How To Redesign Your Website Without Killing Your SEO

Redesigning a website might be something inevitable in your near future. Maybe it is because the design is starting to look boring to you, maybe your company is trying to re-brand itself and needs a new layout and theme, or perhaps you think it’s time for something that converts better!
If you do not take the correct steps right from the beginning and neglect your SEO, you could just end up destroying all the hard work that you put into building up your traffic, just by changing your website. This could also potentially mean losing the opportunity cost and money that you could have earn with this lost traffic.
Don’t worry, we have a guide here to help you avoid all these problems so that the whole website redesign process would be smooth sailing.

Don’t let your website be like this after redesigning!
(Source: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/how-to-avoid-seo-disaster-during-a-website-redesign/)

1. Audit Your Old Website

A good look at your website’s vital information is as good as examining which are your top performing and worst performing products of your company. Having the information of what is giving you the traffic and ranking is like a gold mine, and Google Analytics is the tool to use to give you the rundown of statistics that you should use to consider when you redesign your site.
This would also give you a good idea on which pages are receiving the most rankings and traffics, as well as ensuring that current visitors are not lost.
a. Check Your Vital Stats
It is important that you know what you are looking for, so here are some good metrics you use for analysis:

  • Number of visits and unique visitors
  • Traffic you are receiving for each page
  • The number of inbound linking domains
  • Total pages indexed
  • Important keywords (See next point)

You can find most of your important content under “Behaviour”, as you can refer to which are your most visited pages, your top landing pages. “Acquisition” would give you a good idea on where your traffic is coming from if your landing pages are getting referral traffic, which also means there are external links which are linking to that page. Make sure that your pages that are receiving the most rankings get the most attention and priority in terms of your SEO.
b. Note Those Important Keywords
While giving your website an overhaul, you should definitely find out which keywords are ranking, and which are the ones that are performing. Pay special attention to these keywords that are helping you with your conversion rate, or you may end up accidentally removing them while doing your redesigning.
It may not be worth to include great ranking keywords that deliver poor quality traffic which result in low conversions on your new website. You could also redesign new landing pages for pages that are delivering low conversion rates too.
c. Prioritize your SEO
Always make sure your SEO is your number 1 priority while addressing problems that you may have on your old website. Keep in mind which pages are ranking, and which keywords are the one giving you conversions. You might also want to inform your team on your website redevelopment plans and making sure important pages are not overlooked.
With all these considerations, you may end up with better SEO performance after your redesign if you manage it well!

2. Set up 301 Redirects

A 301 redirect is done when a page is permanently moved, and ensures both users and search engine to find the correct page on your website.
a. The Importance Of 301 Redirect
Imagine yourself searching for something on Google and landing on a website which have a ‘Page Not Found’ error. We are not fortune tellers here at DIL, but we would say the first thing most people would do is to leave the website and find information from other sources. This is why this is the most important and crucial aspect which you MUST get it right, as launching a new website without 301 redirects is literally committing SEO suicide.

(Source: http://moz.com/learn/seo/redirection)
By setting up a 301 redirect, not only are you redirecting users from your old to new pages, but you are also passing along all the page rankings that you worked so hard to create too. This ensures Google will know that you permanent moved your page, and where to find all your new and juicy content.
b. Do Not Make This Mistake
One of the biggest mistake you could do is to delete pages from your old website and creating new ones to replace it. These unwanted pages may have some ranking and even backlinks, and destroying them means losing all your hard worked SEO on that page.
This could contribute to a domino effect in your SEO ranking plummeting and losing a lot of potential traffic.
c. Keep Track Of Your Progress
Make sure you have a plan to record down all the pages you need to redirect. This can be easily done by keeping track of all your current URLs on your old sites, and which are the ones you need to redirect to a new link. Strike off each URL after you are done with one ensure you do not leave any pages behind.
Having a proper and systematic way of managing your 301 redirects will help your traffic follow you to your brand new redesigned website. If you are using WordPress, there are many plugins that actually help you handle the 301 redirects easily. We personally use and recommend the redirection plugin if you want to manage your 301 redirects without any hassle.

