Redoing a website is a common step for businesses looking to modernize their online presence, improve user experience, or rebrand. However, this process can have significant disadvantages, especially concerning Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The risks associated with SEO when redoing a website are critical to consider for any business, including those in sectors like law, government contracting, and public health.
1. Loss of Established Rankings
One of the primary risks of redoing a website is the potential loss of established search engine rankings. Websites accumulate rankings over time based on content quality, user engagement, and other SEO factors. A major overhaul can disrupt these rankings, especially if URLs are changed without proper redirects, leading to a temporary or even long-term decline in search visibility.
2. Broken Links and Lost Backlinks
Redesigning a website often involves changing its structure and URLs. This change can result in broken internal links and lost backlinks, which are crucial for SEO. Backlinks from other sites serve as endorsements, boosting a site's credibility and ranking. Losing these can significantly impact the website's authority in search engines.
3. Disruption of User Experience
A new website design can also disrupt the user experience for returning visitors. Familiar navigation paths and layouts may change, causing confusion and increasing the bounce rate. Search engines like Google take user behavior signals into account when ranking pages, so a negative user experience can indirectly affect SEO.
4. Content Gaps and Duplication
A redesign might lead to unintentional content gaps or duplication. SEO relies heavily on unique, quality content. If the new site lacks content present on the old site, it might lose some of its rankings. Conversely, duplicating content can lead to penalties from search engines.
5. Technical SEO Issues
New websites can introduce technical SEO issues. These include increased load times, mobile incompatibility, or poor site structure, which can negatively impact rankings. Ensuring that the new site adheres to technical SEO best practices is crucial but often overlooked during redesigns.
6. Overlooking Redirects
Failing to implement proper 301 redirects from old to new URLs is a common mistake. This oversight can lead to '404 not found' errors, negatively impacting both user experience and search engine rankings.
7. Time and Resource Investment
Finally, a significant amount of time and resources must be invested in re-optimizing a website post-redesign. This process includes reevaluating keywords, updating meta tags, and ensuring all new content is SEO-friendly, which can be a substantial effort for any organization.
While a website redesign can be beneficial for various reasons, it's important to approach it with caution from an SEO perspective. Planning, thorough testing, and a well-thought-out SEO strategy are crucial to minimize the risks. For businesses in specialized sectors like law, government contracting, and public health, maintaining a strong online presence is crucial, and preserving SEO during a website overhaul should be a top priority. Careful planning and execution can ensure that the benefits of a new website are realized without sacrificing hard-earned search engine rankings and visibility.