An effective website redesign can do wonders for your brand and your bottom line. Having been involved in hundreds of redesigns over the last ten years, I learned that it is critical to not throw the baby out with the bathwater in your haste to launch your new site. A very important example of this is your current site’s search engine optimization (SEO).
This “free” organic traffic can be a critical source of leads and business for many companies, and the last thing you want to do is decrease it. By taking SEO into account from the beginning of your website redesign project, you can save yourself time and money later and ensure a successful re-launch. With that, here are 7 website redesign tips to ensure your new site maintain's its SEO clout.
RELATED CLASS: Incorporating Good SEO into Web Designs
1. Maintain the same URL structure in new site.
Many companies redesign their website as part of a rebranding and renaming process. If your domain name is changing, be sure to keep all internal URL structure the same as the former site. This will make it easier to be sure old web pages are redirected to the new version.
2. Know where your current redirects live, and where to add new ones.
Depending on your webserver software, redirects for your website could live in multiple places. Your webmaster or hosting company should be able to tell you where the redirects are located and how to change them. For Apache webservers, redirects are usually in either an .htaccess file, or an httpd.conf file. For Windows based webservers, redirects are usually accessed through the IIS control panel, or ISAPI rewrite controls.
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3. Redirect URLs that may have changed.
Sometimes when a new website is rolled out, there is a need to change part or all of the URL structure. Any time a URL is changed to a new location, the original URL needs to have a 301 redirect implemented to point visitors to the new URL location so that they don’t get a 404 “Page Not Found.” A 301 redirect tells search engine crawlers and browsers that the original URL has moved to a new permanent location, much like when you tell the post office that your home address has changed.
* We recommend against the redirection of multiple sub-pages to the home page. Webmasters should always redirect an old URL to the new URL, or a URL with similar content.
4. Retain existing URL redirects.
Many times redirects are already in place from past website moves. It’s important to identify all past redirects and make sure that they are utilized for the new website. When it comes to redirects, you can’t be too careful.
5. Maintain title tags, meta tags, for all website content.
When you recreate pages for the revamped site, preserving the content, title tags and meta descriptions as much as possible improves the odds search engines will keep your rankings where they are. RELATED CLASS: A Step-By-Step Guide to Keyword Research
6. Provide search engines with an updated XML sitemap.
Just as you would use an HTML site map to help your visitors find content on your site, an XML site map helps search engines naturally crawl the new content. After the new site launches, pay attention to how your website is performing in search engines to see if any adjustments are needed.
7. Work with an SEO professional from the start.
As soon as you decide to pursue a website redesign, make sure your SEO consultant is in the loop. They will offer recommendations regarding all of these tips listed here to ensure that you maintain all of the positive SEO you have built towards your website.
A website redesign is a large endeavor and investment in your business. It pays to take the time to make sure it is done right the first time so that you preserve your site’s optimization equity and organic search traffic.
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