Avoiding Traffic Loss After a Website Redesign
By: Scott Weisman / September 20, 2018
If you’re redesigning your website, your Google ranking might not be your top concern. You’re probably more focused on colors, fonts, and pictures. But if you’re not careful, a redesign could cause a significant drop in your site’s rankings.
Planning for the site rollout in advance will help you avoid an immediate drop in rankings. Putting a strategy in place will also allow your new site to rank higher for your targeted keywords.
Here are the key considerations when creating a rollout plan for your new website.
Once your new site goes live, Google has to crawl and index all new pages in order to post the updated versions. To transfer all of the search data and links from your previous pages you should establish redirects on a page-by-page basis. If you don’t, Google will reset the value of the new pages, while your old pages fade from the rankings. This is the most common reason why newly redesigned sites see a traffic drop off.
In order to check if your redesigns were completed properly executed, you can use Google Search Console to discover which of your pages are not found. The goal is to never leave clients with a 404-error page. To avoid this, add 301 redirects for all of your pages. Redirects from pages that no longer exist should point to the most relevant new page.
It is also important to update internal site links. If a link points back to an outdated URL, Google may have problems indexing it. This means you lose out on search recognition and potential customers.
You can avoid these potential issues by creating a plan to properly redirect pages early in the design process. With a good plan in place, make sure to activate all redirects when you launch your new site.
Elements that Impact Traffic
To avoid a loss in traffic, you also need to consider specific page elements that impact SEO. The first is the site structure. After a redesign, you should to upload a new sitemap to make sure Google indexes your entire site.
Prior to your redesign, Google recognized and judged pages based on their content and meta tags. A redesign will likely change your content and tags. This is again where careful planning will help develop a content strategy that targets content based on your keywords.
You must make sure that your copy and meta tags are organized to strategically include your target keywords.
Deleted pages are another common headache that hinders traffic. By removing pages you may accidentally cut a step out of the user flow. This will cause previously ranked pages to disappear from the topic searches they ranked. If you’re going to delete a page, make sure that you redirect the old link to a new page that is still relevant to the original page’s keywords.
Overall missing content, metadata, and pages are often the major detractions from newly redesign pages ranking. If one of these issues was the reason behind your traffic drop, then traffic should return in a couple of weeks after a proper fix.
Avoiding the Drop
Before the redesign process begins, it’s important to crawl the old site. This allows you to better understand your site structure, the user flow, and keyword performance so you can replicate it after changes have been made. A thorough crawl will help you learn how search engines have indexed your site. This will give you a better idea of what is working and what can be improved.
After completing your redesign, it is best to crawl the new site to compare to the old site. This comparison will help you see how well your redirects work. By developing a plan and executing it at each stage of the redesign process, you can redesign your website without losing rankings and traffic.
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