What does a redesign or replatform (i.e. moving your site from one web platform to another) have to do with damaging your brand? After all, brands undertake these sorts of things so they can grow their brands long-term, right? Yes! They are wonderful for your brand long-term. It’s a chance to refresh your brand image, take advantage of new functionality, enrich the user experience, be mobile-first, add tools to support store traffic for your retailers, and grow long-term revenue.
Except, these things also affect your brands’s organic search (SEO) rankings and if you’re not very careful and work SEO into your project roadmap, you can tank your rankings. And if you’re not on page 1, your competitors will be there scooping up all that market share till you pop back to your rightful place, dominating that search results page.
So, what do you need to know now in order to protect your market share?
Ideally, you’ve planned for the budget to bring on an SEO expert that navigates you and your development team through these choppy waters. But if you don’t have the budget or the project is already underway, begin now with this step by step process.
Review & Give Feedback Early. Before your team begins building or redesigning pages, they should create what’s called a wireframe. Wireframes are layouts of each of the key pages on your site - essentially the template that will then create your site. Review the wireframes for the homepage, your category page, your product page, and your content page. In these wireframes you want to ensure you have breadcrumb navigation, content blocks for well-SEO’d and keyword-text, slots for product reviews, a navigation structure that is text-based and hierarchical. Now is your best chance to work these key SEO elements into your updated site. Speak up and push hard at this stage.
Audit Your Content. Sit with your content teams and decide which content is making the cut to the new version of the site, and which you are ditching. Consult your analytics to ensure any content that drives SEO traffic (and of course revenue) does not get cut.
Redirect Users. Plan out your URL redirects. This item alone can tank your results. For any pages that aren’t making it to the new version of the site, you will need to 301 redirect those old URLs to the new next-most-relevant deep page on your site. This will also keep return visitors on your site that bookmarked old URLs, are coming from old email marketing campaigns, or are following links from blogs, press, affiliates, etc. Do not simply redirect all the old URLs to your homepage. If you do this, your deeper pages will lose Page Authority and will drop in the rankings. Take the time to map out your redirects carefully.
Test. Once your site is in a staging environment for you to begin playing with, make sure all the feedback from step 1 is incorporated into this version. You will also want to make sure all your well-SEO’d page titles, meta descriptions and on-page text made it over to the new version of your site. If they didn’t, get those in place now. Finally, test your robots.txt file and work with your developer to make sure what goes live is exactly what you want to go live. It’s rare, but on occasion I’ve seen sites push live a version of their robots.txt file that disallows the entire site, meaning you’re now telling Google to ignore your site. Your competitors will looooove that!
Go live. Once your updated site goes live, take a moment to celebrate! And then test, QA, watch the data, and plan to be submitting updates and fixes to your developers. Launch day, the day after, and the following 30 days are a key time to stay on top of your SEO rankings, triage and fix whatever issues cause rankings to drop, and make sure it’s converting all that great SEO traffic you should be getting.
There are so many nuances in these 5 steps. To help you navigate the waters, download our free Replatforming/Redesigning SEO Checklist.