Redesign Best Practices: How to Keep Current Positions

When it comes to compromising current search engine positions, website redesigns have a dour reputation that is second only to changing a site’s domain name.

The good news is that, unlike switching over to a new domain name, a redesign doesn’t have to go hand-on-hand with a loss of positions. In fact, done right, a redesign should be your vehicle towards making your positions even better than ever. Here are a few key tips:

1. If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
Taking the time to analyze your site’s current SEO factors is an often overlooked but key element. Ask yourself, “What is contributing to my current positions? Which pages are currently placing in SERPs, and why?”

Whether it’s well-written title tags and copy or search engine-friendly URLs, pay attention to what is contributing to your current positions, and be sure to carry over all of those best practices to the new site.

2. URL Guidelines
Redesigning your site doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to redo your entire URL structure. Don’t do something awful like renaming your file extensions from. hmtl to .htm, for example. If a page has been positioning for a long time in the SERPs, and it is still relevant to the current site, then try to keep it on.

Sometimes, it’s inevitable that your URLs will need to be rewritten. In fact, you may even *want* to rewrite your URLs if they currently consist of a bunch of dynamic gunk. The point is that if you’re going to go through a redesign, it’s worth your while to take the time to switch to a search engine-friendly URL structure.

If you do happen to be migrating to a new system that is generating unsightly, dynamic URLs, then work with your team on strategies to clean them up, such as with ISAPI rewrites.

3. Navigate with Care, and Don’t Fall for Anything Flashy
Use flash sparingly. Creatively embed it within pages, instead of putting the entire site in flash, and for God’s sake, please don’t put your navigation in Flash, JavaScript, or anything else that blocks off search engine spiders.

Be sure that you present a friendly site navigation that spiders are able to follow. Consider a CSS-based navigation. Similarly, make sure your design team doesn’t get too overzealous with putting all your site text within images. Because then, your text will be invisible to spiders.

4. Use 301 Redirects
Have a plan in place prior to golive to place 301 redirects (on a page-by-page level) to point all old URLs to their new respective versions.

5. Implement SEO & Usability Best Practices
A website redesign presents an excellent opportunity for making your site more search engine friendly and also more usable. SEO isn’t just about positions – it’s also about usability and driving conversions. So whether you plan to improve your site’s linking structure or conversion potential, seize the day – and take the time to do it right.