Whenever you undertake a large website redesign, inevitably you get to the SEO stage. So I’m going to use this blog to answer a few common questions to hopefully help your process move along a little smoother.
First off, what is SEO and how has it evolved?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving visibility and promoting a site and its content to search engines and searchers alike. There are many aspects to SEO, from the content on your page to the way other sites link to you. Sometimes SEO is simply a matter of making sure your site is structured in a way that search engines can understand. Other times, it’s earning links that truly matter and make sense for users (naturally). And while all of that is still true today, link building and on and off page SEO has evolved into what’s known as Web Presence Optimization. Web Presence Optimization can consist of three main parts:
- Technical set-up and keyword identification mapping
- Unique and fresh content
- Social link signals
Why is it important to consider SEO before a redesign?
Consider this: There has already been a lot of SEO work put into your old website. This work does not magically affect the new site, especially during a CMS migration and a complete revamp of content and new pages/URLs. This is where the importance of 301 redirection comes into play. A 301 redirect will pass link equity to the redirected page. So you are changing your URL for Product X? 301 redirect that original URL to this new URL!
You will also need to update your page titles, meta descriptions, header tags, body copy, internal links, and image alt text with SEO in mind. With a new redesign and/or migration, come many opportunities to make your site more search engine and user friendly. Responsive design for example, includes layering your site with microdata vocabulary (schema.org, rich snippets) supported by the major search engines, ensuring that you have specific content addressing your users’ needs and fusing that with historical data and search trends, making your site as mobile friendly as possible, and incorporating international SEO best practices if your site is in multiple markets/languages, etc.
What should be my SEO considerations BEFORE a redesign?
We recently launched our new Webtrends.com, and it was refreshing to have SEO brought in at the wire framing stage and work in harmony with development, paid search and overall UX, as it allowed us to incorporate many of the latest items found as “hot topics” within the search world. As always, the SEO team’s involvement before the Webtrends redesign involved a whole bunch of 301 redirects of pages. It is very common for redesigns to cause traffic loss and rank fluctuations. This has a lot to do with new URLs and the loss of legacy content. The Webtrends SEO team sought out those old pages and mapped them to relevant pages on the main website. This helps preserve link equity and promotes the UX.
Because there were many new, un-optimized pages appearing within the redesigned site, the SEO team provided batches of on page optimization recommendations to the development team. This involves a page title and meta description that abides by character best practices and includes relevant, descriptive and highly searched for keywords that make sense for users first and search engines closely after.
The following are a list of other important SEO-related steps to take prior to go-live for a redesign:
- Conduct a technical SEO audit of existing site
What steps should I take for SEO AFTER a redesign?
After go-live, it is important to continue monitoring site performance and provide updates to search engines. These updates include notifying Google of any site changes or adding and verifying the new Webtrends domain to Google Webmaster Tools, as well as manually checking the following:
- New site crawls to check for 302 redirects, anomalies in the robots.txt file, META robots and canonical elements
- Error monitoring in Google Webmaster Tools and Analytics, tracking any soft 404s, 5XX errors
- Ensuring analytics is firing and tracking organic/paid search actions correctly
- Link reclamation, discovering any other broken internal and external links with 301 redirects
- Moving the dial even further with new enhancements such as structured data, social sharing and Open Graph protocol, canonicalization, pagination best practices and much more
It’s evident that migrating to a new website is not a simple process. There are a lot of moving parts and constant checks and rechecks, especially if you are moving to a new CMS. To keep our site optimized, we will continue to provide on page SEO, technical site recommendations, backlink audits, link earning strategies and SEO Best Practice Guides. If you have any SEO questions please contact us.
And if you missed our previous Behind the Scenes blog about tagging, feel free to visit it here. Coming up next in the series is how you run quality assurance and finalize everything for the big website launch.