So you’ve decided to finally redesign your website. You’ve noticed that your competitors have started updating their sites and you, not wanting to be left behind, have decided to update your site also. The only problem is you have worked for a considerable time to get your current site ranked on Google, and you are worried that you could lose all that SEO work during the redesign process. This is, indeed, a very important problem that you will want to keep in mind and address while redesigning. If you do not, you will lose all of your previous SEO work and your new site will plummet in Google’s rankings. Be sure to follows these steps on how to maintain Google ranking during your site redesign process and avoid watching your new site’s rankings plummet.
Organize Your Keywords and Phrases
Check to see what your current site is currently ranking for using a rank checker. You will want to compile all the phrases and keywords you are ranking for along with their associated pages. Put them all into a spreadsheet, including information like keyphrases, your rank, the matching pages, and the date you got all the information.
Know What’s Working
Use Google Analytics to check which pages are getting you the most search traffic on your site. You will want your new site to include all of these pages. Do NOT get rid of any pages that are performing well. This will hurt you as far as SEO goes. You will want your new site to have a matching page for all of your previous high ranking pages. Generally speaking, you will want to include every page that Google has indexed, regardless of how high they rank. If they rank, you want to include it on your newly redesigned site.
The content you create on your new site’s pages need to be just as relevant as your old site’s pages. This means keyphrase frequency and keyphrase prominence should be just as good, if not better, than your old site’s. To put it in simpler terms, you want the same phrases to appear at least the same amount of times and in the same places. This includes headers, titles, body text, meta descriptions, etc.
Maintain Your Site’s Basic Structure If Possible
Try to keep the same domain name for your site if you can. If you end up having to change your domain name, then you will lose all “domain authority” with Google. This is the last thing you want happening. You also do not want to change the URLs on your most important pages. This might not be possible since redesign often includes updating the CMS and advancing the URL structure of the site, but you still want to avoid it if you can. If you end up having to change your URLs, try to change them to something that is rich with your keyphrases.
You’ll also want to link between pages like the footer, the sitemap, and with links in the content on your pages. This will help search engines to find your pages and rank them. Always try to take advantage of opportunities to create keyphrase-centric links.
Know Your Redirects
Don’t redesign your site without first knowing which pages are linked to other sites. If you change the URLs of these pages, then you will break all of those links on those websites. You will not be able to update the links on the other websites, but you can make sure that you do not break them. To figure out which of your pages are linked to other sites, use a link popularity checker. Keep in mind that a majority of the links will most likely be linked to your home page.
The next thing you want to do is create a list of all the pages that have been indexed by Google. ANY pages, not just the high ranking ones. Once you’ve done this, you will want to create redirects for all of the pages on that list. To do this, create a permanent 301 redirect for every comparable page on your new site so that Google and visitors will be redirected to your new site. You want to do this so the value of your old pages are passed on to your new ones.
Prepare for Indexation
You want your new site to be easily crawlable by Google, so you will want to do a few things to ensure that this goes smoothly and in a way that best benefits your site. The first thing you want to do is update your robots.txt file. Your new one might be a little different that your old one. This is especially true if your new site has a different login area, a shopping cart, or a new CMS. This is done so search engines know not to index these pages.
After that is done, you want to create a new sitemap.xml file. This is what will assist Google in discovering all of your new site’s pages sooner rather than later.
Along with this, creating custom 404 pages for missing pages will help link visitors to other useful pages. Your 404 pages should have a message along the lines of “Sorry, the page you are looking for is not here.” Keep it short and sweet, but polite.
Launch Your New Website
Now you can finally do what you’ve been waiting for all along; launch your brand new website! Once your new site is live, be sure to check for 404 errors. You can do this using Google Webmaster Tools. Also, make sure that your XML sitemap is working correctly.
The fact that you decided to redesign your website in the first place shows that you recognize the need to adapt to changing conditions and keep up with your competition. However, it is easy to forget about SEO when redesigning your website. Often times you will see companies that are afraid to update their websites because they fear losing all of their SEO work, or they are simply too lazy to make a new site. Other companies will aggressively attack a new website design, focusing almost exclusively on creativity and imagination, but then completely forget about SEO and end up watching their website’s search traffic crash up to 50%. Don’t be one of these companies. Just follow these simple SEO steps on how to maintain Google ranking during redesign, maintain a creative approach during the design process, and you will have a site that is not only visually appealing, but will also be Google friendly.
Certified Inbound Marketing Strategist | Content Marketing Specialist | Social Media Strategist | SEO