Website redesign is a serious business. It can affect your company’s performance, confuse your customers and cause your traffic to disappear. But no matter how much you may love your current design, at some point you’ll want to change it.
Site redesign is one of the greatest SEO challenges for an established site. A simple error can cause drop in rankings and loss of traffic. If you’re thinking of site redesign, or are in a process of doing it already, check out those few things to remember.
- Never take down your site
At no point should you pull your old site offline unless it needs to go under for a few minutes as you launch the new design.
- Optimize all content
One reason why sites lose massive amounts of traffic after a redesign is because their content has been deoptimized. This is the opposite of what should be happening. Instead, focus on optimization — adding content, fine-tuning page titles, and improving everything you can.
- Maintain the same URL structure as much as possible
If you can, keep your URL structure the same. Whenever you change a site’s URL structure, you lose vast amounts of traffic from inbound links. To remedy that, you will have to conduct a massive 301 redirect mapping campaign. The biggest site launch mistake I’ve observed is altering the URL structure without implementing 301 redirects.
- Create a comprehensive 301 URL redirect mapping strategy
Nearly every site redesign will have some pages that will be mapped to a new location. It’s important to have a complete plan in place for redirecting every such page. Every single rewritten URL must have a 301 permanent redirect
- Create an effective customized 404 error page
Since the new site will probably experience a few 404s, you should have an optimized 404 page in place.
- Create new sitemaps (HTML and XML)
You should always have an up-to-date sitemap, but it’s especially important for a site launch or redesign.
- Update your Robots File
When you migrate to your new site several things may change. Your Robots file tells the search engines which pages they should not index, and should be updated to match your new site structure.
As you can see, there are many things you need to consider when going through a website redesign, and a lot that can go wrong. However, if you plan well and take the proper steps, you can have a successful redesign that does not negatively affect your search rankings or organic traffic.