At some point, a website redesign is necessary. It can be a very scary thing and care needs to be taken to preserve or further your current sites optimization and keyword rankings. But with some planning and thoughtfulness, hurdles can be avoided. With all of the SEO best practices in place, once the site is launched, you’ll be able to focus on content marketing without having to struggle to fit SEO within it. Rather, a good part of the SEO can take a back seat to the content marketing.
Here are 5 tips to help with SEO during a website redesign.
1. Keep track of your URLs
As you prune content and add new pages, make sure to keep track of the URLs that won’t make it to the redesigned site. Aspart of the redesign launch, you’ll want to make sure that you set up redirects of these URLs. This passes any link value the pages might have. Make sure to redirect them to targeted pages that reflect similar content. Also, any redirect should always be a 301 redirect.
2. h1 and h2 tags
Heading tags still provide value to on page SEO and should not be forgotten. There should only ever be one h1 tag per page. Typically this is the title or main headline. It should be unique for the page and not duplicated across the site. As long as there is a chance to build from the ground up, you might as well take advantage of everything you can, so setup h2 tags as subheading to be used under the heading or to break up pieces of content within a page. You can have as many as you want per page, but they should still be within the body of the content. The rest of the heading tags carry less SEO value but can be utilized in the same manner.
3. Canonical Tags
Canonical tags are used mostly when dynamic links create a set of pages with different URLs but the same content. Search engines then end up indexing different URLs that are actually the same page. Once that happens, there are duplicate content issues. Whenever possible, use URL rewriting to help eliminate this problem (there is more on that below). But it isn’t always possible to have URL rewrites for all kinds of dynamic pages. Sometime it’s necessary to reorder a page dynamically, for example based on color or size, and a new URL is always a possibility in that kind of situation. When that happens the canonical tag can be utilized. The canonical tag will set the preferred version of a page within a set of pages with very similar content. That way we can set the preferred URL for what is essentially the same content across multiple URLs.
4. Beta sites and SEO
Launching a beta site during a redesign is a great idea and there are a lot of benefits from having one. However, letting the search engines index that content can be a nightmare. If there’s content carried over from the old site, duplicate content is definitely an issue. Canonical tags can help with that so you can start with them, but once the site isn’t in beta anymore they’ll have to be modified or come off. Also, as users find your site they will spread links, especially if the redesign is good. Once the beta site comes down, all of those links will be broke. The only option there is to do redirects. Lastly, but potentially the most important question is if the beta site should show up in SERPs? If you don’t want you’re site in the SERPs then pretty much the only option is a robots.txt that prevents the search engines from crawling the site. With the robots.txt preventing any crawling on the beta site, you don’t have to worry about any duplicate content issues either. However, you also don’t get any insight into how the new pages will be crawled and indexed.
5. URL Rewrites
As I’ve already mentioned, dynamic links can cause some big headaches. It’s always best to rewrite these dynamic URLs with vanity URLs that resemble subfolders on static pages. It’s nice because it’s easier for the user to remember the URL, it’s a great way to get some keywords into URLs, and the Search Engines don’t have any issues with them. Achieving a balance like that is some good SEO.
Taking care of these items will make for a great SEO head start for any web design. Of course, there are tons of other SEO best practices to keep track of and this only covers a small amount of necessary SEO items. Check out our other blog articles on SEO for more tips or contact us today for help.