Most redesigns are positioned to increase profit but neglect to understand the relationship between SEO and design. Believe it or not, newer design methods often improve the functionality and experience of your site for users. There are many ways to undergo a redesign without losing SEO rankings and we will show you how.
There are many reasons why a website redesign may be in the works. The most common reasons are:
- You want to change the website layout/theme to fit your rebrand
- You decide to change hosting platforms for a more custom CMS
- You want to switch to a mobile-friendly theme
One of the biggest misconceptions among website owners is that SEO only needs to be done once. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. - SEW
Maybe your start-up website is taking off and your current poor UX can't keep up with the promising traffic.
The important goal is to adapt your website to the users’ needs and boost conversions.
- Check your current SEO Standing
- You can use various tools to understand your current SEO. Google is a great KPI indicator but we suggest using other extensions as well. A well-rounded evaluation will give you the greatest insights. You need to have a grasp of where you are starting to understand how far you have come after all your changes have been made.
- Make a backup of your website
- You should make a backup of your theme files, plugins, and database. That way, if things go sideways, you can revert the website to the previous version.
Every page on your website is an asset when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. You can collect a list of your pages in several different ways: Use your sitemap, Google’s index of your site, or use Google Search Console.
- Maintenance page
- Let your users know you are undergoing some changes with a maintenance page or "We will be back soon!" messaging. Believe us, this is way better than a 404 error!
According to Marion, the biggest issues that arise during a redesign audit are caused by combining pages, changing URLs, or eliminating pages. They give great examples of how these issues would arise, such as forfeiting all the backlinks from third-party sites that your old URL had earned over the years.
This is why we suggest setting up the proper redirects that will help you avoid losing SEO value during your redesign.
Running Various Tests
Most UX designers recommend starting a redesign with A/B testing if you are not doing a large overhaul of the whole website. Other tests are recommended for larger-scale redesign to truly understand the effects on your SEO as you begin to alter current factors that are performing.
Keep in mind, if you plan to implement change to a nonperforming aspect of your site then this could cause a domino effect on a positive factor contributing to your SEO ranks. Each step requires careful consideration and analysis.
A/B testing with a single URL
If you plan to only change minor aspects of your website like CTA placements, page order, or even button color then running an A/B test on a single URL could be the greatest option without affecting your SEO.
According to SE Ranking, the only thing to remember is not to exclude Google from your test by restricting Googlebot’s access to the test version. Google can consider it cloaking and punish you for violating its guidelines.
Here is what NOT to do...
Test Your new Design on a Secondary Site
Let's take a look at what a staging site is according to Umbraco...
A staging environment or staging site is a copy of your live website and is the last step in the deployment process before changes are deployed to your live website.
By having a staging environment that is a copy of your live environment you are able to test new changes made by your developers before they are released to your live website. Using multiple environments is not necessary, but it comes with a long list of advantages, which are especially important if you work on big or complex projects.
Testing new changes on a staging environment before deploying them to your live website also reduces the risk of any errors or issues that will affect your users. This effectively means happier users and more uptime for your website.
Whenever you develop or redesign a website, you should usually do it on a staging server. This is typically so you can audit your website and test its functionality.
Most importantly you want to discourage search engines from indexing your website.
You generally wouldn't want your staging site appearing in search results, so how can you prevent Google from indexing this content? Columnist Patrick Stox offers some tips. Check it out: How to keep your staging or development site out of the index
Post Launch Analysis
Although we encourage preplanning and utilizing a staging site, there could be some errors that slip through the cracks. It is highly recommended that you have a monitoring system in place before and after you do a website redesign.
Luckily, Seedprod provided a comprehensive checklist of all the analyses that need to be made in order to ensure a successful launch of a site with a promising SEO.
- Test the top-performing content and make sure that it’s working. An SEO checklist will help with this.
- Check all redirects if you have implemented any.
- Check if the meta descriptions, titles, and headings are exactly the way they are supposed to be.
- Compare the page speed of your new website with the old one.
- Check the sitemap.xml and look for any 404 errors. Fix them if you find any.
- Test the cross-browser compatibility. The easiest way to do this is to open the same page on different browsers and check if they load properly.
- Make sure your website is 100% responsive on mobile devices.
- Copy the tracking codes to the new website design so that you don’t lose any valuable data.
If you are unsure how to fully audit your website, contact our team to get started.
All in all, redesigns should be done behind the scenes. In order to avoid confusion from your customers and effects on your SEO, an all at once approach may be the best route for those really trying to amp up their performance.
Keep in mind this isn't a set it and forget it change. Constant monitoring and tweaking will be required to fit the needs of your audience and to capitalize on top-ranking aspects of your site.
We highly suggest having a custom CMS with training as a part of your design package. Looking for a new web design package? Check out: Website Design Packages: What You Need to Know
Do I need to redesign on a separate site?
Yes! Unless you are making very minimal changes, all redesigns should take place on a separate site in order to deflect any errors that could occur when messing with the original sitemap. Using a staging site it highly recommended.
Do I need to make a backup of my site?
You should always keep a log and make a backup of your website to ensure nothing goes missing during the transition. This is also helpful if you decide to abandon the redesign and want to resort to previous layouts.