How to Keep Your Search Engine Ranking Safe During a Website Redesign
If you’ve had a website for some time and you’re ready for a new one – one which complements your established business – are you worried a redesign will have a negative effect on your hard-earned slot in the search engine rankings?
It’s a valid concern, but I want to reassure you that upgrading your website to a brand new oasis doesn't necessarily mean you’ll lose your all your previous SEO work and credibility online.
In the vast majority of cases, a new website will improve the strength of your business on the search page, as long as you and your designer pay attention to a few key things.
If you're new to SEO, you can read an introduction to the types of SEO here. Having that background knowledge first will help you navigate this article.
Does your website really need a revamp?
If you’re happy with the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of traffic you're getting on your website and you’re satisfied with how your business is growing, how many customers you have, etc.… If you’re customers can easily access things, and you find your current platform easy to use, then you probably don’t need a new website.
Investing in a website redesign will initially eat into your profits that quarter, but in the longer term it could have a major positive impact on your business.
Here are some reasons you may want, or need, a new website:
You don’t have a website (obvious yes, but maybe you’ve built up an engaged customer base on social media and want to grow, or you want to launch a new sister service / business with a professional-looking website).
Your current website is a nightmare to use, for you &/or your customers.
People can’t book online with you, so you’re losing valuable time managing bookings.
You’ve had issues integrating your current website with your studio software, like MINDBODY.
The people who reach your website don’t stay, make inquiries, or book any services (it’s not converting).
It’s ancient (or looks that way) compared to almost everything else on the web
It’s not mobile-friendly (which can also hurt your search engine ranking).
You want to love how your site looks and feels, rather than lusting after the neighboring studio’s website.
You feel it’s a let-down for potential customers, compared with the experience of your studio, spa, or using your services.
It’s just… time.
Strengthening your SEO during a website redesign
There are several ways a good designer can help support and improve your SEO when developing your new website. It often comes down to user experience, which also aligns with Google’s primary focus.
“User experience” is a collection of elements influencing the experience people have when browsing your website, from how useful and relevant your content is, to how easy it is to navigate and find what they’re looking for. Some of the most important factors for SEO are:
Responsiveness: The value of having a mobile-friendly website is becoming common knowledge. A 2016 report from comScore states that 65%+ of digital time is now spent on mobile devices. So, having a website which adjusts the content display based on screen size is a more accessible preference for people and, since 2015, favored by Google’s ranking algorithms.
SSL (Secure Socket Layers): In 2014 Google announced that SSL secured websites would enjoy a rankings boost in their search results. SSL is a technology that secures the connection between your browser and the website you’re visiting. Google is upping the game in 2017, when they plan to annotate websites that aren't SSL enabled right on the search results page! You can tell if a website is secure if the website address is preceded by a https instead of an http.
Speed: Various things can affect speed, so your designer will discuss this with you and may suggest a certain platform or hosting company when designing your website. This is one of the many reasons why I recommend Squarespace.
Better content structure: If you’ve been adding miscellaneous pages to your website as you’ve grown over the years, there's probably not much organization happening anymore. By taking a step back and planning out the structure of your new website, Google will be better able to understand what your business is all about and what search terms you should be ranking for.
What to keep in mind for a successful redesign
Match or increase the current number of keywords
If your current site uses your chosen business keywords in page titles and page headings, make sure your new site repeats that pattern. Written content doesn't need to be identical, but pay attention to your new titles and headings and try to mention your keyword at least as often.
Identical Contact Info
Make sure your business name, address and phone number are written on your new site exactly the same way it was on your old site.
Make sure you don't inadvertently remove pages on your website that external sites use to link to you. For example, if your local paper featured you online and that article linked to a page on your website called www.mybusines.com/about, make sure your new website also has a page named /about. You want to do your best to keep those referring links intact. If your website is on Squarespace, you can also set-up automatic redirects to replace those old page addresses. Here's a video showing you how to do that!
For more on preserving your SEO ranking after moving to Squarespace, see this article.
I hope you feel more confident about your redesign project, now that you know your search engine ranking only stands to improve with an updated, modern website.