How not to ruin your SEO during a website redesign | W3 Lab

How not to ruin your SEO during a website redesign

When are website redesign and migrations necessary?

More and more businesses are going online, creating websites to showcase their products and making it possible for people to find them.

However, sometimes the domain name they have in mind isn’t available right off the bat, so websites use a different one until it becomes available.

Similarly, sometimes businesses simply rebrand. They change their logo, name, and with it, the domain name of their website.

Additionally, web design trends change every year, bringing new features and sometimes reinventing the old ones.

Whether you want to redesign your website to make it look better and more inviting or are doing it for technical reasons and SEO, a redesign is bound to make it look more modern and the new features you can include play an important role in distinguishing it from your competitor’s websites.

website redesign
Website redesign by kreatikar on Pixabay

Changes such as these three mentioned ones call for a website migration, which is a process that involves a number of website changes – such as its design, location, structure, content, and so on. It is quite a long process that can prove to be difficult if errors and bugs arise.

If not done right, website migration and REDESIGN CAN NEGATIVELY IMPACT SEO, ruining your website’s rank in the search pages and your organic traffic.

To help you prevent that from happening, today we are bringing you a step by step guide on how not to ruin your SEO while redesigning your website.

Table of contents

  1. Things to do before the website migration
    • Crawling and website backup
    • Verification and checking for errors
    • Redirection of all the pages
  2. The process of website migration
    • Robots and sitemap
    • Testing the redirections and looking for bugs and errors
    • Redirect loops and chains
    • Final steps of the migration process
  3. Post-migration process
    • Errors and monitoring
    • Fixing all the backlinks

Things to do before the website migration

The before process is as important as the one that comes after the redesign.

• Crawling and website backup

Before you start working on your new website, it is important that you first do a crawl of your old website and find any errors and things that you think need changing.

This way, with the new website, you won’t repeat the same mistakes you made with the old one.

back up old website - back up website before redesign
Make sure to back up the entirety of your old website | Image by 200degrees on Pixabay

After you find everything that was wrong with the old website, make a list of all your old website pages, and back up the entirety of the content.

This includes all photos, text, graphics – everything.

There are online backup services that can help you with this process and will back up your website easily and in a few steps.

They are also always secure, so you can rest assured that your website is safe.

Domain providers will often offer this service, so check yours to see if it does.

• Verification and checking for errors

The next step is checking the analytics and Google Search Console of the old website. This step involves checking if your old website is verified as your property.

If it isn’t, make sure to do that.

Website verification is important because it gives you access to a ton of data and allows Google to access your website content.

Also, the verification will enable you to do other steps that are involved in the process of website migration that there will be a word about further on in this article.

website migration - website verification
Website verification is an important part of website redesign and migration | Image by kreatikar on Pixabay

After you make sure your old website is verified, it is time to check the server for errors from the Google Search Console or server logs. This will allow you to find any broken links that are on your website, which is important for the next step.

• Redirection of all the pages

After you complete all the aforementioned steps, the next one is page redirection, also known as 301 redirect.

It is a method of permanent redirection and will send visitors to your old website directly to the pages of your new website.

Every single one of the pages of your old website needs to be redirected to a similar page on your new website.

If the page doesn’t have a new version, redirect it to the homepage.

page redirection
Page redirection is a crucial part of website migration | Image by kreatikar on Pixabay

Afterward, you will need to verify the new website domain in the Google Search Console.

It will grant you access to all important data and information on your website right off the bat.

Now that you redirected all the old website pages to the new ones and verified your website domain, you will need to implement meta tags on it.

Meta tags present information about your pages and are important for SEO, hence why they’re part of our step-by-step list for website redesign and migration.

Find out more about: Meta Tags!

The process of website migration

Now that you’ve completed all the steps that precede the website migration, it is time to commence the actual migration process.

It consists of another set of steps that go as follows.

• Robots and sitemap

First things first – you will need to create a robots.txt file and a sitemap for your new website.

Robots are also known as crawlers and their job is to visit websites and index their content.

By creating a robots.txt file, you’re telling the robots how you want them to crawl your website.

Some websites have pages that they don’t want robots to index, so they disallow them from doing so.

You will also need to create a sitemap (or site map), which is a list of the pages of your website. They are used by robots and they help them crawl your website more easily and efficiently.

