Thinking of redesigning your website and afraid you might lose the traffic you worked so hard to earn.
If you implement an efficient web redesign SEO strategy in place, you will not lose a single visitor. In fact, the website redesign will scale the traffic, rankings, and conversion rate — keeping your website ahead of competitors’ websites.
SEO and web redesign relation?
There are two types of website redesigning. They can be performed one by one or at the same time.
You are changing the website structure. Adding or removing categories, making pages and subpages, and changing the slugs and overall website hierarchy.
This website redesign is done to improve the SEO and make it easier for crawlers to scan every webpage.
You are changing the graphics and looks of the website. There are no changes to URLs and website sitemap. Only the images and copy are changing.
This website redesign is done to improve the user experience and increase the conversion rate.
So whether you should focus on SEO during a website redesign. It depends:
|Website Traffic||Structural Redesign||Graphical Redesign||Focus on SEO|
The structural redesign packed with SEO would have a long-term effect on the website. If the website already has lots of traffic, you must consider SEO.
How to redesign a website without losing SEO traffic?
Several elements, including the code and pages, are changed during the redesign. If they are not handled correctly, it may harm the website’s SEO, and you can lose all your work.
Here are 10 steps you can follow to ensure that you redesign your website without losing a single visitor:
- Take inventory of existing Webpages
- Identify high-traffic pages
- Implement the design on a test website
- Test the new website for broken links
- Do a 301 redirect
- Move to the new website
- Trial run of analytics and monitoring tools
- Sitemap submission
- Monitor SEO changes
#01 Take inventory of existing Webpages
The first step is to compile all the pages of your website. It can be done in various ways.
#01.1 Use a website crawler:
There are many website crawlers. The crawling bots run through the website and find all the web pages.
I used the SEO PowerSuite Website Auditor to find all the pages of a WPSchool website. From there, you can also export all the pages.
#01.2 Using the Sitemap:
If your website is already optimized for SEO, it must have a sitemap.
Add sitemap.xml to your domain to find out.
ServerGuy sitemap is showing 274 posts.
However, some CMS make it difficult to export the URLs from the sitemap. But if your CMS allows you to do it, you can have an accurate list of all the web pages.
#01.3 Google SERP
For smaller websites, typing “site:yourwebsite.com” into the Google search bar will yield results for every one of your distinct pages that Google currently has.
It’s not practical for large websites as they have many pages and you cannot browse through pages of search results.
In this method, you only get the website pages that Google has enabled to appear on search results. There would still be many pages on the website that have not been made to the Google page.
#01.4 Search Console
You can export a relatively complete list of website pages from the Google Search Console.
- Log in to Search Console
- Go the Search Results Report
- Filter by pages
- Expand the period range to maximum
You can export the list to a CSV file using the button on the top right.
#02 Identify high-traffic pages
In the first step, we try to extract all the website pages. But it is not necessary.
If you check your analytics, you will see that only several pages are getting massive traffic. Majority of the website pages do not receive an impactful amount of traffic.
In a way, you can ignore them. It entirely depends on the website traffic and its size. But it is a viable solution to ignore the web pages that are not getting any traction.
On a friendly note, you can even ignore SEO if your website is not receiving any traffic from Google. It would be better to make a fresh start after the website redesign.
#03 Implement the design on a Test Website
Making changes directly on the website is not a wise move. Your visitors would be exposed to incomplete pages, broken links, placeholder images, unedited website copy, and insecure forms.
You can duplicate your current website to a temporary URL while you work on the new one. Once the website redesign is completed, you can swap the domain, and everything will function as it should.
There are a few technical requirements to make this work, but your hosting company should be able to advise you or set this up for you.
At ServerGuy, Website Staging is included in every Web Hosting plans.
Do all the designing on the staging website, and noindex the stage, so it does not appear on Google.
#04 Test the staging
You have added the content on your test site, which looks great. The website redesign is completed.
Now you should audit the website on stage for:
- Page speed
- On page SEO
- Proper canonicalization
- Broken links
- Java rendering
- CSS/HTML minification
- Dark mode UI
- Load testing
- Form functioning
- Email automation
- and more…
#05 Do a 301 redirect
Making 301 redirects between the old and new URLs is the most critical step.
Suppose your former website had an “About Us” page with the URL “www.yourwebsite.com/aboutus.html.” Now, if you are changing the /aboutus to /about-us, you must be 301 redirecting the /aboutus to /about-us.
If you do not do this, /about-us page will go 404. All the websites giving the link to /aboutus page will report a 404 link, and they will remove your page from their website. You will lose the backlinks and also the website traffic.
Even your internal links will break.
Note: Many people forget to redirect the image links. As a result, the images break, and your website loses the link equity.
If you are also changing the domain name, don’t let the old domain name expire. You have to 301 redirect the DNS to the new domain and keep the slug the same.
At this point, you need website migration experts.
#06 Move to the new website
Once the design and the redirection are finalized, make the switch.
Now the switch could be done in a single instance as the Semrush did. Or you can do it gradually as Amazon does.
Also, you can involve your users in the website redesign, as the Ahrefs did.
#07 More tests to run
The same test you did on the staging will be done on the published website.
In fact, now you have to run more tests:
- Analytics tools are working
- Search console and GA4 code are present
- Impact of third-party scripts on the website performance
- How is caching functioning?
- Schema is rendering correctly
- Internal links are secure
- SSL is valid
- Are there any 404 hits to your website?
- Page breaking during the migration
- and much more…
Make a sheet and create a checklist. Run the tests twice.
New URL slugs and new domain name?
You need a new robots.txt file. Most probably, the old robot.txt file is damaged.
Moreover, you might have to structure your website so that there are parts of the website that you wish to show or hide from the crawlers.
#09 Sitemap submission
Finally, the time is to submit the new sitemap.
Once the sitemap is submitted to the search console, Google will crawl the website in the next few hours or days (depending on the website size).
It will show the new errors if any, and improvements to make.
#10 Monitor SEO changes
I hope you are using a rank tracker. The rank tracker monitors the keyword ranks and shows the history of the keyword rankings.
Once the redesign is complete, and migration is done, all you have to do is monitor the ranking and SEO performance.
Besides the number of visits, you should also be tracking the conversion rates, speed metrics, 404 hits, and other important metrics that define the website design impact.
If you only change the visual design, it will not affect the website’s SEO. However, it will affect the conversion rate — positively or negatively.
But your keywords might go up or down if you make structural designs. If you are following the SEO best practices, it will improve your ranking.
While it may take a little effort, you will not regret implementing search engine optimization during your website redesign process. Follow the steps in this article to redesign your website while protecting your SEO, and watch your website grow.