it for you based on what content you have on your pages. But the better thing to do is optimize them yourself; you may have already done so for your site’s previous iteration. For example, if you’re performing dental marketing, you’d sprinkle your meta titles and descriptions with keywords like “cavities” or “toothache.”
Take a look at your spreadsheet and consider the pages that are ranking well. In your website redesign, you want to keep the existing meta titles and descriptions so they can continue to rank highly. For those that aren’t performing well, you may want to reevaluate the keywords you’re using on those and refresh the meta titles and descriptions.
Get Set up With Google Analytics Before Going Live
When you perform a website redesign, you can’t just pour a ton of work into it and then not measure your results. So before your new website goes live, you need to add Google Analytics and Google Webmasters Tools.
Both of these will help index your website correctly. This is where Google’s web crawlers find your website and essentially, make note of your pages in their “book.” This also why you shouldn’t make redesign edits on your existing website, as it’ll index your pages incorrectly.
Once your new website goes live, you’ll need to run Google Webmaster Tools right away. These handy tools will tell you promptly if any links on your new site are broken. You can then quickly fix them before anyone stumbles upon them and before Google penalizes you for it.
Ensure Your New Website Is Crawlable
Web developers and designers can disable search engine crawling while they’re working on your website. This prevents your pages from indexing incorrectly. If you’re working on your own redesign on sites like WordPress, you can put your site in “staging,” which also prevents indexing.
Once you push your new website live, always double-check with your developers/designers that they’ve reenabled search engine crawling. And if you’re on WordPress, you must uncheck the box for “discourage search engines.”
Get a Smooth Website Redesign
There always comes a time when you need a website redesign. You can’t risk putting it off, or else you may lose both existing and potential customers.
When that time comes, you want to make sure you get the most efficient and smoothest marketing SEO services possible. This is why it’s vital that you work with marketing companies that not only have the proper knowledge, but also have years of experience performing the services you need.
We at SEO Forensic Marketing are the premier Denver SEO company you can turn to. While you can always follow the tips we’ve given you in this article, the best way to implement them and ensure your redesign goes without a hitch is to work with a professional like us.
Ready to get started on your website redesign? Then request a quote from us now!