Any website redesign involves at least a small amount of SEO risk. The reason for this is simple—during a redesign, your website changes, and when your website changes, the way search engines see your website also changes. In most cases, from an SEO standpoint, this is both a negative thing and a positive thing. A redesign allows problems to be fixed, improving site performance, but it also forces search engines to reexamine and reevaluate your website, which can lead to changes in your site's search placement. Keep these three points in mind.
1. You will likely see a small drop in your rankings for some of your keywords. This drop will likely be temporary and fairly minor. Some pages, however, may not return to their peak positions. Other pages may rank higher than ever. Again, change is the only constant.
2. At Blazonco, we take all possible steps to preserve and even improve upon your current placement during the redesign, including the use of 301 redirects where needed. Proper usage of 301 redirects can mitigate most if not all potential negative effects and can set your new site up to rank well.
3. In the vast majority of cases, the benefits of a redesign far outweigh any risks that may arise. The opportunity to incorporate an updated user interface while improving internal linking and conversion elements can make a redesign a highly beneficial business decision.
The largest SEO issue you'll face when creating a new website is that the URL structure of the new site will likely differ from the URL structure of the old site. This can cause two problems.
First, as mentioned above, the placement of your site's pages in search results may change. As a result of these changes, the traffic your website receives via search engines due to this placement may change. When URLs are restructured during a site redesign, pages can disappear from Google's index, resulting in a loss of rank and traffic.
Let's say, for example, that Google has indexed the following page of an example website.
This page ranks well in the search results for several important keywords. But when the company redesigns their website, the URL structure changes, and the page above moves to the following address.
The URLs of the two pages are different, even though the content and information contained on those pages may be the same. Because Google has not yet crawled this new URL, it hasn't added this URL to its index. Of course, the old URL now leads to a nonexistent page, resulting in a 404 error, and when Google sees this, it concludes that the page is gone and drops the old URL from its index. With the new page not yet crawled and the old page now gone from search results, the site is no longer ranked for those important keywords and is no longer receiving the traffic it used to receive.
The solution is to use 301 redirects to point all the old URLs to the corresponding new URLs. This type of redirect informs Google that the new page is specifically intended to replace the old page, and as a result, Google will pass the authority of the old page to the new page, allowing the page to rank.
The second problem, from an SEO perspective, has to do with backlinks. Backlinks are links on other websites that point back to specific pages on your website. When pages on your site are moved to new URLs during a redesign, these links will continue to point to the old URLs, rendering them useless—anyone who clicks one of these links will get a 404 error. These links will no longer help visitors reach your site, and they will no longer carry SEO value. Depending on the number and quality of links pointing to a website before a redesign, this can be a serious problem.
Thankfully, the solution to this problem is the same as the solution to the first problem—use 301 redirects to point all old URLs to their corresponding new URLs. If this is done, the links will likely still lose a small amount of power, but the overall value will remain much the same, and traffic from these links will not be affected.
At first glance, it may seem that redesigning a website can have significant negative consequences from an SEO standpoint. It's true that unless the right steps are taken, problems can arise. But in reality, the positive consequences are often far greater.
Site architecture is a major SEO factor. Often, the sites that will benefit most from a redesign are those with poor architecture, including issues like orphan pages, dead internal links, duplicate content, outdated code, and others. Upgrading to a clean, modern structure can provide a major SEO boost. In addition, sites that are more visually appealing and easily navigable are more likely to gain traction across social media channels, and social traction is becoming an important SEO ranking factor. Adding to or improving upon the content of your site, a step often taken during a redesign, can have significant SEO benefits as well.
If you're considering a website redesign, you know that the primary reason to get a new website isn't to boost your SEO. It really has more to do with improving your brand image, strengthening your messaging, and incorporating more advanced functionality. While a redesign does carry some SEO risk, it can actually open the door to improved search engine performance and placement.