The start of a new year often gets companies energized to try new ideas – website redesigns are popular as businesses take stock of how to improve their online presence throughout the next year.
While a redesign can offer many benefits, improper planning can lead to unfortunate results such as losing a coveted spot in search engine rankings. Here are three common scenarios in which a website redesign could harm your organic search rank and steps to take to reduce the risk.
Lost Content = Lost Authority
When you redesign your website, chances are good that you will also make changes to the content to better reflect the needs of your customers and your offerings. While this often results in a better user experience, it can also have the unintended side-effect of breaking bookmarks and inbound links to your content.
These broken links damage your website’s authority, and 404 error pages with little or no context can leave repeat visitors frustrated as they attempt to find information on your site.
A full website analysis can prevent the worst of these issues by identifying your most popular pages and the most common destination for backlinks in your portfolio.
During the planning phase of your website redesign, an engagement analysis will reveal the content that most users find interesting on your site. These pages can be preserved and updated as necessary, with 301 redirects put into place to ensure that most bookmarks still lead the user to a relevant page.
For those instances in which content must be removed entirely, a 404 page with useful links can go a long way to improving the visitor experience – which will reduce bounce rates and keep your website visitors engaged.
Domain Change – AKA: Is it Really You?
If you are doing a full rebranding and changing your domain name along with your website design, keeping your organic ranking can be a bit more challenging. While 301 redirects from the old domain to the new domain can preserve the authority of your backlink profile, changes to website structure and internal linking can still potentially cause issues.
As with restructuring your website without a domain name change, look at your top pages and ensure they are properly mapped to their respective new pages.
When possible, also contact your top referrers and let them know about your domain change so they can update their links. This is a mutually beneficial arrangement – by linking to your new site, they will continue to provide value to their visitors, and by getting links directly to your site, you increase your domain authority directly without needing a redirect.
Website Performance Anxiety
Finally, take the time to do thorough performance testing on your new website before it launches. Loading times do affect SEO rank, and more complicated sites may see a tangible lift from performance optimization. This is especially the case for large sites with several pages of content.
Another area to double-check is the mobile web design experience. With so many website visitors surfing the web on phones and tablets, a consistent mobile experience is necessary to maximize user engagement. As mobile use continues to grow in importance, search engines will continue to factor mobile website performance into their search result rankings.
Smart business owners will seek out a web design firm that integrates content preservation, inbound link integrity, and website performance into their plans for a full redesign in order to get the best of both worlds – a new look combined with solid SEO performance.