Launching a new site or redesigning your current website is exciting; your new site is new, flashy, interactive – but will it impact your SEO?
A website redesign or transition can be a daunting project, so to help with the transition process, we’ve put together a checklist of questions you need to be asking yourself to maintain your SEO value with your new site.
Have you transitioned all relevant content (or updated thin content)?
This is arguably the most important question to ask yourself during any website redesign, relaunch, or transition. The number one way to lose SEO value on your site is by not properly transitioning content.
There are important steps you need to take when it comes to transitioning your content:
Make sure all content from your old site is found on the new site.
Just because you’re redesigning or relaunching a site doesn’t mean you should be starting from scratch. Visitors have a certain expectation of what content and information they can find on your site, and it’s helpful to visitors if they’re still able to find this information your new site.
The same can be said of search engines. Search engines like Google and Bing have certain expectations for your site; they have crawled and indexed your content and serve up your website content to relevant search queries. If this content suddenly disappears or can’t be found on your current site, you can expect a dramatic decrease in search traffic on your new, dressed-up site.
Update thin content and meta data on your site.
While you’re going through the content found on your old site, look for content pieces that could use more content or could be updated with more relevant information. Content is extremely important to your site’s SEO performance, so a website transition is the perfect opportunity to make sure your content is as good as it can be.
You should also be looking for SEO elements to optimize during the transition process. Your current site should already have optimized title tags and meta descriptions, but this process is a good opportunity to revisit and optimize these elements.
Redirect old pages to newly-created pages.
Even if you are copying content to your new site, it may not be easy for visitors or search engines to find it, especially if you’re changing your URLs. For example, if content at mydomain.com/mypage now exists at mydomain.com/my-page, you’ll need to create a 301 redirect.
Have you installed Google Analytics?
One of the most important things you can do for your site during the redesign process is to make sure you have an analytics tool installed on your website. Think of it this way: without proper website analytics, how will you know if your website redesign was a success?
Installing Google Analytics is a straightforward process. Google Analytics provides tracking code, and it can be as simple as copying and pasting this code into your newly-designed pages.
Have you verified your website in Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools)?
Google Analytics can be a powerful tool for analytics, but it’s not the only tool you should be using. In addition to adding Google Analytics, your site ought to be verified in Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools).
Search Console provides essential information that you wouldn’t otherwise get. For example, you might have noticed this among your top keywords in your Organic Search Traffic:
Not very helpful, right? This is where Search Console becomes a must-have tool. Site owners are provided with in-depth search analytics including the actual keywords your site performs for and several key keyword analytics, including:
- Click-thru Rate
- Average Position
Search Console also provides users with other helpful metrics, including the presence of structured data on your site, total pages indexed, and numerous others.
After Verifying Your Site in Search Console
Once you’ve verified your website, there are a few housekeeping things to take care of:
- Set your preferred domain
- Submitting a new sitemap
- Testing your robots.txt
These housekeeping tasks are made fairly simple using Search Console. For more information on these processes, Google provides help materials in the Search Console Help Center.
Have you added a 404 page?
Even the most talented webmasters can’t avoid the inevitable 404: Page Not Found error – but they do prepare for them by creating a custom 404: Page Not Found page.
A proper 404 page should have the following elements:
- An Error Message for the user
- Navigation menu
- Link to search/home page
A 404 page with these elements are user-friendly and help visitors find the content they were initially searching for.
Launching a new site isn’t easy. It requires a lot of time and effort for everyone involved, and even with a great deal of planning, can be difficult to handle.
Remember this isn’t an exhaustive list. Depending on your site, there could be additional steps you need to take to have a seamless transition. Make sure you gather as much information as possible for the best possible transition for your new site.