After a while, every website needs a redesign. Trends change, UI/UX features evolve and it’s only fitting that you keep up with them. However, you have strong rankings, traffic is growing as well as the profits, so it’s understandable that you are worried. It’s not uncommon to make mistakes during redesign that can cost you all that you’ve achieved so far.
These are some of the things you can do to prevent an SEO disaster while doing a website makeover.
Crawl the website
Before applying any changes or even prior to planning the redesign, crawl your website. This step will give you information about the structure, URLs, and metadata of your site. You will need all that information to know what to do and update once the new website is up.
Tools like Screaming Frog will help you get those reports, so you can export them to spreadsheets and evaluate what you should do. Never start redesigning before you have a sound plan in place so you can avoid as many mistakes as possible and maintain the same quality of SEO.
Perform an audit
Google Analytics is an important tool which will show you a list of pages ranked on Google. This is useful because you can have insight into which parts of your website are doing great and which need some adjustments.
Namely, it will provide you with information on all the pages that people have visited on your website and landed there through Google search. Based on this data you can review the strategies and implement the ones that work. There are also some other tools you can use for audit besides Google Analytics, it all depends on your preferences.
Inbound link analysis
Inbound links are those URLs from another website pointing back to your own site. So you can imagine the loss if you don’t check all these links during the redesign. Although 301 redirect will take care of this in some manner, it is also important to perform the analysis, too.
It will make sure that all the inbound links work and that you didn’t lose them since that can be damaging for SEO. Tools like Moz Open Site Explorer and Ahrefs will help you do this and keep all your inbound links safe and sound.
It’s important to maintain the same URL structure since it will save you a lot of time. But sometimes that’s not an option and you must change a few things. Since doing it wrong can cause problems, this SEO step should be done carefully. Implement 301 redirects for all the pages with new URLs so visitors land in the right place.
Failing to do so can cost you traffic from inbound links and set you back considerably when it comes to SEO. If you’re not sure how to do this properly, contact professionals like GWM or study the tutorials like SEO Starter Guide by Google.
Users very often do not create a new sitemap, since they believe that 301 redirect is enough for Google indexing. Updating the existing sitemap will make it easier for search engines to find the new URLs, but it will also be helpful to you for any future changes.
This means that you have to crawl your website one more time after the redesign. Match the old crawl with this new one so that you make sure that all the URLs are properly ranked and indexed. Another plus side of this step is that you will see what’s missing and needs replacing on the new website.
Backup is always important when you work with sensitive and important data. So it’s only normal that you have to also backup the old website before you replace it with the new one. This will keep your old files and databases safe and close by if you need them. Only after you’ve backed up everything can you publish your new website by replacing the old files.
Don’t be surprised if your redesigned website experiences some fluctuation. This is completely normal and expected. It will also be minimal if you have implemented the advice from this article and thus kept most of the SEO intact.