Doing a website redesign? If you are, it’s likely an exciting and challenging time. Graphic design considerations aside, there are several things to think about if you want to maintain or improve your search rankings. Joining domains, migrating to a new domain, or changing your content management system (CMS) can lead to dramatic alterations in your SEO (search engine optimization) rankings. Here are several considerations to keep in mind to preserve or boost your rankings as you update your website.
1. Check Site Architecture
The organization of your web pages is a major consideration. Web page organization is usually called site architecture. The ideal situation is to organize your page structure logically. To the extent you can, try and preserve your current site architecture — that means keeping the same categories and URLs. If it’s necessary to merge pages, select the most popular URL, and redirect older URLs to the new one. If you use any 301 redirects, be sure that the content is a close match to avoid ranking changes.
2. Check All Links
This is an exacting process but pays off in terms of SEO. Broken links tip you off to overall issues with website structure as well as often causing visitors to leave your site. Fortunately, online tools can make the job easier.
3. Find Thin Pages
Website redesign (and initial design) requires checking for “thin pages” — that is, pages that don’t have much content. This is especially crucial if you’re switching to a new CMS or quickly putting up new pages. Use your favorite SEO audit tool to spot thin pages so you can make needed changes.
4. Check for 404 Pages
Although many describe 404 response codes as “error codes,” they’re not — they are responses coming from the server. But if you do have a website crawled and you find 404 response codes, this might be a sign that something’s gone awry. It’s a good idea to crawl the original site map to diagnose issues that may lead to 404s.
5. Test and Diagnose
Testing is a crucial step before launch. Whether you’re protecting your new site with a password or creating an exact copy of your new site in a different location, make sure that search engines can’t find it. Roll out the changes only after you’ve tested thoroughly.
Website redesign provides a great opportunity to improve your visibility. Try these tips to streamline your process.