Many businesses when they finally get the money together for a website redesign, start getting excited, picturing all the new customers. Only when the new site eventually launches, it actually drops in SEO ranking.
So why does this happen? Typically, it is because your new site breaks all the old links, which created your reputation and told search engines you were an industry authority. A common problem, it can easily be solved with a few proactive steps. Conducting them before, during and after the launch will ensure your old site’s authority successfully transfers over to the new website.
- Crawl your site. – Frequently during the website redesign, all your pages will change their URLs and addresses. To avoid losing any established reputation, you need to inform the search engines where the old URLs should redirect to. To do this, you need an intimate knowledge of all your current URLs and their ultimate destinations. One of the easiest ways to do this is to crawl your own site and then export the reports. With this easy breakdown, your current website structure is easy to explain to everyone involved in the redesign project. As an essential step, it needs to be done before any redesign work commences to ensure you do not forget any pages.
- Analysis inbound links – When redesigning any part of your website, there is always the danger of losing inbound links. This is particularly true when conducting a major redesign or changing your URL structure and site architecture. Part of the prevention plan is to ensure that you are fully aware of where your inbound links are from and what they are referring to. An inbound link analysis will ensure you understand all your inbound links and can adequately communicate their details to your development team or SEO company. During this process, you can also determine the quality of these inbound links and any important links worth keeping should be included in your migration strategy. One of the easiest ways to migrate links to a new site is to create a 301 redirect from the old page targeted. This ensures the old pages PageRank and reputation are also migrated to the new pages. This tactic effectively ensures that your new pages gain a competitive advantage with an existing reputation while stimulating new engagement with viewers.
- Create a 301 Redirection Plan – We cannot stress the importance of an in-depth 301 strategic redirection plan. This is the heart of creating a migration plan that does not impact your existing reputation or search engine ranking. While we briefly discussed the need to ensure all the old pages redirect to your new counterparts, a 301 redirect will also redirect the old page’s PageRank to the new one. This step, more than any other section, is the area which causes dramatic fluctuations in SEO ranking or decreased traffic/conversions.
One of the easiest ways to avoid any 301 pain or confusion, it to keep your URL structure the same as your original website. This will make life easier for your developers and SEO campaign managers. For larger sites, this can also save significant labour hours and the potential for errors or miscommunication. If you cannot avoid changing the site structure, then ensure you map the old site’s architecture and compare any changes to the new one. This process clearly identifies any eliminated or new pages and how the 301 redirect will work.
- Conduct an SEO Audit – An SEO is one of the more powerful tools you have in your arsenal, and you should have one completed prior to starting any redesign project. Not only can it help you identify your current strengths, but it can also demonstrate any weak areas or potential risks with redesigning. Using this process, you can easily decide what should be migrated and what links should be left behind. It is also easier to work out what might be a potential risk down the road and the reason for any potential penalties. Perhaps most importantly, it helps you develop a comprehensive and strategic plan for changes.
This can also be used as a great benchmark to come back to. This easy reference can help you determine the traffic and conversions before the redesign and then any changes after the new site is implemented. While not a direct reference, many things can impact the results, it provides a good starting point to discover why something is not doing so well. Or if there is a sudden increase in traffic, where it is coming from!
- Great Design is not Great SEO – As an experienced SEO company in Melbourne, handling web design, development and digital marketing campaigns, we understand that sometimes creative designs are not great for SEO. While a unique design might distinguish you from your competitors, it can also prevent you from ranking highly in search engines, and even underdeliver on conversions or ROI.
Do not assume that the latest and most advanced technology will deliver the best results. In fact, used incorrectly that new functionality might actually hurt your search engine rankings. Some of the most creative and award-winning designers might create a pretty looking website, but that does not mean they are SEO experts. The prettiest website is pointless if it does not also meet any online conversion goals or match a digital campaign strategy.
- Preparing for redesigns is critically important – Unfortunately, most companies do not understand how critically important having an SEO migration plan is for their continual website ranking. This often results in a devastating loss of SEO power, reputation, organic traffic and ultimately sales or conversions. Thankfully creating a plan early, with all the right people on board, early in the project will ensure a smooth and successful transition.
- Contact the Professional Experts – If you are uncertain about any aspects discussed throughout this article, contact us today. One of our specialists can help you successfully migrate to a new website without losing your online reputation.