When a business finally decides it’s time to complete a site redesign it’s easy for the team to get completely behind the idea. Everyone understands how having a well designed site can help increase visibility and conversions. Unfortunately, often SEO goes on the back-burner, it’s considered something that you do after the design. However, if you’re ranking well already you won’t want to lose those rankings. How do you maintain those rankings while completing a site redesign?
Keep the URL Structure
Unless your current site has a poor URL structure, you should leave the page. These URLs are already indexed by the search engines and have links pointing to them. By changing the URLs to the site you are at risk for losing any links that are pointing to your site. This means losing votes for your site, since search engines won’t be able to determine which page they point to. Along with ranking changes you are at risk at losing referral traffic as well. To see more about URLs and links see below.
Ideally, your URLs should appear similar to the following, www.site.com/category/sub-category/item, or something close to. Google suggests keeping your URL structure simple, make it easy for both users and search engines to decipher.
When sites implement a site redesign often the content does not change and this means the internal links remain the same. However, many take this opportunity to remove pages that may be old or irrelevant. If you are removing any content take the time to make sure there’s no internal links to these pages. The best way to do this is to go through each page and make sure the links are going to active pages. To monitor internal links that may be pointing to broken pages, utilize your webmaster tools, or Google Search Console. Within the dashboard head to the crawl drop down then to the crawl errors section. Under the “Not Found” tab a report of all broken links (404) will be shown. Remember to check these often as some pages may disappear which can result in users finding 404 pages.
Make a 301 Redirect Plan
If you have pages that have been removed and you have found multiple 404s within your Search Console you’ll need to handle these. Now it doesn’t make much sense to recreate the URL when you can simply redirect the users to the proper pages. Broken pages on a site can alert search engines that the site is not properly optimized. Broken links on a page makes the site appear it’s not properly maintained. Don’t let traffic hit a broken page and leave your site, add a simple 301 redirect to get them to the correct page.
Keep the Content
As mentioned above you won’t want to delete any content from the site, unless it’s completely necessary. If you have duplicate content, remove it. Do you have pages that are not related to your industry, delete it. Having pages that have age, are indexed, and have inbound back links can help both the site rank and means some of these pages are receiving clicks. To see which pages are receiving clicks consult your Google Analytics. Before removing any pages, see where people are landing on your site. You won’t want to remove any pages that are bringing in traffic.
Submit a Sitemap
Your site should already have an XML sitemap uploaded to the site and Search Console. However, after a site redesign it’s important to upload an updated sitemap. If you do remove pages or change your URL layout you will need to let the search engines know. You can submit your sitemap through Search Console and will get updates as it’s approved.
Google has made it clear that mobile will come first and how a site ranks is dependent on how mobile friendly it is. Now if your site is not currently mobile friendly make sure your development team is taking mobile into consideration. Test the new site across multiple platforms to ensure the site works properly. Limit your pop ups, utilize video, and make sure to traffic progress.