Thinking about redesigning your website but afraid your Google rankings might slip?
Maybe your site needs to be mobile-responsive. Perhaps you’ve updated your brand. Or now you offer eCommerce facilities or a blog.
In any case, you’ve spent time and money optimizing your previous pages. Will website redesign SEO factors have an impact on your position in the SERPs?
Absent or faulty backlinks impact on page position. Just ask 91% of web pages that don’t contain backlinks how many visitors they get.
That’s why we’ve written this straightforward guide to the website redesign process.
You’ll learn what to ask before your new site goes live. And how to keep your previous rankings or better yet, improve them.
So before implementing your new website redesign project plan consider how it will affect traffic. Or you may suffer the consequences.
Why Redesign Your Website?
Google recently published an article stating that speeding up your mobile website can increase your bottom line. So one of the main reasons businesses update their site is to make it mobile-friendly.
Responsive mobile pages bring in more traffic. And a mobile-first mentality means your site works on all devices.
Or perhaps your site is stale and needs to be refreshed. Maybe you’ve recently updated your brand. Or added a blog under a subdomain.
Whatever the reason, you need a website redesign project plan to migrate your existing search traffic.
You don’t want your shiny new site to fall flat because Google has found issues. The process should be straightforward. And it shouldn’t lose your visitors.
So what’s the first part of any successful migration plan? Taking stock of your existing website traffic.
Evaluate Current Website Traffic
You should have access to statistical data about your website traffic.
Many businesses use Google’s free analysis tool Google Analytics. It offers insights into traffic sources, geographical metrics, bounce rates, etc.
Login to your dashboard and click Behavior on the navigation menu. Choose Site Content then All Pages.
From here you can see views for each page. Also, the average time your visitors spend and bounce rates.
Filter the data to show the past month’s data then download the information. Do the same for Site Speed and Site Search. And don’t forget your Conversions data if that’s applicable.
This forms a baseline for the level you want to retain or improve on with your new website.
You should also review your Google Search Console. Statistics like index coverage, sitemaps, and URL inspection need recording before things change.
But what are the issues that could arise when you set your redesign to go live?
Website Redesign SEO Issues
When developers draw up your website redesign proposal do they consider the impact on your SERP rankings?
A redesign can range from a simple color or logo enhancement right up to a new site. But before you sign an agreement consider these issues that may crop up.
Missing pages are the main concern when getting a full site redesign. The reason being that the old website is deleted but Google doesn’t realize that.
For example, take your old products page: yoursite.com/products.php. It now has the SEO-friendly URL yoursite.com/full-product-name
When Googlebot goes to re-index products.php it gets a ‘404 not found error’. After a while, it realizes that the page is gone for good and removes it from its listings.
It will take time for the new products page to rank. And there’s no guarantee it will do as well as the previous version.
If your pages rank well for certain search phrases or keywords what happens when the content changes?
Substantial text/copy edits, if not properly migrated, can strip valuable keywords. Hidden meta tags like page titles also affect SEO. If your new site template ignores custom content, this shows in the SERPs.
Domain, Subdomain, and Protocol Issues
Rebranded businesses often want a new domain or URL that reflects the change.
This can display a new name or be optimized for certain keywords. For example, from abcbusiness.com to buybestpackageholidays.com
Google only knows about your existing domain or subdomain. The new website is just that—a new site.
The same applies if you retain your existing domain but add a secure certificate i.e. https. Google sees this secure site as completely different and changes your rankings as a result.
Prevent Common Problems
Now that we know what issues can occur how do we prevent them?
Here are some of the fixes your web developer needs to implement before your new site goes live.
If your page URLs change or old ones get deleted, use 301 redirects.
The term relates to how your website server tells Google where the new page sits. Google recommends this method as the best way to keep things right.
Your developer adds code in the backend to pair broken/dead links to their correct counterparts. Visitors are automatically redirected to the live page.
It’s also good practice to choose one domain URL as your preferred destination.
For example, use https://www.yoursite.com instead of https://yoursite.com. A permanent redirect in your .htaccess file handles this for you.
Custom 404 Pages
A 404 error means the browser can’t find a page on your site.
Every web server has a default 404 page telling the visitor that the URL doesn’t exist. But you can override that with a custom message.
Make sure your developer creates a custom 404 page that ties with your new site’s design. The message should apologize for the error then offer links to related content.
Even if you’ve tested all your pages and added 301 redirects, it’s still good practice to add 404. Even Google picks up on a custom message!
XML Site Map and Robots File
In your Google Search Console, you have the option to add an XML site map file.
This notifies Google of any changes to your website’s structure. That’s perfect for a new redesign.
Popular CMS WordPress has plugins that can create this for you. But check with your web developer first.
And while you’re at it, examine your robots.txt file if it exists.
This file acts as a guard to your site. If not configured correctly, it can even turn Google away from ranking you!
Your web designer should manage this for you. Do not attempt to edit this unless you know what you’re doing.
Update Google Tools
Don’t forget that any third-party tools like Analytics, Tag Manager, etc. need to know if your URL changes.
You may need a new Google reference ID. This needs to be added to your dashboards as well as the code on each page of your new site. So best left to the professionals.
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