Website redesigns are common. According to this article, they should take place approximately 2-3 years. This seems accurate from my experience.
As a website owner, it means website redesigns, and how to handle them, will become increasingly common over time.
It’s important that you make a plan for SEO website redesign, and have an accurate and up-to-date checklist to follow.
It’s common for web designers to put tens of hours into web design, making a beautiful website but omitting all but the most basic SEO concepts in the new site.
As part of the SEO website redesign process, it’s really an opportune time to address outdated content, broken links, bad navigation & menus as well and other factors that negatively affect SEO as well as conversions.
Backlinks are increasingly hard to acquire in 2017. You must consider your backlinks and do everything you can to retain them, to ensure the inevitable traffic drop after a website re-launch is minimised (and only temporary) as much as possible.
This blog provides an easy to follow checklist to minimise SEO impact when redesigning and relaunching your website.
Perform a link audit
It’s important to know all your incoming links. You want to retain the majority of your link juice. If URLs change as part of your site redesign, you’ll want to create 301 redirects, or inform the backlink owner of the URL change. This step is critical, else you’ll lose your website rankings fast!
Keep slugs the same where possible
Avoid renaming pages and slugs. Names should be kept the same to retain your backlinks. Only change the slugs if there’s no alternative.
Ensure the new site is set to no-index.
While you’re setting up the new website, ensure it’s not being indexed by Google/Bing. You don’t want to confuse the search engine and eat up your crawl budget on the site that’s not ready to go live.
Check for any dead links, missing images
As part of the site redesign, the web designer may have overlooked dead links and missing images. It’s an opportune time to perform a website analysis to scan for dead links, missing images etc before go-live.
My tool of choice for these audits is the excellent WebSite Auditor. Here’s my method to perform website analysis:
Create a new project and ensure you have the “Enable expert options” box checked:
Disable the “Follow robots.txt instruction”. Now the Website Auditor tool can crawl your entire site, even though the home page is set to no index.
Review the website analysis and check/correct any issues:
Ensure Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools are setup
Setup all the tracking code on the new site and ensure it’s working before go-live. This ensures there is one less task to perform after the site is re-launched.
It’s important to check your website performance as part of SEO website redesign, both for user experience and for crawl performance. If your website is slow to load, it won’t be crawled effectively. This will exceed your crawl budget.
You should check the page load times via Google page speed insights. Ensure you are using a WordPress image compression plugin, such as Smush and install a caching plugin such as WordPress Fastest Cache.
Ensure on-page SEO is checked/addressed
You’ll need to install a SEO plugin, such as Yoast, if not installed already. This will help you manage your on-page SEO factors. Ensure all Meta Keywords, Meta Descriptions H1s are set and optimised.
Remove the no-index tags
This will enable the site to be indexed by the search engines
Complete the change of address in Google Search Console
This is essential to inform Google of the address change (if applicable)
Ensure Google Analytics is receiving live traffic
Check for any crawl errors
It’s essential to check the Google Search Console for any crawl errors, as well as the crawl stats to ensure Googlebot has no issues indexing your site.
Ensure the sitemap is submitted and pages are indexed
There are reasons why pages aren’t being indexed. Check out our blog about why pages need to be Indexed and run your pages through the tool.
There is more likely to be an issue for new pages, rather than existing ones. But check them anyway.
Ensure there are no issues with your Robot.txt
This is checked by investigating “Blocked Resources” in Google Search Console
Track site rankings as normal
If you’ve done everything correctly, it should take around 4 weeks for rankings to return to normal. This is however dependent on your crawl rate/crawl budget.
Website redesigns are a fact of life and are becoming more common. If you make a plan for SEO website redesign and address backlinks up-front, the impact to traffic and rankings will recover in about a month.
Did I miss anything? Please comment to suggest additions to the checklist.