It’s inevitable that there will come a time when you need to redesign your site. Maybe your look has become outdated. Maybe your brand has undergone a makeover. Maybe you have added new products or services to your line, and you need to update your site to reflect those.
As necessary as redesigning your site may be for your continued success, changing your site can also threaten your search engine ranking. Whether you are deleting old content, changing the location of your pages, or changing your domain entirely, these changes can cost you your hard-earned page rank and have you starting over from scratch trying to climb back up to the top.
Here are a few ways you can redesign your site and still maintain your page rank in the process:
Don’t Get Rid of Pages that are Ranking
These may seem obvious, but many web masters get overzealous in their redesign efforts and decide to scrap all the old site content and start fresh. This is a mistake. Eliminating pages that have attained some authority will strip away value from your site.
Identify the pages that have attained successful raking and be sure that you keep those pages in your new site. Don’t change the content or any of the page elements. Move them over to the new site as is.
Keep URLs Where Possible
Your page URLs are closely linked to your content. Google has crawled and ranked those pages by their URLs, and any links you have earned back to your site are tied to those URLs.
Wherever possible, don’t change the URLs to any of your pages in your redesign – especially those pages that contain important content (such as your home page or “about” page) or that are ranking well.
Create 301 Redirects for Popular Backlinks
Your links are an important part of your page rank. The more links you have, the better your ranking. If you change your URLs – or move to a new domain entirely – you lose those links and that ranking influence.
If you cannot help but change your URLs or move to another domain, ensure that you do not lose those important links by creating 301 redirects. That way, when someone visits the link, they will still be funneled back to your site. If you don’t want to do this for all of your old links, do an audit and create redirects for the most important backlinks you have garnered.
Add a Useful 404 Page
When users land on an outdated link that does not have a 301 redirect, make sure visitors still find their way to your site by adding a useful 404 page. This is an error page that will let visitors know that they have found your site, even though the link is broken. Include information on the page to lead them back to your site, such as links to important resource pages.
Create a New Site Map
When you change up your site, Google gets confused about its previous index of your site. Pages and elements are not where they were when your site was previously crawled. This can hurt your page ranking.
Help Google quickly index your new site by creating a clear site map. Your pages will be quickly indexed – hopefully without costing you any page rank.
Redesigning your site is an important part of maintaining a strong online presence for your small business, but you must take care to ensure that you don’t learn your hard-earned page rank in the process. Following these tips can help, as can consulting with AptoHQ to get an audit of your site. We offer affordable web design to help you grow your small business! Learn more about our web design services now.