SEO Considerations When Redesigning Your Site
We deal with a lot of clients that redesign their sites in the middle of ourengagements. There are always a lot of things to consider with design and content standpoint. In a normal redesign situation, the client is looking to spruce up the aesthetics of the site, while also looking to clean up and re-organize content. Redesigning a website is a huge undertaking. It can be stressful, and I always make the analogy that it is like building a house - many things can go wrong. One of the items that can be left out of the process is SEO. It is important your company does not assume anything, and make sure that current rankings are not going to be lost when the new site launches!
The first step we recommend is to get an inventory of where your site is ranking out. This will help you determine what important the deep, internal pages on your site are getting indexed. We use Web Position Gold. This is a tool which checks your keyword rankings, and also provides what pages are ranking out. You can input your target keywords, and it will run a report back to you what your listing is, and what page is getting indexed in Google. Keep in mind that when you show up on a search engine result page (SERP), it isn't always your home page. For example, when someone searches michigan management, our internal page featuring our paid search services is what comes up.
Now, if we were to redesign our site, this internal URL may change. And if that happens, our current number one position for that term could drop several listings. Often times, we see clients changing from straight HTML format to a content management system, such as Drupal. When this happens, you can see URLs go from www.example.com/services. And this URL may have a good ranking. In the new site set up, that URL may to go www.example.com/services.php. This slight change would endanger the URL from its getting indexed. This is a simple example, it becomes even more important for larger sites when products and services undergo large degrees of reorganization.
When this happens, it is critical to have a plan for 301 redirects. In simple terms, 301 redirects tell Google - "Hey, this page moved here, please make a note of it.". Often times, 301 redirects enable sites to hold their position, or only temporarily drop when doing a redesign transition.
With this being said, you can imagine how important it is to make sure you have a plan with your new site map. There are the obvious content reorganization considerations, but there are also key SEO considerations. When mapping out the site, be sure to have a good idea of what internal pages are ranking out. Be sure to think about how new content will line up against what has been indexed.
In summary, be sure to have the following elements in mind:
- What pages are getting indexed and ranking out?
- Will the URLs change?
- What pages will need 301 redirects?
- How will new content be structured on the new site
- Will it impact keyword density of current pages?
- Do we need to tweak page titles? If so, will this compromise our rankings?
Hopefully this helps you think about your site as you redesign it, and helps protect any rankings you have worked hard to achieve. Good luck!