How to Redesign Your Website Without Losing SEO

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Redesign Your Website Without Losing SEO | Asian man crying in front of his laptop - Juan Rojo Design Toronto

If we are going to talk about how to redesign your website without losing SEO, we need to get strategic instead of creative. In other words, if your web designer is not familiar with SEO, then you either have to get an SEO professional involved or find a web designer with that knowledge as part of their skill set.

Plan Your Redesign with SEO in Mind

Picture this, you have hired a web designer to give your website a ‘face lift’. Once the web designer has completed the project, everything looks amazing. However, after a few weeks, you start to notice the number of leads decreasing.

How can you be getting less leads if the new look is amazing and if anything, you should be getting more new customers instead of a shrinking lead pool. In other words, the redesign didn’t serve a business objective but rather created a problem.

Regardless of whether you are planning a redesign or not, you should perform an SEO audit on your website to get a baseline in terms of top performing pages, back links and traffic. You can get a free SEO audit from tools like Semrush. However, as with anything free, you get what you pay for and detailed data is only available under a subscription plan.

Semrush free audit tool results - Juan Rojo Design Toronto

Maintain URL Structure Where Possible

Remember the nightmare scenario I painted in the initial paragraphs of this article? Chances are, the web designer that carried out the redesign, didn’t take into consideration how to redesign your website without losing SEO. You should probably take stock of the following before committing to a brand new look:

  • Will you be updating content on pages that are currently ranking well? If so, make sure that the content still relates to the original keywords you were trying to rank for. No idea what I am talking about? Once again, you will need to get a SEO professional involved or a web designer who understand the implications of a redesign and or migration on SEO.
  • One crucial element to keep in mind is URL structure. In other words, the addresses for all existing pages on your website (i.e. https://yourwebsite/about/). If for any reason, you decide that the About page needs to be renamed as ‘Meet our Team’, the web designer should know that the URL or slug should remain the same. Otherwise, any back links pointing to that page will show a 404 error (page does not exist).
  • If you still want to change the URL along with the title, your web designer will need to implement redirects. Ideally, the web developer will do that at server level, instead of using a plugin. However, if a significant portion of a site’s URLs are redirects, it may lead to less frequent crawling of the site’s other pages, potentially affecting the indexation of new content.
Maintain URL Structure Where Possible | Woman yelling expletives at a tablet displaying a 404 error page - Juan Rojo Design Toronto.

Optimize New Design Elements for SEO

A website redesign should be more about improving performance and lead generation than simply making it look better. In other words, SEO should always be part of the conversation.

These are some of the things you should bring to your web designer’s attention, before starting the actual development process:

  • All new images need to have an alt description, to make it easier for search engines and people with disabilities, identify what they are looking at. At least one of the images on the new page(s) and or post(s) should include the focus keyword you are trying to rank for.
  • Make sure you have internal links in place for new pages and or posts.
  • Avoid large background images that impact load times.
  • If you are using videos, make sure you use image overlays, which load faster than a YouTube video link. Depending on what theme or page builder you are using, you could use the image overlay with a light box feature. In other words, when you load the page, the image overlay displays instead of the video. However, when you click on the image, the video loads in lightbox mode.
  • Using tracking scripts on your website (i.e. Google Analytics)? Try to defer JavaScript loading whenever possible. There are two ways to accomplish this: 1) Using a caching plugin like WP Rocket, which has that feature available or 2) Using code.
  • Use custom fonts uploaded directly to your website, instead of Google Web Fonts. That technique alone has a significant impact on performance.

Test Everything Before Going Live

It’s crucial that you test the new site on a staging environment before going live. Make sure all internal links are working as expected. If there are any redirects, ensure they are driving visitors to the intended page.

Monitor SEO Performance Post-Launch

Once the website goes live, you should continue to monitor performance, which can be done on the cheap by using Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Keep an eye on the following metrics:

  • Use Google Search Console to track impressions, click through rate and most queried terms. That is only useful if you had those two ‘tools’ already installed on the previous version of your website. If not, there will be no way for you to track historical performance.
  • Use Google Analytics to analyze traffic sources, new visitors and returning visitors, as well as engagement and bounce rates.
  • You could also make your life easier by combining the two into a dashboard created in Looker Studio (formerly Google Data Studio). The learning curve is a bit steep, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll have plenty of information about your site to make informed decisions about what’s working in terms of traffic generation.

Do You Still Want To Redesign Your Website Without Losing SEO?

As I stated at the beginning of the article, if you want to make sure your website’s search results don’t suffer, make absolutely sure someone knowledgeable in SEO is involved. Better yet, hire a web developer or agency that offers SEO as part of their services.