Website Redesign FAQ:  How to do it without Ranking Drop

A website redesign FAQ that gives you fast answers to essential questions. Google places increasing importance on a site’s participation and prominence in Social Media. The “user experience” element of website assessment is now a prominent element, and a website that is wired into Social Media networks indicates an effort to present a modern façade. The concepts of E-E-A-T and Helpful Content optimisation must be addressed too.

Website Redesign conceptual image
How to do a Website Redesign without damaging your SERPs. (conceptual image)
How to Redesign an Existing Website safely

Before you redesign an existing website, you should take careful account of its current status. Get a Technical SEO website audit done…

All too often, the website makeover results in a dramatic downturn in search engine rankings! Don’t underestimate the value of the existing indexed pages… or the benefits of current organic SERPs.Run the rebuilding checklist past a top SEO agency… Preferably before you start.

FAQ How to redesign a website without erasing rankings

What is The Risk to Current Rankings?

Be aware that current SERPs can all too easily go down the toilet! Why? Well, that’s the consequence of not planning and executing strategies to cover the threats. It’s important that you discuss the risk factors with an SEO specialist – preferably before you begin

Is there a 301 Redirect chart?

A trail of 301 breadcrumbs is required to find the new location of old pages or search engines are left bewildered and floundering as the rankings plummet.

  1. First paged Pages – should be identified, preserved and enhanced
  2. 301 Redirects – re-routing old page URLs to the corresponding URLs. If that’s not done, links to all indexed and well-ranked internal pages will be broken – and dropped from Google’s index. All internal link juice will be lost along with bookmarks.
  3. Move previously optimised “good page content” to the corresponding new pages
  4. Image Alt text – ensure new images have accurate Alt descriptions.
  5. Meta-tags – copying titles and descriptions over.
  6. Sitemaps – provide both HTML and XML versions.

Should you, or your SEO agency fail to do this Google will start from zero, with no link juice and inherent page rankings or authority transferred. Reassessing the intent and purpose of the site means a drop in rankings is inevitable.

What about Re-branding?

I don’t have a problem with re-branding per se… However, brand managers usually have minimal understanding of the issues inherent in attaining top search engine placements.

Any recommendation to drop your aged/mature domain name in favour of a new “trendy” one can be a recipe for disaster. Careful assessment of the risks and a mitigation plan is essential.

What skills does your Redesign Company Need?

You need to find and hire a web designer/developer who evaluates the old content carefully and comprehends the SEO issues. Make sure the fundamental SEO elements are included in the design architecture.

If you are deliberately setting out to kill off a website, these are very effective ways of doing so…

There’s a lesson here! Whether you are going to redesign an existing website yourself and tackle your own SEO for small business or pay someone else to do it, you’d best ensure that the person managing the changes has a flawless strategy.

Do we Still Need Google?

Whilst there are people out there who say that you don’t, you may rest assured that they are, in the main, not knowledgeable on the subject.

Unless (or until) you are world-famous, you are going to need Google to deliver potential clients to you. To get an increasing flow of visitors from search engines, you’ll have to know and abide by their terms of service, not yours…

When you cannot change the world to fit your own perception, you must adapt… or you’ll simply be irrelevant!

What are the SEO Requirements?

For maximum benefit from any SEO services packages, there are some overall goals to aim for…

  • Write helpful content for human readers.
  • Don’t spend time using old-school SEO tactics planting keywords here, there and everywhere.
  • Local SEO services can only be ignored at your peril, because its both an organic search and a Local 3 Pack / Map Pack ranking factor.

What are Search Engine Friendly URLs?

  • URLs should include a relevant keyword phrase specific to every page generated!
  • Avoid capitalisation AND spaces in file names, use hyphens to separate words instead.

Search Engines can now cope with URLs with multiple iterations of ?, & and = in them, but they are incomprehensible to HUMANS! But nonsensical URLs do not provide any clue to the search engines as to what the page content is about… Search-friendly URLs are valuable increments in the process of categorising page content.

Are explicit Image File Names important?

Yes, you should use keyword-rich explicit Image file names e.g.;


Image URLs could include a relevant keyword specific to each page generated!

  • Both Google and Yahoo have specific image functions that can generate a lot of traffic if images are properly named and tagged (ALT tags)
  • Avoid capitalisation AND spaces in file names, use hyphens to separate words instead.

