Optimizing your website for SEO is an ongoing process. It’s not a once and done situation. The same concept applies to web design. You cannot pay for your website to be designed once and assume that’s it for the next few years. Both need to be updated periodically. So, can you redesign your website without affecting SEO? The short answer is no, you can’t, but you can minimize and prepare for the impact of a redesign.
How does a redesign affect SEO?
When you redesign your website, the code and the pages are impacted and can negatively impact your website’s SEO, hindering the long-term growth of the website if not corrected. Redesigning your website to be more user-friendly, however, is one of the best things you can do to increase your SEO strength. The short answer is if you update the design and look of your website, you need to factor in both on-page and off-page SEO. Here’s a piece we wrote about the two, Off-page SEO vs on-page SEO, which you can use as a mini checklist of sorts.
List all of your website’s pages and always design on a temporary URL
You can use the Yoast SEO plugin to crawl your website and download a sitemap. You’ll need to download your URL structure to back it up so that you don’t affect your SEO ranking when you do a URL re-structure, which is common in most redesigns.
Next, you should always know that you shouldn’t ever make changes to your live website, which can cause extensive problems in the long run. Copy your site onto a temporary URL or you can switch your domain once the website is up and running. However, if you’re new to website design, it’s best to hire a developer to do this underlying work. It’s better to get in the professionals rather than ruin the ranking of a previously successful site. Plus, in the long run, you’ll recoup that temporary investment.
Test your website and set up your 301 redirects
It’s a common step to test your website before launch. Complete a full end-to-end check to ensure that every page, every form, every link works. Ensure your CSS is in place and that there are no broken links. Make sure your tags, meta tags, image descriptions, and SEO is set up for each page of your website.
If your URL structure has changed, make sure you set up 301 redirects between old and new URLs. For example, if your old page was www.yourwebsite.com/ourwork.html and the new URL is www.yourwebsite.com/our-work.html, you want to ensure that both links still work, so you won’t affect your SEO of previously well-ranking pages. Keep in mind that if you have a company blog, you need to do that for every one of those pages too (sigh!).
Launch your new site
Once everything is in place, it’s time to launch your new site; however, if your website is really big, you can do this step in stages. Google webmaster tools can help you check that everything has been moved over to the new website smoothly without any broken links. Check your verification status on Google and resubmit your URL to the index if you’ve stopped web search during the redesign (Fetch as Google and Fetch as Render). If both results come back positive, your site is ready and crawlable. Ensure your robot.txt option has been selected under crawl and that you’ve done a sitemap submission too.
The general definition of a website redesign is improving the overall look of your website. Maybe users had trouble finding certain pages on your website and you’ve restructured the look and now made it easier for users to find the relevant content. Maybe you’ve decided your website looked too busy and wanted a sleeker design. A redesign is generally focused on the look and feel of a website. The pitfalls come when the underlying structure is ignored, like putting the icing on a crumbling cake. You may be above to make the outside of the cake look perfect, but the internal structure is a mess (a tasty mess nonetheless). When redesigning, ensure that you aren’t creating a crumbly cake, that you’ve taken care of the underlying layers. That’s why sometimes it’s easier to rebuild a website from scratch than taking the time to rework something with faulty foundations. Failing to correct the foundations may affect SEO by increasing bounce rate, slowing down your website, or introducing broken links. In the end, you may spend more money correcting issues on a redesign than if you’d just decided to start afresh, baking a new cake and building up the layers accordingly.
Overall, a redesign is likely to impact your SEO both for the good and the bad. Any time you increase your website’s user-friendliness, you’re going to positively impact SEO and if you ensure you correct the behind-the-scenes SEO considerations and redirect your pages, you are unlikely to impact your SEO even with a redesign.
If you want to know more about redesigns and SEO, we have a couple of resources you may like to read.
- What is Web Design’s Role in SEO? – How to build your website with SEO in mind the first time
- How Much Should an SEO Agency Charge? – If you decide to hire a professional to correct your SEO or to redesign your website, how much they should charge
- The Importance of Branding in Web Design and SEO – Why branding should also be a consideration when redesigning your website and updating your SEO
- The Mini-Guide to Local SEO – For businesses with a physical location where customers visit regularly, it’s important to understand local SEO and why it matters
- Off-Page SEO vs On-Page SEO – Linked above but understanding the difference between the two will help you redesign your site and ensure that you aren’t negatively impacting your SEO
- Website Redesign vs Rebuild – A mini guide to when it’s time to redesign and when it’s best to rebuild your website
Elaine Frieman holds a Master’s Degree and is a UK-based professional editor, educational writer, and former marketing agency content writer where she wrote articles for disparate clients using SEO best practice. She enjoys reading, writing, walking in the countryside, traveling, spending time with other people’s cats, and going for afternoon tea.