Redesigning a website can be daunting and time consuming. It requires loads of planning, too much decision-making and a mile long to-do list. When you’re in the middle of a redesign project, with so much going on, it can be easy to overlook these SEO fundamentals.
SEO should be part of your project from day one. Implementing an SEO plan will make sure your site’s visibility won’t be negatively impacted when your new site launches. While it’s not exactly out of the ordinary to see a decline in your website traffic right after a site launch, there are precautions you can take to mitigate your risk.
Your SEO initiatives can be broken up into tasks during different phases of your project. In this three-part series, we’ll cover the tasks you should consider at the beginning of your redesign project.
1. Gain an understanding of your site’s pages, content and errors
During the website redesign planning phase, it’s important that you crawl your entire site. This will give you a comprehensive view of everything that’s out there. That way you won’t miss any critical content and you can review metadata for your site’s pages. You can then let that information guide your content strategy for your new site. There are dozens of site crawlers available. The example below shows Screaming Spider in action.
a. Create a spreadsheet that shows current pages, page titles and status codes.
b. Add a column that gives you a next step – delete, update or keep. This will come in handy as you work on your content.
c. Review your page titles, meta descriptions and headings. Create a plan for the new site.
2. Understand your visitor’s behavior and how they interact with your site
When we’re doing a website redesign, we review analytics so we have a clear understanding of the current traffic patterns. Some metrics to note include top content, channel breakdown, percentage of organic sessions and goal conversions. Once your new site is live, be sure to annotate the launch date in Google Analytics.
a. Understand where your traffic is coming from.
b. Identify your top content. Make sure that this content has a home on the new site.
c. Review conversion goals. What are you currently measuring? What are you missing?
3. Conduct an inbound links audit
A strong inbound link profile is critical to a successful SEO campaign. For decades, Google has considered links to your site as a sign of authority, so good quality links can help boost your SEO. Low quality, spammy links however can negatively affect your site and could even put you in Google’s sandbox with a big, fat penalty.
If you’re kicking off a website redesign project, consider also reviewing your inbound links. There are a handful of very good tools that give you valuable data. We subscribe to SEMRush, shown below. If you don’t have a paid subscription, try a free tool such as Backlink Watch. Once you see all of the sites that link to your site, you can request that they update their link if it goes to a page that will no longer be on the new site. You can also disavow any links that aren’t high quality.
a. Review all your inbound links. Look for links that are going to interior pages. Will they be broken when the new site is launched? If so, contact the website owner and request that they update the link.
b. Identify any spammy links and add them to a Disavow list.
4. Review Google Search Console data
Google Search Console is a free tool that shows how Google sees your site. If you’re planning a redesign, it’s extremely valuable to review your GSC profile. Doing so will give insight about how Google crawls your site, whether or not it encounters errors, top search queries and more.
a. Look at site and page errors. Are there site-wide issues that you need to address? If so, getting a jump start on fixing any issues will help make sure that you’re prepared for your launch date.
b. Review “Queries” in Google Search Console. Do you have a good position for queries that are relevant to your content? If so, will there be similar content on your new site? Make a plan for important queries.
Stay tuned for part two of this series where we’ll review important SEO to-dos during the design and development part of your project.