Avoiding SEO Problems during Website Revamps: Insights from Google’s John Mueller

Google’s John Mueller recently emphasized the importance of careful planning when undertaking significant user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) changes on a website. Mueller advised that proactive planning is crucial to prevent potential SEO issues that may arise if these changes negatively impact a site’s search engine optimization.


The Significance of UI and UX


UI and UX are critical components of a website, directly influencing the ease with which visitors can accomplish their objectives and ultimately determining user satisfaction. UI elements encompass various aspects of visitor interaction, including navigation, input forms, and informational icons. On the other hand, UX encompasses a broader range of considerations such as design consistency, accessibility, mobile responsiveness, readability, site speed, usability, and other factors that contribute to a positive user experience.


SEO Implications of UI and UX Changes


UI and UX changes have the potential to impact SEO rankings in multiple ways, ranging from technical issues affecting how Google crawls a page to on-page ranking factors like content display and comprehension.


Approaching UI/UX Changes and Adding New Webpages


Undertaking sitewide UI/UX changes, along with the addition of new webpages, is a significant endeavor that should not be taken lightly. As recommended by Mueller, it is essential to develop a comprehensive plan for implementing these changes. One crucial aspect is documenting the website’s existing state, creating backups, and utilizing a staging environment.


Crawling the Website


Before implementing major changes, it is advisable to crawl the website using tools like Screaming Frog. This process involves crawling the website in its original form and repeating the crawl on the updated version (preferably before going live). Analyzing the crawl data can help identify potential issues that can be resolved before the site is launched.


Key factors to check during the crawl include:


  • Identifying missing pages
  • Ensuring proper link configurations
  • Verifying the presence of meta and title elements
  • Reviewing changes in linking patterns
  • Identifying and addressing 404 errors
  • Checking the implementation and functionality of 301 redirects


Creating Website Backups


Maintaining multiple backups of a website is crucial. Unexpected issues can arise during the backup process, such as corruption or accidental deletion of data. Having redundant backups stored on separate media ensures the ability to recover data in such scenarios.


Staging the Website


Best practices dictate staging the new website in a separate environment to allow for thorough review before going live. The live version of the site is considered the production environment, while the duplicate version for testing and development purposes is referred to as the staging environment.


Website staging involves creating a duplicate version of the site, ideally on a separate server or location to prevent accidental migration of changes to the live environment. The staging environment serves as a platform for development and quality assurance testing, enabling the identification and resolution of issues, technical bugs, or errors before they impact the live version of the website (production environment).


By following these recommendations and investing in careful planning, businesses can minimize the potential SEO pitfalls associated with UI and UX changes during website revamps.