If you are considering a website redesign then you need to make sure you plan ahead to avoid potentially devastating SEO issues. While you may have a new and shiny website you risk losing your hard won Google rankings if the process hasn’t been managed properly – a website redesign can be a huge success – or it could fail terribly.
You can protect the ranking you’ve worked hard to build and discover new opportunities for optimization by building new features and planning properly. This blog post will cover how to perform the SEO checks needed to help your website maintain — and improve — its search engine ranking after a website redesign.
Note your current website pages and use redirects.
Google will have a record of your website pages in its Index and if these suddenly change due to a website redesign then your website will show lots broken links or Page Not Found errors which could harm your search engine rankings; Google downgrades websites which have broken links. To get round this problem, webmasters must inform search engines of these URL changes. First of all make a list of all your current URLs so you can identify the pages that are important and need to be redirected as the URL might change. Often this will be all pages on your website and there are tools such as screaming frog that can crawl a website and automatically generate a list.
Once you have this list then you can create the redirects so anyone using the old URL for a page will be taken to its new version or alternative content. The redirects can be done using the .htaccess file, redirect page or redirect plugin if you’re using WordPress. The redirect should be a so called 301 permanent redirect so Google and other search engines know that the page URL has changed.
Additionally, if you have a new domain, add this to Google Webmaster Tools, and submit a sitemap to inform Google your new content is live.
Analyse your inbound links
Hopefully there will be may websites that link to your website and they are key maintaining the ranking of your website: search engines will boost websites that have links from good quality websites. Therefore you need to transition your old links to the new websites. Identify your inbound links (there are free tools available, use screaming frog, Google search console or other link analysis tools) and then prioritise for further action. Ideally, you should contact the webmaster hosting each link pointing to your site and request for them to update the URL. If you can’t get hold of them then simply add 301 redirects to point the old URL.
If you are purchasing a new URL that was previously hosting another brand’s site, understand that you will often inherit their backlink profile. You must investigate the source of these backlinks and update them accordingly to preserve or remove connections as needed.
Conduct an SEO audit
Use your website analytics, search tools and audit your website to assess current and use this knowledge to construct a road map of what needs to be carried over and what should be left behind. Look for the following:
- Missing page titles
- Duplicate page titles
- Page titles over 512 pixels
- Page titles below 200 pixels
- Missing H1 tags
- Duplicate H1 tags
- Multiple H1 tags
- Missing meta descriptions
- Duplicate meta descriptions
- Meta descriptions over 923 pixels
- Canonical tags
- Broken internal/external links
- Structured markup usage (correct tagging, applicable page usage)
- Image alt text
- XML sitemap
- Duplicate content
- Pages indexed by Google
- Site speed and performance
- URL structure
- Crawl errors
- Mobile usability
- Broken links (internal and external)
- Link count (internal and external)
- Pages indexed
- Top keywords driving traffic
- Organic search traffic
After a website redesign or URL move
It is possible to maintain and then improve your search engine rankings after a website redesign or domain name change. It is a case of knowing your website, the important pages and what you need to to redirect and then monitoring closely to make sure that you haven’t harmed your search engine rankings. See the original article here: SEO Strategy During A Website Redesign Or Migration