Website Redesign SEO

Website redesign SEO is a vital step to maintaining a website’s traffic, keyword rankings and relevance in search engine results pages. Creating an SEO plan during development can mean the difference between losing essential site traffic, maintaining current traffic levels, and increasing traffic by addressing items the previous site was lacking for SEO ranking.

The following steps are what are highly suggested when redesigning a site to ensure that it is indexed properly by Google & Bing. This plan also ensures that the largest amount of weight from the previous site’s SEO and ranking is carried over to the new site, minimizing any loss in site traffic from qualified audiences. It is broken into three sections:

  1. Website Pre-Design SEO
  2. SEO During Website Redesign
  3. Post Website Launch SEO

Although this can be time consuming, you should seriously weigh the cost of spending the time to take these steps vs. the monetary cost of losing traffic from Google and Bing over at least the next 6 months to a year. Also remember that retaining your current rankings and traffic and increasing on what you have is a much easier process than starting at lower rankings and trying to build on them.

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website redesign seo

Website Redesign SEO: Pre-Launch Steps

Current Site – Crawl & Audit

The purpose of crawling and auditing the current site is to identify positive elements of the site for SEO and carry them over to the new site to maintain ranking for key search terms. This process also allows us to identify any elements of the current site that may be negatively affecting search ranking, therefore isolating these items to ensure that they are improved during the site redesign.

During the site crawl & audit, SEO items to identify include the following positive & negative items on the current site:

  • Missing page titles
  • Duplicate page titles
  • Page titles over 512 pixels
  • Page titles below 200 pixels
  • Missing H1 tags
  • Duplicate H1 tags
  • Multiple H1 tags
  • Missing meta descriptions
  • Duplicate meta descriptions
  • Meta descriptions over 923 pixels
  • Canonical tags
  • Canonicalization
  • Broken internal/external links
  • Image alt text
  • XML sitemap properly structured
  • Robots.txt properly structured
  • Duplicate content
  • Amount of site pages indexed by Google
  • Site speed and performance
  • URL structure
  • Image File Names & Image Sizes
  • Image Alt Tags

Current Site – Keyword Ranking Report

To identify which keywords are driving traffic and new opportunities, you should create keyword traffic reports with historical Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools data. If Bing Webmaster Tools data is available, keyword search reports should be created from this platform as well.

The purpose of this exercise is to create a benchmark of terms and how the site is currently ranking. This will begin the process of creating a plan to hold or increase ranking on terms that create qualified traffic and site conversions. This will also allow a comparison of pre-site redesign vs. post site re-design analysis allowing us to identify any post site ranking issues that may have occurred during the redesign.

Current Site: Backlink Cleanup

It’s imperative that any negative SEO that is being directed to the website is removed before the redesigned site launches. One major key piece that is often forgotten is cleaning up backlinks. Each link that points to another website sends ranking signals that affect the site landing page. Site’s with black hat, grey hat or very outdated SEO can harm your site’s SEO by sending traffic to you. Most times, these negative SEO offending sites are old blogs that don’t push traffic, or are sites that are link farms.

You should create a full back link report. Separate positive links with good page rank and influence from negative links. Create a domain and page disavow list and submit these lists to Google & Bing Webmaster Tools. This will notify both of these search engines that you do not want those specific links taken into account when ranking your site pages. These pages can still drive traffic to your site, but the negative effect they are having on your SEO will be removed.

2. SEO During Website Redesign

Ensure the Development Site is not Indexed

Setting your development’s site to disallow indexing in the robots.txt file will ensure there is no duplicate content being served to Google & Bing. Search engines see a subdomain as an entirely different website. If there is duplicate content on the subdomain pulled from the original site, Google & Bing may index the development site mistaking this new content as more relevant, hurting the current site’s rankings during the redesign process.

On-Page SEO During the New Site Development

Ensuring the proper historical elements that are helping the website rank well for key search terms are transferred to the new website is essential. During the site development, for each site page, the following elements will be audited and edited as needed, using White Hat SEO techniques:

  • If the site is built in WordPress: Install full suite of WordPress plugins enabling various features for SEO, site backup & restoration, site caching, Google & Bing tools, and other pertinent tools for developing and publishing the site.
  • SEO Keyword research for website pages & product pages.
  • Create SEO optimized:
  • URL Names
  • Meta Titles
  • Meta Descriptions
  • Header Tags
  • Alt Tags
  • Image File Names
  • Page Content: Audit all page content for misspellings, grammatical errors, and proper targeted keyword distribution.
  • Install and test Google Analytics.
  • Audit & Update Google Analytics Conversions.
  • Install and Verify Google Webmaster Tools (both www. and non www. versions).
  • Install and Verify Bing Webmaster Tools.
  • Install and Verify any tracking codes from previous site that are necessary (AdWords conversion code, Bing Ads conversion code, and any other site tracking codes for external tools).

