During the redesign process of a website, there are many small changes that can ultimately affect the traffic of the new site. The key is to identify any changes that might break SEO, or changes that might affect the way the site looks to search engine spiders ahead of time to avoid traffic drops. In the end, we want the site to look fresh and new while still getting the same traffic, or more, as the old design.
At Zivtech, we look at many factors in the planning phase of a website redesign project and try to identify those that could cause drops in traffic after the new design is launched. Once these have been identified, we ensure all of these tasks have been completed before launch. Let’s take a look at some of these factors and how to avoid traffic drops on your next website redesign project.
We typically build sites with Drupal, so the Metatag module handles much of the meta tag configuration and display on the site. If you aren’t using Drupal though, there could be some changes to your front-end design that could affect your meta tags and confuse search engine spiders. You’ll need to make sure that all of your pages have meta tags and that there aren’t any duplicates.
Broken links are a huge problem during website redesigns. This could be a result of changes in the menu structure or in path structures for content types. Broken links mean that users and search engines can’t find the pages they’re looking for, which can really wreak havoc on your site traffic statistics.
To avoid broken links in Drupal, we can use the Link checker module, but there are also third party tools that can be used for non-Drupal sites. Google Search Console provides some additional tools to identify broken links and 404 pages too.
Broken redirects or missing redirects to new URLs are also a big problem on site redesigns. These typically happen due to changes in URL patterns or menu structures. The Redirect module in Drupal provides an interface to add redirects for your pages without any coding experience. Non-Drupal sites can use .htaccess files or redirect statements in their web server configuration to ensure that all URLs that are changing have proper 301 redirects.
As URLs are changed on your site during a redesign, you’ll want to ensure that the XML sitemap has updated URLs that match the new ones. The XML sitemap module handles this for us on a Drupal site.
If you aren’t running Drupal, a plugin for your CMS may handle this, or you’ll need to generate a new sitemap using third party tools. Once this has been completed, you can log in to Google Search Console and resubmit your sitemap for indexing.
If you forget to place your Google Analytics tracking code in your new site’s markup before launch, you can end up in the dark when it comes to traffic fluctuations. The Google Analytics module handles the placement of this tracking code on a Drupal website, and even provides a status warning on the Drupal status page if the tracking ID has not been configured yet.
Those who aren’t using Drupal should follow the instructions provided by Google Analytics to place the code snippet in their site’s markup, or use a plugin provided by their CMS of choice. With the Google Analytics tracking code in place, your organization can get a much better overview of how your site performs after the redesign launches. It’s much easier to track your successes or failures in your redesign if you were already running Google Analytics, but a relaunch is a great time to start using it too.
While the factors in this post are some of the most important that we look at during a site redesign project at Zivtech, each project is unique and could require additional changes to your site to ensure you avoid traffic drops after launching your new design.
Overall, you want to identify any changes that could affect URLs, meta data, and even content structure that search engine spiders or your visitors might be confused about. Even small changes or a missing meta tag can affect your search engine rankings, which can lead to traffic drops. Do your future self a favor and make a list of the individual factors that could affect your site. Then ensure that list is completed before calling your next website redesign a success.