Redesigning a website can, and should be, an exciting endeavor. Perhaps the redesign is to reflect a new business direction or a new brand aesthetic. Maybe you saw your competition’s new site, and felt the pressure to deliver something new to your users or customers. Maybe you’re just sick of your current website, and enjoy a project.
Below, I will outline steps that should be taken to ensure that your current optimization efforts don’t get bungled, or how to course correct, when rebuilding or redesigning your website.
Table Of Contents
Survey The Land
It’s important to know how search engines view your site before going into a redesign project. This is true of a site that is already performing well, because you won’t want to mess with a good thing. Meaning, if your site is performing awesomely, you won’t want to screw that up with a sloppy redesign.
On the other hand, if you are redesigning mainly to make SEO gains, not just aesthetic ones, taking into account what search engines like Google are telling you about your site, is valuable.
Google Search Console
if your site isn’t connected to Google Search Console or Google Analytics. I’m assuming that most people reading this will have their site connected to these free services if you’re reading this article.
In Search Console, click the “coverage" tab. Explore this area to see what pages are actually indexed and which are not. For pages that are on your xml.sitemap, but aren’t indexed, are these pages you could improve? Are they not indexed because the content is thin, or because the content is too similar to another page.
Next, click the “performance" tab. It’s important to have a grasp of what search terms your site is getting impressions with, and what queries are garnering clicks to your site. Write down a list of search terms with high impressions, but few clicks. These search terms can come in handy, especially since you’ll most likely be touching every page throughout the redesign process and will have an opportunity to fine tune your content, page titles, etc.
Next click the “mobile usability", “page experience", and “core web vitals" tabs. Take note of any warnings you find in here, as these are hints at ways to let Google know, because remedied, you take user experience seriously. Sites with lower traffic volume might see something along the lines of “Not Enough Data". If this is the case, don’t worry, there are other ways of sussing out this data.
Next, go into your Google Analytics account. I’m going to assume that your site is connected to a Universal Google Analytics account. Google Analytics 4 is somewhat new, and while it reveals compelling interaction data, most people will likely have legacy accounts.
The area I would suggest taking data points from is the “behavior" tab. Inside, the “behavior flow" area can be a great tool to visualize where people are landing and leaving. Maybe you see a page that gets more traffic than you thought it was. A common page I see users consistently viewing that doesn’t always get much design love is the “about" page. The “landing pages" and “exit pages" sections offer a more concise, list-style version of the “behavior flow" area. The idea is to simply get familiar with how users and search engines are assessing and interacting with your site and use
Hit The SERPS
Moving on, head to Google and enter into the search bar “site:yoursite.com". The result will be a list of every page Google has indexed from your domain. If you are connected to Search Console, you already have access to this information, but this exercise offers new information: page titles and meta descriptions.
It’s not uncommon for Google to scrap page titles, and replace them with one they see more fit for that page. If you see this happening, it can give you insight into how search bots assess your page. This is more useful information to have when redesigning, as you’ll want to address these issues as they arise before submitting your site for re-indexation.
is a tool built into Chrome Developer tools. This tool can give a quick insight to key performance and SEO factors that are good to be aware of when going into the redesign/rebuild process.
Go to either your homepage, or any other page that you feel is typical of your website, or that has high SEO value/lots of traffic, and right click. At the very bottom, click “inspect". Once the inspector opens, click “Lighthouse" on the top navigation. Once inside, check any boxes you’d like, though I would say SEO, performance, and accessibility will yield the most pertinent results when redesigning your website. Next, choose mobile or desktop, but do both by the end.
Take a look at your scores, and drill down into the explanations thereof to get a page by page insight into these core metrics. Don’t let a low SEO score freak you out, as the tool will tell you
These checks ensure that your page is following basic search engine optimization advice. There are many additional factors Lighthouse does not score here that may affect your search ranking, including performance on
This mainly means that the SEO is being very nitpicky with HTML semantics, but does not take into consideration the quality of content. The information is still good to have when trying to get a well-rounded overview of key technical aspects of your site.
Considerations when redesigning your website for SEO
Now that you have an understanding of how search engines are parsing your website, you can go into your redesign with a list of do’s and don’ts.
