If you’re thinking about redesigning your website, don’t forget to include an SEO Transition Plan in your redesign project. If you skip this step, you risk losing all of the organic search and referring traffic that you’ve built up over the years that your current website has been operational.
An SEO transition plan doesn’t need to be complicated. It just needs to highlight the elements you want to preserve for SEO and identify how to do it. It can even suggest improvements to the existing web content that can enhance SEO.
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What main SEO factors are affected when redesigning a website?
- URL Structure – Your website content is stored in a folder or a database that assigns addresses and file names to web pages. If you change the path to a web page, then search engines and other websites won’t be able to find it anymore, resulting in broken links.
- Web Page File Names – Same as with the URL structure. If you change the file name, the search engines and other websites might not see your content, resulting in broken links.
- Page Titles – If your web page titles were optimized, then you need to consider if they should be retained or modified. Each web page should have a unique title containing keywords related to the content.
- SEO Meta Tags – The description and keywords meta tags are often overlooked and forgotten when redesigning.
- Page Headings – Preserve any optimized H1 headings that you are using. Search engines consider these important.
- Content – While it’s great to rewrite content for a new site, plan out what you are going to keep and what you are going to redo. Search engines index your content, too. So, if you have a page that ranks well in organic searches, you may want to retain that content.
- Analytics code – If you are tracking web traffic, then you’ll want to preserve your tracking code on the new website. This will allow you to compare the performance of the old vs. new website so that you can make adjustments in the future.
- Website layout and coding – Changes to the website layout and how it is programmed can affect SEO. Poorly written website code that contains errors or is not concise can negatively affect SEO.
- Technology Changes – Changing to a content management system or a different development platform for your website can affect your search rankings if you don’t consider how to preserve your current SEO. Most content management systems have options to enable search engine friendly (SEF) URLs, specify meta tags, and other SEO features.
- URL change – Try to keep the same URL if possible. If you change your main website URL address to something new (i.e. old-domain.com to new-domain.com), then you lose ranking automatically and you will lose traffic too. Search engines look at the age of URLs. Older URLs get an automatic boost in ranking. So, even if you don’t like your URL, keep it. You can always have a new URL that points to the old one to gather new traffic.
If the above list is too technical for you, then just keep it in mind when you talk to your website designer. If any of these items will affect your redesign, there are solutions and workarounds that, with proper planning, can help you preserve your existing SEO.
Suggested SEO Transition Plan Steps for Website Owners
- Before redesigning your website, gather some data for a month or so from your current website so that you’ll be ready to talk to designers about your concerns. If you haven’t already, make sure you have analytics enabled on your website and you can access the data. Google Analytics is a good tool for this.
- Print out some analytics reports that show the top landing pages, top referring websites, search engine keywords, and top content. Review the reports and look for any trends that you see such as a web page that gets a lot of organic search traffic.
- Now, take the above list of SEO factors affected by redesigning your website and your analytics reports and put together a few goals. If you’ve already optimized your website, then consult with your SEO consultant or pull out your SEO report.
- Share your concerns and goals with the website designer before you start your redesign project. The website designer, if they understand SEO, should be able to preserve your traffic and organic rankings. If they are unsure or say they can’t do it, then see if they will work with an SEO consultant. Remember that you have the option to seek out a different designer that understands SEO.
The goal of an SEO Transition Plan is to preserve what you’ve already gained so that you can continue to improve your online presence. While parts of this article are somewhat technical, the goal here is to let business owners know that with proper website redesign techniques, you can get a great new website using newer technology and retain your search engine rankings and referring website traffic at the same time.