Can a Website Redesign Affect SEO?
If your existing website is starting to feel outdated or isn’t performing as well as you’d like, you’ll want to implement a website redesign. While focusing on your new website content and aesthetics, you must also pay careful attention to SEO.
Following the right website redesign SEO process is critical if you want your site to continue to perform well in the SERPs after it has been refreshed. If you overlook this, your redesign could damage your site’s organic SEO performance more than enhance it.
This guide covers the essential website redesign SEO checklist you should follow when you update your site.
What is a Website Redesign?
A website redesign is when you completely overhaul your website and how it looks, performs, and functions. This generally involves changing major elements of your website, like the code, content, information architecture, and visuals.
A website redesign is done to improve the site’s overall user experience. Maybe your website has started to look outdated compared to the competition. Or maybe you want to decrease your bounce rate and improve conversion rates on your site. In these cases, you will redesign the website to look, feel, and perform differently.
Businesses should generally redesign their website every two to three years. This is because the online world moves fast and changes all the time. If your site stays the same forever, then it will, at some point, start to look out of date, which will affect the user experience. An essential part of owning a website is ensuring it always stays up-to-date.
A successful redesign changes the website structure, look, and feel without affecting the site’s organic traffic or search engine rankings. Following the right website redesign SEO process is important while changing your site. All website redesign projects will experience a temporary dip in rankings as Google crawls and reranks the new website. Still, when you follow a proper website redesign SEO checklist, your search engine rankings will bounce back quickly.
Why You Need to Consider SEO Before Redesigning Your Website
Successful SEO takes a long time to achieve. When you redesign your website, the last thing you want to do is lose all of your SEO performance and search traffic.
The website redesign process is all about making your website look and feel like a new site while still maintaining the same way it is performed in search engines.
If you make changes without considering how they will affect the website’s organic performance, you could destroy years of your SEO efforts, leaving you with the long and daunting task of salvaging the new website.
Organic search traffic is the most important source of traffic for any website. So, losing this website traffic during a redesign would be incredibly harmful. There’s no point in making your website look and feel new with a redesign if you don’t have any website visitors to experience it.
An SEO disaster during a redesign project could affect individual pages or the entire website. It could result in the site losing domain authority, producing broken links, harming your core web vitals, or more.
Whatever the case, one of the most important aspects of owning and operating a website to power your business is that the site performs well in the search rankings. If the website redesign comes with a high SEO cost and results in the new site structure losing traffic and rankings, it won’t be worth it.
A Website Redesign SEO Checklist to Maintain Existing Search Engine Rankings
If you want your site to continue to perform well or perform better in search engines, you need to pay close attention to search engine optimization while you redesign the site.
We’ve prepared a complete website redesign SEO checklist that we use on all our website redesigns for you to follow to ensure you don’t lose your hard-earned rankings.
Analyze Your Current Site and Content
Before you go through the redesign process, you’ll want to analyze your existing website’s performance to use as a benchmark.
Go through your site and take note of things such as:
- your bounce rate
- time spent on site
- domain authority
- important keywords you’re ranking for
- the number of unique visitors to your site
- and how well different areas of your site convert visitors
When you gather all this information, you’ll see what areas of your website are performing well and which are not. This will help you make the right changes as you redesign your site while knowing what elements of your site you can leave alone.
It will also help you compare your redesigned website’s performance to the original design to see what difference the redesign made.
You can use Google Search Console and Google Analytics to pull this data. For example, Google Search Console is a great tool to help you discover what organic search terms your website, and individual pages on your website, are gaining traffic from. You can also use Google Search Console to discover how your core web vitals are performing. Google Analytics will help you discover metrics like bounce rate or traffic sources.
When analyzing your website, you’ll also want to check the health of your link profile by running a link audit. This is when you analyze your backlinks to identify if any low-quality or spammy links are affecting your domain authority. You can use tools like Semrush or Ahrefs to do this.
Make a Note of Your High-Performing Content
A key part of website redesign SEO is understanding the best-performing pages on your website before you make any changes. These are your most valuable pages, so you must ensure they continue to perform at a high level once you have completed the redesign.
Use Google Search Console to discover which pages generate the most organic traffic. You can identify which specific search terms are bringing in this traffic. You’ll also want to see which pages have the most inbound links, shares, and views.
Protecting these high-performance pages is critical. Not just because these pages are important traffic sources for your site but also because they hold a lot of your website’s SEO weight.
For example, if you remove a page that contains a lot of inbound links, this will impact your site’s link structure and website architecture. This could affect your keyword rankings and traffic, as search engines won’t be able to gauge the quality of your content as well as before.
