Its a point that many small businesses come to. You have spent years investing in SEO for your site, and now your company dominates the rankings but, your site is outdated, it isn’t mobile-friendly, looks like something from the early 90s and you know it’s time for a redesign. I am sure that you’ve heard all the horror stories of how a site redesign can kill SEO rankings, so you’ve held off as long as you can, but now it’s time for the redesign. Here at MarketingModo we understand entirely. Redesigning a website isn’t a simple matter and there are always risks but choosing the right agency eliminates those risks. Here are five steps the MarketingModo team utilizes to preserve your rankings and that you can use to successfully execute your site redesign without destroying years of SEO work.
Step 1: Re-Evaluate Your SEO Strategy
A site redesign is the perfect time to evaluate your SEO strategy and figure out which keywords and landing pages are providing the most value, and which ones are providing the least. This will give you insight into what keywords and landing pages to focus on and prioritize during the redesign. During this process, you may find keywords that rank well, but perform poorly at delivering quality traffic. This happens more often than not. These keywords may not be worth including in your post-redesign SEO efforts, but present a great opportunity for refinement of the keywords you’re targeting to ones that will drive higher quality traffic to the site. When reviewing your SEO strategy, you may also find that certain landing pages fail to engage visitors and convert them. If a particular page has a high bounce rate and/or low conversion rate, a site redesign provides another great opportunity to address page level engagement and conversion issues as well. Ironically enough, by reviewing your SEO efforts and strategy prior to a site redesign, and addressing issues that you may have otherwise overlooked, you can actually end up with a better performing SEO campaign after the redesign.
Step 2: Keep the Same URL Structure or Implement 301 Redirects
From an SEO standpoint, it is ideal to maintain the same URL structure when executing a site redesign, but this not always practical. You may be moving the site to a new platform that requires a different URL structure, or you may have reorganized your content, which resulted in changes to the URL structure. In any case, where changes to the URL structure are required or necessary, implementing page level 301 redirects is a necessity. For those of you who do not known, a 301 redirect is a permanent and seamless redirect from one URL to another. It helps retain rankings by guiding search engines from the old URL to the new URL where the requested content now lives. 301 redirects also preserve inbound links and internal links, both of which also help retain rankings. One thing to keep in mind is that retaining a good user-experience is just as important as retaining good rankings. By preserving inbound links and internal links, 301 redirects prevent visitors from being greeted with the dreaded “404 Not Found” error message when accessing the site through inbound links or navigating the site through internal links that point to URLs which no longer exist. A 404 error is not the best way to make a great impression.
Step 3: Maintain Your On-Page Optimization
Maintaining on-page optimization is a given, but a site redesign can often involve moving, revising, and adding new content, so with all these moving parts it’s easy to forget the basics. Use this as an opportunity to improve on-page optimization for your site, beginning with making sure any keyword changes that we discussed in step 1 are incorporated into the appropriate pages. Then, review each title and description tag. Make sure they’re unique for each page, incorporate the target keyword for that page, and accurately describe the content they’re associated with. Once again, very basic but often overlooked amidst the 1000 moving parts of a redesign and a good reason to have a web design expert like MarketingModo do it for you. Review the site’s URLs, and make sure they’re optimized for each page and incorporate the appropriate keyword(s). Also, check for broken internal links, and review all anchor text to make sure it is consistent with any keyword changes that were made in step 1.
Step 4: Create Sitemaps
Create HTML and XML sitemaps for your site to help search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and others discover any new content and existing content that has moved to new URLs. HTML sitemaps are also very useful to site visitors, and help them discover new content or existing content that has been moved as well. It is the map to your site, use it well. Also, after creating an XML sitemap, be sure to submit it to the major search engines to expedite the crawling of any new or moved content. The search engines will do it on their own eventually but this helps move the process along faster. This step, combined with page level 301 redirects will ensure efficient crawling and indexing of new or moved content.
Step 5: Monitor, Measure, Optimize
Once the redesigned site is published and goes live, carefully watch and monitor your rankings and traffic data. Google analytics and the various webmaster tool dashboards are perfect for this.
- Are your rankings improving or getting worse?
- Is traffic to the site increasing or decreasing?
- Are visitors more engaged with the site’s content?
- Are visitors converting at a higher or lower rate than previously?
Keep in mind that every redesign will see some short-term change once the site is live as the search engines re-crawl the site but it is short-term only. And remember that a site redesign is not be a once and done project. Just like any other marketing effort, the results of your redesign should be monitored, measured, and optimized over time.
By following these five steps, you can not only successfully redesign your website without damaging your previous SEO efforts, but can use it as an opportunity to make your SEO strategy even better then before.