If your current website’s look/feel hasn’t been updated for a while or you feel it doesn’t accurately represent your brand, then a new website can help your users connect with your brand better.
However, if your current website has good or in fact any search engine rankings, there are 2 things that we take quite seriously when carrying out website redesign so as not to lose any of the search engine rankings of the client.
If you are about to embark on a redesign, you may want to bear the following in mind or ask your developer to, so your search rankings can be maintained with the new website.
URL (website link) Changes – the most likely cause of a drop or change in rankings is when the URLs of the new website pages aren’t the same as the previous ones (for existing pages). Creating a new URL for an existing page means that you are beginning SEO from scratch for that page.
Avoid it – the first thing to do is ask your website developers to maintain the URLs and ensure that URLs for existing pages haven’t been modified in any way. There may be times when this isn’t possible. For example, if your previous website was built with HTML and some of the functionalities of your current website requires PHP in which case the URL extension would change. Example, mysite.com/services.html would have to become mysite.com/service.php, respectively. In this case, you should ask your website developer to do what’s called a 301 redirect from old URL to the new one. This will preserve all of your rankings and SEO value (however, it can take a few weeks for Google to take the 301 redirect into account).
Duplicate content – another (indirect cause) of a drop in rankings is the issue of duplicate content, often an issue if the website redesign process isn’t carried out correctly. Duplicate content isn’t looked upon favourably by the search engines and domains and/or pages which are found to contain duplicate content can be penalised and in most case are.
There’s a good chance that during the development process, your developer is showing you the new website via demo URLs and that for demos of the new design of existing pages of your current website, the same content has been copied onto the demo links. If the development is taking place on the developer’s domain, then you don’t need to be worried about any SEO implications of duplicate content. However, if the development is taking place on your own and current domain, then Google can classify the content on the demo pages as duplicates (since the same copy can be found on your live pages). duplicate content is a much more serious issue when the content is found on two different domains (the one found with the content later, is penalised) than with the same domain however, this is still not good SEO practice for maintain the overall domain credibility.
The simplest thing you can ask your developer to do is to create a robots.txt file which contains the entire list of demo URLs and place it within the root directory of your website. a robots.txt files tells Google which pages on your site not to index thereby eliminating the possibility of Google indexing the duplicate content.
It’s important to remember that no matter how well planned the website redesign process is carried out, there is going to be change of rankings in most cases, for better or worse. This is because the search engines take various other on-site factors into consideration to determine ranking, such as keyword density and the order and placement of content within a page and unless the new website is a replica of the older one (yes, it wouldn’t be a redesign then), it is difficult if not impossible to keep all on page elements the same, before and after.
However, the goal of any website redesign should be to improve the user experience, increase conversions and ultimately, increase sales in which case any temporary change in rankings are far outweighed by the long term benefits a new website should bring.
Shirish Agarwal is the founder of Flow20 and looks after the PPC and SEO side of things. Shirish also regularly contributes to leading digital marketing publications such as Hubspot, SEMRush, Wordstream and Outbrain. Connect with him on LinkedIn.