How to Redesign a Website Without Losing SEO
Every industrial business understands that a website is a vital part of communication and customer connection. In a world where most people research options online before ever calling, having a well-designed industrial website that guides a visitor through the process of information gathering and pre-qualification is vital.
This only makes it more important to be mindful of SEO and digital marketing when you redesign your industrial website. While it’s important to stay current with design and functionality trends, you want to make sure you don’t lose ground in other ways, making it harder for ideal customers to find you.
Windmill Strategy understands this. We regularly help B2B industrial companies who are interested in redesigning their websites, seeking to understand website redesign SEO. Often, these prospective clients have decided to update their website before they’ve considered all the ramifications of such a decision.
We are proponents of updating and modernizing websites as needed, and we’ve had enough experience with these projects to be aware of some of the most common pitfalls. We will encourage and support your redesign project when it makes sense, but we will always do so to maintain and strengthen your overall brand.
For this reason, we thought it would be beneficial to lay out the top challenges and considerations in redesigning a website without losing SEO, to prepare you for effective and successful results.
- Website Redesign SEO Challenges
- Website Design SEO Considerations
- Additional Recommendations on How to Redesign a Website Without Losing SEO
Website Redesign SEO Challenges
There are several challenges you’ll face when considering website redesign SEO. We want to draw your attention to some of the more obvious ones that will surely impact your industrial website if they’re overlooked:
SEO and UX (User Experience)
While it’s common to focus on everything else but UX while undertaking SEO efforts, it’s important to know that Google has always considered the user experience when ranking websites. Your industrial website should be no different.
UX is about more than just colors and a pretty site, it’s about guiding the user through a journey that will ultimately help them reach their desired goals. After all, they sought you out for a specific reason in the first place. You were part of a search they did to meet a need, find a solution, find a vendor, or find a product. The experience they have once they’ve clicked through your search result and are using your website will determine whether they stay on your site, look around, gain trust in your company, and ultimately engage and convert.
User experience is about quality more than quantity. It’s about answering questions, leading the visitor to where they will have the best experience, and providing a solution they can’t resist.
Well-designed industrial websites incorporate this mindset into all aspects of their design, development, and optimization. Making sure the site loads quickly and fully, that there are no shifting elements, and that there is a comfortable flow are all key aspects of this effort.
Consider your site’s menu and navigation. Is it easy for your target prospects to find the next level of information they would want? Are products easily organized, or services grouped logically? How many pages do they have to scroll in order to reach a point of action? SEO and UX are about seeing the whole picture and helping others to see it clearly.
Speaking of action, is there a clear call to action wherever a user goes, but not so many that it’s confusing or annoying? Remove doubt, dissonance, and uncertainty. Think about the visitor first, ahead of your own agenda. Remembering these things will position your site for successful optimization when the more common aspects begin to come into play, so you can better understand how to redesign a website without losing SEO.
Lost Keywords, Content, and Links
It’s common for a new website to not be exactly the same as the old one. This means you will not be moving all content to the new website, and therefore some of the progress you’ve made will naturally be lost. Now, you may do this intentionally, trading old progress for the potential of new progress, but making this decision should be strategic and intentional.
To begin, it would be wise to review all of the keywords for which your current industrial website ranks. Exploring this will help you determine if you are already ranking for the best keywords and keyphrases, and it should also help you recognize the gaps where you are missing keywords. It’s also beneficial to explore what your top competitors are ranking for, to determine if your website has been missing out on valuable words. This can be accomplished by using a tool such as MOZ or SEMrush.
Every paragraph and sentence on your site holds the potential of ranking for specific keywords and phrases. Many of these rankings were accomplished because of how things were written, what other pages are linking back to that page emphasizing those keywords, and what the content says. Removing these things altogether would be like leaving a crucial ingredient out of grandma’s cookie recipe. You need to replace that missing ingredient with something equal or better, or the results will simply not be great.
Consolidating content by combining several smaller pieces can be very effective, but forgetting to include ranking content in this process can set you back a great deal. We will always recommend writing as much content as possible on a topic, so long as it adds value. Quality over quantity tends to reign supreme in website redesign SEO, and industrial audiences, in particular, want clear information over marketing fluff and filler.
Lost Meta Details
If you’ve ever run an SEO site scan to identify possible issues, you’ve likely seen something about duplicate or missing meta details. These meta details are the Meta Title, Meta Description, and H1 (primary header) on every web page. Losing the meta details in a site rebuild leaves your pages incomplete and lacking SEO potential.
Let’s take a look at each of these to better understand why this would be an issue:
Meta Title – The meta title, or title tag, is an HTML element that denotes the title of a page. It is found in search queries as the larger font in the results section. It is also found at the top of a web page in the browser tab. This meta title is a key place to identify what keywords the page should be found for while also explaining the topic of the page content.
