Your organization has an awesome website that ranks highly, engages visitor, and produces leads. Your marketing team has put a ton of work into the site over time, creating compelling content, logical navigation, and powerful search engine optimization (SEO), building up domain authority.
But it’s time for a refresh. The design is looking a bit outdated, the content could use a refresh, and there are new capabilities you’d like to implement that are much easier to build in than to add on. What do you need to do to make sure all of your past SEO work carries over to the new site—that you don’t lose any of those high positions for valuable keyword phrases and the growing stream of relevant search traffic?
A website relaunch is an exciting time. It provides an opportunity to rethink and revise the graphic design, content, visitor experience, and technical structure of the site.
It also offers the chance to build upon your historical SEO success, retaining the content and features that are already driving organic search traffic while taking advantage of the occasion to make additional improvements.
Here’s a nine-step guide to help sustain and build upon your SEO progress and past success.
How to Maintain SEO During a Website Redesign
When your new, redesigned website launches, Google and other search engines will see it as…well, a new website. Failing to plan for how to maintain the benefits of your past SEO efforts can mean losing some of your coveted high rankings and plunging organic search traffic. Here are nine steps to retain your SEO benefits.
- Scan the current website to create a list of all indexable pages (URLs) prior to the relaunch. There are numerous tools available to do this. For example, XML-Sitemaps.com is a free tool that works well for small websites with just a few hundred pages. Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a moderately priced tool that works well for larger sites with 500+ pages.
- Before starting work on the new site, conduct a pageview analysis. Consider removing pages with zero or no visits over the past 6-12 months (with rare exceptions, it’s a waste of time to migrate outdated pages with no visits or SEO value). Make sure to redirect any removed URLs to relevant active pages.
- To the extent possible, retain all current page URLs. In cases where URLs need to be changed, make sure they are keyword-optimized for search (for example, not webbiquity.com/page_349 but something more like webbiquity.com/about/search-engine-optimization-seo/).
- Make sure any changed URLs are properly redirected to the corresponding new URLs on the redesigned site. For WordPress sites, you can simply use a plugin such as Redirection. For other content management systems, search for how to create 301 redirects on your specific platform.
- Make sure all existing meta tags carry over to the new pages. For WordPress sites, as long as the same SEO plugin (e.g., Yoast, All In One SEO, Rank Math, etc.) is being used, this should be seamless, but it’s vital to check. For other platforms, consult your system technical expert.
- Before switching over to the new site, make sure any tracking codes installed (e.g., LinkedIn Insight Tag, GA4, and codes from other analytics platforms) are duplicated on the new website, so there is no historical data lost or interruption in data gathering. Check GA4 and your other analytics tools within 24 hours of switchover to assure data collection is working properly.
- Make sure PDFs and other non-page files are excluded from search or stored in directories that are excluded from search, so they don’t cause cannibalization issues.
- Within 30 days of the relaunch, conduct a detailed SEO audit to identify any broken links, content issues, or technical errors.
- Monitor changes in ranking and search traffic (done as part of monthly reporting) and diagnose the reasons behind any major changes.
How to Find SEO Enhancement Opportunities
Ideally, your newly relaunched website should give you opportunities to improve, not just maintain, your past SEO success.
Make sure all of your top-level pages (that is, every page that is only one click away from the home page) are optimized for popular, highly relevant keyword phrases (preferably with transactional or commercial intent). Optimize the copy on these pages as well as all elements of on-page SEO.
Review your new site content plan for any thin-content pages. Generally, any page you’d like to rank in search should contain at least 300 words. Using accordion design is one way to get a lot of content on a page without it appearing too content-heavy.
Finally, make sure to avoid cannibalization—situations where you have two or more pages on your site competing in search for the same keyword phrase. If you’ve planned out your keyword strategy carefully, this shouldn’t be an issue. But you can double-check this using Semrush or almost any SEO tool suite.
It’s vital to keep your website up to date. Periodically, that can mean a complete redesign and relaunch. To maintain the benefits of all the work your team has put into SEO, it’s essential to keep search optimization in mind when developing your new site and taking the right steps to protect your rankings.
This includes preserving or re-optimizing page URLs, removing low-value / low-traffic pages, and creating 301 redirects for any removed or changed pages.
A redesign also provides the opportunity to enhance your website SEO, through internal linking as well as content and technical enhancements.