A website redesign is a big dang deal.
Updating the look, feel and user experience of your site can be a major boon to your traffic and sales in the medium and long term, but it also presents some meaningful challenges. For example, the possibility of a dramatic decrease in traffic (cue terrified screaming).
Here’s what you can do to make the transition as smooth as possible.
- Find your sacred cow, and try not to kill it. Look at which content on your site is driving the most traffic, and make sure that content is included in your new design (as long as it’s still relevant, which is likely if it’s driving traffic).
- Redirects, redirects, redirects. They’re important. Really important. If you don’t have to change a page’s URL, DON’T. But if you do, use a redirect (usually a 301 is the best option), to maintain the page’s Google rank. With the right redirect, approximately 90 percent of the rank value is transferred to the new page, as opposed to 0 percent without one. A good way to do this is to map out all of your existing pages next to all of the pages on the new site, and redirect each of the old pages to the most relevant new page.
- Use a staging server, and keep it password protected. Staging servers are standard operating procedure for most redesigns, but make sure to password protect it so Google doesn’t crawl and index the new site before it’s published. Otherwise, the new (unfinished) site will be competing (poorly) with your old site. Not good.
Have an SEO expert sign off on the site design before it heads to development. After the design is complete, bring in someone who knows SEO to make sure the site design and architecture looks good from a search perspective before it goes into development, where changes are much harder to make.
Keep in mind, no site migrations are perfect, so in the short term you may expect to see a decrease in traffic of approximately 20 percent. But the good news is that you have a fancy, sexy new website with improved content, look and user experience, which will increase traffic over the medium and long term.
Of course, with all things digital, and especially SEO, things can and do change. Here’s a great resource we use to keep up-to-date on all things search: https://moz.com/