Savvy online businesses periodically redesign their websites to stay current and ahead of the competition, and to improve user experience. A full blown website redesign is a major undertaking, though, so you’ll need to plan carefully to avoid negatively affecting your search rankings. Website change is good only when it solves a problem or improves performance, not when it creates problems for you.
First things first
At New Perspective, we love data: It gives us power and direction in our work—tracking (or monitoring) lets us know what’s succeeding and what isn’t. So before you do anything, benchmark your site’s ranking, traffic and conversions right now. It’ll help you see what changed with the redesign.
Set your SEO Strategy
The next step after benchmarking is not picking colors, testing content management systems or even contacting New Perspective to talk about site architecture. No, the next step is reviewing the SEO strategy of your current site.
You’ve spent time, money and effort to build robust inbound and internal links all across your site, and you probably know which keywords are performing well, so you’ll naturally want to keep those when redesigning.
But dig a little deeper: are your high ranking keywords delivering high quality traffic and successful leads? If not, you may want to rework them or put them lower on your priorities list while you focus on the pages that do deliver. Now is the time to refocus your keyword strategy and weave it into your redesign.
Next, protect your links
A significant part of your redesign work will be protecting your links. If you’re not using the same URL structure (it’s great if you can, but often you can’t), you’ll need to use 301 redirects to preserve both inbound and internal links—and your rankings. 301 redirects permanently redirect from the old URLs to the new, making the transition transparent to users and search engines alike. (Moz has a nice little primer on SEO and redirects if you want to learn more.)
If you change URLs, you’ll have a lot of checking and connecting to do. Any changes to keywords in your URLs must be carried throughout your page content as well. Check for connection and keyword consistency in:
- Title tags
- Meta Description tags
- Anchor text and links
- Page content
- Pretty much everywhere
Remember, your title tags and description tags should be unique for each page, so double check those.
Map it for the search engines
Creating HTML and XML sitemaps will help you maintain and gain in the rankings. By proactively providing sitemaps, you’ll give the search engines a head start in finding and indexing your new site and the content you’ve moved over.
Launch and listen
Once you’ve launched, don’t just pat yourself on the back and go out for drinks. Stay on top of things: monitor, compare and adjust. As we said earlier, data is power. So with your prior site’s benchmarks in hand, watch your new site’s performance for:
Overall traffic. Is it up or down, and are visitors coming from the same places, or from somewhere new?
Keyword ranking. Are you maintaining your standing? If anything has slipped, figure out why and adjust in your content, tags and URLs if needed.
Conversions. Even if your traffic and keyword rankings are holding or improving, you’ll still have work to do if conversions have fallen. Track your visitors’ paths and look for any unexpected roadblocks that may be affecting engagement and conversion.
Overall reviews. When you promote your new site to your customer base (and we know you will!) ask for feedback. Ask at launch and then a month later,perhaps with a promo of some kind to encourage a visit. Though the “data” will be anecdotal, it’s definitely worth knowing what people think about the site as well as what they actually do there.
Don’t forget mobile
A redesign is a great time to finally optimize for mobile. In fact, the need for a mobile-friendly website may have been a driving factor in your decision to redesign. Our mobile website optimization article goes into further detail about this important design consideration.
The best part about a website redesign is that it gets you reengaged with your site and visitors. It’s a great time to review, rethink, rework and renew. If you haven’t noticed, we periodically redesign the New Perspective site, too, and we follow these same tips. Contact us or call 888-SEO-NPWS (888-736-6797) when you’re ready to for a redo.