Here we explain how to redesign your website without losing traffic and your SEO efforts, especially your backlinks and other valuable assets.
As your business evolves, you need to redesign your website to make it more in line with your brand and the new customer sentiment and the market landscape. However, this project comes with some risks, such as losing traffic and confusing people who are familiar with your old design.
Before we reveal the tried-and-tested ways to perform website redesign without losing traffic, first we need to explain its three types:
How to Redesign Your Website Without Losing Traffic
First things first: You should only redesign your website if there’s a good reason to do so. All too often, businesses redesign their site out of whim or embark on this project without a clear set of objectives.
Once you are sure that a new website design can deliver potential benefits, you can follow the guidelines explained below:
Preserve your SEO efforts
From an SEO perspective, every web page is a valuable asset you must preserve–unless the content no longer reflects your new brand or business needs. Nowadays, there are many ways to collect a list of pages.
- Use your sitemap.
- Use a crawler.
- Use Google Search Console.
- Utilize Google’s index of your website.
Web crawlers such as Screaming Frog, Semrush, Oxylabs, and Scraper can help you take an inventory of your web pages. But if you’re using a content management system or CSM, a good alternative is to use your sitemap.
If you’re using Yoast sitemap, take note that it only includes pages with an “index” tab and comes with a limit of 1,000 URLs, making this only ideal for smaller websites.
Aside from Yoast sitemap, Google Index is also ideal for smaller websites. However, it comes with a caveat: It may exclude some pages that the algorithm sees as a duplicate or less important.
And lastly, you can use Google Search Console, which carries a complete list of your web pages. Another bonus is that it comes with an Export button that will generate a CSV list for you.
Audit your current website
You’re redesigning your website because you want improvement, right? Hence, you must audit your current site to know what search engines like and dislike about it. The idea is to spot the gaps and weaknesses, so the new website will not simply repeat these errors.
Screaming Frog, which is a great crawler to make an inventory of your website, is also an excellent tool to conduct a site audit that will allow you to see these following issues:
- Duplicate page titles
- Missing page titles
- Missing H1 tags
- “Poor” page titles (those less than 200 pixels and those over 512 pixels)
- Bloated meta descriptions
- Duplicate meta descriptions
- Multiple H1 tags
- Duplicate H1 tags
- Broken internal and external links
- Canonical tags
Also, use Google’s PageSpeed Tools to conduct site speed and performance, and manually check for your URL structure, XML Sitemap, Robots.txt, and web pages indexed by Google.
Use a test site to implement your redesign project
A test site, also called dev site, will serve as your staging environment. The goal here is to ensure that all new changes are functioning as intended before hitting the “live” website.
Warning: Always “non-index” your test site. Remember, failure to do this critical step has a disastrous result: The new content will have no value because Google considers it nothing more than a duplicate.
If you’re using CMS like WordPress, make sure that you check the box that says, “prevent search engines from indexing this site.” Another option is to block the site in the Robots.txt file, which has a steeper learning curve, so your best bet is to follow the first advice.
Crawl your test site
The idea here is to see how your test site is structured, allowing you to compare the changes (and improvements) to your current website.
Conduct a complete SEO audit for your new website (for extensive redesign)
A more extensive website redesign requires changing URLs, combining pages, and adding new pages and content. These alterations may have detrimental effects on your SEO efforts that you have spent months or years improving unless you revamp the right way.
One of the most common mistakes of web developers doing a major redesign is combining two or more pages (a process that eliminates some pages, including their valuable backlinks) without setting up 301 Redirects.
The 301 Redirect forwards your old URL to a new one and informs the search engines that the change is permanent. Simply put, it preserves your link-building efforts and your website functionality while preventing broken links that show “Page Not Found.”
Activate your new website
To activate your redesigned website, remove the functionality that prevents your test site from being crawled and indexed by search engines. Failure to do this simple step can lead to an entire website gradually disappearing from search engine results.
Verify the correctness of your Robots.txt and Meta Robots
Even the slightest errors can cause the bots to include the pages that are not intended to appear in the search engine or to cause those that should appear to be not “crawlable.”
Submit your sitemap to Google Search Console
Sign in to your Google Search Console to submit your sitemap URL to this web service. The idea is to make it easier and quicker for the bots to crawl and index your site.
Continue monitoring and improving your SEO efforts
SEO is not a sprint or even a marathon–it is an endless journey. In fact, halting your campaign within just a few months is enough to result in a significant decline in your organic traffic and search ranking results.
If you enjoy this article, you may also want to read our Minimalist Web Design: Is It Just a Trend or Does It Improve User Experience or get a free website redesign and SEO consultation with LOJO Marketing.