A Guide for Avoiding SEO Disaster during a Website Redesign
Planning to redesign your website or migrating your new CMS? If yes, then you need a lot of planning and hard work. Furthermore, it can be a troublesome procedure, if you are you are not taking proper SEO precautions. You need to understand that website redesign and SEO move side by side. No one can ignore the importance of the organic search for their business website. Remember that by losing the majority of your ranking and traffic, then you will see fewer sales and leads.
If you are worried about the process, then the following guide will help you. Following are some specific steps that you should take before the migration process, during the launch and post-launch to reduce risk and avoid SEO disaster during the redesigning of your website:
Steps before Migration
1- Outline Goals of your Project
When you are going to redesign your website, there will be some compelling reasons behind it. The website migration checklist includes the following things:
• Improving user experience
• Business use-cases
• SEO improvements
• Marketing initiatives
It is very much essential to outline your goals properly so that you can work accordingly to get success. In addition to this, you need to make sure that you are having a baseline or benchmarks to compare it after the launch and plan from start to finish for the entire process.
Majority of the web projects will be following a specific plan or agile methodology. The defined plan is followed by the project owner either they are in a product, IT, project management, and account service aligned role. Keep one thing clear that when you are having SEO checklist for website design, timing, and quality control in front of your eyes, then you can ensure that the SEO is taken into consideration at every step.
2- Architecture of Content and Information
The context of the website subject holds an important place. In this, the sub-topic themes are also significant for SEO success. The changes in the information architecture, the entire content, and sitemap are done during the redesigning of the website.
You need to ensure that the important pages are not removed from the site if they have some SEO value. Moreover, the entire message and themes of the section should also not be affected by the design. You need to start the work with a current sitemap. Kick start work with your team on the requirements for new sitemap and this will be guiding us for the rest of the steps in the redesigning process of SEO. You must follow the right path to redesign the website without losing SEO.
If you are looking to find all the pages of your website, then you can use tools like Screaming Frog and DeepCrawl.
3- On-page Optimization
Going deep to a page level, the relevancy of the content to the intent of the searcher is very important for the maintenance. When you are aware of the context and changes in the architecture, then you can properly optimize specific elements that help with age title, meta description, body copy, URL, alt text, etc. You must move ahead according to your website redesign strategy to handle things step by step.
The extent of the changes to architecture and sitemap will tell about the need for attention on the relevancy of content. This is important to ensure that you are not losing subject matter content on your website.
You will need to optimize your staging site along with code base to be launched. You don’t have to wait until post-launch for making these updates.
There is a basic user experience case that needs to be made for ensuring that you figure out 301 redirects for all the pages that are getting new URLs and those who are going away during the redesigning process. Remember that businesses will not like to serve up a 404 error page to a user if they can avoid it.
For your information, the search engines are okay with 404s if they are hoping to remove their content from the index. However, no one will like to do so until someone is doing it intentionally. Remember that the link equity will be lost if the page is linked to 404 error. You should take a step for fixing 404 errors as soon as possible.
It is very significant to ensure that all pages are having proper redirection to their desired destination page URL. Moving on, if you are having a large website, then this needs more time and you have to check things properly.
If you are planning to get insights, then you can get help from the Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Here you can get the information of the pages that search engine crawls so that you don’t have to miss any redirects. After identifying all the redirects, you need to ensure that they are implemented at the server level or in a site plug-in and ready for the launch.
Keep one thing clear in your mind that you need to do the redirecting before launching the website. If you realize this problem later, then this will be very difficult to be done because users will be getting 404 errors.
At the time of launching your website, you should check your pre-launch checklist for your website. Furthermore, you will have to follow along with the go-live checklist. You have to perform all possible quality control checks of work you are going to do on the staging site. You should give a go-ahead to a website if any of your on-page work or redirects are not in place or tested. It is better to delay the launch instead of trying to undo the damage or to roll back to the old website.
1- Checking Redirects
The first thing that you need to do is to go back to your redirect file, old sitemap, and old site crawl for ensuring that all old site URLs perform 301 redirects to new website URLs.
This is the point where you can check any stray 404s and implement additional redirects instantly. You can begin the process by spot-checking URLs and then go back to check as many old site URLs.
2- Dev-to-Live Audit
Other than re-directing, you need to ensure that all the pages and specific on-page optimization is carried over from dev site to the live site. If your website is having a lot of dynamic content, then this is an important step because sometimes database and tables get missed in the migration.
For instance, if you are optimizing all title tags on your staging site but in a database, they didn’t go live at launch, you will find missing or default duplicate titles on every page or on your product pages, etc.
3- Performance and Code Validation
You should not expect that the live website will be performing the same as staging site do. You should be running the homepage and key pages through the mobile-friendly testing tool for ensuring that site achieves passing grades as part of your website performance audit.
Furthermore, you should run the page speed tool to figure out an area that needs optimization on a new website. Remember that the difference in hosting, servers, and other loads of production site will create problems that you will found on the staging website. Most importantly, don’t forget about schema markup on your site.
You should use website code validator to ensure proper implementation of things. It will be helpful in case if anything is changed between old, staging, and live site and the way search engines render them.
4- Submission of XML Sitemaps
When you are having the satisfaction that your redirects are working fine along with the SEO implementation on your live site, then it’s time to submit an XML sitemap.
You need to ensure that dynamic sitemap will include desired full set of destination URLs. Moreover, if you are using a static sitemap, then you need to generate a new one, audit it, and then submit it.
You also need to make sure that your XML sitemap files are fresh. You need to have zero URLs that result in 404 error and ensure that all the URLs are having destination URLs versus redirects or pages in the same order as in another version. Keeping all this in view, if you are having any problems in your website design process, then you should avail the website design services from professional companies to get satisfactory results.
With all the hard work you have done so far, it is very much essential that you monitor all the things carefully. For the upcoming next 1 to 2 months you need to monitor your Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Doing so will help you to watch reported 404 errors, crawl errors, and any detected HTML on-page issues. If there are any issues, then you need to tackle them instantly.
6- Ongoing SEO
You must be clear that SEO is not a one-time effort. After you have settled everything and monitoring phase is in motion, then you should go back to your original plan and goals for measuring the performance of a new website. Now, you can resume your normal ongoing optimization plan.
Hope now you have got proper guidance and are clear about the things that you need to avoid SEO disaster during a website redesigning process. To get the professional assistance for the process, you can get in touch with TopNotch Innovative Technologies, a Boston web design company. The skilled team will ensure that your website remains SEO-friendly during the re-designing process.