- Do you have pages that are performing well AND the page title hasn’t been changed by Google? DON’T mess with it, other than applying your new design!
- Have you noticed lots of traffic clicking on a page that you haven’t given much love to? DO mess with it! Add more content, add more images, reassess the title and meta, etc..
- Did you see a large amount of traffic exiting your site from a specific page?DO mess with it!
- Is there a call to action that garners lots of conversions?DON’T mess with it!
- Did you notice a handful of pages that Google was editing the titles of? Google is gonna Google, but take a look at those pages to see if the content reflects the keyword you were intending that page to be about.
Site Structure/Page Slugs
During a redesign is a great time to address the url structure of your site. Over time, as more pages and sections are added to your website, your site structure can become smeared. The way your pages are organized is one of the main signals that search engines use to gain insight into your website. Import your sitemap into a spreadsheet and look at the way your site is laid out. Are some urls, 3, 4, 5 levels deep? That’s too deep. Reorganize your pages to not be more than three levels deep, max. Can some pages be combined? Does it make sense to add an entire new section?
After you take the structure into consideration, start to look at the individual page slugs. Are they as short and descriptive as possible? If not, now would be a good time to change them to something shorter and sweeter. Google loves a tidy, descriptive url.
Make sure to keep track of all of the structural changes you’ve made for when it comes time to issue 301 redirects. 301’s do not affect SEO, but a more concise structure and urls do affect your SEO - positivity!
How can I improve SEO on a page level?
When redesigning at the page level, you want to focus around conciseness and interlinking. Make sure that each page has a clear subject and that the keywords for that page match the subject. If you aren’t already using heading tags, now is a good time to reorganize your content around them. Also, if the content is too thin, definitely consider re-writing or adding depth to the information you’re presenting. Look for any opportunity within the content to link to related pages on your site. Add relevant images if there aren’t any. If your site isn’t using breadcrumbs, you need to add them. If you find that the content serves a very similar purpose to another page on your site, consider merging the pages. And as always, make sure you check the mobile experience of your pages.
- Reassess page-level keywords
- Review heading tags
- Enrich and add depth to thin content
- Look for interlinking opportunities to relevant pages on your site
- Optimize images
- Add backlink/breadcrumbs
- Review mobile experience
SEO For Your Blog Posts
You don’t want all your well intentioned blog posts to get lost in the blackhole that is the internet, do you? When redesigning your website, take the time to SEO your blog area to make sure your articles get a fair shake on search engines.
Search engines, like Google, are really honing in on making sure that content on websites can be attributed to a creator or author. They want someone to be responsible for the words on your pages. This is for a couple of reasons. One, the web is full of lies. If you are transparent and link to an author page, this shows Google that you aren’t afraid to own up to your content. On the other hand, it could force creators to rethink the utility of the content they put out. Either way, it helps to fill results pages with more relevant, fully-formed ideas. So if you do not already have author pages set up, take the time to do so and link articles/content to the appropriate author, with a rel="author" in the anchor tag.
If you’re using WordPress’s Yoast plugin, you should
be in good shape, though I have seen situations where people were not in good shape, even when using Yoast. Either way, it would be good to double check that you are in fact implementing schema markup on your articles and blogs. If you are taking the time to research and author long blogs, you want to take the time to communicate the content on a technical level, because it’s not just Google using this information to catalog pages, but lots of aggregators will scrape this data as well, to possibly feature your work.
Post Website Redesign Actions
Good job! You’ve successfully redesigned your website to give you users an updated experience, while taking steps to minimize, or improve, your SEO. There are a few actions to take after your launch to help make sure that your efforts weren’t in vain.
- Run your new site though the Screaming Frog tool to help uncover basic errors such as dead link or duplicate heading tag, and even page title and meta description misses.
- Make sure to issue 301 redirects to address any url structure changes
- Login to your Search Console account and upload a new copy of your xml sitemap
- Login to your Google Analytics account and make an annotation on the timeline for when your redesign launched.
- Write a blog post informing users of your new look! (optional.,but hey, doesn’t hurt)
Redesigning your website to include all the newest UX/UI gizmos should be exciting, hopefully this article will help you feel better about making adjustments without sacrificing all of your hard-earned traffic.