How to revamp your website without impacting your Google rankings
How to redesign your site without losing your Google rankings
Introduction – Why Redesigning Matters
If you’re a website owner, you know how important it is to keep your site looking fresh and modern. In this fast-paced digital era, your visitors’ needs and expectations change rapidly; impressing them with your web design can dramatically enhance user experience. However, one major concern when thinking about a redesign is maintaining your current Google rankings.
The first thing you need to know is that it’s entirely possible to upgrade the look and feel of your website without sacrificing the position you’ve earned in search results. With thoughtful planning and strategic execution, you can successfully navigate through this complex process. This comprehensive guide will get you started on the right foot.
Consider the following scenario: let’s say you’ve got an e-commerce site that has been ranking well in Google for the last couple of years. Your organic traffic is steady, and conversion rates are good. But your website was designed five years ago — a lifetime in an internet years. So, you’re considering a redesign to update the aesthetic and improve functionality.
Before jumping headfirst into the redesign, conduct an SEO audit. This will help identify your present standing and set benchmarks for post-redesign analysis.
Planned properly, your updated website can continue to drive organic traffic and even improve your conversion rates due to its modern look and enhanced user experience.
Don’t rush things. Take your time to understand the implications of each change and meticulously plan every step.
Get expert advice: bringing in an SEO professional could be invaluable, ensuring you avoid potential pitfalls.
Beware of changed URLs. Ensure proper redirects are in place to prevent any negative impact on your ranking.
Post-launch, monitor your site’s performance meticulously to spot any threatening trends immediately.
What You Should Know Before Starting
Before getting started with redesigning your site, there are some key things you need to know. This is the process where you’ll clarify your goals and gather all the necessary background information.
Firstly, understand why you’re doing this. Do you want to enhance the design aesthetics only? Are you interested in improving the overall user experience? Knowing exactly what you want out of this will guide your website redesign strategy and help measure the success of it.
Secondly, identify what’s currently working on your site and what’s not. You don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater here (so to speak), so distinguish between elements that should stay and those that need to change.
For instance, maybe your blog page ranks really well on search engines and drives a lot of organic traffic to your site. In that case, despite the broader changes to your site, you’ll want to preserve these high-performing parts during the updating process.
Determine your objectives clearly. Your goals will dictate the strategy for your redesign.
Run an analytics report: this will indicate which pages and aspects draw in your audience and where improvements can be made.
Be sure to maintain aspects of your website that are already performing well in their present form.
Analyze your competitors: Keep abreast with industry trends and capitalize on gaps your competitors may have left unnoticed.
Redesign does not necessarily imply overhauling everything. Hold onto the good while improving the not-so-good.
Ensure a smooth transition by informing your loyal visitors about the upcoming changes and managing their expectations ahead of time.
Trusting the Professionals
Just as you wouldn’t try to rewire your house without a basic understanding of electrical work, approaching a website redesign without knowledge of SEO could prove catastrophic. Hiring an experienced SEO professional will ensure that your redesign process is handled correctly.
Remember, this is about more than just making a site look pretty; it’s about preserving your hard-earned Google ranking. A professional SEO expert can guide you through the technicalities involved, ensuring your new design doesn’t cost you in search rankings.
Think of it like moving valuable art from one gallery to another: you’d surely entrust this task to professionals to prevent any costly damage being done.
An SEO professional can execute keyword research, giving insights into what your potential clients are searching for.
A technical SEO audit will uncover any underlying issues your website may have.
The correct application of redirects can help avoid losing any link juice during the transition.
Professionals can seamlessly migrate your content, preserving its optimization in the process.
SEO experts will ensure your redesigned website is mobile-friendly to comply with Google’s mobile-first index.
Post redesign, an SEO professional will monitor performance and make necessary tweaks to optimize further.
Creating Your Redesign Strategy
Now that you’re equipped with all the necessary knowledge and have your goals in place, it’s time to create your redesign strategy. Remember, a clear, well-defined plan is critical in ensuring your redesign doesn’t adversely affect your Google rankings.
Your first step should involve mapping out your existing site architecture. Knowing where all your pages are and how they’re linked together will allow you to reconfigure your website while maintaining its good parts intact.
Just like constructing a building requires blueprints, creating a website demands a structured sitemap and wireframe. These guide your design direction and ensure all important elements are accounted for.
Start by auditing your current site’s performance and content structure.
Create visual sitemaps of your existing website to understand its current architecture.
Use wireframes to plan out your new site structure and layout, keeping in mind user-friendly practices.
Involve your SEO expert throughout the planning stage, ensuring all decisions accommodate good SEO practices.
Plan how to handle any necessary URL changes to ensure they don’t damage your rankings.
Your redesign strategy should align with your overall SEO strategy to ensure consistency and effectiveness.
Making Your Site SEO Friendly
A well-designed website doesn’t guarantee high search engine rankings. Building your site with SEO in mind from the beginning is vital for maintaining your visibility on Google during the redesign process.
This involves several key elements, from fast loading speeds and mobile-friendliness to clear navigation and optimal keyword usage. Remember, an SEO-friendly site isn’t just beneficial for rank preservation; it can also boost user experience significantly.
Think about when you visit a website—you want the pages to load quickly, and navigating the site should be straightforward and intuitive. Done right, optimizing your site’s design for search engines can also make your visitors’ experience more enjoyable.
