When redesigning your website, SEO should be the number one consideration.  Unless, of course, you never want anyone to find it.  If you’re comfortable with that, ignore the SEO.  For everyone else, here’s a guide to redesigning a website without affecting SEO.

Step 1: Make sure you have all of your pages

Use a plugin like Yoast SEO or something similar to download the structure of the website from top to bottom.  When you rebuild the site, a lot of things structurally will change, and you want to make sure that all of that important SEO information makes it back into the site.

Step 2: Use a temporary URL

Holy cow, don’t rebuild the site on your current site.  That’s a repair, and should only be for small fixes.  If you are building the site again from scratch, you will break things and cause giant hassles for your everyday users and customers.  Your forms will break, images will disappear and links will fail.  Don’t alienate your current customers during the rebuild.

Step 3: test to break

Now that you have a site, make sure it works.  Stress test it, check your links and make sure you have a working website.  If not, you will run into broken links and issues with the SEO.

Step 4: 301 redirects

The next step is 301 redirects that handle the move. If you have an “About Us” page on the old website, and its URL was “www.yourwebsite.com/aboutus.html” and during the redesign, the page is now “www.yourwebsite.com/about-us.html”, you need a 301 redirect to make sure that the URL works and any links you have established are still valid and give you SEO credit.

Incorrectly done, this results in 404 errors and customers missing your content.  301 redirects tell Google where the page has moved and will not penalize you for your efforts.

Using the .htaccess file to add the redirects looks like this:

Redirect 301 /oldwebsite http://yoursite.com/new-url

Note: This step is very important, and you should do it no matter what.

Step 5: movin’ on up to the new site

Once everything is finalized, both design and redirection, it is time for you to switch to the new website. You can also make an incremental change in stages if your website is big.