As technology moves forward, so must web design. Every company will need a site design refresh at some point to avoid being outdated.
Before proceeding with a website overhaul, there are a few ranking factors to consider to avoid negatively affecting your site position in organic search.
Without an understanding of the SEO implications, a simple aesthetic update could obliterate a perfectly optimized website. SEO is very sensitive; when severed, rankings drop, organic traffic drops, sales drop and revenue drops.
When thinking about a website redesign, SEO must be considered at the helm of the renovation. Study the following SEO basics to execute a website redesign without compromising search equity and lead conversions:
Evaluate Keywords and Design Elements to Power Search Rankings and Lead Conversions
Before deleting and replacing site pages, review web analytics to determine which keywords are fostering your website growth. Examine which keywords are delivering higher quality traffic, and determine the landing pages associated with each.
Look at your analytics to determine which content is entrancing visitors. Examine cues like low bounce rate and a visitor’s recorded time on page to determine what exactly is driving targeted web traffic. Preserve that performance when designing your new site. No need to rewrite high performing content, doing so may harm search rankings and lead conversions.
Completing a thorough SEO audit also allows you to see the key design components producing conversions on your website. You will want to incorporate these elements into new versions of site pages to maintain a SEO and conversion-oriented website.
Incorporate Commonly Searched Keywords in New Site Pages
Turn around low-performing site pages by examining the search terms users would type to find your products/services. Incorporate these keywords into newly designed site pages, but remember to not blatantly overuse terms. Search engines frown on keyword stuffing. Make your pages unique and specific to each keyword grouping.
Creating a simple wireframe will help you map out keywords, meta tags and path names, so you properly leverage SEO while building an information-rich website.
Beware of Introducing New Code and Tech Features
Technology advancements can also increase your site and page load time; loading time bieng an obviously important conversion optimization factor.
Review the loading performance of each site page on desktop and mobile before making changes. I recommend these tools:
Identify low-performing pages and add the new functionality to these pages only. Verify how the new functionality impacts traffic, then proceed to add the functionality to other pages if you witness a positive outcome.
Ensure Dev Site is Not Indexed
Prior to launching your new website, double check that your dev site is not currently indexed by any major search engine. Verify that your live version does not have any links pointing to any site pages in the dev version.
Verify if Google knows about your dev site by performing a site search using:
If your dev site does not show up, Google and major search engines like Bing have probably not crawled it.
There are two ways to explicitly block content from being indexed and appearing in web search results:
If you use the noindex method, be sure to remove the nofollow meta tag from your code before transferring your main domain to ensure you don’t block the main version of your site from being indexed.
Provide Redirection for Domain Changes
Every link you click or webpage you visit returns a status code with contained instructions for your browser. Search bots see these codes, and rely on these codes to properly crawl your website. Therefore, it’s important to properly manage these codes and repair all broken links; the wrong status code can erode authority.
When implementing a new domain name for an indexed website, one must create a proper system of 301 redirects, mapping old to new URLs for search engines. Anytime you change a URL syntax, you risk confusing search engines. Therefore, you want to redirect URLs to ensure link equity (ranking power) is passed between the redirecting webpages.
Pages that cannot be mapped with a 301 redirect will require a custom 404 error page. This lets users and search engines know that the original page is gone and not simply a broken link. When requesting a deleted page, the website server will return a 404 response code.
Once all internal pages are properly redirected, refer next to your web analytics to identify top linking referring sources of traffic. Contact each noted source and ask each to update their links to your new domain.
Maintain File Naming and Title Structure
If migrating to a new content management system, keep the same file naming structure of your indexed site. This allows search bots to easily re-crawl your site, as well as minimizes the number of 404 pages from individuals who have bookmarks to old site pages.
Avoid changing your site’s title tag structure. This can destroy a previously effective keyword strategy. Ensure your new title tag structure fits messaging.
Update Your Sitemap
With every major site architecture change, a new XML site map is recommended. A sitemap contains all the URLs within your site, so search engines know exactly what pages are available for crawling. A sitemap not only helps search engines better index the new URLs on your website, but allows site visitors to easily navigate your site.
Every brand must tweak and refine its website to continue driving business value. Using the mentioned tips provide the best opportunity to continue ranking high in organic search following a website’s revamp.
To learn more about retaining traffic after a site redesign, download our step-by-step guide to SEO-friendly websites.