Occasional updates to your website design and SEO strategy are necessary as they keep your company competitive and up-to-date. SEO and web design work together to create a strong online presence. So how can you update your website without causing your SEO efforts to suffer?
Audit your current website’s SEO
The first step to your website redesign is to perform an SEO audit. Why? You need to know where you currently stand. This will serve as the foundation of your SEO strategy. This will help you determine what’s working and what isn’t so you can make improvements on the new website.
First, check Google Analytics and Search Console to determine your current rankings for each of your pages and keywords. Figure out if these keywords support your overall goal and pinpoint additional areas for opportunities and improvements.
Next, you’ll want to crawl your current website to gain a better understanding of your current website structure, including URLs, meta titles and descriptions so you can continue using them on your new website.
Keep some things the same
Website redesigns result in a lot of changes; while you’re not expected to keep everything exactly the same (nor should you) you can do your best to keeping the content as close to the same as possible. Decide which titles, descriptions, and headers will be carried over to the new website.
While your overall navigation may change depending on your new website strategy and goals, try to maintain some of your current website’s navigation to maintain as much of your rankings as possible and so return website visitors can still find what they’re looking for.
Map URL redirects
Remember that list of page URLs you pulled from your current website? This is where that’ll come in handy. As your website structure comes together, identify the pages you’ll need to set up redirects for. Redirects are a way to forward traffic from one URL to another when the original URL no longer exists. For example, if your contact page on your current website was /contact-us but is now /contact on your new website, you can use a redirect so traffic is still funneled to the new URL.
For SEO purposes, a 301 redirect is recommended. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect. This is a common way to make sure both URLs work and you don’t lose any SEO benefits gained from the old URL.
Address 404 error pages
It’s inevitable that some pages won’t have a comparable alternative on your new website. It’s important to address how you’ll handle these situations because landing on an error page isn’t an ideal experience. This can cause visitors to leave the website completely since they’re expecting to land on a working page.
You can handle this by redirecting the old URL to the new website (the homepage is acceptable) and/or setting up a 404-status code. When a webpage returns a 404-status code, it signals to search engines to no longer index that page.
Update your XML sitemap
Once your website structure has been finalized, submit an updated XML sitemap to the search engines so they can begin crawling the new website. Failing to do this can cause search crawlers to completely ignore your website.
Monitor the results
Once your new website is live, monitor the performance to see if the changes you made were effective. Some changes and tweaks may be needed post-launch, but if you’ve kept SEO strategy at the forefront during the website redesign, your new website should be performing as well as your old website, if not better, within a couple of months.
Trust the professionals
Redesigning a website without affecting your SEO ranking is difficult without a proper strategy. Don’t save this step for post-launch. A successful website redesign includes developing a SEO strategy in tandem to your design strategy.
When you’re ready to start a website redesign project, give us a call. We have over 25 years of experience building functional and visually appealing websites that seamlessly combine SEO and today’s web design trends.