How To Preserve SEO Rankings When Redesigning A Website – Semalt Expert Concerns
Redesigning a website and trying to maintain your SEO rankings is a feat that requires careful planning, a highly skilled developer and lots of patience. A poor job makes you lose current customers, potential clients as well as important website data.
There are top 9 tips, provided by Max Bell, the Customer Success Manager of Semalt Digital Services, to help you keep your SEO rankings while redesigning a website.
Tip #1 Redesign on a separate domain
Working on a live website can be disastrous for both you and your customers. Links may not work as they should, leading to frustrated customers. The best way to deal with this is to establish a different domain for your new website and work on it until you are ready to go live and then swap with the original. This is the preferred way to work on a new website. There are others who believe simply disabling the current website and making the changes directly is better. Going this route isn't ideal as there is no telling how long your website will have to be down for, leaving your customers out in the cold.
Tip #2 Maintain website structures for familiarity
Dramatic changes to a site may not be the best move on your part. Familiarity is a good thing. People like what they know. They trust what they are familiar with. Be careful to keep elements of your old website when redesigning your new one. Map out your old website using a crawler before you start work and then use it to crawl on the new site to get an idea of how the structures of the two sites compare.
Tip #3 Backup old website data
Your original website data is very important and it's key to back it up before you start work because once you lose it, it will be difficult, if not impossible to retrieve it. You will need to keep tabs on the pages you had and create 301 redirects so that search engines can recalibrate and send people to your new website. Missing this step is one surefire way to ruin your rankings. For future reference keep a copy of your sitemap in a text file as well.
Tip #4 Adopt a temporary URL for the redesigned website
You will need to create a temporary URL for the redesigned website from where you can work from. Copy the old site to this URL. All the necessary alterations you need should be made on this site. This URL must not be indexed because search engines are not meant to bring it up in SERPs. Once everything is ready on the new site, swap out the domains and go live.
Tip #5 Don't forget 301 redirections
These redirections will save you and your customers a lot of headaches. They also tell search engines where to send your organic traffic and how to rank you. They help make sure that everything is running as it should, and that links are working properly. You may have to create 301 redirects for every page you had, especially pages with important backlinks.
Tip #6 Include 404 pages too
Nothing is as frustrating to a customer as not being able to access a page with the information they need. A 404 page with just the right message can point them in the right direction. You can even include a search box to help them out. Using 404 pages also enables search engines to index your new site and information properly.
Tip #7 Don't forget the backlinks
Backlinks are difficult to create and take years to develop a relationship with other reputable site owners. They are not something you want to forget easily or take lightly. You will need to collect all the statistics you can on the backlinks you have and then find a way to incorporate them into your new site. The best way to do this is to give the other website owners your new link and ask them to change the former. If that's not feasible, you will need to create 301 redirects for each page with a backlink.
Tip #8 Recheck your work
Nobody ever said website redesign was easy, and this just proves it! After all is said and done, you will need to make sure everything is optimized. Pictures must be scaled down, and labeled in the best manner possible. Robots.txt must be setup correctly or else search engine crawlers won't be able to read your new site. Look for broken links and fix them. Verify your new site by checking in Google Webmaster. Fetch as Google will allow you to see if your new site can be accessed properly. Don't forget to resend your new site to Google via the Submit to Index.
Tip #9 Monitor progress after going live
The work isn't over after the new website goes live. You still need to keep an eye on 'before redesign' and 'after redesign' bounce rates. These statistics will tell you how people are responding to the new site. A high bounce rate signifies that people aren't quite pleased with something on the new website. Anyway, you need to find it and change it.
The grace period for monitoring how your new site is doing is 180 days. During this time you shouldn't let go of your old domain name. You need to keep it going as well as the 301 redirects that are sending people to your new site. Change is never easy, but if you follow these steps, your chances of running into trouble are significantly reduced.