Why redesign a website?
To stay dynamic and competitive, redesigning a website is a must for many companies. It is a delicate operation that poses several risks around natural referencing.
Some of the main reasons for website redesign include:
- change of name or graphic identity maintain consistency with the brand identity,
- change in CMS (switching from Shopify to WordPress for example),
- design overhaul adapt the website to constantly evolving web codes,
- improving user travel to make the user experience more enjoyable,
- merging content connect several locations,
- change from HTTP to HTTPS to secure the site,
Best practices to follow to maintain good SEO
Website redesign is a complicated operation, which can have serious consequences in terms of SEO if it is not managed properly. We have listed 10 basic steps for maintaining good SEO during a redesign.
1. Do an SEO audit of the entire site
It is important to perform a detailed analysis of the existing situation before implementation and the least changes in terms of SEO. This revision allows you to identify keywords and queries that already generate traffic, the origin of this traffic, or even the backlinks you have (external links present on other websites and pointing to your site).
You can perform this analysis of the existing one on specialized tools such as Google Analytics.
2. Define SEO goals
In order to be able to position yourself on the first results of search pages, it is necessary to set clear and precise SEO goals. They will allow you to customize the structure of the tree and the content of the site’s pages, in order to promote referencing according to targeted keywords.
The steps to follow to define an SEO strategy are as follows:
- identify goals and their path to purchase,
- define and produce relevant content for your goals,
- optimize the performance of your pages.
3. Use a test server
Consider using a test server to check all your changes before the final startup. This environment separate from the production environment allows you to test your various modifications and visualize the impact they represent on the site.
Please note that the test page must remain private and cannot be indexed by Google. Once it is 100% operational, you can continue until the final launch.
4. Adjust the structure of the tree to be consistent with SEO goals
Website redesign often involves some modifications to the tree structure, to improve the user experience. You can take advantage of this change to target new keywords based on your SEO goals. Remember that level 1 entries (i.e. main entries) must be imperatively based on your main keywords.
For its part, the internal network must cover the entire semantic field of your keywords, in order to optimize your referencing on all pages.
Be careful, some sites that were previously well positioned can lose a lot of traffic if they go down a level in a tree structure.
5. Anticipate redirects
In the event of a tree structure change, it is necessary to configure redirects 301. They ensure that old URLs are redirected correctly to new URLs.
This redirect also allows Google to understand that you have redesigned the page. The redirection links set must be precise for each page: redirecting to the homepage of the page is not enough. The steps to properly configure all of your redirects are as follows:
- map all pages of your site, taking into account URLs with dynamic parameters, images, already existing redirects…
- define the necessary redirects, without setting up massive redirects,
- test all your redirects on the test server to avoid potential 404 errors.
Don’t forget to update the internal links as well.
6. Set up custom 404 pages
Adding a 404 error page notifies users of the new web address associated with the desired page in the event of a failure on one of the redirect links. The purpose of this page is to help users manually change pages if links are not activated automatically.
You can use the Search Console to spot invalid URLs and set redirect rights.
7. Create and submit a sitemap with new URLs
To make it easier for Google to index and review a new page, you can provide an XML sitemap (that is, a detailed plan of your page that lists all the pages and structure of your tree). This plugin can help you regain your SEO faster.
8. Track website speed
Display speed is one of the elements that Google takes into account to determine page referencing. Indeed, in order to be well referenced, a page must be able to load as quickly as possible. If you want to add media or animations to your pages, consider optimizing them so as not to significantly increase load time.
To check the speed of the page, you can use the toolSpeed Insights developed by Google. It analyzes your pages and assigns them a rating between 0 and 100. Optimization tips are given to help you speed up your pages, both on your mobile and desktop.
9. Monitor the indexing and positioning of a new website
After all these changes, it is important to closely monitor the development of SEO during the first weeks that follow, to make sure that search engines understand your approach.
In order not to miss anything, don’t forget to monitor the arrival of potential 404 errors, but also the positioning of your keywords (in case of a possible drop in certain keywords), drop in visits, robot activity, indexing pages via Search Console and tracking logs.
10. Refresh the backlinks on the referring pages
To maintain consistent SEO, it is important to update as many backlinks as possible. You can contact the webmasters of the sites that link to your old pages so that they can update their websites with new links.