Meta Description – The meta description is HTML that offers additional clarity about a web page for search engines and searchers. You have the ability, by adding a meta description, to intentionally emphasize not only what a page discusses, but what keywords you want that page to be found for in search results.
H1 – The H1, or primary header, is HTML added to a site to emphasize the primary focus of content on a page. As the primary header, it is generally found at the top of the page and is usually in a larger, bolder font. This header helps reiterate to search engines and site visitors what the page topic is, along with target keywords you want the page to be known for. Other headers are denoted as H2, H3, H4, and so on, with similar but more granular keyword and topic emphasis.
The meta details are found in the <head> section of the HTML on a page, and they are often easily added or updated using plugins such as Yoast SEO. Ensuring you don’t leave these behind, or forget to add them to new pages, will help you focus on how to redesign a website without losing SEO and make sure your newly designed website gets off to a great start.
Website Design SEO Considerations
Just as there are challenges to be aware of, there are other things worth considering while setting up and building your new website that will make your future SEO efforts more efficient and effective.
The URL structure of a page is another area where you can consider including your target keyword. Doing so will allow the user to trust that this page is going to talk about what they expected when they performed their search.
While there is no definitive answer as to whether or not having keywords in the URL actually impacts ranking, it continues to be a best practice for most SEO professionals to include the target keyword when possible, because of the impact it has on user experience. This might not make sense when doing so would create a bulky and cumbersome URL, however.
Other considerations of URL structure include;
Use lowercase letters as a standard practice. This creates a better user experience.
Use hyphens between words rather than using underscores. Because most links are underlined, using an underscore will often not be visible and can cause confusion.
Use keywords that make sense, not just keywords that rank well. If the experience does not match the expectation of the visitor, it will cause confusion.
Remove auto-generated category types that your CMS may create. (If you do not want or need to use them.) This structure may make sense for some eCommerce websites with many products, but for most websites, it does not and can cause unnecessary confusion. This happens when your CMS creates a URL like the following example:
Don’t include a date. This is often seen with articles referencing “Best … for 2021,” as an example. Having the date as part of the article and content does not mean you must include the date in your URL. Simply remove it. This way, even if you update the content year over year (as you should) you will be able to maintain the ranking strength of the established URL.
Use trailing slashes (/) properly. This is an often misunderstood aspect of URL structure, and there is really no definitive answer as to what works or does not work when it comes to SEO. Even Google has been inconsistent in how they use trailing slashes, and they have essentially said it does not matter. There’s a great explanation of this in an article from searchenginejournal.com that illustrates things quite clearly. It is important to note, however, that the “… best practice is that the trailing slash should be used to indicate a ‘container URI’ for denoting parent/child relationships.” (A URI is an identifier, while a URL is a locator.) Simply put, use of the trailing slash is often up to your preference when speaking of website redesign SEO.
Site Speed/Page Speed
As noted earlier, it has long been known that Google and other search engines do take user experience seriously when considering ranking. As such, page speed is also a ranking factor. Furthermore, improving page loading speed in turn influences total site speed, and this enhanced user experience factors into higher-ranking performance. Not only is speed important for ranking, but reducing page load time will likely lead to improved bounce rates and lower dwell time, a metric that measure how long a person is willing to spend looking at a page they’ve clicked on from a search results page before clicking back to seek another option.
Technical SEO is a large category, but it’s worth knowing the basics. There are key aspects to remember when considering how to redesign a website without losing SEO, and many of these factors stem from how your web development team constructs the website. Some of the most important technical SEO factors include:
Use an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). SSL certificates are a way to show users your site is secure and can be trusted. They ensure a secure connection is in place between the browser and the server on which the site resides. This is seen when a site has an HTTPS rather than just HTTP in its URL. The S indicates a valid SSL.
Have a responsive web design. A responsive design means your industrial website will adapt to the device from which it is being accessed. A user on a mobile device, whether a phone or tablet, should be able to see the website in such a way that is comfortable and easy to use. The lack of a responsive design is apparent when a website is small and requires shifting around to access all parts of the page. A responsive web design should be standard for all sites.
Have an established XML sitemap. The sitemap is how you show search engines the layout and roadmap of your site. It allows the site to be crawled easily and clearly.
Consider using AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). Using AMP on your site means you are intentionally trying to create a fast and smooth user experience with pages that load almost instantly. This often leads to enhanced ranking potential, and it is often considered a factor in increasing click-through-rates as well. When AMP is used along with Structured Data Markup, the results seem to be even better.
Use structured data markup (schema). Using structured data markup on your website pages continues to be a large factor in page ranking. Google offers great insights on structured data markup, along with examples. Google uses structured data to better understand the intentions of a page. It allows them to see what the content is about, and it should match the actual user experience. This detailed information allows Google to better determine if your page should rank higher than others.
