SEO is one of the major concerns when you opt for a website redesign. It takes years of efforts and investment to achieve a higher rank, and you don’t want to compromise it for the aesthetics.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Certainly, you can give a new makeover to your website without losing your rank. You just need to prioritize SEO to preserve your rank during and after a major website overhaul. Here are some points that you need to keep into your mind.
Don’t Go For a Drastic Change
One of the biggest reasons businesses lose their years of SEO investment during a redesign is that they go for a drastic change. We know it is tempting to imagine a completely different website, just like your competitor’s, but why fix what isn’t broken?
When an SEO company works on a redesign that focuses on the tags that helped you gain that rank you enjoy. They know what needs to stay and what you can let go of without compromising your ranking.
This means it would be best if you keep your content close to what it was before. Think about it this way, if your previous content helped you climb the ranks that means it is good enough in SEO terms. Make changes only to enhance and improve it. Keep the same title tags and Meta description because that is where the crawlers usually go.
Preserve the Architecture
When redesigning, take it as a new façade for your site and try to preserve the overall architecture of the original. It is good from an SEO perspective and also helps you prevent many technical difficulties later on.
In all honesty, search engines don’t really like surprises. The crawlers prefer familiar spaces. You have a better chance or preserving your ranks when you manage to preserve the structure of the site. However, it isn’t just about the bots.
We know SEO is getting more user-centric. A drastically new structure can be too overwhelming for your existing users. People don’t generally like changes. A major change can be a major turn off for your most loyal users because it will take them through the learning curve once again.
Remember the Redirects
Now, redesign often involves a new set of URLs and this when you have more chances of hurting your ranking. A great way to minimize the risk is to have 301 redirects for all the new URLs. 301 redirect notify the search engines about your change of location. This means while the crawlers will have to visit a new location, they are aware of who they are visiting. They know what content they are about to crawl, and they are most likely to assign you the same rank as before.
Keep in mind that every page on needs its own 301 redirects. It helps search engines as well as your visitors. If a user has your old link saved anywhere and they click on it, they would be redirected to the new page instead of a broken link. If all your 301s redirect to your new homepage instead of the relevant page, your users will get annoyed because they won’t find the relevant info they are looking for.
Setting up is direct for every page can be a tedious job but it is worth the effort. Commit to it for the sake of SEO or hire pros to help you preserve your rank.
Don’t Forget the 404
Now 301 redirects are the best thing you can do, but they don’t eliminate the possibility of a broken link. That is where you need a 404 Error page. No one wants to see those errors. They are annoying. But some businesses get creative with their 404 messages, and you are actually glad you get to see that.
A good 404 message is one that can instantly cheer your users up instead of making them annoyed. It is better to find something irrelevant but interesting rather than not finding anything at all. However, you can make your 404 more helpful by adding some useful info instead.
Again, think of users as well as search engines. Include an HTTP code 404 to inform search engines about a broken link. Also, make sure you can track and fix all 404 pages to minimize their occurrence for your users.
Take Your Current Inventory
It is important to know where you are starting from. Take a snapshot of everything from your ranks to how your site looks before the redesign. This proves very helpful when evaluating the new design before the launch. It also gives you a good reference point to compare where you were, where you are, and where you should go from here.
You can check Google Analytics to check your rankings and also the keywords that helped you rank for that page. Numerous tools allow you to gather useful information about your current site and give you a useful inventory for the used one.
While you are at it, you should also take care of blocked content with your Robots.txt file so that the content is also effectively blocked on the new site.
There Must be a Staging Phase
Before the launch, there will be a staging phase when your new site is under construction. From an SEO point of view, it is best to keep the new site blocked for the search engines during the staging phase. Website design and redesign pros know how to create a website on a staging environment.
Staging also helps you ensure proper testing before the launch. This way you can fix all the bugs and issues before they annoy your users. This naturally comes under website development and design best practices and is highly encouraged no matter the platform you choose.
One major downside of not staging a site is that search engines might index your new site and mark the content as duplicate. Your ranking will be destroyed before your website is even ready. It will take double the efforts to get a decent enough ranking after this disaster.
There is a Transition Period
There is a transition period. The better you prepare for it, the easier it will be for you to survive it. Essentially, the transition period is the time Google needs to fully recognize your new site as your new address. That is when it will stop mixing up your new and old address.
It takes around 180 days for Google to complete the transition. Till then, it is best to keep your old URLs and 301 redirects. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing your old ranking and will have to build it from scratch for the new site.
All in all, you need to keep in mind that a redesign isn’t exactly the reincarnation. It is the transformation. To preserve your rank, you need to stay closer to the roots. Keep in mind that you need to enhance what you have and play on your strength instead of taking an unpredictable risk.