Will redesigning my website harm my SEO?

Will redesigning my website harm my SEO?

Will redesigning my website harm my SEO?  That’s a valid question – after all, we don’t want to go to the time & trouble of redesigning a website if it ends up harming our Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Or do we?

Let’s start by asking ourselves some basic questions:

  • What do we mean by SEO?
  • How are we currently assessing the SEO health of our existing site?
  • What keywords are we currently optimising for?
  • How are we ranking for those chosen keywords?
  • How are we sure those keywords are the most useful ones?
  • How are we certain that those keywords are actually drawing in useful traffic?

Let’s drill into those questions a little further….

What do we mean by SEO?

SEO throws a wide net – some people even lump pay-per-click (PPC) paid ads under the SEO umbrella; personally, I don’t.

SEO can also be divided into onsite and offsite.

Onsite is anything to do with the website itself (funnily enough), such as:

  • How SEO friendly is the website structure?
  • How SEO friendly is the raw content?
  • Are we linking well across the site?
  • Are we making use of Google’s structured data?
  • How SEO friendly is the website hosting? (i.e. is it fast?!)

Offsite is pretty much anything else:

  • Perhaps you have a link building campaign in place (trying to encourage links back to your content)
  • Perhaps you are utilising Google Local


How are we currently assessing the SEO health of our existing site?

What is our methodology here? How robust is it?

If we cannot answer this, then we really have no way of gauging the SEO health of our existing site and therefore no way of comparing it to a future website. Now this does not mean you shouldn’t go ahead with a redesign, it just means you need to be realistic about what you can comparatively test later on.

Note: to properly answer this question (and others), will be the subject of a future post.


What keywords are we optimising for?

Do we have a list of keywords which we think are relevant to our audience and our products and services? Phrases which are likely to bring lucrative traffic to our site?

How do these keywords map onto our process for adding content to the site? How do we weave these keywords into our approach to creating website content?


How are we sure those keywords are the best ones?

If we have a list of keywords, then how did we arrive at that list? How are we validating it? How are we sure these are the best keywords and we are not accidentally following an SEO red herring?


How are we ranking for those keywords?

If we are happy we have a validated, useful list of keywords, how is our website currently ranking for those terms? Have we been tracking the website performance against those keywords over time (e.g. using a tool or a manually via a spreadsheet)?

If we have, then we should take plenty of readings so we have a rich ‘before‘ set of data that we can compare the new site to.

If not, then we either need to start tracking (and a get few consistent months of data) or we need to accept that we simply will not be able to run a before/after website comparison on this particular aspect.


How are we sure that those keywords are actually drawing in useful traffic?

Perhaps we do have some keywords which draw in a lot of traffic but have we sliced & diced our analytics data to see if that portion of your website traffic actually converts into paying customers? Because, if not, perhaps we are actually drawing in low-value traffic – traffic which is not actually likely to convert & may even harm our overall SEO – so why optimise for that?



If the answer to most of the above is a strong ‘yes’ – then we are in a solid position to create a set of baseline data for the current website. Data which we can then compare to the new website when it is launched.


Why should a new website help?

Done well, a new website redesign project should help in terms of SEO because of the following:

  • We will have taken the opportunity to re-assess the content which the website needs
  • We will have structured the site so that it is easier for the audience to take the action we wish
  • That content has been refreshed in light of new messaging, and new SEO opportunities
  • The fundamental website structure has been amended to be more friendly to your audience
  • Website structure has been modified in light of SEO best practices
  • Website makes use of Google structured data etc
  • Website hosting performance-enhanced boosting raw speed (SEO win)


Google Search Console

If your website is not already integrated into Google Search Console (GSC), then as part of the redesign project, it should be. Google Search Console is a very useful tool which has many interesting facilities (I’ll give an in-depth tour in an upcoming webinar). One key aspect of GSC is that it will report on how well Google is indexing your website and any issues which it has encountered. Any issues found should be rectified as soon as possible.

When we are redesigning a website, if GSC is not in place on the existing site, we’ll put it in place anyway so we are able to access the current health of the existing site, giving us a strong set of data before we go live.

When the new website is launched, we can submit an updated sitemap (which explains the new/amended website structure) to Google. This, along with ‘redirects’ (discussed next) goes a long way to helping Google understand our new website structure so that they reflect the new changes in their search results as quickly as possible.


We already mentioned that as part of a website redesign process, the raw website structure may change. We should not be afraid of that. If the website structure needs to change because of new products and services, or a focus on new keywords, a new understanding of our target audience’s profile, then that is what needs to happen.

The key with changing the website structure is to properly manage the process so that Google don’t get confused because they suddenly see a completely different website structure to what they have been used to .

This is typically handled by making sure that there are ‘redirects‘ in place – a redirect is where we say :

Hey Google, ok the page with used to be called /advice/ is now called /consultancy/. Please update your records accordingly.

By taking the time to explain to Google the website structure has changed, we minimise the likelihood of there being broken pages in Google, which can be very damaging to SEO.


What should happen

All things being equal, a new website, developed in light of all the logic laid out above, should enhance the SEO of a website. However, the key word (ha!) there is should – Google is a black box. All we can do is follow the recommendations where they make sense, and make sense for our audience.

At the end of the day, Google want you to concentrate on creating a website which your human visitors love, not that Google robots love – keeping our eyes on this prize is always the best advice.


The End

Hopefully that gives you some food for thought in terms of questions you need to ask yourself when considering the impact on SEO of a website redesign project.



p.s. if you have any questions on this, a great place to ask them is in our free WordPress & Website Facebook group.

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