If you’re thinking about redesigning your website you need to consider the impact it will have on your SEO performance. In most cases, when a client has come to us and says that they are having their website redesigned, the SEO is the last thing that they think about. The majority of the time we are told only a few days before launch and even after communicating the importance of keeping the SEO optimisation the same, the website is launched with none.
Straight away our hearts sink when this happens. All of our hard work gone in a flash and all of the rankings gained and website traffic achieved are gone too, along with sales and revenue. However, by understanding your website and the way in which it is optimised, knowing how it performs and how it contributes to your revenue, will help you to make sure you can avoid the disaster which we see all too commonly. So here are some useful points and tips to consider.
Know Your Website!
Understanding your existing website and the way in which it performs and why is extremely important during a redesign. There are a number of elements you should look at including; on page optimisation, inbound links, site structure and URL’s, as well as the overall performance of the pages and their content. There are many tools which you can use to understand each of these elements some which we will list below. So let’s take a look at each of these one at a time.
On Page Optimisation
Many never understand the true power that on page optimisation has. If the on page optimisation on your site is removed and Google crawls your new site before you get the chance to add it back in, Google will adjust your rankings and most likely drop you out of the rankings. This may sound like we are trying to scaremonger you but we see this more often than not.
Instead what you should do is understand through the help of your SEO agency, marketing colleague or whomever is involved with the on page optimisation, which pages are currently optimised and how they have been optimised. Make a note of this and before you allow your web developer to make your site live, double check that it has been added back in.
If you feel like the on page optimisation is no longer relevant, review it! Don’t just strip it out. It is better to keep the rankings you have and renew the optimisation in the hope of improving them, rather than lose all the rankings you have by not having any optimisation at all.
Huge changes in your optimisation could also have an adverse effect including changes to your content, site structure and URL’s (yes there are all elements of on page optimisation). We will discuss these further but be conscious and make sure your proposed changes don’t ruin your website performance for you.
Inbound links are extremely important to SEO and help to build the authority of your individual pages and website as a whole. If you are thinking about removing some pages from your website during the redesign, you really need understand which pages have inbound links so that you don’t remove these and lose the power. You can use tools such as Open Site Explorer and SEM Rush to understand your inbound links as well as looking at your Google Webmaster Tools. This is also a great time to check to make sure there are none harming the performance of your site. If there are some, you can submit a Google Disavow.
If you decide that you still want to remove the pages which have inbound links pointing to them, you’ll need to set up 301 redirects so the power of the inbound links is passed on and not lost.
Site Structure & URL’s
If you decide that you want to change the domain in which you website currently sits on or change the structure of you site resulting in the removal of existing pages, you will need to think about the consequences! Google needs to know that you URL’s are changing so that the authority, rankings and traffic that your website currently has isn’t lost. You don’t want to waste all the hard work carried out on your website to get it where it is. Starting from a fresh can take a long time and your business maybe in limbo whilst it waits for your website to gain everything it once had.
Tell Google that you are changing your domain through your Google Webmaster Tools account. Don’t have one? Set one up before changing your website! This will help you to understand whether there is anything wrong with the current site as Google can directly send messages and alerts to you. You can them implement the changes needed during the redesign, as well as informing Google of your domain changes.
If you are staying on the same domain and are just adjusting the site structure through reducing the pages or changing the URL’s, set up 301 redirects! This informs Google that the page that was once in their index is now no longer in existence whilst informing them of the new page. It also allows the authority to be passed from old page to new.
301 redirects are not easy and can certainly go wrong. If you are not sure ask the opinion of a reliable web developer! Better yet, keep the same site structure and you won’t need to worry about 301 redirects at all.
Overall Page Performance & Content
Before making drastic changes to the design of your website it is a good idea to understand the current performance through analysing your site reporting and carrying out a site audit. A local SEO agency will be able to help you with the site audit. They will be able to tell you if there is anything wrong with the current set up of your site, if it is optimised correctly and whether there need to be any improvements made. It’s better to understand this before making changes than having to make them twice!
By analysing your site reporting through tools such as Google Analytics, you can understand what content on your website is most attractive to your target audience, which landing pages are visited the most and what referring sites are linking to you. Understanding this will help you to decide which content to keep the same and which pages to not make extreme changes to. Listen to what you analytics is saying! There is a reason why people are viewing your pages and why they are linking to them.
Before you make the decision to redesign your website consult your SEO agency (if you have one), find out how well your website is performing and why, and make sure that the changes that have been suggested aren’t going to impact your website, sales, revenue and business!