Website redesign is something that you cannot avoid in this day and age. A while ago, websites used to remain without changes for many years. But with updates to SEO becoming more frequent, redesigns have become a regular affair.
One of the problems that people who redesign their websites encounter is losing SEO strength. There are several cases of websites dropping completely off the rankings after a redesign.
To avoid this from happening to your website, all you need to do is follow this checklist. It can help you come to terms with your redesigning and not fail for your SEO.
1. Create An Action Plan
The most important first step is to have a plan. A website redesign is not an easy task. Several things can go wrong, and you need to pay attention to what you’re doing.
Your plan needs to detail every aspect of your redesign, including URL and data migration. There are several aspects that you need to focus on. Compromise on any aspect can lead to losing rankings during an SEO update.
Make a list of things that you want to redesign, and then ensure that they come in the right order. You should also note things that don’t need to be changed from the old website.
If you’re doing a total revamp, make detailed notes about the URLs in the old website and how they will be repositioned. Your website has a lot of SEO strength accrued over the years. Creating a new one should not compromise this at any cost.
2. Track And Monitor Your Changes
An area of redesign where most companies tend to overlook is tracking changes. Depending on the type of redesign, there are several changes to your old website.
You need to maintain a system to track changes made to the old website. And this is really important when you’re talking about the SEO aspects of a website. Ensure that you can match your keywords and headlines from the old to the new.
This needs to be tracked thoroughly because every little change to a website’s SEO profile can affect it. Again, this will play a major part during search engine updates where things can go wrong sometimes.
Tracking your changes means you know exactly what went wrong and where. It allows you to revert to the older page’s aspects if needed. Tracking your website changes is basically a safety net that can prevent the loss of SEO rankings in the long term.
3. A/B Testing Your Website
Testing is one of the most important parts of the entire redesign process. As with any redesign strategy, getting the right changes done is hit or miss. A good SEO analyst will have several options to choose from, and not all of them can be implemented.
This opens up the path to A-B testing of those components that need to be changed. This is an effective methodology because it is done in real-time and doesn’t affect the main website. It delivers tangible results and, while it does take time, is easier to carry out.
Any component on your website can be A-B tested, including CTAs, content, and colors, just to name a few. And you must do this to all aspects that you’re changing from your older website. It can reduce the chances of ranking loss and other SEO issues.
Some tools can help you do this effectively. It ensures that your test results are accurate and reliable as a source for making changes. Testing also ensures that SEO updates are not bad for your new website.
4. Split Testing URLs
Split testing is effective when it comes to URL changes during a redesign. URLs are the single most important component of your website. You should not make changes to them without adequate testing and results.
Changing URLs is something that needs a lot of focus and confidence. If your older website has been around for some time, it would have built SEO strength and authority. If you are going to change it, you need to ensure that it will have the same advantages as before.
Split testing can help you achieve your goals. It allows you the flexibility to make a lot of changes. You can create a prototype URL that you and your team can use to affect changes. This will not hamper the rankings of your original website.
You can redirect the test URL from your main URL through a temporary 302. This lets Google search engine crawlers know that this is a temporary change and keep the old URL indexed. Also, if you’re using the same content from your older website, remember to mark it as canonical to prevent content duplication errors.
5. Consolidate Changes At One Time
When making changes as part of your redesign strategy, it is important to consolidate them. Rather than making small changes over time, SEO experts have found that one phase of change works best as far as rankings are concerned.
SEO rankings can be affected by a website making small changes over a period. It can take it to mean that the content is volatile and so prevents being ranked on searches. You can avoid this by making these changes on a draft version and only implementing it once all the changes are confirmed.
This gives your website the momentum of redesigning a website along with the SEO strength of the older website. It is the best of both worlds and the ideal way to ensure no rankings drop when you redesign.
It also gives you and your team time to reflect on changes and prevent unnecessary rollbacks. Rather than making changes all the time, consolidate it to a particular period. It also improves your workflow and prevents wasting time.
6. Work On A Draft Version
Several companies make the mistake of working on their website that is live to their users. This is a huge step back as it prevents you from making effective changes to it. It depends on getting the changes right every time, which is not how it works in real life.
A draft version of your website allows your team to focus on making long-term changes. You also avoid making untested changes to your current website, so you’re avoiding many risks. Also, it doesn’t make sense to risk all that you have built to make changes that are not tested properly.
