At some point in time, anyone with a website will need to redesign their site, which is great, because a newly redesigned website can be good for business. The problem is that if the redesign isn’t done correctly, you can lose a massive amount of traffic.
The missing link in many website redesigns is SEO, we often see newly redesigned sites lose rankings in the search engines, due to this problem. In fact, optimizing your redesigned website is one of the most, if not the most, important step in retaining up to 95% of your traffic.
If you are completely redesigning your website, here are five SEO steps you must follow to retain your traffic.
1. Leave your current website live
Never take down your existing site, but leave it operating right up until the launch of your new website. If you do take it down, your traffic will disappear and you will struggle to get it back. However, if you transfer your redesigned site onto your existing domain name smoothly, no-one will notice the transition.
2. Review all your content
SEO is a vital part of your website’s visibility, so begin by performing a review of your current keywords, investigate new emerging keywords, and add them to your copy. You can even create new landing pages around popular keywords, particularly long-tailed keywords and location keywords.
Move on to review all of your content, remove any duplicate content, and ensure that your keywords are included in the metadata, headings, and subheadings. Create new videos, infographics and load new HD images (not forgetting to use your keywords in the alt titles of the images) and generally make sure that your content is refreshed and up to scratch.
3. Don’t change the URLs
Undoubtedly, you will remove some pages from your current site, which won’t transfer over to your new website. This will result in 404 errors, but it can be minimized by creating 301 redirects. The problem is when you remove a massive number of these pages because you not only need to redirect every query, you will also lose any backlinks on these pages.
One of the biggest causes of lost traffic is changing a URL structure without 301 redirects. There are some valid reasons to change this structure however, but be very careful and always consult an experienced SEO professional, before tackling it yourself. One tip is to never delete pages, simply change the content or create a 301 redirect, because that way you won’t create any 404 errors.
4. Create a customized 404 error page
It’s always best to create a customized 404 error page, so when people land on it, they can be directed to your home page or given a choice of pages to visit. This keeps visitors longer on your website and helps them to find what they were looking for on your site.
5. Create a new sitemap
Search engines crawl your sitemap because it helps them to understand your website. So whenever you redesign your website, always ensure that your sitemap is up to date and submit it to Google in their Webmaster Tools section. You can even add your sitemap to your 404 error page, as some visitors will also find it useful.
The take-home message is that you don’t want to attempt a complete redesign of your website without a heavy focus on SEO. Otherwise, you will dramatically lose traffic, sales, leads, and revenue very quickly.