Website redesign & SEO: 10 steps to maintain visibility
Modernize your website, update your range of products, launch a new web strategy: there are many reasons to redesign your website. During a website redesign, many components of your site such as URLs change and can affect your natural referencing on Google (SEO). And if your website is no longer visible on search engines, then your business will lose sales opportunities.
This article will walk you through the steps to take to perform a website overhaul without affecting your SEO.
So, how to modernize your website without compromising your SEO?
Step 1: List all the pages on your current site
Modernizing your website almost always involves the disappearance of old pages and the appearance of new pages. This means that the URL structure of your website will change. In order to limit the impact of your website redesign on your SEO, it is essential to have access to the list of URLs of your current website. It will serve you throughout the redesign process.
To do this, you can use the WordPress Yoast SEO plugin, or download the free Screaming Frog software if you are not using WordPress.
Step 2: use a copy of your current website
When redesigning a website, it is almost impossible to achieve the desired result on the first try (we took a year to redo our own!). This is why we strongly recommend that you make the changes to a copy of your website. If you keep modifying your current site, it could create bugs and 404 pages which will negatively affect your site’s navigation and SEO.
To do this, you will need to create a new space on your server to host a copy of your website. Please note that only you and your collaborators must have access to this copy, which will be in a way a private site. Your current site will remain accessible to all Internet users.
If you have problems saving and copying your website, we recommend that you contact your web developer.
Step 3: Test the copy of the new website
Your current site is saved to a private copy. Well. Now you need to make sure this copy is fully functional before you start your website redesign.
In this check, you should inspect aspects like your broken links (404), CSS code, etc.
For this, tools such as XENU or Screaming Frog (again) will be very useful to you. They will list all your pages and tell you their working status.
Step 4: properly configure 301 redirects
This next step is in-dis-pen-sable. It consists of ensuring that all URLs have the necessary redirects.
For example: if your “about” page had the URL www.yourcompany.ca/about-de-yourcompany and you want to change this URL to www.yourcompany.ca/about, you will need to redirect from the old URL to the new one. This redirection allows both URLs to remain functional while pointing to only one page. This will allow you to keep the SEO profits from your old page.
If you do not perform this redirect, your new website will automatically create these famous “404 error” pages, which could cause Google to reduce the visibility of your website, in addition to the loss of traffic caused.
In order to perform your 301 redirects properly and make sure you don’t forget any, go back to your list of URLs (step 1). Then download a redirect extension from your content management system. On WordPress, you can use Redirection (it’s aptly named).
Step 5: Launch your new website
Finally! Once the design of your new website is validated, and your redirects are complete, you are ready to put your new site online. If your site has hundreds of pages, you can also make this transition little by little to avoid possible bugs.
Step 6: Open Google Search Console
Once your website is up and running, this step is to verify that everything that has been done so far is working. There is a tool for this: the Search Console.
Log in to your Search Console with your Gmail account. This tool will tell you directly if your new website has broken URLs, 404 pages, or any other type of operational error.
Step 7: Check Google Indexing Status
In order for Google to position your website in its search results, you must allow it to index, or “crawl” your site. It is common to deactivate Google indexing following a website redesign. This fixes some errors that only appear after uploading. Once your new website is working perfectly, you must therefore re-authorize Google to index it.
To check the indexing status of your website, go to the “Explore like Google” category of the “Exploration” menu of your Search Console:
So you can check whether or not Google indexes your web pages. If this is not the case, follow Google’s instructions to request indexing of your website.
Step 8: verify the Robots.txt
During a website redesign, the robot.txt may be damaged. To check it, go to the category “robots.txt file test tool” and make sure you don’t receive any warning from Google:
Step 9: Submit the Sitemap to Google
Following your website redesign, your site structure will most certainly have changed. In order for Google to understand the hierarchy and organization of your new website, you must submit what is called a “Sitemap” or XML. Once your Sitemap is submitted, the indexing of your new website can start.
Google explains how to create and submit a Sitemap in this guide.
Step 10: perform continuous SEO monitoring
Your work doesn’t stop after your website redesign. On the contrary, it is only just beginning! You will need to monitor the evolution of your positions on Google and continuously analyze the effectiveness of your organic SEO strategy on your most relevant keywords. It is only by regularly monitoring the performance of your new website that you can adjust and strengthen your SEO strategy.
To do this, you can use tools such as Google Analytics or SEMrush.
Are you ready to redesign your website!
That’s it! With this guide, you will be able to modernize your website without affecting the effectiveness of your natural referencing on search engines.