So, once you have identified your top-performing pages on the original site, minimize changes to these pages during your website redesign SEO process.
Determine Your SEO Goals
What do you want to achieve with your website redesign SEO? You shouldn’t just be doing a website refresh so that your site looks new. You should also have clear SEO goals to improve how your website performs.
So, before you dive into a website redesign, consider what areas you want to improve and set these as actionable, specific goals. This will help you be more conscious of what changes to make while going through your SEO checklist.
It will also help you discover new SEO opportunities your old website might be missing out on.
Some good examples of SEO goals could be to:
- increase visitors per month
- improve keyword rankings
- make a larger percentage of your website traffic come from organic sources
Use a SMART framework when establishing these goals to easily monitor their performance and understand what you need to do to achieve them.
It’s important to educate yourself on SEO best practices and be aware of how SEO has changed since you last designed your website and where SEO is heading in the future.
Optimize And Update Existing Content
Now that you have clear SEO goals, you’ll need to update your existing content to match these goals. There are many tools online to help audit and optimize your page content, including AI-based options that can do the heavy lifting for you. These tools can also be a great asset as you move forward with your content marketing.
There are many different reasons why your content might need to be updated. The page could display old and outdated content. It could be ranking for different keywords for which the page isn’t properly optimized. Perhaps two different pages are competing for the same keywords.
Whatever the case, you’ll want each page on your site to have a clear SEO direction and be properly optimized for the search terms it’s trying to rank for.
Evaluate The Keywords Your Content Is Ranking For
When you optimize your content, running a report on the page in Google Search Console is a good place to start. This reveals the page’s top organic search terms and how the page is performing for each of these search terms.
You’ll want to target the most high-traffic, or high-opportunity, search terms to boost the page’s rankings on your new website.
Try to focus each page on one or two main keywords. This focuses your SEO content strategy more clearly and ensures each page has a defined purpose.
Optimize Your Content For Main Target Keywords
Once you have identified these keywords, research them thoroughly. Understand what kind of content ranks well for these keywords and ensure your page can compete with this. This might reveal that you must include more sections on your pages or cover different information.
The key thing here is understanding your target keyword’s search intent and ensuring that your page addresses this properly. Ultimately, the page that offers the most value to the user will rank the best.
Keep Everything Fresh
Of course, also ensure your pages are up-to-date. So ensure you don’t reference outdated stats or display old and outdated images. Your entire site should look fresh if it will be an authority and outrank the competition.
Include All the Correct On-Page SEO Elements
When updating your content, you’ll also need to make sure that you apply the right on-page SEO tactics to optimize your page for the right target keyword. This will involve including your target keyword in your page title, headings, and opening paragraph.
Also, add your keyword to your meta title tags, meta descriptions, image alt tags, URL structure, and strategically throughout your content.
Ensure your web page includes relevant links to other pages on your site. This helps Google and other search engines understand the relationship between your pages when they do a site crawl to navigate your site better. The more relevant internal links you include, the easier to let your pages rank for the right topic.
Updating your content like this can take a long time – especially when you’ve got a long website redesign SEO checklist. However, by consistently updating each page on your site and ensuring your on-page elements are up to scratch, you should be able to improve each page’s performance. This is generally a much easier way to boost your rankings than publishing new content.
Remember, SEO is a marathon and not a sprint. It often takes a few updates and adjustments to each page before it starts to achieve its full potential, but following a time-tested website redesign SEO checklist will keep you on track.
Update Your Site Architecture
A key part of website redesign SEO is ensuring the relationship between your web pages is clear. Your site must be organized so that relevant pages are easy to find. This is necessary for visitors to your site and search engines to crawl your content.
Each page on your website should link to other relevant pages on your site. If you have pages with no internal links pointing toward them, search engines and visitors might not be able to find these pages. This could result in the pages not being indexed properly.
Not only does your site architecture help search engines understand the relationships between your pages. It also helps search engines understand which pages are most important. Pages with the most internal links pointing towards them will hold more importance and authority.
When you go through your website redesign, pay careful attention to your site architecture and the kind of pages each page links to.
Ideally, these pages should cover information in the same relevant category so your site can develop clear information hubs. This SEO tactic is known as hub and spoke linking. It can help your relevant content clusters and important pages in these clusters develop more authority on your site.
Organizing your website this way makes navigating your site much more intuitive for search engine crawlers and visitors. This results in a better user experience, rankings, and organic traffic from each page on your website.
