I get asked this question a lot when building new websites for my clients. Your average Joe website designer will know how to design a site and put it live but they probably don’t know the correct way to launch a site to ensure any previous SEO work is kept in place.
Many SEO experts believe that rankings will fluctuate depending on your website set up and the new design. If you set up the new website with 301 redirects in place to forward on any traffic to your old domain you won’t disappear off Google.
Google actually makes the whole process easy for you and from within your Google Webmasters account you can tell Google that you are putting a new website live and inform them to crawl the new site.
If you are moving domains you can also tell them the new domain as long as you set up another GWM account for the new domain and verify it.
When I moved my website from “laurencecaro.co.uk” to “carocreative.uk” Google indexed my new site the same day because I gave them all of the information up-front.
This is very important in ensuring you lose no traffic going to your old pages or old domains. (if any) Make sure that your 301 redirects are in place and do make sure to make a good 404 error page. Finally – use a tool to find broken links and correct them with a 301 or delete the links.
I use brokenlinkcheck.com or deadlinkchecker.com.
Here is a list of 10 items you might want to consider when launching your new website to ensure your SERPs remain in place.
1) Site speed. You could be faster (better design, fewer big images) or you could be slower. Google to use site load times as an indicator when ranking websites. Use tools like Pingdom and Google Page Insights to ensure your site is loading quickly. You don’t want site visitors getting frustrated with a slow website and going elsewhere!
2) Site structure. If you had a WordPress site for instance that used to list all your post titles as H2 and your subheadings as H3 and now all your titles are H3, that is likely to at least somewhat affect your structure and yes, you may see some SERP changes. Try and keep your structure as similar as you can.
3) Code / text ratio/density whatever you want to call it. Most SEOs will tell you very straightforwardly that “keyword density” is dead. And yet we’ve tested that this is a moderation thing. If you have a word too many times, you get penalised. Too few and it’s just assumed to be one word among many, not a topic. The hint is to fall somewhere between say oh I don’t know, 2 and 30 for most pages, right?
4) Validation. Again, I’m being controversial and I understand many SEOs disagree with this one. However, you’re asking what “may” hurt – and if your site was 100% valid before (or close) and it has a lot of errors now, that would (in my opinion) affect your SEO.
5) Page age. Hurt or help – it’s hard to say. Google normally prefers fresh content so you may actually see some improvements on this. However, when Google has “seasoned in” your pages and you change them, they aren’t always 100% awesome at getting your rank exactly the same after any sort of change or even date update.
6) Page layout. Google quality guidelines say that “the page layout on the highest quality pages makes the main content immediately visible.” If your update makes more or less content show up “above the fold” as it were, you may see SERP changes for better or worse.
7) Navigation and breadcrumbs. If your old website had poor (or amazing) navigation and the new one is opposite, you could see SERP movement for sure. Google loves its breadcrumbs. If you had them and removed them, you could fall a bit. If you didn’t have them and you do now, you could rise. Breadcrumbs signal good user experience and Google rewards that.
8) Mobile optimisation. If the old site wasn’t responsive/mobile friendly and the new one is, that could affect your mobile SERPs (and possibly your desktop ones… depending on how its implemented.)
9) Google analytics. Google *must* use some data from Analytics – time on site, pages per visit, bounce rate, etc. .They seem to correlate VERY strongly with my “most visited pages” and those with the highest rank. I would suggest that if your user experience dramatically improves, your SERPs may as well.
10) Schema mark-up. If your new site structure is essentially remaining the same but if the new one allows for review stars, authorship markup, photo schema or whatnot, that could improve SERP position.
I hope that this brief overview helps. Will a website redesign hurt your SEO and SERP’s? It might if you don’t do it correctly.
Thanks for reading.