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How a Website Redesign Affects SEO

Ben Graves - Jun 14, 2017 9:30:00 AM

If you're not careful, a website redesign can result in dire consequences for your SEO value. Some companies have lost as much as 70% of their organic search traffic following a redesign or migration. 

There several things you should do to make sure a website redesign doesn't negatively affect your SEO. 

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1. Crawl and Understand Your Site

When performing a website redesign, your URLs are likely to change. If this is the case, you need to inform search engines where each URL has moved to.

Neglecting to redirect old URLs to new ones can be extraordinarily detrimental to your SEO. Once those URLs are gone and Google doesn't know where they went, your rankings and organic traffic will drop, which will subsequently lead to a decrease in sales and revenue. 

This is why understanding all of your existing URLs is crucial.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent these issues from occurring. The first recommended action is to crawl your website, which will help you list all of your URLs.

While it isn't free, Screaming Frog is one of the best solutions to use for this. Once you've performed a site crawl, it's time to export the reports and make sure your entire team has a clear understanding of your website's structure and the URLs that require migration.

This includes all subdomains in addition to your main pages, which can be hard for some to see.

2. Analyze All Inbound Links

Inbound links are vital for SEO. You risk losing all of those valuable links if you change your URL structure. To avoid this, you should perform an inbound link analysis to get a complete understanding of your link profile.

Know what pages are linking to you, and which pages they're linking to. Then inform your developers of those pages before migration. Make sure you impleme

nt 301 redirects for all of those old URLs and have them go to your new ones.

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3. Develop a 301 Redirection Plan

As mentioned, you should make sure all older pages redirect to newer ones. 301s will be able to pass PageRank from older pages to new pages, and will help ensure you maintain your current Search Equity. 

Developers should be familiar with mod_rewrite, ISAPI_Rewrite, and .htaccess. You need to know how these work to issue 301s, rewrite your URLs, and more. 

4. Perform an SEO Audit and Figure Out What You Need to Work on

SEO audits are becoming increasingly popular because of the many elements of SEO that can be difficult to keep manual track of. Auditing your website before a redesign can be extremely helpful. You can use an audit to see your website’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for improvement, and risks, which can ultimately help when migrating.

Determine what should be migrated and what to leave behind. Address any problems you find and avoid those risks that can hurt you. You can also use an audit to develop a plan for future changes to the redesign once implemented.

5. Analyze Your Reporting

As you redesign or migrate your website, take a close look at your current site reporting. Focus on landing pages, top performing content, and sites referring back to you. This can help you get a clear picture of your website’s overall performance, including which pages receive the most visits, your top landing pages, and which pages get the most referral traffic.

Once you’ve identified those reports, make sure you export them from your Google Analytics and show them to your team to assist with the redesign and migration.

6. Don’t Neglect to Optimize Your Pages When Migrating or Redesigning

If you have a large amount of optimized content on your website, with high rankings and plenty of traffic, you need to carry it over to your redesign. On-page optimization is crucial to your website’s performance, entailing everything from your keyword research, unique pages, and other aspects. If you’re not careful, your website could suffer from general optimization or not enough optimization. 

Your CMS package can also affect this. So, you should review your existing optimization and make sure it appears on your new site.

7. Choose the Right CMS

While content management systems (CMS) can be much more user-friendly and easier to work with than custom web solutions and static pages, but the SEO can be more of a challenge. Using the wrong CMS can destroy your SEO value, but the right CMS package can give you everything you want.

One good way to judge CMS packages is to perform SEO audits on websites that use a certain CMS and determine how well they perform compared to sites on other CMSs.

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8. High-Quality Programming and Design Doesn’t Equate to Solid SEO

Be careful when choosing new technology or functionalities that seem appealing for a new website, as some of these can counter your SEO efforts. There are many innovations out there that could seriously damage your SEO, even if they are legitimate. Many developers don’t keep SEO in mind when working on their products, so it’s important to make sure they understand their impact. For instance, a product might use AJAX, JavaScript, forms, and robots.txt, but neglect to use the necessary canonical URL tag, meta robots tag, and other required elements.

Always Prepare for Redesigns to Avoid Complications

Ultimately, it’s extremely important to make sure your website is ready for migration and redesign before making the transition. This can save you a lot of headache in the long run, and help you avoid putting in more effort than you need to if you want to maintain and increase rankings. This can also help you focus on other areas of your business that deserve more attention.

Have any questions or other tips regarding maintaing good SEO with a website redesign or migration? Let us know in the comments!

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Topics: SEO

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