Upgrading your site with a site redesign or a site migration can be a great way to take your business to the next level. However, if performed without an eye to SEO, site redesigns can also be a great way to lose site traffic, loyal customers, and new leads.
At Leverage, we often hear from prospective clients who have performed a site redesign or site migration and watched their site traffic and conversions dry up rapidly ever since.
It is possible to recover from a big drop in SEO visibility after a site redesign. As you can see in the graph below, the client above started ranking for even more search terms than before once we implemented an SEO recovery strategy:
However, it requires a lot of hard work and some serious professional expertise to recover from a drop in SEO visibility, and your site will take some time to get back to it’s previous level. It’s much easier to just circumvent this sticky situation entirely. By taking some steps before, during, and after launch, you can redesign your website without losing the SEO value you’ve been building up over the years.
Take Stock of What You Have
Before you do anything else, you’ll need to collect information about your current site. Analyze the site’s SEO-related performance before the site redesign or migration. Not only does this help mitigate any issues or confusion later, but it also helps you take stock of your site’s strengths and weaknesses so you can get a better idea of what your new site needs to do better.
Start by making a list of every URL on your current site. Yep, all of ‘em. This may seem like an awful and overwhelming task (especially with a large ecommerce site), but there are a number of tools that make it less of a headache, such as our SEO team’s favorite, Screaming Frog. Crawling tools like this can dig into your site and find all the URLs you forgot you had, and it can do it in about the same length of time it took you to open that Excel spreadsheet you were about to copy and paste every URL of your site onto.
Make a Redirection Plan
Once you’ve made a list of your URLs, you can create an SEO migration plan for “forwarding” them on to your new site. If you’re only changing your site’s design, this hopefully won’t be too tough a task. In this scenario, most of your URLs will likely be staying the same, so you’ll just need to take stock of the ones that you’re not planning on keeping on the new site and decide if you want to redirect them to active pages or (in the case of a page that doesn’t get any notable traffic) just let them die off.
If you’re changing your domain name, things will be a little trickier, and you’ll need to coordinate your web redesign team with an experienced SEO consultant or two to ensure that nothing goes awry when redirecting one domain to another.
Monitor the Vitals
If you’re not tracking your site with an analytics platform and technical monitoring tools such as Google Search Console, you’re probably going to miss some big stuff when your site transitions. Having a good grasp of your site’s current SEO performance is critical to surviving a site redesign.
You’ll want to use your analytics and site usage data to identify the most important pieces of your site. You can see what pages users most often enter your site through and identify pages that are linked to from other places on the web. These entry points are critical for your site, and you’ll need to have a plan for ensuring their preservation and their functionality upon launch. You don’t want one of your site’s “front doors” to lead to this ugly thing, do you?
You’ll also want to use these types of tools to monitor and identify problems that inevitably pop up when launching a new site, such as broken links and search engine crawl problems. By setting up basic SEO tools before a site redesign or migration and monitoring them before and after launch, you can rest easier knowing all the cogs are turning.
Bring in the Experts
Oftentimes, preserving SEO value during site redesigns or site migrations is just too important a task to wing it and hope for the best. When it comes to SEO, taking a gamble on site redesign can be a fatal choice that buries your site under pages of search results and hides it from hundreds or thousands of customers. That’s why it’s often a good idea to bring in the professionals to ensure that things go smoothly.
However, not every team is the right fit for a smooth and SEO-friendly site redesign. Many web development teams are lacking in the type of SEO expertise that you’ll need to ensure that your site retains its value, but choosing an agency that doesn’t perform a lot of web design tasks may not be the best equipped to provide the kind of site you’re looking for. Start your search by asking the right questions to identify consultants that have the right stuff.
Not to toot our own horn, but Leverage Marketing is pretty good at performing SEO-friendly site redesigns and migrations. Check out what the guru of our SEO department has to say about site transitions, or learn more about our SEO services today. Not ready to take the jump? Subscribe to our newsletter for more digital marketing goodness today.