After you complete these steps, you will need to allow robots to crawl your website using the robots.txt file.

website sitemap
Website sitemap by mohamed_hassan on Pixabay

After you set all of this up, you will need to test the robots.txt file and the sitemap of your new website in the Google Search Console, as well as check if the new website started getting indexed.

This is important because a website won’t get displayed in the search pages if it is not indexed.

• Testing the redirections and looking for bugs and errors

The next step is checking all the redirections you made earlier and making sure everything is still in order.

To make sure that Google robots can see the redirections, make sure to test the sitemap in the Console of the old website.

Remember how the first step was auditing and checking the old website for errors and bugs?

Now, it is time to do the same thing with your new website, to make sure that the redesign has no errors and bugs that could negatively affect your SEO. If there are, now is the best time to fix them.

look for errors and bugs - seo and errors
Look for errors and bugs that could ruin your SEO | Source

• Redirect loops and chains

Next up – redirect chains and loops.

A redirect chain is what happens when there is more than one redirect between the source and destination URLs, which is something that shouldn’t be happening.

They can occur during website migrations and are dangerous because they can affect the quality of links.

Redirect loops happen when a page gets redirected to one page, and then another, and another, creating a loop.

If they happen on your website, they can confuse the visitor and cause them to leave your website, hence why it is good to test and see if there are any, so you can remove them.

• Final steps of the migration process

After you’ve made sure you have no redirect chains and loops, it is time to use the Googlebot and the Fetch & Render mode.

In this mode, the Googlebot will crawl the URL in order to get a render of your website.

This will additionally confirm if the Googlebot can see your redirections.

search engine optimization
Googlebot is the generic name for Google’s web crawler

Now, the final step of the migration – the Change of Address.

It is a Google Search Console tool that will tell Google that you’ve migrated your website, so it can in turn migrate your Google Search results from your old to your new website.

In order to do this, you need to be a verified owner of both websites and use the same Google account.

Post-migration process

Now that you’ve successfully migrated your website, there are still steps you will need to follow to ensure that the migration went well and everything is in order.

This includes being on the lookout for errors, bugs, but also handing all the linking work. Let’s see what the post-migration process entails in more detail.

• Errors and monitoring

One of the most frequent errors that arise are server and crawl errors.

Make sure you didn’t mistype any URLs and that all pages are working correctly.

Crawl errors occur when a search engine tries to read one of your pages, but cannot manage to do it.

If this happens, go over your robots.txt file and make sure that you allowed bots to crawl all the necessary pages.

It is also necessary that you immediately start monitoring the ranking of your new website.

Page redirection is an important part of every website migration because it enables your new pages to rank for the same keywords that they used to rank on your old website.

If your new website is mobile-friendly and you’ve made quite a few improvements in its redesign (such as SEO), you will soon start noticing a rise in page rankings.

website statistics
Website statistics | Image by 200degrees on Pixabay

• Fixing all the backlinks

Remember how we mentioned that linking is an important part of the post-migration process?

Aside from SEO, backlinking is another important part of every website’s rank, and the quality of links largely affects it.

This is because the search engine notices that other websites trust yours and think it’s worth linking to, which gives you credibility, and therefore, a better rank in the search pages.

To make sure that you retain all your old backlinks, you will have to find them and let the owners of the websites know that you’ve migrated your website.

To find backlinks, you can use one of the many online link finders, one of them being Moz’s Link Explorer.

It has a free version, but if you want to use some premium features, you will have to pay (we think it’s absolutely worth it).

The Link Explorer will not only find all the backlinks of your website, but it will also show you the authority of the domains, as well as the pages.

the moz explorer
The Moz Link Explorer

Once you’ve found all your backlinks, it is time to reach out to the website owners via email and tell them that you’ve migrated your website.

Once they change all the links, your SEO will improve even further, giving your new website and its redesign the same amount of credibility and points that your old one possessed.

This step concludes our step by step guide for not ruining your SEO during your website redesign.

Wrapping up

Website migration and redesign can prove to be quite lengthy processes, especially if you’ve never done them before.

They consist of a number of steps that must be followed if you want to ensure that your new website works and that the SEO remains intact.

Hire professionals to redesign your website without ruining your SEO!

Hopefully, this guide helps you migrate and redesign your website successfully without losing out on any SEO benefits.

Thank you for reading!

Marija Milosavljević
Marija Milosavljević

Graduated as first in her class. Incredibly quiet and shy until the lag in Warframe turns her into a raging death-bunny.

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