Website redesign is a challenge every company runs into sooner or later. From a rebranding effort to the simple decision to upgrade to a more relevant style or format, no site lasts forever. However, the wrong approach to redesign has the potential to stand in the way of a previously successful SEO strategy. Here’s what you need to know about maintaining your ranking in the SERPs when making a change to your site design.
Prevent Indexing of Your Development Environment
In maintaining your presence on the web, the last thing you want is your development environment overtaking your existing page before you’re ready to launch. As such, it’s important to keep pages in dev from appearing when customers take to Google. There are a few different ways to make sure this occurs, from creating a domain specifically for production to taking extreme precautions to prevent pages from attracting search engine attention. Before you start construction, put up as many roadblocks as possible to keep search engines from stumbling upon your work in progress, no matter which avenue you choose.
Arbitrary Image Name Changes
If the names of your images are working, there’s no reason to change them. Even if you think switching up format could be a benefit, image names that rank highly are best left alone.
Whether you know it or not, search engines index things like image names and use them to provide context and results in both text and image searches. When you change a functional name to something without merit, like image01.jpg, you’re hurting your visibility and providing a valueless experience.
Deleting or Adjusting Pages Without Redirection
Google doesn’t just index individual pages; it indexes your site as a whole, and that includes how your site is mapped. So, when you delete pages without redirecting them to relevant alternatives, you put a hitch in the way your page responds to search engine crawlers.
In the process of a site redesign, there will almost assuredly be pages you determine are no longer necessary. However, when there’s no redirection, your visitors simply land on a 404 error page and this is bad for a few reasons. First, it isn’t helpful to your site users. Second, it confuses your navigation, creating more dead space than usable pages as site visitors follow old links. And, most importantly, a myriad of 404 pages communicates a poor user experience to Google – and that’s a factor used in rankings.
Not Troubleshooting Before Going Live
When migrating from a development environment to a production environment, not everything is going to move over smoothly. In some cases, links will redirect in the wrong ways, leaving what worked in dev useless in prod. But if you don’t take precautions to figure out these challenges before going live, there are a lot of problem areas you’ll have to identify via trial and error.
Rather than launching a poor site experience, take time to use a crawler like Screaming Frog or SEMRush to explore every inch of your site. These tools are designed to identify issues in linking, from images to CSS files hidden in the HTML of your site.
If you’re rebuilding your website, there’s no such thing as being too careful. Without attention to detail and knowledge of the process, it’s easy to let a faulty site go in front of your customers. Not sure you’re hitting all the right notes? RivalMind can help. Get in touch today to make sure your next site is a hit with your customers – and the search engines.