3. Have SEO Friendly Links

There are some minor things in the URL you can tweak and change, but could make a world of differences that could help your page rank at the top or not even be seen at all.
a. Make Google-Friendly Links
When redesigning your website, it is also a great time to consider how you are creating your links if your site is full of lengthy and incomprehensible URLs. Which website link do you think is better?
http://www.yourwebsite.com/category/more/ subcategory/How-to-write-an-article_IBF_1278358234.jsp
Not only is the longer URL hideous to your users, the Google algorithm actually uses your URL as a way to figure out the topic of your website and how to rank it. Making short links are a great way of making it easier for Google to make that judgement, which means also allowing you to rank easier as well.
b. Use Hyphens In Your Links
An important rule to follow for your website links is to use hyphens (-) between words to separate your words, as Google treats hyphens as a word separator. On the other hand, Google treats using underscores (_) as a word joiner, so ‘cupnoodles’ and ‘cup_noodles’ is essentially the same thing. The bottom line is ALWAYS use hyphens to separate words as it is the best way to optimize your SEO, and definitely have higher ranking benefit over underscores.
It is also important to note that having short, and keyword rich URLs have significant impact on rankings as well. Like we mentioned back in Point 1, using high performing keywords in your URL would definitely help you rank better!
(Source: http://www.searchengineguide.com/stoney-degeyter/seo-101-part-6-everything-you-need-to-kn.php)

4. Optimize Valuable Webpages

We have already covered many tips with you the previous few points on how to optimize your website, but here are more word of advice you can use to further improve your SEO of certain pages.
a. Content, Content, Content
The most important rule that most people forget is that they are supposed to be writing for people, not for Google or any other search engines. Make sure you are publishing relevant and quality content for your intended users. If you post quality content on a regular basis, you would definitely see the traffic build up eventually.
Some great tips that could improve your page SEO while you are re-designing your website is to find out important and high performing keywords that you can use to maximize the impact they have. It also helps if you put them in H1 Tags at the beginning too. But remember, do not overuse your keywords and not spam it all over your website as people do notice it rather easily!
b. Make It Faster
Just like having 404 errors, having a slow loading website usually just makes people leave even before you had a chance to convert them, so it is definitely something you need to rectify if loading times are a problem with your website.
Some basic tips you could work on are:

  • Your host: Having a dedication host to your website is crucial for loading speed. Getting a reliable one such as Bluehost is great, and cheap as well! Constantly look at your options to make sure your site is able to cope with your site traffic too.
  • Compressing images: As you build your sites and use many images, you may start to realize that it would start to place significant strain on the servers. You can optimize your pictures by reducing image size to exact dimensions and using an appropriate format such as .jpg or .png. If you are using WordPress, you can download WP Smush.it to automate this process.
  • Plugins: If you are using WordPress for your website, you may want to look at your plugins too. Contrary to popular belief, having too many plugins DOES NOT slow down your site. It’s the ones that are complicated and are poorly coded that does. You can always check out which plugins are the ones that are slowing down your website with the Plugin Performance Profiler.

c. Internally Link Your Website
One great way is to use Internal Linkages, which is directing users to another page on the same website. This would definitely help assist in a few areas such as:

  • Helps users to navigate around your website easier.
  • Establish content authority on your website.
  • Most importantly — Helps share and improve your ranking power throughout your website

Why do it? Besides the reasons above, it’s pure money! Focus on adding links to your article, or even potentially rewriting parts of your articles so that you can add new links to make it work. For a bonus, add keyword rich internal links.
With these new links, you can easily direct users from relevant pages to the applicable product or services you are promoting. This could easily help increase your conversion rates too.
A word of warning though, do not overdo it! Just like repeating a same keyword, it can easily put people off from reading your content if everything is underlined with a link, worst if it’s the same keyword. Adding one or two links at the beginning of the post, and a few more throughout your content is a great guideline to follow.

5. Convert your Traffic and Improve SEO

How about trying to kill two birds with one stone while redesigning your website? Take this opportunity to look and improve your conversion rate while redesigning your new site as well. Improve any pages that have low conversions, or direct users from that high traffic page to one of your products.
a. Spruce Up Your Old Articles
If you are receiving a lot of traffic on some of your old articles that you have published long ago, maybe it is time to re-look at those pages as you could have been losing out the opportunity to convert your traffic. You can simple add new content into the old articles that potentially links users to a product or service that you offer. This is also a form of internal linkage (which we covered above) right here!
b. Give Away Free Bonus Downloads
Take this chance to convert some of your traffic into loyal subscribers of your blog or website as well. You can simply create and giveaway special bonuses on certain parts of your website (such as at the bottom of your blog post) in exchange for the user’s E-mail address.
c. Encourage Social Sharing
With Social Media being the norm these days, people love to share new information online. Make your life easier for your users by implementing social sharing buttons prominently on your website. The more easier it is for users to share, the more likely they are to share your content. This would definitely result in more traffic from other sources besides search engines, and also help you find similar audiences which could be another potential customer of your product or services.

d. Convert Your Page Into A Landing Page
If a certain page of your website is already talking about your product or service, why not convert it into a landing page which could improve your conversions by at least 25%?
Landing pages usually have no clutter or advertisements on the side which distracts the user, so all the focus would be on your product you are promoting. It is a great way to advertise the benefits of your products and also include things like customers testimonial and reviews, and also the bonuses you are offering. Do include a form at the bottom for people to enter their E-mail or sign up for your products too.