Businesses often worry about how redesigning their site will affect their SEO rankings. Sometimes, redesigning your site is unavoidable, but this doesn’t mean you have to rebuild your SEO rankings from scratch. Quite the opposite, a careful design that takes into consideration SEO factors can lead to your SEO rank increasing.
Why Should You Redesign Your Site?
Firstly, why would you redesign your site in the first place? (That is, if it isn’t an absolute dinosaur). There are plenty of reasons why you might need to redesign your site:
- User Experience (UX): Your current website doesn’t provide the best user experience, whether because it’s too complicated or too slow. Or you might have a badly designed User Interface (UI).
- Mobile optimization: A subset of the above, mobile optimization is more important than ever in an eCommerce market centered on mobile devices.
- Changing CMS: You’ve realized your current CMS doesn’t quite cut the mustard anymore. For lots of reasons, from UX to SEO, it’s time for a change.
- Rebranding: If your brand persona’s a bit dated, you might be thinking about updating your brand assets, and that means also updating your website.
- Other reasons: Of course, there are many other reasons why you might want to redesign your site, such as security or upgrading your store.
Note that many of these issues affect your SEO, which shows that redesigning your website is a SEO risk that pays off in the long run.
How To Redesign Your Website And Keep Your SEO Ranking
Redesigning your website is easier said than done. Let’s look at some ways you can do so without tanking your SEO:
Make an Inventory of Your Current Site
The first step in redesigning your website is making an inventory of your current site so that you can make sure your new site isn’t missing anything. There are several things you need to do, including:
- Make a list of all the pages on your site: This is necessary to make sure you don’t miss anything in the redesign process. You can do this with a crawler (e.g. Screaming Frog) to produce a spreadsheet or by looking at your sitemap or Google Search Console.
- Audit all the SEO features of your site: Check your site speed, sitemap, headings, metadata, canonical tags, length of titles, etc.
Once you’ve done this, you can…
Build a Staging Site
Building a staging site, instead of making changes on your website, protects you from drops in rankings. With a staging site, you can also set it to “noindex”, allowing you to build your site without worrying about your content being marked as “duplicate” to your current site.
While building a test site, it’s important to make sure that you include as much of the content and design from the original site as possible to not lose your SEO ranking (or all of your hard work with content marketing). This means the next step is to…
Audit Your Staging Site
Auditing the staging site is as important as auditing the original site. There’s several things you need to check when auditing a staging site:
- Design changes: If you’ve made too many design changes, Google will read it as a different site.
- Combined pages: If you’ve combined any pages, this will affect your SEO and redirects.
- That everything’s there: It’s important to make sure that all the pages in your original site are there. This includes pages like old content articles, which while they may be old, contribute to your SEO ranking.
- Check SEO features: As you did before on your old site, you need to check features that affect SEO like your site speed, sitemap, headings, canonical tags, length of titles, etc.
Again, one of the best ways to do this is to crawl the site. Then, you can easily compare it to your old site to see if you’ve missed anything out.
Set Up 301 Redirects
A key part of changing sites is to make sure you have all of your redirects in place, though you can save yourself and your SEO the trouble by keeping as many of your URLs as possible. Setting up 301 redirects allows you to keep the SEO value of links from your old website (and not annoy your customers with broken links). Fortunately, 301 redirects are easy to set up with a plugin or third party integration like Redirection for WordPress if you have WordPress. If you have CloudFlare as your DNS, you can set your redirects from the DNS level, which is an easy and seamless way to do it.
Activate Your New Site
Congratulations, you are ready to activate your new site (and deactivate your old one)!
However, the job’s not done: there’s another crucial step — Making sure Google can find your site.
For this, you need to:
- Reindex your site: Set your site to “index” to make sure your site is indexable. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s actually the most common mistake to make when launching a new site.
- Check your robots.txt file: Your robots.txt file should include a sitemap to make it easy for Google to index your site.
- Submit your site to Google Search Console: To guarantee your page being ranked, you need to submit your sitemap to Google Search Console. Do this as soon as possible because it sometimes takes time to index all your pages.
When your site is newly activated is also a good time to double check your redirects and make sure you have Google Analytics and your tracking pixels properly set up. Speaking of tracking pixels, using Google Tag Manager speeds up this process.
Keep Track of Site Performance
Has your SEO ranking survived your site redesign? The best way to find out is to keep track of your SERP and SEO ranking factors (which you should be doing anyway). You can expect some fluctuations in ranking after changing your site, but any major issues should lead to a further audit for any SEO ranking factors that might have slipped under your radar.
It’s also important to consider any previous optimizations made to your existing site that may not have been carried over in your redesign. It’s important to make sure that your upgrade hasn’t made your site slow in the process.
Redesigning your website without harming your SEO ranking is possible, though a little fiddly. Keeping tabs on the process and using a testing site are the best ways you can keep your SEO ranking safe and sound.