As most Search Engine Optimization (SEO) gurus will attest, website marketing is an on-going process and it takes time, dedication and resilience to get your site to the top of the search engine listings.
Often companies spend many years working tirelessly at achieving a high ranking for specific pages – but what happens if your site is starting to show its age and you need to perform a redesign? Will revamping your website have an impact on its SEO, either positively or negatively?
The short answer is it could do either – and the effects of updating your site are very much dependent on how you approach the task.
The key SEO precautions you should take in a redesign
First of all, it’s worth stating that unless you’re already highly skilled at web production or programming, it simply isn’t worth attempting to do a redesign of an already highly-rated website on your own. Chances are you’ll miss important details in porting your content to its new home and could destroy your previously successful ratings.
Rather, if you’re looking to redesign your site and want to retain its standing in the search engines, you would be well advised to seek the skills of an experienced professional. For example, ALT Agency offer website design in Coventry and are also highly skilled at transporting existing sites to new layouts – just the kind of skills you need to make a successful transfer to your new layout.
As a general guide, you will want to make sure the design firm you use takes the following precautionary measures before updating your site:
Note all page titles from the old website: Your site structure is exactly what Google and other search engines will have referenced and what will have ranked you highly in the first place. You must list these page titles to avoid links and content being ‘lost’ in the transfer process. Some Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress make this process relatively easy but if your CMS doesn’t offer the same level of support for referencing pages, you will need to generate a full sitemap of the website.
Never perform a redesign on your live URL: You should avoid making changes to your live site as it can cause confusion or other issues with your users – plus you also have the very real potential to make irreversible errors. Instead, you should copy your site to a temporary URL and make all your required changes behind the scenes. Remember, your web design company should do this automatically for you – but it’s worth checking with them to make doubly sure and also ask where they intend hosting the temporary site.
Perform thorough testing on the temporary site: You should ask your developers to give you full access to the temporary site before replacing your original content. Gremlins and glitches can and do happen in even the best-planned projects so it’s best you iron out any problems before putting the new site live. In particular, you should check for broken links, missing pages, lost CSS tags, etc. You cannot be too thorough with this stage of the development so take your time and comprehensively check for errors.
Add properly-formatted 301 redirects: If your developer has accidentally (or intentionally) changed page name formats, they will need to add formatted 301 redirects to your site to ensure Google doesn’t receive “404 page not found” errors.
For example, if your contact page was previously called “/contactus” but the developer has renamed it to “contact-us”, Google will be unable to find it without being given a redirect. Perhaps more importantly, 301 redirects inform search engines that the URL has changed so they will start referencing the new address rather than the old.