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SEO For Website Redesigns: The Website Redesign SEO Checklist

Combine the fact that more and more businesses have a website and online presence with the fact that web-based technology advances so quickly and you have a recipe for redesigning websites fairly often. Redesigning your business website can be pretty exciting. You get to implement new branding, optimize its layout for user experience, and just freshen up your online storefront in ways that will make a significant impact.

However, one of the aspects of redesigning a website that many people overlook is SEO for website redesigns. If you don’t pay close attention to search engine optimization while building out your new website, you may lose some of your hard earned rankings and organic performance. Be sure to keep this in mind when working with a web design Kitchener firm. We’ve put together the website redesign SEO checklist. Here’s a quick overview:

  • 1. Ensure you have proper access to the tools that you will need
  • 2. Optimize your development environment
  • 3. Conduct a pre-launch organic performance report
  • 4. Prepare the critical website redesign SEO documents
  • 5. Launch the website
  • 6. Conduct ongoing QA and monitor closely

The purpose of this checklist is to redesign your website without losing any SEO benefit that you’ve already built over the years. Let’s break out each point into more detail.

Ensure you have proper access to the tools that you will need

Before even thinking about the SEO for your new website, we need to make sure that you have access to everything you will need to make the process as easy as possible. You may already have access to these tools but if you don’t be sure to get access before moving forward.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics will be used to conduct the pre-launch report. If you do not have any analytics installed on your website, we encourage you to do this now. Although the historic data won’t be available, we’ll be sure to track and measure moving forward.

Google Search Console

Formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools, Google Search Console gives you insights into your website on the web. It’ll tell you if Google has a hard time accessing your website, if there were any pages not indexed, and highlight some technical limitations that may be impacting organic search performance.

We’ll use this tool mainly to monitor the website closely after launching.

Domain registrar and web hosting access

We’ll need this for the next step but it’s important that we have access to the hosting account or control panel as we will need to implement proper redirects.

If you are also moving web hosts during the redesign you’ll need to make sure you have access to both systems.

Optimize your development environment

Chances are you aren’t doing the actual design and development yourself so be sure to pass this information on to the developer. We want to optimize the new hosting environment for development purposes. Here are a few things you can do.

Use a new hosting environment for the new website. This doesn’t have to be a completely separate hosting account, but it should be a new installation of WordPress on a separate domain name. Even if you aren’t changing domain names in the redesign it’s still important to keep the development separate so nothing gets overwritten in the process.

Back up the old website now. Before you forget, go back up your old website. Even if you never want to see it again, it’s important that we hang on to the content and website just in case there is an issue with the new site or something needs to be pulled from the data.

Set the development environment to no-index. If you are using a content management system like WordPress then you can do this right from the backend. This is built right into the core functionality or you can use one of the many great SEO plugins for WordPress to extend the functionality. Alternatively you can temporarily set the robots.txt file to:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

This will make sure that Google doesn’t index the site while it’s in development, which will ensure that there are no duplicate content issues while you have both websites online.

Conduct a pre-launch organic performance report

If the whole point of this checklist is to ensure that we don’t lose any value to our organic SEO, then we need to make sure we know how well we were performing before we launch the new design.

We like to look at the past 24 months for things like organic search traffic, organic search goal conversions, mobile and tablet vs. desktop traffic data, the top landing pages of organic traffic and the geographical breakdown of your organic traffic. This will give you a good picture and set a benchmark of where you are before making the redesign. This is what we’ll measure against moving forward.

Prepare the critical website redesign SEO documents

There are a couple must have documents that you should have when you redesign a website. They are a keyword mapping document and a 301 redirect document. These will help you make sure that all keywords are accounted for and that all phew will be properly forward so that there is no loss of link juice or rankings.

In most redesigns the URL structure changes at least slightly. For example the /contact-us/ page may become /contact/ and so on. This is especially important if you are also changing domain names but even if you aren’t making many changes at all it’s important that all pages are accounted for to make sure that your visitors do not encounter 404 page not found errors and that the search engines can properly find the new content without losing any of the SEO value.

This document is fairly simple and contains three columns, the page name, the old URL and the new updated URL.

We’ve outlined the keyword mapping document here so we won’t explain that again, but it’s important to note that you will use the new URL structure and not the old one. You can use the keywords that you targeted on your old website, or conduct additional keyword research as well.

The keyword mapping document will be used to populate your page titles, meta descriptions and header tags across most if not all of the pages on the website. This is to be done prior to launching.

Launch the website

Now we are ready to implement and launch. Once you launch the site you should:

  • If you are using the same domain name, make the new site live on the root domain.
  • Implement the 301 redirects through the .htaccess file or through your CMS.
  • Confirm all the redirects work properly.
  • Confirm all data from the keyword mapping document is in place.
  • Confirm that the Google Analytics code is installed on the website.
  • Set your website to be allowed to be indexed by Google (through robots.txt or the CMS).
  • Enjoy your new website.

Congratulations. Your new website is now live!

Conduct ongoing QA and monitor closely

Now that the new design is up and running you should monitor it fairly closely over the next 8 weeks. Specifically, you should check Google Analytics for any issues with organic traffic or conversions, and check Google Search Console for any messages from errors or issues that might have come up.

We recommend a monthly organic performance report with the same data from your benchmark so that you know how your website is performing. You could even consider doing a mini SEO audit after the first couple months have passed just to confirm that things are on the right path.

Need help with managing your SEO for a website redesign? Send us an email to get in touch or let us take you out for coffee – we’re always happy to help.

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