Tips to Keep SEO Rank While Updating Your Website Design
Redesign Website Without Losing SEO
If you’re looking to redesign your website but are scared to do so because you might lose SEO rank, then read on. This article was written just for you.
Have you ever heard of the website Plenty of Fish?
The guy who built the site was developing it as an exercise to help him learn a new coding language. He had no idea the business was going to take off. Then all of a sudden he is making $4 Million a year through this website.
Here was his problem.
He had no idea why his site was successful. He just lucked into it. And now he’s too scared to change anything with the site because he has no idea what made the site successful in the first place, so he decides to not change anything at all.
In many ways, this can be what if feels like when you have an existing website that ranks well in Google.
You’re not sure how you got there, but you just don’t want to mess it up. Your site is ugly and outdated, but by golly, it is getting you a ton of traffic because it’s ranked at the top of Google and now you’re terrified to touch the darn thing because you might lose the precious SEO Rank.
The Solution to Keeping Your SEO Rank
So, what to do?
If you’re in this situation, let me just say that I’ve been there before. My site ranks #1 for ‘San Francisco Web Design’ and ‘Hire a Web Designer’ and I’ve done a complete redesign of the site three times in the last five years.
Each time we do a redesign I’m paranoid that we’re going to lose our precious SEO rank but so far we have never had an issue.
We’ve also helped many of our clients in the same situation who desperately needed a redesign but even more desperately did not want to lose their Google SEO rank.
Here is the exact process we go through to make sure our clients don’t lose SEO ranking when updating their design.
Establish Your Current SEO Rank
No point in preserving your SEO rankings if you don’t have any to begin with. So step one is checking to see what your current rankings are. You can do this a couple ways. The first is to check your Google Analytics and see what keywords are already giving you traffic. Then Google those keywords directly and see where you rank on Google for that particular keyword. Another option is using this free software called Link Assistant: https://www.link-assistant.com/
Once you know which keywords you currently rank for, transfer that data to a spreadsheet for your records. If it turns out you’re not really ranking for anything at the moment, then you can pretty much skip the rest of this article and start your SEO plan from scratch, since whatever you have been doing up until now isn’t really working.
Establish current link structure and meta descriptions
The next step is establishing the current link structure to your site. The way we do it is we take your existing sitemap and transfer everything to a spreadsheet. So if your current sitemap is Home, About, Services, FAQ, etc… We input all of those pages onto a spreadsheet and also add in the link for each page in a separate row. This will be important when you are checking it against the new site structure.
Keep content as close to the same as possible as it relates to search indexing
This only applies to a particular page that is currently ranked very high on Google for a given keyword. In those cases, leave as much of the content the same as you can. As the saying goes, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ If you’re already at the top of page 1 of Google for a given search term, then just leave your content alone because anything you do can’t improve your situation and will likely make it worse.
Preserve as much of the overall site architecture as possible
Going back to our sitemap, keep as much of the structure the same as you can. This includes the top level hierarchy as well as the overall linking structure. Again this applies particularly if you currently have great rankings and you don’t want to mess anything up. The overall principle throughout this article is to leave well enough alone. You can update the design of your site dramatically but still keep the overall structure of your site the same, which will give you the best chance of not losing your spot on Google.
Setup redirects on all changed URLs
If you did change any of the URLs on your pages, then be sure to setup redirects. This can be done easily on WordPress using a plugin such as the Redirection Plugin:
Maintain meta description and tagging for all pages
You know how when you google something and you see a series of blue titles with descriptions under them for each web page? Well, that’s the meta description for that particular page. Any webmaster can locate your meta description for given page. If you don’t have meta description defined, then google will invent it based on your page content. This is why it’s important to keep it the same. In any case, when moving your site over, if your page ranks well and you have an existing meta description, be sure to keep it the same.
Setup Google Analytics and configure with Google Webmaster Tools
IMPORTANT: Be sure to add Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools BEFORE you transfer the site over. This will go a long way to ensure that no data is lost and that your site will be properly indexed throughout the process
Avoid this common mistake that Hurts SEO Rank
If you’re using a WordPress website then be sure and read this paragraph twice. When you’re developing a new website, it is typically done on what’s called a ‘staging site’. This is done during the development phase to make sure the site is displaying properly. It also allows the client to make any edits needed before the final site launch. When a WordPress site is on a staging server, it is typically set to ‘discourage search engines from indexing this site’. This is found in the Settings > Reading section in the backend of your WordPress website. It is critical that you uncheck as soon as you launch the new site. I’ve heard nightmare stories of beautiful new websites that were launched, only to find out that the ‘discourage search engines’ checkbox was not unchecked and the site lost ALL of it’s SEO traffic. Don’t let this happen to you.
So there you have it. How not to lose SEO rank when you transfer your site. If you’re doing this on your own then follow all the steps here closely. But truth be told you should probably be hiring a professional if you’re going to do this. Just be sure to use this article as a checklist to ensure that all the steps have been followed.
If you have a site with great SEO rank, but need to update then you’re in the right place. We have a proven history of working with established websites that had high SEO rankings and we were able to maintain them after we launched their new website. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with your new website and be sure to read more about our Free Mockup Offer.