A complete website redesign is no easy task — even for the smallest of sites. It’s not as simple as it may seem at the get go, as many website owners discover (the hard way) after a site relaunch. Without proper planning, you can lose valuable links, hard-earned SERP rankings and unknowingly create an unbearably sucky user experience. The result? Your site is effectively dead in the water.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. When you plan a site redesign properly, it can be stress-free and relatively simple. Follow these five website redesign steps to give yourself (and your users) a seamless transition.

Perform SEO, Content & UX Audit

seo audit

Benefit: Comprehensive audits give a high-level overview of all the things that need work. It will serve as a helpful resource when it’s time to build an itemized roadmap of tasks. Make notes on poor user experience issues, review technical SEO, on- and off-page SEO, conversions and other key performance indicators, and take note of the competition, too.

Tools: I use a combination of RavenTools, Google Search Console, and good old fashioned research and data collection.

Shameless plug: We offer a free Intro Site Audit over here.

Benchmark SERP Rankings

Benefit: This will serve as your baseline data, which you’ll compare future stats against to show progress. If you’re not seeing the results you’d hoped for, you may have to reassess your strategy and take things in a new direction. Either way, you’ll want this baseline to compare against.

Tools: I use RavenTools and Google Search Console to see where the site is currently ranking in the search engine results pages. Other popular SERP ranking tools are ExactFactor and SheerSEO.

Perform Backlink Review

Benefit: If you change your URL structure during a site redesign, you could be at risk of losing valuable inbound links. Make sure you have a comprehensive list of existing backlinks so you can properly 301 redirect old URLs to new ones and maintain your link authority.

Tools: I use a few tools for this: RavenTools, Moz’s OpenSiteExplorer (OSE) and Google Search Console are key for me. Others use Majestic, Spyglass, and Ahrefs — all great tools for to benchmarking your link profile.

Run Deep Test Crawl

screaming frog crawler

Benefit: I love ScreamingFrog. It gives you all kinds of useful information about URLs, meta data, canonicalization, redirects, 404s, and so much more. Running this crawl gives you a complete list of the site’s current state — pre redesign. when it’s time to rewrite the titles & meta descriptions, you can sort from this crawl list. When it’s time to 301 all those old URLs to new URLs, you can sort from this list. Need to know how many pages are hidden deeper than 4 clicks from the top? Find them here.

Note: Don’t forget to crawl sub-domains! (ie: www. and blog. or m.)

Tools: You guessed it — ScreamingFrog! You can also use Xenu Link Sleuth, another powerhouse crawler.

1:1 Map Old URLs to New URLs

404 to 301 redirect mapBenefit: This is a very important step you don’t want to miss. If you’ve changed your website hierarchy, meaning pages will have new URLs, the old ones will start returning 404 errors if you skip this step. That’s bad for SEO and it’s really bad for user experience.

Tools: I start in excel with column A filled with old URLs and column B filled with new URLs. Depending on your CMS, you can use various tools to set up 301 redirects. Shopify has it’s own place for this, as do most cPanels. WordPress also offers a bunch of 301 redirect plugins, but in my experience not many of them work all that well. I prefer setting up redirects directly in my cPanel where I know they’ll work properly.

In addition to these five critical steps, be sure to also perform the following website redesign checks prior to launch:

  • Is the old content optimized?
  • Is the new content optimized?
  • Are all the analytics set up and working?
  • Are the internal links rendering properly?
  • Check / optimize Technical SEO elements
  • Check / optimize On-page SEO elements
  • Check UX elements
  • Check page load speed (on both mobile and desktop)
  • Check all other miscellaneous functionality (forms, social icons, subscriptions, etc.)

After all that hard work, are you confident and ready to publish the new site? If you’ve checked off all the items above, then let ‘er rip — Go! Be! Do!