If you’ve been using the same website for a number of years, it’s probably time for a makeover. Designing an updated site is an exciting chance to give the brand a new image, but it can be challenging as well. What if the new look doesn’t resonate with customers? What about ranking the site for key brand-terms? Are you going to have to start over with promotion for the new site?
SEO is an Important Part of Redesign
Any entrepreneur thinking about updating their website should be asking these questions. Search engine reputation management, ranking the brand’s official website high on page one of a Google search, is vital to attracting and keeping customers. At ReputationDefender, we assist business clients with building a positive reputation that will make it easy for customers to find them online. A professional, well-optimised website is part of this.
The good news is it’s possible to design a new site without losing all the work you put into the old one. In fact, this can even be a good time to fix some of the issues that are still causing problems so the updated version actually generates more traffic. However, to be successful you’ll need to put a good deal of time and effort into SEO. It might be less interesting than the more artistic elements of a redesign, but it’s worth it in the long run.
10 Steps to Updating Your Site
If you’re working with a professional website building company, make sure you communicate your SEO needs from day one. Follow these 10 important steps to make sure you don’t lose ranking.
- Crawl the old site. – This will give you a blueprint of the existing site’s structure, including meta data, titles, URLs etc.. You can then use this data as a roadmap for designing the updated site. To crawl your site, you will need the Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool, or a similar type of software. Free versions of Screaming Frog are available, depending on the size and complexity of your site.
- Run an SEO audit. – After crawling the site, it’s important to examine the data and identify errors or areas that aren’t performing well. This will help show what you need to change in the new design. Audit tools such as Woorank will do this for you, or you can manually go through the crawl-data to get a better feel for what the issues are . You’ll need analyse titles, H1 headings, meta descriptions, canonicals tags and alt-image text. Check for duplicate content, missing tags and broken links. Use Google’s analytics tools to verify how the pages are being indexed, and check speed and performance.
- Block the test site. – Missing this step is one of the biggest mistakes you can make with a redesign. If Google indexes the test site as it’s being built, then the pages will be devalued as duplicate content when you launch the site for real. Fortunately, there’s a simple fix. WordPress and many other website-building platforms have a ‘noindex box’ which you can check to ‘discourage search engines from indexing this site’. Alternatively you can also block the site using the Robots.text file.
- Crawl the test site. – Use the software from step one to crawl the test site. Save a copy of both crawls, the current site and the test site to use for editing.
- Analyse and compare the data – Match up the page structure and headings that are working on the current site with corresponding elements on the test site. Fix the issues that were uncovered in the audit so they aren’t transferred into the redesign. Keep or promote pages that are working well.
- Update URLs – If you don’t redirect the old URLs to the new site, you’ll get 404 ‘page not found’ errors. To fix this, you’ll need to first create a corresponding URL on the test site, then redirect the old address to link directly to this page.
- Optimise New Content – Some new pages won’t have a match-up link in the old site. These will need to be optimised to use keywords in the title, URL and H1 headings. Make sure there’s only one H1 tag per page.
- Optimise Links – Links are an important ranking factor, but it’s just as important not to overuse them. Limit yourself to links that are actually useful for SEO purposes. Use specific descriptive words in your CTAs so it will be easier for Google to index them and rank their importance.
- Unblock the Site – Don’t forget to remove the ‘noindex’ tag before you go live.
- Test Ranking – Once the site goes is up and running, you’ll still need to test how it’s performing for important keywords. Check Google’s indexing and analyse organic traffic. If there are problems, another SEO Audit like you did in Step 2 may be necessary to find and fix the issues.
Going through these steps will help to transfer the reputation capital you’ve worked so hard to build and that will save a lot of time and money once you start using the new site. If you are not familiar with technical SEO, consider getting professional help since this is a very important part of the process. Our experts at ReputationDefender work with new and well-established companies to make sure every update enhances the brand’s existing reputation.