If you’re planning on redesigning your website, it’s imperative that you think about how the new design will impact SEO. Many times, clients don’t think about this until right before the launch date. They’re more focused on other things, such as how the website will look and perform. However, if you don’t leave yourself enough time to ensure that your website components match up properly, you could end up with big problems on launch day.
Why it’s Important to Consider SEO
The reason why it’s important to consider SEO in your new design is because you don’t want to undo any of your hard work. By now, it’s very likely that you have spent a lot of time and resources to get your website where it is today. You have decent placement, a steady flow of traffic and growing revenue.
Unfortunately, a complete overhaul can mess with things like URLs, page titles, meta descriptions and more. If you don’t run SEO checks on your testing site, it’s possible that these elements won’t match up and will negatively impact your SEO.
The good news is that by thinking strategically, you can keep your rankings and traffic while also increasing your site’s performance!
7 Tips to Think About During a Redesign
Below are seven important tips to remember when redesigning and launching a new website.
1. Consider Your SEO
First and foremost, don’t overlook SEO during the design process. This is particularly important if you are choosing to do a big overhaul and change every single URL.
By considering SEO as your site is redesigned, you get a better idea of how changes will impact it and what you can do to prevent future problems (i.e., redirecting all old URLs)
2. Crawl Your Existing Site
It can be difficult to know how your new site is performing if you don’t have anything to compare it to. Is it worse? Better?
To have a benchmark to go by, crawl your existing site and grab the structure, metadata and URLs. This “roadmap” will give you a good idea of how your site is arranged, and then you can compare your new site’s metadata and structure to see how it stacks up.
3. Audit Your Old Site
A lot of web owners groan at the site of doing an audit, but it’s necessary if you want to make the most of your relaunch. Tools are available to make the job simpler, but we recommend rolling up your sleeves and doing the audit work manually.
The purpose of doing the leg work is to identify problem areas so that the same mistakes aren’t made on your new site. This is a fresh start for your website, and perhaps even your brand, so why repeat unnecessary mistakes?
Some of the most essential things to look for are:
Missing/duplicate page titles
Missing/duplicate H1 tags
Missing/duplicate meta descriptions
Broken internal/external links
Image alt text
Site speed and performance
4. Non-index Your New Site
It’s very important that you non-index your test site, otherwise Google is going to index it. If you have a lot of great content on your current site and are repurposing it on your new site, Google will index both sites and hit you with duplicate content. Now your content has no value.
Fortunately, non-indexing your site is easy, so double check with your developers to ensure that the proper steps have been taken. If your test site is in WordPress, a box that says “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” should be checked. If the test site is in another platform, there’s an option to block the Robots.txt file.
5. Crawl Your Test Site
Things are coming around full circle! It’s now time to test your new site.
A site crawler will help you understand how your new website is structured and how it looks to the search engines. This also gives you the opportunity to compare the two sites and see how things have improved.
You can find detailed step-by-step directions on how to crawl a test site on Moz.com (look under Step #5). Once you have completed all the steps, you will have the data needed to understand what is missing from your test site compared to your existing site. This includes:
Current site crawl (xls)
Current site crawl for editing (xls)
Test site crawl (xls)
Test site crawl for editing (xls)
Final crawled test site (xls)
6. Analyze Your Data
Again, we recommend checking out Moz’s blog post on analyzing your data since it goes into further detail. We do agree that breaking up your data into smaller groups is beneficial. This way, you don’t have one massive spreadsheet that is hard on the eyes.
Start by creating separate Excel spreadsheets for the following data:
Canonicals, Word Count, Level, In-Links and Out-Links
Once you’ve created all of your spreadsheets, refer back to the site crawls that you did and gather the appropriate data. Sometimes, data will match. Other times, it will not. What you want to make sure of is that any changes that have been made are positive ones.
7. Complete the Finishing Checks
To complete your redesign, there are a few remaining checks that are worth doing. These include:
Rank check: Make sure that your website performs well for your keywords. Keep an eye out for big movements, URL changes, metadata changes or missing content.
Content: Content adds value to your site, even if it’s old. Don’t go delete happy or you could lose some of your website’s value.
Analytics code: The code should be placed in the <head> section of your site.
Unblock the site: Make sure the search engines are able to index the pages.
A site redesign is an excellent way to breathe new life into your website and help you achieve improved rankings, traffic and sales. Though there is a lot of substance that goes into a new design, you shouldn’t let that stop you. When you work with a great team of developers, most of these details will be handled for you.
However, it’s still a good idea to know what’s going on underneath the hood so that you can consult with your team and ensure that your new site will meet your SEO goals. It’s much easier to fix problems when your site is in the testing phase versus once it’s live and having an impact on visitors and search engines.
Once things check out, you can give yourself a break and enjoy launching your new pride and joy!