Make sure to optimize images. Having images on your website is a valuable way to enhance the user experience and provide context for the topic your page discusses. Using images is highly recommended, but it should be done keeping the following factors in mind:
- Image size – Image dimension. Larger images can cause slow page loading.
- File size – The amount of storage space required on the server.
- File format – Top formats include JPG, PNG, GIF, and SVG.
- File names – Use a keyword-rich file name before uploading them.
- Alt tags – These provide context to search engines about the image.
- Image captions – If you use image captions, make sure they use target keywords.
- Uniqueness – Using unique images is better than stock photos seen everywhere.
- Structured data – Using schema markup makes images stronger.
- Image sitemap – To further enhance the crawlability of your site’s images.
Domain Authority or Score
Domain authority or domain score is a third-party factor that helps to determine a website’s credibility. We go into depth on this topic in a recent article about On-page vs Off-page SEO where we explain that a higher score in these categories essentially means your website is more established, credible, and trustworthy. This, in turn, tends to allow for easier keyword ranking.
You don’t want to lose this progress when rebuilding your site. To minimize this, we recommend these best practices;
- Use 301 redirects
- Verify both the old and new website with the same email ID in Google webmaster tools
- Submit sitemaps for both sites in Google Search Console
Speaking of redirects, we’ve all attempted to visit a webpage only to find it is no longer working. This is when we see the 404 broken page error message. To prevent broken pages for your site visitors and search engines, use a 301 redirect to send them to the new page you wish them to see. Implementing 301 redirects for any URLs that won’t be carried over to the new website URLs is a critical piece in maintaining rankings from the old website.
When redesigning or replatforming a website, you will most likely want to migrate all the great content you’ve created previously. When we speak of content, we really mean everything the user experiences, such as text, videos, images, links, and downloadable content.
This is a great time to consider consolidating similar content or removing content that has not been performing. Approach your existing content with the scrutiny of an editor, proofreading and meticulously picking apart what isn’t working. This is how you maintain strong website redesign SEO and ensure ongoing success.
Make sure you follow an intentional content migration plan, such as this example.
It Just Takes Time
Often overlooked when considering how to redesign a website without losing SEO is the fact that you will almost certainly experience a temporary decline in traffic. You are disrupting what has been in exchange for what could be, and that process requires time for the new website to take root and begin to flourish. This makes properly following website redesign SEO best practices even more important.
Don’t allow yourself to grow impatient. Give the website time to do what it needs to do in order to accomplish your goals, while also watching analytics carefully, and ensuring that the steps above are all in place.
Additional Recommendations on How to Redesign a Website Without Losing SEO
If you’ve followed our recommendations, you will have established a clear and thorough plan for how to redesign a website without losing SEO. This is a detailed process that takes intention and effort, but when it’s done correctly, you will reap great results.
The time it takes to do the work properly is well worth the effort when you consider that you will not only have a more modern, more attractive, and more engaging website, but you will also have a more SEO-effective website that should also convert more visitors into leads.
Here are a few last thoughts to consider regarding how to redesign a website without losing SEO:
Don’t do unnecessary work – If there is no need to change URLs, names, content, or other details, then simply don’t do it. Leave what’s working, and focus your efforts on what needs the most improvement.
Back up your old website – You never know when you will hit a roadblock, so saving your old website, or better yet, keeping it live on a temporary basis, will allow you to have a point of reference when needed. Make sure this temporary website is not able to be crawled.
Make updates to backlinks – You have likely established many backlinks from other websites over the life of your website’s existence. You don’t want to lose these, so make sure you update them with the new, correct information by having 301 redirects in place and then contacting the webmaster of the referring domains.
Make updates to internal links – Most of your pages should have internal links to other pages on your website showing association and offering the visitor a better experience. When you make changes you need to consider that these links might now lead to nothing. To avoid this poor user experience, update your website’s internal links to the new pages.
Become familiar with Google Search Console – One of the best things you can do to track progress and monitor your website’s performance for website redesign SEO is in monitoring keyword rankings. It is therefore important to become familiar with the tools that make this process easier.
Our favorite tool is Google Search Console, as it reflects the most accurate real-world data, at least as far as Google is concerned. You should plan for movement, both up and down, in your ranking, so monitoring this will allow you to address issues quickly. GSC will also allow you to diagnose other issues the site may have, as well as track redirects and crawled pages.
Move Forward With Confidence
There are certainly things you can do beyond what we have discussed, there are certainly more things you can do, but if you follow the topics and recommendations in this article, you will most definitely be ahead of the game. These are the best practices, and following them will make your website redesign SEO experience better and more effective.
Remember, it still takes time, so be patient. Do the right things, and then trust the process. If you find the process feels too daunting, you can always partner with our industrial website development team at Windmill Strategy to help ensure your success.