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Redesigning your website?  Don’t tank your rankings!

If you’ve been running a website or online portal for some time now, the temptation to opt for a completely new redesign off the bat may be hard to overcome – particularly as the web around us evolves in functionality as well as in style.  Websites are now expected to be more flexible and responsive to the devices that potentially use them – meaning that we have to be smarter about the code that we use for our web pages to ensure that they can be ‘poured’ into the smartphones and tablets that are increasingly being used to surf the internet.

But What About SEO?

The biggest factor to think about when retaining your website, particularly if you have done well to cultivate a considerable following via Google’s rankings, is how your Search Engine Optimisation will be affected.  Too many times even the most professional of web designers or public services have in fact done themselves a disservice by overwriting a perfectly acceptable set of keywords and rich, engaging content – either by replacing text altogether, deleting certain areas of their website or making other large changes to behind-the-scenes code such as meta data and tags.

Google analytics of sessions going down due to a website re-design

Be Wary of Flash

While Flash technology may have been fantastic years ago for helping websites offer contemporary user engagement, it is largely becoming an outdated form of visual design – not just because it has been doing the rounds for so long, but because it is like Teflon to SEO – while you can technically optimise a Flash-based website, the technology is becoming less and less sought-after due to loading times and compatibility issues.  Apple devices, which make up a large chunk of smartphones and tablets used to browse the internet, simply cannot use Flash data at all – meaning that using it as the basis of your website, particularly if you are moving from a text-based page to one with plenty of fun Flash visuals and interfaces – will likely cut you out from a sizeable chunk of your potential audience.

Be Responsive

Similarly, as we have already mentioned, ignoring the trend that web browsing is moving towards mobile devices could be a risky move.  If your website doesn’t at least supply a ‘mobile version’, Google will now opt to rank you on that basis – meaning that the more responsive, mobile-friendly and open to other devices your website is, the kinder the big G will be to ranking you more favourably.  Believe it or not, the days of landscape web pages are over – and any sites still using such a design that remains user-unfriendly for mobiles will likely suffer in the years to come as browsing behaviour continues to swing in this direction.

Be Kind to Your Content

We’ve all been there – for many of us, a complete redesign means getting rid of everything and starting from fresh – we’ve done it with interior design, our  appearance, and it’s likely that many of us would do the same with our websites.  Here’s the catch – it really isn’t worth it – especially if you already have working keywords and organic SEO already doing you a service in helping you get seen by Google.  While change can be positive and in some cases necessary, it’s often a good idea to retain any SEO-rich organic content you already have written so that your current level of engagement and search engine success can be carried over to your new website.

Go Meta

Meta tags and descriptions are just as important as an organic use of keywords when it comes to SEO, and this can be the more complex side of optimisation if you are new to the field.  Meta tags and descriptions may not appear to the web user but they are used in spades by Google’s web crawlers, meaning that they must remain intact if you are moving your online presence to a new website, or if you are planning an entirely new redesign.  There have been horror stories of website SEO going completely off the boil after even the slightest meta data failed to be ported over during a redesign or revamp – meaning that to retain Google’s handle on your website, you need to dig deep and be careful with what you choose to remove.

How Quickly Can My SEO Be Affected?

Believe it or not, the results can be almost instantaneous depending how fast Google re-crawl your website.  If you have made a mistake during porting over or redesigning, you will do well to rectify the situation as soon as you notice it – unless you can avoid making such mistakes at all.  SEO is not something that can take days or weeks to be picked up on – Google moves in efficient ways and can therefore put you right back where you started if only one or two keywords or meta tags have fallen by the wayside.  Even altering slight text or code could shatter your website’s engagement in a matter of seconds.


What Should I Do?

We’re not here to scaremonger – far from it!  The moral of the story is to think carefully about what you want and need from your website.  If you are already engaging well with many regular visitors and this is largely thanks to traffic from Google, there is a huge chance that your SEO is working like a charm – and if you want or need to make any design changes, you’ll need to be extremely careful in what you touch and what you leave the same.

The best option in any case of web redesign is to consult a firm that has years of experience in protecting and generating superb SEO for a wide range of clients with proven results.  Many web designers focus too carefully on the visual aspect and sadly do not have the requisite focus upon SEO that your website will need to survive in Google’s wilderness.  SEO CoPilot will happily consult with you on your existing website and help you retain your readership and effectiveness while providing a whole new look – as well as the responsiveness to new devices as and when they are released!

For more information on how we can make your existing website sing, dance and retain interest you’ve built up over the years, call us today on 01246 540869 or fill out our web form at your convenience. 

Guy Tomlinson

Guy Tomlinson is the owner and founder of SEO CoPilot Ltd. As an organic SEO specialist and SEO trainer with over 15 years of experience, he has the knowledge when it comes to helping small businesses succeed online – and shares his expertise through SEO CoPilot’s blog (mentioned in Top SEO Blogs to Follow). Follow Guy’s profile on LinkedIn for more SEO Tips!
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