How to Relaunch Your Website and Not Lose Sleep
Considering when it is time to redesign a website is something that is constantly in the back of the minds of web developers and designers who are constantly seeking to improve aesthetics and functionality. It is not, however, simply a matter of layout and looks but also involves making sure that any search engine optimization that has occurred with previous designs is preserved. Without careful concern, a website redesign can end up making even the most popular websites impossible to find through traditional search processes. Below are several tips to help you get the most out of your re-branding while keeping your hard-earned search ranking.
Hide Test Pages
When you are testing new variations of the site, you will want to make sure that any debug or development pages are kept well out of view of search engines. If you fail to do this, then it is likely that search engines will pick up multiple versions of the same page and believe that you are duplicating content. This can negatively affect your search engine rankings, so please be sure to keep all test pages “offline” and out of the view of search engines for as long as possible. While you may need to create a separate directory for testing your new design, it is worth it to save the hassle of fighting to reclaim loss search recognition.
Avoid Content Duplication
If you have been pinging for SEO, the last thing you want is a penalty for distributing content that appears to be duplicated. While testing a new site design on a separate directory, it is wise to remove any and all content from any pages that might be picked up by search engines as being copied from your current site. If by any chance a search engine crawler does stumble across your test directory, you do not want it indexing content that is already on your functional site.
Optimize Loading Times
It has become common knowledge that Google and many other major search engines now factor in page loading times when ranking websites in search. If your website has been loading slowly and takes more than a second or two to fully display any given page, then this is a chance for you to re-code those pages and to reduce the number of files being referenced off-site. Not only will this help you in search engine rankings but it will also make your visitors a lot happier; nobody likes returning to a slow website.
Depending on how your initial URL configuration was setup, you may wish to take this opportunity to correct any inconsistencies or formatting problems that make site usage less convenient. By eliminating file extensions from URLs, you can be sure that things will work regardless of future revisions. Since you do not want to lose your SEO credibility, make sure to use a 301 redirect to send people who arrive at the old URL to the new URL. Those who are pinging for SEO cannot afford to lose PageRank or other rankings and shouldn’t have to – when these proper precautions are taken.