What about Image Alt Tags?

As you redesign an existing website, be sure to use Image Alt Tags on every image – a short keyword-rich, relevant phrase that describes the content of the page/image is what’s needed.

Its essential to reinforce relevant keywords in every area of the page – Image ALT tags are an important location to insert one or more exact match search phrases. The must

Are Site Maps useful?

Both forms of sitemap are essential;

  • An accessible HTML version, with links to it from the Home page.
  • Plus an XML version that should be linked from the robots.txt page (and submitted to both Google and Yahoo for indexing)

For example; in very large eCommerce SEO services projects it’s possible to dramatically increase the number of indexed pages on Google by using a site map.

  • XML Sitemaps are used by search engines to find new and updated content
  • HTML Sitemaps are useful for visitors who are trying to find a specific page

These help shorten the “levels” to the main content – especially in nested Categories for Posts and Products. In many Shops, the nested Categories drive the real content down far deeper than 3 levels from Home. That can make them hard to find without a sitemap.

What about 404 Error Pages?

Add a 404 Error Page: According to a survey, only 23% of visitors who encounter a 404 page make a second attempt to find the missing page. That means 77% of visitors who encounter a 404 error will immediately leave your website! Creation of an effective Custom 404 Page, you can actually increase visitor retention by ensuring they find what they need. Follow this website redesign FAQ suggestion and keep visitors on-site longer.

What's the deal on JavaScript & Flash?

Keep the use of JavaScript and Flash throughout the site to a minimum. Whilst everything contained within the code is not necessarily processed, the SEs are thought to assess the ratio of code to content, demoting pages with excessive code!

  • The Search Engines don’t much like JavaScript (or Flash or FRAMES) – so minimize its use.
  • It is better if external JavaScript (and CSS) files are “called” or “included” and the minimum amount of code is embedded in the pages.
  • Don’t use JavaScript or Flash for the Main Menus!!!

Like it or not, Google cannot “see” anything contained in either JavaScript or Flash. If you use either mechanism for your main menu system, you are consigning the site to relative oblivion.

What is the purpose of a robots.txt file?

As part of the redesign of an existing website, make sure there is a robots.txt file on the site because search engine spiders look for it! In there, you can specify which, if any, directories or files are NOT to be indexed.  In the majority of cases, you allow all spiders access to everything. If the file is missing, the requests for it generate 404 Page Not Found errors – and you should always try to minimise these errors.

The robots.txt file should also include a link to your sitemap e.g.;


What about Main Content?

Pages need explanatory text content that sets out the intent and purpose. Without it, there is nothing for Google to work. If you seriously expect a page to rank in the Top 10 for competitive keyword search phrases, the minimum amount of helpful content these days is +1000 words. Previously, lower words may have sufficed, but Google’s quest to deliver the best possible option in the SERPs has upped the stakes a little.

Does it seem logical that a 400-word page of very basic content is likely to outweigh a page with 1000 words of very helpful content? If you follow this website redesign FAQ suggestion, you should aim for 900+ words per page.

The goal of helpful content optimisation is to ensure that your pages and posts are authentic and human-written. If it’s interesting, engaging, thought-provoking and/or provocative – all the better! Whilst it should obviously include specific keyword search phrase/s relevant to the Topic – the objective should be normal use of language without considering search engines… Search bots are much smarter now and they can deduce the intent and meaning of a page without any need to stuff it full of keywords. The content should include 1 or more images to add interest, with a related keyword phrase in the Alt text.

Are proper Page Headings Important?

This an important “On-Page” location to specify to the search engines what the page is about…  It is important to add your target keyword in the main Heading. Be cautious about keyword stuffing in headings.

What should go into the 1st Paragraph?

It is considered helpful to place primary/target keyword phrases early in the first paragraph.

How about Text Anchors / Hyperlinks?

Link some keyword text to important internal pages from within the main content. This tells Google et al what the linked-to page is about.

Crosslinking your content from within content is one of the most important SEO tasks. That’s because search engines place more emphasis on “editorial links” than on links in headers, sidebars and footers. Internal links are almost as important as external links garnered via citation-building services.

What constitutes good Navigation?