Working on your website behind the scenes allows you to have two process pipelines. You can add new features to your existing website that you have tested. And some changes that need more time to figure out can be made on the draft website.
Having a developer subdomain means that customers or Google don’t have access to it. It can prevent SEO updates and ranking changes from affecting your WIP website.
7. Match Website Structure
Website structure is basically a framework of your website. It is important to align your new website with your older website’s site structure. During the redesign phases, there might be times when pages and URLs are changed.
Some changes need to be reflected properly on your new website. Menus might be renamed, and you might add new drop-down menus. There are also chances that some sections from your website are dropped altogether.
Ensure that anything that exists on your older website which is moved to the new website is matched. The new entries will not affect your website rankings negatively. As long as you are able to match existing structures with your older website, you’re good to go.
8. Be Mindful Of Moving Pages
When it comes to website redesign, deleting or moving pages is part of the plan. When this happens, you must take adequate precautions that it doesn’t affect your SEO. You can circumvent this through proper analysis and the right redirects.
Unlike popular myths, moving and creating pages is absolutely fine as part of the redesign. It is not something that you should not do. But for the best benefits, it should be done right. If you have done your research, this step can even bring in more traffic or conversions.
It can significantly improve ranking and SEO strength if done right. You can also make SEO updates work for you with a new effective website structure. Just remember to adequately test the new structure and back yourself for making positive changes.
It should be noted that using too many redirects can slow down your website or prevent crawlers from going through your website. So, make sure that you use it sparingly when required.
9. Audit Your Internal Links
Broken or misdirecting internal links are probably the number one cause for complaints during a website redesign process. This is something that you cannot prevent from happening when you’re changing your entire website.
Older URLs might be outdated because you’ve changed the website structure and added new pages. But after you’re done with the redesign, you need to run audits of your internal links.
Internal links are an important part of the ranking algorithm. It has value for both people and search engines. If users encounter a bad link, they tend to navigate away from the website. This can affect your bounce rate and dwell time.
When encountering broken internal links, crawlers cannot go through your website. It prevents them from optimally indexing your pages. This can cause a drop in rankings and a loss in traffic. You can easily mend it by using AI-assisted tools. These tools can crawl your internal links and report broken links.
10. Review Your Content For Length
A redesign process almost always affects the content that is used on the website. Content is perhaps one of the highest priorities when it comes to SEO. Today’s marketing efforts are all directed at getting higher-quality content for your website.
Older content has very little chance of going well with the new design. Content rework is also a part of the redesign strategy. This is an area where you need to tread carefully. Content from your older website might have ranked well in your niche. It is risky to completely change it without proper research.
Engage your top writers on this task as it is a high priority. Ensure that you only improve the SEO aspects of the content and focus on the right length for content on pages. Minimalist websites are currently trending, but search engines like pages with a lot of word count. Learn to balance the website between these two aspects. It can help your content push your website to higher rankings on search results.
11. Stakeholder Feedback
In any redesign process, feedback is mandatory and helpful. It can highlight problem areas that you are not able to perceive. The more people are involved in the feedback process, the better it is for your website. Incorporating feedback is an important part of developing a good website.
You can do this as early as the A-B testing phase. You can ask your stakeholders for their thoughts on a particular area of your website’s redesign that is relevant to them. In fact, you can even invite loyal customers onboard. This can be marketed as an engagement platform where they can voice their opinions about it.
Doing this before you release your website is a lot less risky than not having feedback. It is much more reliable than testing and offers significantly more insights for you to work on. Good feedback can ensure that your website rankings do not take a hit when your website goes live.
12. Re-submitting And Verification
During the redesign process, a lot of website developers stop their websites from being crawled. This is to ensure that it is only indexed after all changes have been carried out. This is an extra layer of protection to prevent a drop in rankings during the redesign process.
If a crawler can access your website when it is being redesigned, problems might occur with it. So the best thing to do would be to exclude it from crawlers till your website is ready. Of course, people who are using a developer subdomain won’t have this problem.
In any case, the verification process needs to be carried out again. This will ensure that your website becomes crawlable again and is ready to be reindexed. You can check this on the search console and set it to fetch and render. Once this is positive, you can be assured that it is ready to be crawled again.
Brice Decker Is a marketing specialist in Houston, TX who works as a strategic director for Haitna. He works closely with SEO team to produce contents for content marketing, CRO and blog marketing.