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Planning a Website Redesign so You Don’t Lose Your SEO

Writing by Nick Stamoulis in Internet Marketing

Making minor tweaks to your site or content is usually no big deal, but when you start planning a major website redesign it’s important to take your time and actually plan it out! I’ve worked with many site owners during the website redesign process to help ensure that the new site has just as much SEO value and search engine trust as the new one. Here are five things site owners need to do during a website redesign to ensure they don’t lose or waste their SEO.

1. Make a master spreadsheet of all URLs.
Basically you want to create a website redesign guideline for yourself so you know how the old site will be migrated to the new site, how the URL structure is going to change and what’s going to happen to the content on each page (so you know what kind of onsite work needs to be done later.) In a simple Excel spreadsheet, create a guide that looks something like this:

OLD URL                                NEW URL                                            CONTENT ACTION                                                     No changes                Revamped content
NO PAGE                            New content

You want to complete proper 301 redirects on a page by page basis so you don’t lose A)any of the inbound links pointing to the old site and B)the “new” website carries the search engine trust and age of the old. A website redesign guideline will help ensure that all those 301 redirects get implemented properly.

2. Re-optimize revamped content.
Depending on how much rewriting goes into your website redesign, you might only have to tweak the new content so it’s properly optimized (using the same keywords from the old site.) If a page gets a major overhaul you might need to a whole new round of keyword research to ensure that it’s being optimized for the best possible keywords. If you delete a page of content double check to see if any of those keywords can be incorporated into an existing page or folded into new content. You don’t want to lose any SEO value because you accidentally dropped keywords that were sending a lot of traffic your way!

3. Ensure Meta data transfers properly.
Again, depending how much the content on your website changes with your website redesign, you might need to rewrite some of your Meta data (Meta descriptions and title tags) but it’s important to make sure that information is in place before the new site goes live. You want to minimize the risk as best as you can and keeping the Meta data accurate can help. While the Meta description might not be a huge factor for SEO, it definitely impacts the user-experience. That description is what the search engines pull as the snippet for your site when it’s listed in the SERPs. Those 150 characters can influence a searcher to choose your site over another.

4. Keep the new site password protected until it’s 100% ready to go live.
Many sites fail to do this, then the search engines crawl both the new site (while it’s still in testing mode) AND the current site and index them both. This runs the risk of a duplicate content penalty, but it can also splinter your visitors and SEO efforts. One searcher might get pushed to the new site while another visitor finds the current. The search engines might list a page on the new site above a page on the old site and your visitors will see conflicting information. Make sure that new site is locked away until you’re ready for search engines and visitors to find it!

5. Don’t delete the old site until you’re sure everything transferred properly.
You can’t test to see if the 301 redirects worked properly until the new site is live. When doing a website redesign, I always tell my clients to keep their old site around (locked away of course) for at least a few weeks while they make sure there are no kinks on the new site. Did you move all the content over like you were supposed to? Are the 301 redirects working properly? Is the new site’s navigation functioning well? If you delete the old site the day your new website goes live you have no way to recover anything you might have overlooked.

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