There might be plenty of reasons why you are rebranding or redesigning your website. Better user experience (UX), brand perception, staying in trend, conversion goals and more. But a full-scale redesign where you overhaul the website’s content and architecture is a terrifying ordeal for the SEO team.
“There are plenty of instances where full website redesigns can work against your goals and the rankings can take a deep dive. If it’s up to me, I would not touch it with a 10-foot pole”, says an SEO specialist from a branding agency in Vadodara, India.
But as nightmarish as it sounds, redesigning is essential at times for the brand to stay updated with the audience and stay connected. So, let’s dive into the details of what you can do to prevent sabotaging your website’s SEO and ranking while making changes in the following phases:
Prelaunch, Launch & Post Launch
- Project Plan and Goals
Think about what it is you want to achieve from this undertaking. Is it the site conversions? Is it enhanced user experience? You goal needs to be clear and set in advance to get the plan rolling.
Plan the changes phase wise and take into account the time for SEO in each step. It is very tedious and less efficient to handle SEO, once tasks are done and website goes live. It is even more difficult to roll back the changes made. For this reason, many companies choose agile methodology as it gives better control over the process.
Your ultimate goal is to attract more users to your website and get more leads, so you don’t want to lose traffic. Protect the link equity, value and ranking of your website.
- Content and Architecture
The content and the website theme are the pillars of user experience. The content has to reflect intent-based search for SEO best practices. Keeping the user in mind every step of way, is what separates the best branding companies in India from the rest.
Make sure that the new site architecture and theme does not lose out on the earlier established customer flow. Changing sequence of steps or complicating the process can have massive consequences on conversions. This is definitely not what you intended the redesign for!
The overall content, sitemap and information architecture impact SEO. To maintain the site message, run a crawling tool (eg. DeepCrawl or Semrush), find all the pages on your website and then work with the team for redesign changes.
This sitemap will be your SEO guide throughout.
- On-Page Optimization
Changing the website architecture and content requires all the on-page SEO elements to be optimized for relevance.
This includes appropriate URLs, meta descriptions, page titles, alt text, body copy text etc. Align them with intent-based search of your target audience.
It is important to not lose the message and subject matter content on your website. The deeper the changes, the more optimizing is required.
We advise to make the changes on a staging site. Redesigning by copying your original site on a temporary URL is the best approach. Another approach is to switch the domain with the help of a professional website development agency or a hosting company, once all the redesign changes have been made.
- 301 Redirects
This is the most crucial and time-consuming aspect of SEO while redesigning a large website. Map out 301 redirects for all the webpages that will be shifted to the new website and the ones that are getting new URLs.
The sitemap from the crawl you performed earlier will come in handy here. Check all the pages that need to be redirected.
Failing to do so will lead to 404 Error pages and cost you – the user experience. The 404 Error page is still okay if the page content has been removed from the index, but if not then the search engine does not forgive. Ranking and link equity will be lost if your backlinks go to an error page.
Based on new Google rules, 301 redirects of a URL over HTTPS helps you retain your original ranking. But too many redirects can slow down your website performance. And speed also affects the ranking.
You can easily assess the performance with the Redirect Mapper Tool.
Once all the redirects are mapped out, make sure they are implemented at the server level or in a site plug-in and equipped for launch.
Test before you launch is the mantra.
This is the time for ‘Quality Control’ and so if there’s anything left in your check-list, do them now. Make sure all the on-page SEO tasks and redirects are done before you give the green signal for launch. Remember damage repair costs dearly.
- Verify Redirects
The first thing to do after you go live is check the old sitemaps and make sure all the 301 redirects and URLs are working as you expected.
If there are any 404s or 302 redirects, get the team in action! You also don’t want any 301 redirects to take a lot of time to load or show security warnings.
Google Webmaster helps in checking for any broken links.
- Run an SEO Audit
Commonly developers stop the search engine crawl during the website edit. Resume the website crawling now and check the status by using ‘Fetch as Google’ option under crawler and then ‘Fetch and Render’ option. Both positive results mean it’s working!
Make sure the content and database from your last website has been migrated to the new one. Sometimes things get missed while going live from the staging website.
- Performance Validation
Test the home page and key pages with a mobile friendly testing tool to see the performance of the website. It may not run as well as the staging website due to the different servers, hosting and traffic load. In that case, improvements need to be made.
Take speed tests of the pages and URLs as this is an important factor determining performance and ranking. Look for areas of improvement and ensure a smooth UX to reap the benefits of a professional, user-friendly website.
- Sitemaps Submission
Submit the updated XML sitemap to the search engine. Everything should be consistent – your new site structure, sitemaps, URLs, 301 redirects, navigation etc.
Review the backlinks as they are the wheels of improving SEO and ranking. If there are any pointing to your site and to those pages that are going to be changed and removed, then inform those sites to update the backlinks.
You deserve a breather after the successful launch!
The active mind can now become the monitor. The next couple of months are to keep an eye out for fails. Closely monitor the Google Search Console and Webmaster for crawl errors, 404 errors, or any on-page issues. These require to be tackled immediately to prevent hits to website performance.
- On Going SEO
Good SEO only gets better with time and our branding and creative agency in Vadodara (India) has proven it over time. Measure the performance, keep track of tasks, generate progress reports and find the scope for improvement.
Continue reaching greater goals with a powerful SEO strategy!