Most web designers are clueless about SEO (sorry guys, just my industry experience), they focus mainly on the look and functionality of the site and are usually less interested if your page titles are SEO optimized or if old pages on the website redirect properly. I don’t fault them too strongly for it though, it’s just not their wheelhouse, if it was they’d be SEO Specialists and not Web Designers.
So how does a business owner, or digital marketing manager, ensure a smooth re-launch of the company website so that you maintain any search engine positions you may already have and potentially boost your performance in search?
Step One: Crawl Baby Crawl
Use a tool such as Screaming Frog SEO Spider and crawl every corner of your current site to get a comprehensive catalog of all of your pages on your site and their current state (eg. 200, 301, 404, etc). Screaming Frog allows you to export this content into an Excel file for your slicing and dicing pleasure. The tool provides both a free and paid version. The learning curve isn’t too hard for the basic features and they do provide some guides online.
Step Two: Map that Content
Take stock of all of your pages and determine which you will keep as is, which you will move around, and which you are simply going to remove. Use that Excel file data and add columns for target keywords and topic categories, this will help you to see the overall view of your site and where you may be missing content or can combine content that overlaps.
Step Three: Optimize and Re-Optimize
Since you already have the hood open, you might as well spend some time fine-tuning the engine. For the pages that you are keeping and any new pages you might be creating this is a great time to optimize your page titles, Meta descriptions and H1 headers; as well as put any interlinking in place in body content.
Step Four: Just a Bit of Redirection
Once you know what pages you are keeping and where they will end up in the file directory of your website (eg. www.example.com/products/socks/girls/red-socks-white-dots/), then it’s time to create a spreadsheet for your IT team to tell them how you’d like removed pages handled and where content may have been moved. Some important things to remember:
- If a removed page has a similar page replacing it then you will want that old URL’s address 301 redirected to where the new page will live.
- If you’ve moved a page to a new folder on the site you will want the old URL’s address 301 redirected to where the new page will live.
- If you’ve changed the name of a page, this has just created a brand new URL, and so, you will want that old URL’s address 301 redirected to where the new page will live.
Simple, right? My best advice is just keep it all mapped out in your Excel sheet and let your IT person implement on your server. Later, after launch, you will want to go back and test that all of your redirects are correct.
Step Five: Time for a Little Test
After your site launches, run another Screaming Frog, make sure all of your pages are where they should be, that there are no errors (eg. 404s). Manually check your site as well. Do all the buttons work? Does the site look right overall? Does it render correctly in both desktop and mobile environments?
Step Six: Shout it Out Loud
Woot! You’ve done it, you launched your new site with little to no hiccups. Now, time to tell Google about your awesome and fresh new website, you will want a Google Search Console account if you don’t have one already. From here you can submit a new sitemap and request Google crawls your site.
While I have provided a very simple overview of what should be done during a website redesign to ensure SEO stability, know that there are many moving parts and it would be difficult to cover them all in one article. The team at CloverLabs have several years of experience under their collective belt of launching websites and are ready to help you with the successful launch of yours. Contact us today for details.
Passionate about digital marketing and helping small businesses succeed online, Shannon has over 15 years of online marketing experience. She loves sharing her knowledge with others to help them become better marketers.