Redesigning your website is a significant undertaking, but you shouldn't let that discourage you from achieving the website design of your dreams. Whilst inconvenient at the time, redesigning your website can improve brand alignment, make it easier for users to navigate your site and increase conversions. But how do significant changes to your website affect your SEO efforts? After all, you’ve probably put in hours and hours of work to make your site as search-engine-friendly as it could be. SEO can not be an afterthought throughout your website's lifecycle, any redesigns included. Something as simple as the ease of website navigation has a huge impact on your visitors’ user experience, an important factor in Google’s eyes. The great news is that there are new opportunities to amp up your SEO efforts with any website design. While you should put in measures to preserve past SEO endeavours, you can also embrace the changes and new opportunities that come with relaunching a site. To support you and your SEO strategy during your website redesign, Anchor Digital has composed a checklist on what you can do to keep your SEO strategy afloat.
How Does a Website Redesign Affect SEO?
Most website owners underestimate the significance of SEO to their business success. All too often, people think it’s a “one and done” kind of deal. In truth, SEO is an ongoing effort. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) encompasses any and all actions taken to rank a page higher in search engine results - the main way people discover content organically.
Why care about SEO?
Organic search, as opposed to pay-per-click efforts, is the biggest driver of website traffic. That makes SEO the holy grail of digital marketing.
- 75% of users stick to the first page of search results
- 75% of all clicks go to the top three search results
- 33% of all clicks go to the first search result
Considering that it can take up to a year of consistent optimisation to make it onto the first three search engine results pages, any significant design changes can significantly damage your SEO efforts - with catastrophic consequences to your business.If a redesign isn’t handled correctly, you may set yourself back by months and stunt the long term growth of your website and business. You can launch the world’s prettiest website, but no one will ever find it if you don’t optimise it for search engines.Suppose you’re not starting entirely from scratch; you’ll have to factor in your existing optimisation strategy to stay attractive to both people and search engines and keep your current ranking. This will help future customers find you through Google and other search engines. Whilst you can theoretically draw in website traffic without using SEO tactics - by employing paid advertising, EDM and social media marketing, these strategies require a much more significant monetary investment.
Steps to Maintaining SEO During a Website Redesign
1. Update Your Backlinks
Before you do anything else, get an overview of all the backlinks to your website and identify the most popular ones. This information can typically be found in an analytics or SEO tool such as SEMRush. Ideally, you would contact the owners of all referring websites and have them change the link to point to your new page, but this isn't always practical. Alternatively, make sure all backlinks are properly 301 redirected.
2. Maintain Your Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
During your redesign, you should make sure that all pages on the new website have unique, keyword-optimised page titles and meta descriptions. You can transfer these from the old website if they are unique and descriptive of the page content. If you’ve been slacking in the past, a website redesign may just be a great opportunity to focus on creating more search engine-friendly metadata.
3. Use a Temporary URL for the New Website
Using a temporary URL for the new site can avoid disruption in the transition from the old website to the new one. To preserve your SEO efforts from the past, set up the new website on a temporary URL, and then copy your old website to the temporary URL. Then make whatever changes you want. Make sure that you no-index this temporary URL - you don’t want it to appear in search engine results until you’re ready to make the new website live. Once you’re finished with the new website, you can just switch the domain and take the new website live.
4. Change Your Domain Name
If the transition from the old website to the new website includes a domain name change, consider breaking the process down into two separate steps.If you are changing domains with your new website, there are two steps to that process.
- First, move the old website to the new domain, with 301 redirects.
- Create your new website, and then launch it on the new domain, with 301 redirects from the old website.
Changing your domain in this way will minimise the risk of making mistakes in the process.
5. Minimise Content Changes
Where you have content that currently performs well, you’ll want to avoid making too many changes or perhaps even keep it exactly the same. Again, you can use Google Analytics or SEMRush to find your best performing content. Once your new website is indexed and ranked, you will have plenty of opportunities to tweak your content and change things up.
6. Fix Broken Links
Ensure that there are no broken links on your newly updated website. You might have set up 301 redirects for your old content, but you can never be too sure.
7. If it’s Not Broken, Don’t Fix it
Last but not least, similar to not changing content that converts, keep things like URL structures and page names the same. If you have to make changes, so be it — but make sure they are warranted and not just done for the sake of it.
What to Do After Your New Website Has Launched
The transition period usually lasts 180 days, during which time Google recommends you to keep your old domain name, including 301 redirects. Once the redesigned website is live, compare your bounce rates before and after the redesign. If you find there is an increase in the bounce rate, users are unhappy about something with the redesign, which may indicate you need to make further changes. Whilst doing this, you should also continue to monitor your rankings in search results to look for any improvement or decline. It’s always a challenge to transition from your original website to a brand new, redesigned version - without it having some sort of effect on your SEO efforts. If you follow our suggestions, however, you can make this process a lot smoother and ensure that all changes were worth it in the end. If you need help with your SEO, are looking to redesign your website or both, Anchor Digital, a Brisbane based marketing agency, is here to set you up for success. Give us a call or send us an email to start the conversation! We’d love to hear from you!