In order to maintain a consistent SEO rank, most of the businesses invest a lot of time and money in updating their website. This is a continual process and perhaps the most important one that will not only affect the site rankings but will also affect the traffic count, sales volume, revenue generation and in short, the success and survival of a business, especially online or eCommerce business
Therefore, website redesigning is the natural part of a brand cycle. This will help you in lots of ways such as:
- To keep the brand relevant
- To keep the content fresh
- To make the message clear for the visitors
- To dramatically improve the experience of the users and most importantly
- To keep up with ever-changing web standards.
However, at the same time, website redesigns may also result in an impasse that will eventually throw away your SEO authority and also dump search traffic as well.
In order to prevent such things from happening to your website during a redesign, you must follow a carefully prepared and planned website redesign SEO checklist. This will help you in ways more than one including:
- Communicating effectively between SEO professionals and the developers which is extremely important and
- Consider the impacts on the SEO and work in accordance with the redesign process right from the beginning to the end so that it is not compromised.
The technical SEO checklist will also help you to keep proper track of the different changes made in your site during the redesign process.
Crawling and auditing
First, you must use a crawling tool to get an index of the pages. These tools will also help you to know about the different important pieces of metadata. Just make sure that you save the crawl.
- Both these facts will help you a lot when you need to refer to these figures back at any stage during your website redesigning process.
- You will also need this information to ensure that there is a continuity between your original site and the new one that you have redesigned.
When you have completed your crawl, you must now focus on identifying any of these following issues, once again using your crawl tool:
- Redundancy or duplication in page titles, H1 tags, image alt, or meta descriptions
- Missing page titles, image alt, meta descriptions, and H1 tags
- Page titles that are under 150 pixels or more than 512 pixels
- Meta descriptions that are over 923 pixels
- Links to 404 pages or 301 pages
- Links to any other 3xx, 4xx, or 5xx status code URLs or
- Any inconsistent use of www vs non-www or https vs http.
Make sure that you create a spreadsheet for each of these issues and also check for any mismatch in the number of URLs that you may have crawled using the crawling tool. Also, check out the number of URLs that are indexed by Google by doing a site search with an empty query.
In addition to that, you must also make sure that you have an XML sitemap along with a copy of it as well as a robots.txt file and its copy.
Set up the test site
The next things on your checklist should be setting up the test site. While you do so keep in mind that:
- Ideally, your original site crawl must act as the template for the new site. You must make a copy of the original site crawl and take notes of any changes made or need to be made on the new site. This especially necessary when you make any changes to the URLs.
- You must also address any existing issues or that you may have encountered while crawling and auditing your old site. Make sure that you map all of the changes made to your new site taking note of these with reference to the original site crawl copy.
- Also, make sure that the redesigned site is non-indexed within the robots.txt file. This will prevent Google from starting to display your test pages in its search results.
- Do not make any unnecessary changes to any of the file names or the URL folders. Ideally, these should be as close to indistinguishable as possible. However, exceptions can be made only to deal with the pages and inconsistencies that you do not want to be in your new site.
- Make it a point to include the links to the URLs that you have changed. Even better, you should set up a .htaccess to it so that you can redirect the old URLs to the new site. However, this should not be taken as an excuse to leave those links unchanged.
- Remember that links to 301 pages will lose PageRank and also create unnecessary load on the server. Therefore, avoid this. Your original site crawl will actually tell you about the pages that you should link to each URL. It will also need to attach an anchor text along with it. Once again, taking note of these changes made is essential in your old site crawl copy.
- Make sure that you eliminate any links to the pages removed and consolidate any of the pages into a bigger central resource. At the same time, remember to update the links on these pages so that these direct to the new resources instead of removing the links simply. Make note of all the changes in your original site crawl copy all the time.
- Lastly, remember not to create any “soft 404s” by substituting the mislaid pages with redirects to your homepage or any other irrelevant pages. This is because Google is very strict about removed pages and will display it as 404 if anything is found wanting in the redesign.
Finally, to conclude, make sure that you have proper and constant communication with your developers and SEO professionals. Also, make sure that all the crawl data is accurate. While redesigning, try to be as clear as possible about the things that may create an issue and what needs to be evaded during the redesign. The checklist will keep you from deviating and avoid pitfalls.