Navigation / Main Menu

  • This should be CSS text-based
  • NOT JavaScript / Flash because these cannot be accessed by Search Engines
  • Page Rank is routed throughout the site via accessible internal links
  • The keyword anchor texts tell Google what the linked page is about

If this seems unduly complex and tedious, you could consider engaging a professional SEO services provider to assist.

What are the SEO tags all about?

The page Title tag is the most important on-site element.

Title – The No.1 On-site Element

The maximum recommended length is 60 characters.


Items such as Titles and Descriptions are essential off-page elements which significantly influence the search engine’s appraisal of your site, and have an impact on whether searchers actually click on the search results link and come through to your site. USE THEM WISELY!

Meta Description

Unique Description meta-tags must be provided on all pages. The maximum recommended length for a Description is 155 characters.

Meta Keywords

Don’t use Keyword meta-tags! This tag is not used by mainstream search engines, and its presence could be seen as an indicator of over-optimisation, especially if used badly.

What about building Links?

You need to be careful about Links – simplified, it now works this way…

  • A good link to your site from another site is a vote for you and is added to your total vote count.
  • A link from you to another site is a vote BY you and is deducted from your total vote count
  • Bad links to you are toxic and can destroy your rankings
  • Reciprocal links are not helpful and can be toxic…
  • Outward links should be used with caution- always avoid run-of-site links!
  • The safest links are citation links in local business directories that aid your Local Search optimisation results.
  • An outward link to a high-quality external page with authoritative content pertinent to your own page is best.
  • Outward links to inappropriate sites WILL hurt your rankings.

Amending outward links so they don’t count as a vote outwards is done by adding the rel=”nofollow” attribute to the links. Wholesale use of nofollow is not necessarily wise… It is unnatural and potentially you may incur a Google penalty for it if it’s assessed as “link sculpting”. Its introduction was to cover “untrusted” links only, but abuse of the original intent and purpose is forcing Google to rethink its use.

How to pick a Domain Name?

Choosing a domain name is complicated. There are a variety of Domain-related issues that impact your search engine rankings.

  • Use relevant/specific keywords in the Domain Name, but not excessively so. Two or three keywords are regarded as sufficient
  • Consider separating them with HYPHENS because as it may help make sense to viewers!

E.g.; vs.

Country Code vs. a .Com

  • A site must be hosted in the targeted country. Otherwise, it’s automatically considered as a USA site…
  • A or site can be hosted anywhere and Google will associate it with the specific country

What impact does Hosting have?

An aspect overlooked by many site owners is the importance of the Domain Name “Country Code” to your site rankings, traffic and consequent success.

The problem here is the “decentralisation” of search – the way in which the major search engines have split their indexes up into country-specific search opportunities. Google (and other SEs) know where you are, or where you should be associated with, by either the Country Code (.Co.NZ) or the IP address allocated to your site. IP addresses are allocated in numeric blocks or ranges, by country.

How to integrate Social Media?

Google places increasing importance on a site’s participation and prominence in Social Media. The “user experience” element of website assessment is now a prominent element, and a website that is wired into Social Media networks indicates an effort to present a modern façade.

Get Connected

That emphasis behoves you to consider the importance of connectivity in your design. At the very least, there are two items you should include;

  • Facebook LIKE Buttons
  • Links to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube accounts

Where possible, use XFBML code and not JavaScript, so search engines can read the Facebook code and give you a big green tick!


The examples shown in this website redesign FAQ illustrate that it is expertise that makes the difference. If you’d like expert SEO services on your redesign project, please get in touch today.

A website designer owes it to clients to ensure you do more good than harm! If your stupidity causes the redesigned website to vanish off Google’s radar screen, it matters not one iota if the site is visually appealing! Page redirection is such a fundamental requirement, it’s verging on criminal to forget it! Not using freely available, fully automated WordPress sitemap and meta-tags generation tools is quite unprofessional. It confirms the designer’s incompetence, so by all means, add your name to the footer credits to let the world know who to avoid!

Of course, if your underlying objective is to keep people like me in business, feel free to ignore all my well-intended advice…

If you’d like an assessment prior to a rebuild, ask for a Website Audit Review


Page last updated on Wednesday, October 11, 2023 by the author Ben Kemp

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