Saving SEO Face in the Wake of a Website Redesign
You’ve worked hard over the years making sure your website is well-optimized. You’ve spent countless nights reading up on Google’s latest algorithm updates, wondering how they’re going to affect your website traffic and search rankings. You may have dabbled in some black- or grey-hat techniques in the past, but you’ve since seen the errors of your ways and now do everything you can to have your site performing well, due to it’s own merit.
Wait…But now it’s time to redesign your site. Can that affect all of your hard work?
In a word: Yes. But if you’re conscientious and vigilant from the start, then you’ll have nothing to worry about. Let’s talk about a few of the things you should absolutely take into consideration when planning to rebuild your website. And, for an even more in depth look at this process, consider attending our live workshop series on website redesigns.
- Take an audit of your current site. What are your current organic rankings for all of your targeted keywords? What’s your traffic, bounce rate, conversion rate, etc. look like? What are your most (and least) visited pages? Do all of your images have ALT tags? Are there any broken internal/external links on your site? Do you have an XML sitemap that shows every page on your site? It’s important to know all of this information so you can accurately measure the success of your new site. After all, you’ll want to boast about how much better the new site is doing, won’t you?
- Optimize your content. Make sure your page content is written for the consumer but also contains your most valuable keywords. Each page should have a unique title tag and meta description, and each image should have an ALT tag describing its content.
- Keep navigation the same (and nix those pages that weren’t working). Familiarity is the name of the game. Keep your site structure the same so past visitors can easily find the information they are looking for. If you have pages on your current site that are underperforming or have a high bounce rate, consider removing them altogether.
- Keep it mobile and tablet friendly. One of the biggest – and most avoidable – mistakes people make is not having a website that is responsive to all the various screen sizes that viewers could be using. Having a mobile website that people can access from anywhere is part of having good customer service – make sure it’s easy for you viewers to browse your site on whatever is most convenient for them.
- Use 301 redirects. If you’re changing domain names, that is. 301 redirects are imperative if you’re using a new domain because it will transfer a majority of the link juice from the old URL to the new one. 301 redirects are permanent and should be added to every single URL from the old site to it’s counterpart on the new site.
- Generate a list of your backlinks. Again, if you’re changing domain names. Backlinks are incredibly important as they help boost your rankings in SERP and create more channels for users to find your site. Therefore, if you have some, you definitely don’t want to lose them. Using sites like Moz or cognitiveSEO to get a list of your backlinks is a great first step in making sure they are transferred over to your new domain name. You can look through your backlink list and if there are some really valuable ones, you can reach out to their webmaster asking to update the link once your new site is up and running.
- Create good 404 pages. Even the best of us make mistakes from time to time, and as such, there may be a few pages you miss in the rebuild process. If that’s the case, don’t worry. Just make sure you have a good 404 page in place to make up for it. A 404 page is a great safety net that you can use to direct users to other information they may be interested in, and by not having a useful and well-thought-out 404 page, you are essentially asking that visitor to leave. Airbnb has a great example of a well-thought-out, attention-grabbing 404 page:
Redesigns are a big project and should not be taken lightly. That being said, there are many easy things you can do to make sure that the process is as smooth as possible. These are just a few tips to make sure you aren’t making any crucial mistakes that could cause you long-term SEO damage.
If you’re interested in redesigning or website, or have some additional questions about the process, feel free to contact one of our experts today.