How to Maintain Your Rankings When Redesigning Your Website

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Website Design
Vintage computer, welder, and man with a hammer representing how to maintain your website ranking with redesigning your website.

September 8, 2022

byAnkit Vora

Imagine:

Most of your web pages rank on the first page of Google. 

Maybe some rank at the top or even have the featured snippet. 

You’re doing really well in terms of attracting traffic to your website.

BUT! 

You aren’t able to convert this traffic into leads or paying customers. 

Let’s assume the flow of traffic is high-quality.

So, what’s the problem?

What’s the reason behind your extremely low conversion rate?

You hire professionals to conduct a website audit. 

And here’s what they say:

“Even though you’re attracting high-quality traffic to your website and you’re doing extremely well in terms of your SEO rankings, your website isn’t up to the mark. We’d advise you to redesign your website.”

You seriously take that into consideration and ask your web design team to redesign your website from scratch.

But while doing so, you’re worried that you’ll lose your SEO rankings. 

You’ve worked so hard to rank your web pages higher on Google. 

And you don’t want to lose those rankings.

Nobody would.

This brings us to the one BIG question most marketers and businesses ask at times:

“How do I maintain my rankings when re-designing my website?”

Maybe you’re redesigning because your website design isn’t up to the mark and isn’t helping you convert. Or maybe it’s because your existing website design doesn’t go well with your branding efforts. 

Whatever the reason behind the website redesign, we’ve put together this blog post to help you understand how to maintain your rankings when redesigning your site. Throughout this blog post, we’ll share seven proven tips that you can act on to maintain your rankings.

Let’s dive in.

7 Tips Businesses Should Seriously Consider to Maintain Their Rankings While Redesigning Their Website

Here are seven tips for maintaining your rankings that we’ll go over in this post: 

  • Take inventory of all the pages on your existing website
  • Set up a staging website
  • Regularly back up WordPress
  • Add 301 redirects to avoid losing link equity
  • Properly set up your 404 pages
  • Launch your new website
  • Audit your new website after launch

Take Inventory of All the Pages on Your Existing Website

Before redesigning your website, the first and most important thing you need to do is use a crawler to map all your existing website pages. SEO plugins like Yoast SEO, RankMath (in case you’re using WordPress), or ScreamingFrog can help you generate your current sitemap. 

While you should avoid making drastic changes like changing your domain, if it’s really necessary, then it’s important to use 301 redirects to maintain your rankings. But in order to set 301 redirects, it’s important to look at your existing site architecture and implement a new one. After all, Google takes URL structure, internal links, meta-description, and other elements into consideration. So it’s really important to look at your existing sitemap to get your hands on all the web page source URLs and add the target URLs next to them to set 301 redirects easily. 

Set Up a Staging Website

Don’t start making real-time changes to your existing website. Not only will it affect the user experience but the end result will be a messed-up website redesign. The best way to redesign a website is to clone your existing website and set up a staging website – where you’ll be making the changes. 

Imagine you making changes to your website every hour – how confused your audience will get. In addition, you also don’t want Google or other search engines to index your incomplete website. So, it’s better to set up a staging website where you’ll be making the changes. This way – no one will see you making changes other than your team. 

However, while you make the changes, it’s important to keep your existing site fully functional. Don’t shut it down. Otherwise, it may not only frustrate your existing customers or users but also have an impact on your SEO rankings. 

So, we’d advise you to set up staging on a different URL. Noindex this URL to make sure that search engines don’t index it. Once you’re done with the redesign, push the staging website to the new one. Don’t forget to add 301 redirects, especially if you’re making changes to the URL structure – otherwise, you may end up losing your rankings. 

Regularly Backup WordPress

Even if you perform all the right actions, what if you end up losing rankings or one or more of your top-ranking pages get lost during the redesign process? To make sure that it doesn’t happen or you’re easily able to recover in case something like this happens, we’d advise you to schedule weekly WordPress backups. Also, it’s really important to have your existing website’s sitemap with you. 

Regularly backing up WordPress will help you ensure – that your top-ranking content doesn’t get lost or will even help you fix things up in case of damage. 

Add 301 Redirects to Avoid Losing Link Equity

Let’s say you’re attracting 100,000 people each month to one of your web pages. But now, you are redesigning your website and changing the URL structure. Now, Google or other search engines seriously take into consideration URL structure while determining website rankings. So how do you preserve your URL equity?

To preserve your link equity, you should add 301 redirects. By adding a 301 redirect, you’re saying to Google that the URL for a specific page has changed. 

For example, if you are changing the URL structure for a blog post from www.test.com/website-rankings-explained to www.test.com/blog/website-rankings-explained, then you’ll have to tell Google that you’re permanently redirecting from the old URL to the new URL. That’s the only way to preserve your link equity; otherwise, you may end up losing your rankings. To do that, add a 301 redirect that will help you convey your message to Google. 

Also, it’s advisable to reach out to websites that have given you backlinks to update their backlinks such that they accommodate your existing URL structure. There may be a few web pages for which you’re not planning to change the URL structure. Whereas, for some, you may be planning to do so. In that case, it’s advisable to create different sections in an Excel sheet like:

  • No URL Change
  • Slug Change
  • Folder Change
  • Delete 

Set Up 404 Pages

While redesigning your website, some web pages may get lost. And you don’t really want your users, as well as search engines, to be unable to access your website entirely. This means – if one of your web pages www.test.com/website-design gets lost during the redesign process, then you don’t really want your user or search engines to see something like this:

404 Error Page

To avoid this, it’s important to add a 404 redirect – which looks something like this:

Pretty Looking 404

Now, by clicking on the logo or using the navigation bar, your users or search engine crawler will be able to head over to other sections of your website. If you don’t set up a 404 redirect, then if a certain page has been lost during the redesign process and if it’s one of your top ranking pages, then it may result in a bad impression – as if the search engine crawler isn’t able to find that page, then that particular URL’s equity will go down or be lost. 

Launch Your New Website

Once you set up 301 and 404 redirects and the new site is ready to be pushed live, then it’s time to finally launch it. But before you do so, there are some checks that we’d advise you to do:

  • Add 301 redirects
  • Add 404 redirects
  • Check if all your web pages have at least one H1
  • Check the title, meta-description, alt, and other important SEO elements. 
  • Add your Google Analytics code
  • Save your old website backup in case of future emergencies.

And while these are a few important points, it’s important to make sure you’re doing it right. It’s advisable to hire an SEO and web design consultant with experience to help you out with the same. 

And upon marking all items off the checklist, the next step is to audit your new website. 

Audit Your New Website

In this step, it’s important to make sure that everything is flowing smoothly – from your new website design to functionality to the technical SEO elements. Check whether all your redirects are working or not. If you’re doing a simple website redesign, then you may not have to worry about using the ‘Change of Address’ tool. But if you are moving your website from one domain to another, you should read this article

And That’s How to Maintain Your Rankings When Redesigning Your Website

And that’s how you can preserve and maintain your SEO rankings after a website redesign. If it’s a simple redesign project, then you may not have to worry much. But if it’s big, like changing your domain, we’d advise you to consult with the website development and SEO experts before you proceed forward with your plan.

At redfox visual, we’ve helped dozens of businesses maintain their search engine rankings after redesigning their website. In fact, we’ve helped them skyrocket their rankings post the redesign. And we’d love nothing more than to help you out.

What are you waiting for?

Hire the #1 Boise digital marketing agency to help you with your website redesign today. 

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