How to Redesign Your Website Without Losing SEO
Did you know a whopping 48% of users believe website design is the number one factor in judging a company’s credibility?
Or that 94% of visitors create their first impression of a website based solely on the design?
A website redesign doesn’t just improve your site’s overall aesthetic. It can improve your:
- Conversion rate
- Visitor experience
- Boost your leads and sales.
However, when you embark on a site redesign, you’re also taking a considerable risk. What happens to the SEO you’ve spent years perfecting? Failing to build SEO into your website redesign from the beginning can lead to disaster.
With this in mind, let’s dive into everything you need to know about how to redesign your site without losing SEO.
Redesign Your Website Isn’t An Easy Task
Redesigning your website is a huge undertaking, but it’s also a crucial part of your progress as a company.
For example, a website that looked fresh and futuristic 15 years ago would look out of place today.
Similarly, websites with jarring visuals, disorganized content, and confusing navigation can turn visitors away before you have a chance to impress them with your product or service.
Your website needs to be fast, responsive for all screens, have a cohesive brand identity, and much more to stay competitive in the digital age.
When is a Website Redesign Needed?
The reasons for embarking on a website redesign vary significantly.
However, the most common reasons to redesign a website are:
- Improve low conversion rates
- To add functionality that enhances the user experience
- To increase traffic
Generate more leads (one study found that leads improved over 300% after a website redesign!)
In simple terms, your specific business goals will determine the scale of your website redesign.
When it comes to scaling, there are two main ways to categorize a website redesign project — cosmetic and complete redesign.
A cosmetic website redesign, often called a revamp, typically involves updating the way your site looks to make it appear more modern, on-brand, or more appealing to new market segments.
Usually, cosmetic redesigns only impact certain sections of the site.
Typical examples of design tweaks in this area include updating the company logo, increasing accessibility on the site (for example, larger fonts, and contrasting colors), or adding new products and services.
A complete website redesign involves making broad changes to the front-end and back-end of the site and its fundamental building blocks.
Here, companies often start from scratch to build a website that better fits the needs of their customers. You can think of it as a reimagining of your website goals.
You might consider a complete website redesign if your website is very old, built on an antiquated platform, unresponsive, or you plan a major rebrand.
How to Check Your Current Website SEO Score
Before you begin your website redesign, it’s a good idea to conduct an audit of your website as it is today.
Website auditing tools can tell you crucial information about your site, much of which impacts your SEO.
For example, some tools can identify broken links, analyze page load time, identify errors and SEO issues in your meta-information, and determine page quality (duplicate content, too little text on a page etc).
Some tools can also go far beyond this, looking at things like page and link structure, server configurations, and external factors like backlinks and whether your website appears on any blacklists.
There are many tools out there, but Seobility, HubSpot Website Grader, and SmallSEOTools are good places to look for your current SEO score.
It’s also a good idea to check your current domain authority (DA) using Open Site Explorer. Why? Because domain authority is vital to your SEO rankings. DA is a score out of 100, where the higher the number, the more authoritative your site is. Sites with higher DA scores perform better in search results.
Understanding how your website shapes up today can help you set better goals for your website redesign SEO project!
Common SEO Pitfalls to Avoid When Redesigning Your Website
Redesigning your website without sabotaging your SEO requires a deliberate approach — you can’t leave anything to chance.
So, if you want your new website to launch without a hitch, you need to avoid these common SEO pitfalls.
Not Setting Goals
Your website redesign should be intrinsically linked to your business goals. Therefore, when crafting your redesign goals, you need to ask questions like:
- What are our customer personas? What do our ideal customers want from a website?
- What does the buyer’s journey currently look and feel like, and how do we want it to look on the new website? What are the core phases buyers go through, and could these be improved with fewer steps or by removing pain points?
- What are the must-have components of the new website?
- How do we plan to use high-quality content to increase traffic to our website?
Not Establishing Benchmarks
This relates back to our previous section on your current website’s SEO score.
When you launch your new website, you must track how it compares to your old website to see how successfully the redesign achieved your goals. You’ll want to track things like total traffic, conversion rates, which pages get organic traffic, inbound links, and usage metrics like bounce rate, time on site, geography, and so on.
Slowing Down Page Load Speed
Page speed is a significant contributor to visitors abandoning your site and looking elsewhere. For example, one study found that 93% of visitors have left a website because it didn’t load quickly enough.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to use page load time checkers when redesigning your site to pinpoint if any elements of your design are slowing it down.
Not Including Unique Content Above the Fold
For those unfamiliar with the term, above-the-fold refers to content at the top of the web page. Or, in other words, content that users can see without scrolling.
Typically, companies put a lot of thought into this content and, as a result, often decide to keep the same above-the-fold content when they redesign their website. But this is a mistake, and can actually harm your search engine ranking. So instead, you should focus on creating new and unique above-the-fold content.
Best Practices for Getting Website Redesign Right — the Ultimate Checklist
So, now you know the don’ts, but what about the dos?
Getting a website redesign right requires careful attention to detail across many different areas. This can be challenging without a checklist to keep you on track.
With this in mind, our website redesign SEO checklist highlights the steps you need to take for a smooth launch.
Before Migration Checklist
Define project goals and plan
We discussed this in the last section. Your project goals are likely to be tied to business use cases, marketing initiatives, SEO improvements, etc. Setting appropriate and timely goals is crucial to success.
Content and information architecture
You need to understand the current state of your information architecture, content, and site map. Pages valuable to your SEO strategy mustn’t get purged during your migration to the new site. The best way to approach this redesign aspect is to use site crawling tools like DeepCrawl or Screaming Frog to find all pages on your website and use this as a guide.
Maintaining relevant subject matter content is crucial to reaching your target audience, so you must proactively optimize pages for specific elements that boost relevance in search results. This means updating URLs, page titles, body copy, alt text, and meta descriptions.
One study of 150,000 websites found that 42.5% of these sites had broken links! If you want to avoid becoming a part of this statistic, you need to map your URL redirects. You need to match your old URLs with new ones and decide on any new URLs to replace the ones you’re getting rid of. Be aware that, for large websites, this could end up being the most time-intensive aspect of your website redesign. If any website has many backlinks pointed to the URL then it is better to keep the same URL structure to avoid redirection or 404 error once the website is live. Generally, it is very difficult to change the URL on an external website with a new URL.
Post Launch Checklist
Check your redirects
If you did everything correctly, your redirects should work!
Submit your XML sitemap
Your XML sitemap is essentially your website blueprint — it tells search engines how to interpret your site and the purpose of its content. You can either update your XML sitemap manually or use tools like Yoast or AIOSEO to help. This is a crucial step for your redesigned website because Google crawlers might ignore your new website entirely if they find an incorrect XML sitemap.
Congratulations! You’ve done the hard work, and your site is live. Now you need to monitor the site’s SEO performance against the previous benchmarks to see how it stacks up. You’ll also want to use tools like Google Search Console to watch for reported 404 errors, HTML issues, and crawl errors so you can tackle these quickly.
Ongoing SEO improvement
SEO isn’t a one-time thing but rather something you tweak for optimal results over time. Make sure to go back and review your website periodically to see where you can improve SEO.
Website redesigns carry plenty of risks for SEO, but they also offer valuable rewards that could propel your business to the next level. Even a complete website redesign from the ground up doesn’t have to mean your traffic dwindles and your site fades into obscurity.
If you want to learn more about how Chetaru can help you redesign your website without losing SEO, get in touch today!