22 November 2023

Retaining and improving your SEO during a website redesign

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Retaining and improving your SEO during a website redesign
Aurélie BrunetWritten ByAurélie Brunet

As the Director of Performance, Aurélie specialises in creating new business for Propeller through outreach and finding areas in which the company can expand.

This article outlines the main areas to consider during a website redesign to ensure you maintain and improve your SEO.

If maintaining and improving your SEO is a priority for your new website, then you must understand how to integrate SEO into your new site from day one. This article will provide you with the background knowledge to build SEO into the fabric of your website redesign. 

Will a website redesign always impact SEO?

To put it simply, yes. Even with the best attention to SEO during a redesign, it is highly unlikely your website won’t take a hit in traffic at the initial launch. However, if best practices are followed, your website will recover its traffic at a faster rate. 

The basics of web redesign and SEO

Maintaining (and ideally improving) your rankings and organic traffic during a redesign has three important pillars:

  • An understanding of your current website’s SEO strengths.
  • Knowledge of common issues that occur with a redesign.
  • A detailed plan of what will change, and how, on the new site.

What’s working currently?

If you are running SEO campaigns, you should have a strong understanding of what works, from keywords and topics that rank, to pages that bring in organic traffic and other organic visibility. 

When building a plan for a website redesign, you should keep track of what has been successful in your current website and incorporate that into your planning. It is important not to lose ranking in areas that you previously excelled in.

Website redesign common issues

There are many reasons for a website redesign, from branding and technology to traffic and lead generation. 

Here is our list of elements that can typically change or be problematic for SEO during a redesign:

  • Removed content
  • Changed content
  • Content that changes position within the site’s hierarchy
  • Changed URLs
  • Page-level optimisation may change
  • New content 
  • New sections 
  • New technology or features may be used
  • New technical issues can be introduced
  • A change to the internal link structure
  • Domain name change
  • Subdomain change
  • Protocol change

Any of the above can cause issues with your SEO and if there are multiple issues, then it will become increasingly difficult to diagnose the root cause of problems.

To resolve this, ensure that during all website planning discussions, an SEO advisor is involved and prepared with information on what works and must be factored into the new site. 

Make sure SEO is incorporated into the planning stage. If you leave this as an afterthought it will be a lot more difficult to fix later on.

What will change with the redesign?

With the knowledge of what works and what to be cautious of, you can review the goals for your website redesign. 

Ideally, you will have a complete sitemap for the new site that you can use to compare against the existing site and create mappings for URL moves.

Website redesign SEO checklist

With foresight and preplanning, maintaining your place on search pages during a website redesign can be straightforward. 

Following the stages in this website redesign SEO checklist will ensure you preserve your precious SEO rankings and traffic. 

Save crawl data

Save a crawl of the old website, even if you have the website on a temporary URL. Screaming Frog is great for this and you can refer back to the old website crawl for any analysis.

Don’t make changes for the sake of it

Keep things the same where you can – particularly URLs. If you can keep the URL structure and page names the same, less can go wrong. 

If it is necessary to make changes that is fine, but make sure they are warranted and make sense.

Set up 301 redirects

Redirecting old URLs to new ones should be the first job on your list. Where possible, keep content on the duplicate URLs when redesigning a website. For example, a WordPress or Shopify redesign can keep the same URL structure. If not, you should build a spreadsheet of all URLs on the old and new sites to implement and test your 301 redirects. 

Update your backlinks

Document your backlinks and where URL changes are made. Attempt to update these links. 

Once you have a list, update the links where possible. You should have a 301 in place, but updated backlinks will assist in getting the new site indexed and ranking quickly.

Be mindful of internal links

Be careful when making any changes to the internal link structure. If you have pages that previously had thousands of internal links but now have less links, this can impact the rankings for that page.

Maintain your content

Where you have content that performs well, you’ll want to minimise changes to these pages.

There will be plenty of opportunities to tweak your content in its new home after it is indexed and ranked, but for the redesign, aim to minimise the variables of change.

On-page elements

Crawling your old site will allow you to easily export all key on-page elements: page titles, meta descriptions, headers, and more. 

Monitor your rankings post go-live

You can expect some fluctuations when you go live, but you should be back at a baseline within a month of launching.

In Summary

SEO failures in website redesigns are nearly always down to a lack of planning, incorporating and SEO framework into the website redesign will maintain and strengthen your search performance.

If you are interested in learning more about how Propeller can improve your company’s local SEO performance, reach out to us here.