If your website is more than a few years old, it is probably time it was replaced, or at least, updated. The web has changed considerably in the last few years and any site built pre-2012 is not going to perform well across all platforms, and this will not only put off customers, but also hinder your digital marketing attempts.
We have been involved in many website designs over the years, acting as an SEO consultant, advising best practice to web developers, as well as building new WordPress websites in-house. Even the best web developers make a few mistakes when launching a new website, so today we will share our tips on how to ensure that a website rebuild does not damage your SEO.
Ensure All Pages Are Properly Redirected
One of the biggest problems we see when a website is rebuilt is that old URLs, which had previously ranked well in Google, are removed, resulting in a 404 Page Not Found error message. Many people assume that the only important page, in terms of SEO, is the homepage, but this is definitely not the case. All pages are important, especially those that have been linked to from other websites.
There was a time that a redirect “leaked” some of the PageRank that a link gave, which mean major site designs would result in serious losses in ranking. PageRank dilution used to cause serious problems for businesses and many websites have reported experiencing a serious drop in organic search traffic following major site updates. However, Google has recently updated its policy on redirects. John Mu, who works in the Google search team, has confirmed that 301 redirects will pass all the PageRank value. This is great news for businesses who are about to rebuild their site.
It is thought that one of the reasons for this change was to ensure that websites that convert to HTTPS (secure servers) are not negatively impacted. Also, many businesses that built dedicated mobile sites, either on a mobile subdomain or a .mobi website, will not lose rankings if they decide to consolidate their websites onto a single, responsive platform.
Don’t Forget Your Homepage URL
Sometimes the most important page is overlooked in a website restructure. It is important to ensure that your homepage is also redirected if the URL changes. Sometimes, a website redesign sees certain elements being removed, such as the www subdomain, or an index.html (or index.php, index.asp) being removed completely. Any changes to the homepage URL will have a negative effect on the site’s SEO if not redirected.
Maintaining good rankings relies on more than just ensuring there are no 404 pages. Another common problem we see is the removal of large amounts of web copy. For example, a content-rich product or service page gets replaced with a stylish banner or corporate video. While the change may be very positive in terms of design and usability, a sudden loss of vital written content will often result in Google re-evaluating the page, and usually downgrading it in search.
As well as the main copy on the page, other factors can negatively affect ranking. A change to metatag titles and H1 headers will also have an almost immediate negative effect, especially if it coincides with a URL change.
Onsite content is very important in search – the words on a page are still the most important way to tell Google what a page is about. Although a mobile-friendly design and quality links are essential to good SEO, without the written content, Google has very little to go on to rank a page properly.
Keep It Simple
Although there are many fun new features that can be added to a website, it is really important to keep design simple. This will help to ensure that your site is relatively future-proof – websites that implemented Flash 10 years ago won’t work on many mobile devices, whereas more basic html websites will still load OK, even if they are a little harder to read than a modern responsive site.
The WordPress websites we build follow the latest design best practices to ensure that they are mobile friendly and include the latest HTML code to give optimal SEO performance. Our technical SEO team also ensures that site updates do not result in past SEO being lost by thoroughly testing the new site. If you are planning to upgrade your website, contact Freelance SEO Essex today to discuss how it can be done without any negative impact on your search positions.