Website Redesign SEO Checklist for a Successful New Website
Website redesigns reinvigorate your marketing efforts; add fresh, new technology and functionality; help launch new products and services; and support you in staying competitive within your market. But they can also make a high traffic site completely and instantly invisible. Too often, companies set out to refresh the look of their site, and in the process, destroy their search engine presence, erasing thousands of dollars of “free” Google organic traffic.
How? This loss of search engine “juice” is due to a lack of a search engine optimization strategy—from coding errors and SEO unfriendly design practices, to more serious issues like content duplication, URL rewriting without redirection, and information architecture changes that steer away from search engine friendly techniques.
The first step towards a successful website redesign is a collaborative approach between the SEO team, designer, developer, and company decision makers. You need to work with a web design company strong in effective search engine optimization that offers you a clear search engine optimization strategy for your website redesign. Not only do you want to avoid negative business results by minimizing loss of ranking, you also want to recover quickly by applying best practices that propel your website higher up the rankings over time.
Once the entire team is committed to a specific search engine optimization strategy, follow the Redesign SEO Checklist below for a successful launch.
1. Your SEO strategy begins with knowing where you’re starting from and where you are going.
It is the difference in site structure, URLs, internal links, meta data, and content that can cause havoc to your rankings. The clearer the picture of the before and after, the better you can identify any problem areas or the areas that must be retained—and the more effective your search engine optimization strategy becomes.
Start by crawling and auditing your existing website. If you don’t know what your site’s structure looks like now, you could be setting yourself up for a massive fall. Capturing the structure, meta data and URLs is essential to identifying exactly what is changing and why. Use a tool like Screaming Frog (http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/) to get a roadmap of how your entire site is currently organized so you can match it up the new site. Free tools like Woorank (https://www.woorank.com) will do the auditing job and alert you to what search engines like and don't like about your site.
In this first step of your Redesign SEO Checklist, you’re identifying:
- missing/duplicate/multiple page titles, H1 tags, and meta descriptions;
- broken internal/external links;
- image alt text; etc.
You’re also manually checking for:
- XML sitemap,
- duplicate content,
- site speed and performance,
- URL structure, and more.
This data gives you a good understanding of what the website’s doing well and areas for improvement.
Next do the same for your test site: crawl and audit. At the end of this process you can export the data into Excel and end up with two key documents: the current site crawl and the testing site crawl. This comparison allows you to understand what's missing from the test site, and vice versa, which live URLs are new that aren’t on your current site. These URLs are most likely new pages that must be optimized correctly per effective search engine optimization techniques.
2. Effective search engine optimization includes protecting, reviewing, and enhancing your existing content.
The first step is for your web design company to 'noindex' your test site. This step is simple; yet it’s the point where many website redesigns go astray. Content is king in your SEO strategy and the last thing you want is for Google to index your test site.
All the great new content you have added will have been indexed already when you launch the new site and will have zero value as it will be considered duplicate content.
Make sure there are no live copies on other servers that are visible to the search engines. Another form of content duplication is the addition of new URLs without redirecting the old ones via a 301 permanent redirect, leaving the search engines wondering which page should be ranked.
Next, consider refreshing, proofreading, and publishing the older content instead of deleting it. Clearly, your site content is relevant and unique—another factor behind its ranking and visibility. Consider improving your existing content for the redesigned site while maintaining its originality. Don’t delete pages; instead, redirect them to the most relevant launching pages. You can use plagiarism detectors like https://smallseotools.com/plagiarism-checker/ to check for uniqueness.
It’s also important to set content restrictions and identify which pages shouldn’t be crawled.
- Are there new features of the site that shouldn’t be seen by search engines?
- Does the new site utilize dynamic URL creation or parameters that will need to be restricted?
- Are there folders in the robots.txt file that are inaccurately excluding pages that should be visible?
- Have meta robots tags been placed on pages that shouldn’t have been tagged?
3. Creating a keyword map for existing and potential new content is essential to your search engine optimization strategy.
Keywords are the essential ingredient in all effective search engine optimization campaigns. They deliver an outline for your website’s structure and for the creation of potential relevant content.
A keyword map is the framework for those keywords you have chosen to target that mirrors your site’s structure.
The end goal of this map is to help you identify where to optimize, what content to develop, and what new pages need to be added to create multiple points of entry and ultimately increase traffic.
- Gather as many keywords as possible that you want your site to be found for with https://www.semrush.com.
- Think about search intent and group keywords that answer the same question.
- Create potential URLs to your site’s structure.
You can create subdirectories based on groups of three or more keywords to design a logical path friendly to your visitors and to search engines, ultimately improving your chances of ranking for these keywords. One of the best things about developing a keyword map is that it makes you think about your pages in terms of themes, helping you determine which words would make great URLs and which should be saved for something like a blog post or downloadable asset.
4. Make sure your Redesign SEO Checklist includes checking for site performance and accessibility to all audiences, devices, and browsers.
In addition to the accessibility check you already did in item #1 of this Redesign SEO Checklist, consider doing the following:
- Check accessibility with screen readers for blind users, mobile devices, desktop devices, and laptops;
- Use browser checker tools to make sure your site is working properly with Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and others;
- Use tools like PageSpeed Insights and WooRank to enhance the overall performance and speed of your site.
A slow page speed means search engines will crawl fewer pages using their allocated crawl budget, negatively affecting your indexing and the overall effectiveness of your search engine optimization strategy. Plus, pages with longer load times tend to have higher bounce rates and lower average time on page, reducing conversions.
Have your web design company do some in-house usability testing to determine if the design, UI, visuals, and overall experience is enjoyable and easy for your users. You could do this testing informally with long-term clients and partners, or use UsabilityHub’s Five Second Test (https://start.usabilityhub.com/features/five-second-test) to run some more formal online testing.
5. Measure the effectiveness of your search engine optimization strategy by setting up tracking, managing key metrics, and claiming your space.
Make sure that your analytical tracking code is placed back in the page source before the site goes live. Additionally, any conversion pages should have the appropriate conversion tracking code appended. You will also want your web design company to do a rank check to measure how the site performs for a variety of keywords in search engines. You can use this data as a comparison for the redesigned site and to address any changes in ranking.
There is a vast number of online tools to help you capture, analyze, and interpret website data and statistics. Consider:
- Google Analytics
- Moz Pro
- Fresh Web Explorer
- Google Search Console
- Bing Webmaster Tools
Finally, set up your social media and web profiles as part of your SEO strategy—even if you’re not using them today. It’s important to set those up before you launch your new site so that no one else jumps ahead of you and grabs your website’s name. Set up Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, SlideShare and others before someone else takes them. In fact, ask your web design company to go down the full list of both social media and web profiles out there and secure your brand.
Are you considering a website redesign and would like to discuss this Redesign SEO Checklist? We are a San Francisco SEO company expert in effective search engine optimization. Let’s talk soon.