Create a Redirect Plan

During most site redesigns, the amount of pages changes. Also, URL names change and some pages aren’t brought over to the new site. Also, we want to avoid creating an automatic redirect from old pages that are now 404 pages to the home page. By creating a page to page redirect plan, we transfer a large amount of the previous SEO power from older pages that are retiring to the new corresponding site page.

Beyond these pages carrying weight in search engines for ranking, some site pages have other sites linking to them. If these pages aren’t redirected properly, it could affect referral traffic, search engine results, and ultimately site traffic and ranking.

A proper page to page redirect plan would address the following types of pages and potential issues:

  • Renamed URLs
  • Old pages not on new site
  • Old promotional links that were forgotten
  • Old 302 redirect links
  • Ensure all redirects from old to new site are 301 Permanent redirects

3. Post Website Launch SEO

Post Launch On-Site SEO Tasks:

As the site launches, you need to immediately complete the following on-site SEO tasks to ensure that all pages, links, tracking and SEO elements are working properly:

  1. Ensure the live site is not blocked by search engines.
  2. Upload your .htaccess file and test your redirects.
  3. Run a check for broken links on the new site and fix any issues.
  4. Proof your Google Analytics, Google Search Console, & Bing Webmaster Tools setup and verification.
  5. Check for any broken images, videos, PDFs and other media.
  6. Check your site on mobile devices, a tablet, and desktop.
  7. Check your site in different browsers (Chrome, Firefox, IE, Edge, Safari)
  8. If your site is under an SSL, ensure the SSL settings are properly configured.
  9. If your site is an eCommerce site, test your cart with all possible payment methods.
  10. Also, if it’s eCommerce, try to place an order outside of your shipping area to make sure it doesn’t work for customers you won’t be able to service.

Once you’ve fixed any items during the site launch and feel comfortable that the site is running as it should, submit an updated sitemap.xml and robots.txt file to Google & Bing Webmaster Tools.

Also, manually submit as any URLs as you can to Google & Bing Webmaster Tools speeding the process of the search engines re-indexing the new site and content.

Final SEO Checkup

After these checks, immediately create a full site SEO Audit to ensure the following elements configured properly:

  • Meta Titles
  • Meta Descriptions
  • HTML Structure
  • Canonical tags
  • No Broken internal/external links
  • Image alt text
  • XML sitemap properly structured
  • Robots.txt properly structured
  • No duplicate content
  • Site speed and performance
  • URL structure
  • Image Alt Tags
  • Google Analytics code
  • Google & Bing Webmaster Tools Codes
  • Re-verify all other tracking codes from external sources
  • No broken site elements: buttons, internal links, navigation, javascript functions
  • Server Errors
  • Timeout Errors

Once all items above have been completed, over the next 30-45 days you should periodically check the following tools to ensure there hasn’t been a decrease in traffic, loss in keyword ranking, 404 errors, and site indexing issues:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Webmaster Tools
  • Bing Webmaster Tools

Once any indexing issues and all potential 404 errors have been resolved, you should set either an automatic 404 to the homepage or create a custom 404 page for your website.

If you’ve covered all of the points above, you should have retained a major portion of your previous site’s SEO, and possibly even built upon it for future success.

Should You Feel Comfortable with Your New Site’s SEO?

The steps above have guided you through an in-depth Website Redesign SEO plan. As we all know, SEO is a constantly changing world. As people’s search habits change, search engine algorithms change. Your site should change as well to reach your audience in creative and progressive ways that also speak to search engine algorithms.

A stagnant site with old content can easily be pushed aside in search engine results by competitive sites that are updating and adding content regularly, based off of a keyword and content marketing plan and other SEO techniques. Google and Bing are constantly indexing new content to serve the best possible content to people searching the internet. Ask yourself:

  • Am I happy with my current website traffic from Google organic search?
  • Will my content be relevant a year from now, 2 years from now, even longer?
  • Does my website serve its purpose (lead generator, sales, information source)?
  • Does my site speak to those who are looking for my products/services better than my competition?
  • Does my site also speak to search engine crawlers better than my competition?

If you feel you’re lacking in any of the areas above – or don’t know the answer, it’s a strong possibility you need to look into long-term SEO services.