Ensure that your redesigned website will be mobile-friendly to cater to the growing number of mobile users.
Prioritize page loading speed – your viewers are unlikely to wait if your site loads too slowly.
Structure your content clearly so it’s easy to follow and conveniently categorised.
Navigate your site easily with a clean, clear navigation bar or menu.
Remember to optimize page titles, meta descriptions and headers for search engines.
Conduct an intensive crawl test before launch to ensure Google can read your site correctly.
Carefully Consider URLs
URLs play a critical role in maintaining your site’s SEO through the redesign process. Changing URLs without proper redirection can cause you to lose gained ranking and inbound link value. It’s important to handle this aspect with great care.
Ideally, keep your URLs the same during the redesign. If changing URLs is unavoidable, ensure 301 redirects are properly set up. This guides search engines from your old content’s location to wherever it’s moved on your new site.
Imagine moving your physical store to a bigger location across town – you wouldn’t forget to tell customers where to find you, right? Similarly, when digital ‘locations’ change, it’s essential to redirect visitors correctly.
Only change URLs when absolutely necessary, as even with 301 redirects, some link equity may be lost.
Ensure, at all costs, that 404 errors are avoided once your site goes live.
Create custom 404 error pages just in case, providing links back to your homepage or other relevant pages.
Put in place 301 redirects for any pages with changed URLs, signalling to search engines their new locations.
Check broken links meticulously to ensure there aren’t any loose ends.
Use a tool like Google Webmaster Tools to monitor your traffic post-launch and ensure no major drops occur.
Testing Before Going Live
Your site might look ready to go live, but don’t hit the launch button just yet. Implementing a thorough testing phase can spot unnoticed issues, ensuring the switch to your new design is seamless.
This involves double-checking redirects, verifying mobile-friendliness, reviewing SEO elements (like meta tags), checking site speed, and other crucial checks. The testing phase serves as your last line of defence against potential issues that could damage your search engine rankings.
In essence, it’s like running a full system check before launching a spaceship. This helps to ensure no surprises pop up when you’re already air-bound.
Use a tool like Screaming Frog to test your redirects and find any broken links.
Verify mobile compatibility using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
Double-check all SEO elements, including meta tags, alt text for images and headers.
Test your site’s loading speed using tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights or GTMetrix.
Look out for any UI/UX inconsistencies across different devices and browsers.
Have a contingency plan ready in case anything goes wrong with the launch.
Monitoring After Going Live
The launch is not an end; it’s just the beginning of a critical monitoring phase. Even after extensive testing, some things might not go as planned, and the sooner you spot these issues post-launch, the better.
To maintain your Google rankings, it’s crucial to monitor your site for 404 errors, check traffic sources, verify indexation, among other checks. Essentially, this post-launch phase allows you to rectify any teething problems swiftly.
Envision it like being on a sailboat journey; you set sail, but that doesn’t mean you stop looking out for potential storms or obstacles. You remain alert and ready to adjust the sails if necessary.
Check regularly for crawl errors, structural issues, and accidental no-index tags.
Evaluate organic traffic pre-launch and post-launch, paying special attention to drop-offs and fluctuations.
Constantly check your website’s speed and performance on various devices and browsers.
Ensure you have proper tracking codes installed (like Google Analytics) for accurate and thorough visitor data.
Rerun your keyword ranking reports to ensure you are maintaining your positions in SERPs or even improving them.
Act hastily to fix any issues that might pop up, minimizing their impact on your Google rankings.
Maintaining the Momentum
Congratulations! You’ve successfully launched your redesigned website while keeping your hard-earned Google rankings intact. However, don’t get too comfy just yet. Maintaining this momentum requires ongoing optimization and regular check-ups.
Refine your SEO tactics, test new strategies based on your visitors’ behaviours, and continuously work towards improving user experience. Remember, SEO is not a one-off activity – it’s an ongoing commitment.
It’s like physical fitness; once you’ve achieved your desired shape, consistent exercise and healthy habits are required to maintain it. Keep an eye on your site’s health and keep up the good work!
Constantly monitor and optimize your site for better user experience and SEO performance.
Test new metadata and alt-text options periodically to see if changes influence your ranking positively.
Keep producing fresh, high-quality content regularly to drive more organic traffic.
Implement improvements based on user feedback and behaviour analysis data.
Regularly update your website – both technically and aesthetically – to keep it current and effective.
Continue learning and staying informed about SEO updates and trends to stay ahead of your competition.
Avoid rushing into redesign. Instead, assess your present ranking, plan steps meticulously, and bring in expert help.
A clear, well-defined strategy should underpin your site’s redesign. This involves preserving what works, improving what doesn’t and always keeping SEO at the heart of your decisions.
Your design should be built with SEO in mind from the ground up. This includes aspects like mobile friendliness, page loading speed, and clear content structure.
Handling URL changes carefully is crucial to prevent losing ranking and inbound link value. Implement 301 redirects where necessary.
Meticulous testing before going live can fix unforeseen issues. Check all elements from SEO features to redirects and site speed.
Even after thorough testing, monitor your site continuously post-launch. This allows prompt fixing of any arising issues to safeguard your Google ranking.
Maintaining the momentum is as important as achieving it. It requires ongoing optimization, regular check-ups, and continual learning about SEO trends.