You've spent years investing in SEO, and now your company dominates the rankings, but your site is outdated, isn't mobile-friendly, and you know it's time for a redesign. You've heard all the horror stories of how a site redesign can kill rankings, so you've held off as long as you can, but now it's time.
Here are five steps to ensure that you are able to successfully execute your site redesign without compromising months or possibly years of investment in SEO.
Step 1: Evaluate Your SEO Strategy
A site redesign is the perfect time to evaluate your SEO strategy and figure out which keywords and landing pages are providing the most value, and which ones are providing the least. This will allow you to know which keywords and landing pages to prioritize during the redesign.
During this process, you may find keywords that rank well, but perform poorly at delivering quality traffic. These keywords may not be worth including in your post-redesign SEO efforts, which presents a great opportunity to refine the keywords you're targeting to ones that will drive higher quality traffic to the site.
When evaluating your SEO strategy, you may also find that certain landing pages fail to engage visitors and convert them into leads or sales. A site redesign presents the perfect opportunity to address page level engagement and conversion issues as well.
Ironically, by evaluating your SEO efforts prior to a site redesign, and addressing issues that you may have otherwise overlooked, you can actually end up with a better performing SEO campaign after the redesign.
Step 2: Keep the Same URL Structure or Implement 301 Redirects
As it pertains to SEO, it is ideal to maintain the same URL structure when executing a site redesign, but this not always practical. You may be moving the site to a new platform that requires a different URL structure, or you may have reorganized your content, which resulted in changes to the URL structure. In any case where changes to the URL structure are necessary, implementing page level 301 redirects is a necessity.
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. It helps retain rankings by guiding search engines from the old URL to the new URL where the requested content now lives. 301 redirects also preserve inbound links and internal links, both of which also help retain rankings.
Retaining a positive user-experience is just as important as retaining good rankings. By preserving inbound links and internal links, 301 redirects prevent visitors from being greeted with a "404 Not Found" error message when accessing the site through inbound links or navigating the site through internal links that point to URLs which no longer exist.
Step 3: Maintain On-Page Optimization
Maintaining on-page optimization is an obvious step, but a site redesign can often involve moving, revising, and adding new content, so with all these moving parts it's easy to forget the basics.
Use this as an opportunity to not only maintain, but to improve on-page optimization, beginning with making sure any keyword changes that were made in step 1 are incorporated into the appropriate pages.
Then, review each title and description tag. Make sure they're unique for each page, incorporate the target keyword(s) for that page, and accurately describe the content they're associated with.
Review the site's URLs, and make sure they're optimized for each page. Also, check for broken internal links, and review all anchor text to make sure it is consistent with any keyword changes that were made in step 1.
Step 4: Create HTML and XML Sitemaps
Create HTML and XML sitemaps to help search engines discover any new content and existing content that has moved to new URLs. HTML sitemaps are also useful to site visitors, and help them discover new content or existing content that has been moved as well.
After creating an XML sitemap, be sure to submit it to the major search engines to expedite the crawling of any new or moved content. This step, combined with page level 301 redirects will ensure efficient crawling and indexing of new or moved content.
Step 5: Monitor, Measure, Improve
Once the redesigned site goes live, carefully monitor your rankings and traffic data.
- Are rankings improving or getting worse?
- Is traffic to the site increasing or decreasing?
- Are visitors engaging more or less with the site's content?
- Are visitors converting at a higher or lower rate?
A site redesign should not be a once and done project. Just like any other marketing effort, the results of your redesign should be monitored, measured, and improved over time.
By following these five steps, you can not only successfully redesign your website without compromising SEO efforts, but can use it as an opportunity to make your SEO strategy even better.
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