The biggest SEO challenges experienced while redesigning an existing website is the loss of traffic and ranking. You might need to redesign the site at some point, but what will happen when it gets launched officially, or how will it impact search engines. There are several things you will need to consider if you are planning to overhaul the entire site design.
- During the site redesigning process the developers, designers, and the SEO team need to interact regularly. Developers and designers may miss something crucial from a traffic viewpoint, which an SEO professional can identify.
- Never rush a launch, because meeting deadlines is not as important as maintaining search traffic. Follow the crucial SEO checklist before going live.
Important steps to consider while redesigning your website
Never pull existing website offline
Website redesigning is a long process. Therefore never pull your existing website offline. When visitors land on a ‘sorry, under construction’ website for some weeks, there will be a decline in traffic until a new website gets active. A few minutes of going offline to launch the redesigned website is fine.
Optimize content and keywords
It is a great time for evaluating your current keyword strategy. For example, if your site is getting traffic from new long phrase keywords, then roll this in your new site redesign. Review content on every page before starting the redesign process. Sometimes things get compromised including titles, Meta descriptions, and even SEO gets sidelined. To avoid such things optimize the content on every page.
If possible maintain same URL structure
The huge mistake made while launching the redesigned website is changing URL structure, without creating a 301 WordPress redirect campaign. There are several viable reasons to alter your URL. It could be for a total re-branding, or if your current URL structure is not right [e.g. does not allow long-tail traffic].
Create an overall 301 redirect mapping strategy
Every site that gets redesigned carries some pages mapped to a new location. Every such page needs to be redirected permanently. Never use 302 because these are temporary redirects that are appropriate for only a short-term fix. Never delete pages because content on that page can be redirected or changed. In some rare cases, 404 error pages can be left as it is, because the toxic juice can affect the overall site to a little extent.
Remember, positive and negative link juices get transferred to the main domain when a page gets redirected. If there are too many toxic pages, then it might be a good idea to reset WordPress back to its original state.
Create customized 404 pages
A redesigned site will possibly experience several 404s, which can be used as a great marketing tool to keep visitors on your site. You can strategically create compelling 404s too!
Create new sitemaps and tracking codes
A sitemap helps search bots to discover the new location on an updated website. After you take care of all the SEO tasks, ensure to put tracking codes properly in page source. Even conversion landing pages can be trailed with relevant codes. Absence of tracking codes will not allow you to analyze new site performance.
When you launch remove indexing restrictions and submit the new sitemap to Google Webmaster Tool. Remember to monitor your traffic post-launch.