Map and Configure 301 Redirects
Any SEO professional will tell you the most forgotten aspect of a website redesign is 301 redirects. When you redesign your website and update your old content, you will probably come across some old and irrelevant pages that don’t bring in any qualified traffic to your site.
It’s usually not worth updating these pages. Instead, you’ll want to delete or redirect them to maximize your crawl budget.
If a page has zero backlinks and doesn’t drive any traffic to your site, you can easily unpublish it without affecting your website’s SEO performance. However, if the page has backlinks, those backlinks will break if you unpublish the page. In this case, you’ll want to redirect the page.
Websites will sometimes have more than one page ranking for the same keyword. This is known as keyword cannibalization – when your site competes against itself for rankings. In this scenario, redirect the lowest-traffic page to the higher-traffic page so that only one page on your site targets the keyword.
When you perform a website redesign, you might change your pages’ URL structure. For example, you could redirect all HTTP pages to HTTPS. In this case, you’ll want to set up 301 redirects to these pages. You can use an SEO plugin to do this.
By setting up 301 redirects, you’ll ensure that every time a visitor clicks on a URL for your website, they land on a relevant, up-to-date page. This helps you maintain your website traffic without sending this traffic to irrelevant pages. It also helps your site visitors avoid experiencing errors when trying to visit your site.
A good practice is creating a spreadsheet that records all 301 URLs on your site. This helps you stay organized and understand what content you’re focusing on and what pages are being redirected.
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Optimize Your Page Speed
Site speed has become an essential ranking factor for SEO. Not just this, but it also plays a major role in your user experience. If your site performs slowly, you could expect your bounce rate to increase.
Improving site speed will likely be a top priority when going through a website redesign. It should be an essential part of your website redesign SEO checklist.
One of the main culprits for slow-loading websites is large image files. Start by compressing any media files on your pages to improve your site’s speed.
Compressed images and videos can make an enormous difference to your site’s performance.
Some other tactics to improve web page speed include using a caching plugin on your website and minifying the code on your site.
You could also try to add a content delivery network (CDN) to your new site to help boost page loading times.
This area of technical SEO can also be monitored in Search Console, where you can view page speed updates and possible errors. Also, use Google PageSpeed Insights to monitor your page speed performance.
Be sure to stay on top of these to maintain a site that performs at its best.
Update Your XML Sitemap
XML sitemaps are blueprints of your website that display your site structure. They show how all of your web pages connect to your site. It is a roadmap that search engine crawlers can use to navigate your site.
Once you have updated your content and implemented your SEO redesign, you should update your XML sitemap and submit it to Google and any other search engine. This will help the search engine understand your redesigned website and find the relevant pages more easily when crawling.
Updating your sitemap is especially important if you add 301 redirects or remove any pages on your website.
Test Your New Site
No matter how thoroughly you go through your website redesign SEO checklist, you can’t call your redesign a success until you’ve experienced that the site works well.
So, before you implement the new live site, thoroughly test it first. Most managed web hosting companies provide a private staging area to host your test site before launch.
Go through each page of the staging site in detail, and get different people to test out the staging website.
Check that the redesigned website looks good and that everything works properly. Test your pages, navigation links, buttons, forms, and interactive elements.
When it goes live, you’ll also want to run a fresh SEO audit on the redesigned site. This will help you review all the redesign SEO considerations you established at the start to help you ensure that your site performs properly.
Implementing a successful website redesign usually takes some time. After launching the new site, you’ll probably still encounter small issues for a while. This is why creating a test site during staging and thoroughly reviewing it is essential for website redesigns.
Keep an Eye On Analytics
Your job is not over once you have implemented the new site.
You need to check the website regularly and its performance after implementing the new design. This helps you review your SEO goals and understand if any SEO areas are falling short.
Website redesigns should end up improving the performance of your site. So, after implementing the new design, pay attention to metrics like your organic traffic, bounce rate, conversions, and organic search engine rankings.
Staying up to date with this is necessary for finding new changes that need to be made and establishing where the redesign was a success.
Website redesign SEO must be paramount in the strategic plans for updating your site.
Making changes to your website can easily harm your hard-earned SEO efforts instead of improving them. This could have a devastating and lasting impact on your site – as once you’ve lost your SEO juice; you can’t just reverse the process and get it back.
Follow this website redesign SEO checklist when you update your site, and you will avoid making some of the most critical SEO mistakes we see people make every day.
If you’re not up to the task of managing a website redesign project on your own, hire a professional web design agency to ensure you don’t compromise your site’s SEO performance and hurt your bottom line.