Does your website redesign have you worried about your SEO? Fear not. Overhauling your website doesn’t have to cost you your hard-earned search engine ranking. In fact, if you play your cards right, it can do just the opposite.
Our checklist will teach you everything you need to know to make sure Google and Bing fall in love with your new website.
Ready for an SEO boost? Read on.
#1:Crawl Your Current Site
You’ve worked hard on your SEO for your current site, and it shows. You don’t want to lose all the progress you’ve made. That’s why the first thing you should do when considering a redesign is crawl your current site.
Crawling your website will give you a better picture of its meta data and structure. In other words, it gives you a roadmap of your current site. This will allow you to be aware of what exactly is changing, why, and how you can match the new site to the old one.
Try using a tool like Screaming Frog.
#2: Perform an SEO Audit
Your next step is to do an SEO audit on your current site. This will allow you to see what is and isn’t working with your current SEO strategy.
When performing an audit, you’ll want to check a few key areas:
Make sure search engines can access your entire site. Check to see if your robots.txt and sitemap are all in working order, and that your site structure isn’t too complex.
Check to see if Google has indexed your entire site. Try searching for site:yoururlhere.com. Compare the number of page results to the number of pages in your website. If it hasn’t indexed everything, you’ll want to see if search engines can access your site properly or if you’re being penalized for breaking one of the engine’s regulations. If it’s indexed too much, check for duplicate content.
Check your on-page SEO. Are you happy with your URL structure? Is your content ranking well? Do your images all have alt descriptions, are your meta descriptions all in order?
Examine your off-page SEO factors. Is your site popular? If it is, you probably have a bunch of backlinks earning you SEO that you don’t want to lose. (If you’re worried about losing backlinks, our checklist has you covered. Keep reading for more on redirects and URL structure.)
You want your SEO audit to be as thorough as possible, so take your time. If you’re worried about missing something, don’t hesitate to hire a professional.
#3: Evaluate Your Keyword Strategy
Your SEO audit will have told you a lot about how your keyword strategy is working for you. Now’s your chance to shake things up.
As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to pick 1 keyword per page. Keep searcher intent in mind. Try to include your primary keywords in your page URLs, and don’t forget to work it into your H1 tag as well.
That said, don’t get so caught up worrying about keywords that you start keyword stuffing. That can lead to search engines penalizing you, because it will look like you’re trying to trick them into ranking you higher. Embrace synonyms and natural language.
For help brainstorming your keyword strategy, try Google Keyword Planner.
#4: Let Analytics Inspire Your Website Redesign
Analytics data can help guide your redesign, and tell you how your new site is performing.
Go through your data to see how your viewers are interacting with your current/old site. There are a few key questions to ask that will help you with your redesign:
- Are there any pages people have trouble finding?
- What content did they like best?
- How did past site changes impact your data?
#5: Make Sure You Have Great Content
How’s your content performing? Is your content marketing strategy up to snuff?
If it’s not, you’ll want to give that a thought while you’re doing your redesign. If you don’t have a business blog, now’s the time to start one.
Search engines love content-rich sites. It makes your site look more trustworthy, which is great for your ranking.
Make sure you don’t have any duplicate content, and that the content you do have is in-depth and informative.
#6: Have A Mobile-Friendly Site Design
If your current site isn’t mobile-friendly, you need to make sure it is when you do your redesign.
Why is a mobile-friendly site design important?
Well, 80% of internet users own a smartphone. You can be certain that visitors to your site are accessing it on a mobile device If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re probably losing visitors, conversion opportunities, and money.
Make sure your new site layout is responsive. That means your site will adapt to the size of the screen your reader is viewing it on.
#7: Mind Your URL Structure
Dealing with your URL structure when redesigning your site can be tricky. If your URL structure is confusing or too complex, it could be hurting your SEO. But if you change your URL structure, you could lose valuable inbound links and hurt your SEO.
So, what do you do?
The results of your site crawl and SEO audit will be helpful here. Look them over and weigh your options. Are your URLs too long? Too vague? Does the structure make sense? Stick to your original URLs if you can, but if they’re hurting your page ranking think about making a change.
Are there any inbound links that you’d lose by changing your URL structure? Weigh the costs of each decision carefully.
If you do opt to change your URL structure, you can use redirects to save inbound links.
#8: Use Redirects When Necessary
If you need to change your URLs but don’t want to lose valuable backlinks, don’t despair.
Enter the 301 redirect.
301 redirects can save your SEO. A redirect tells browsers and search engines that the page has moved permanently. Search engines will look at the new URL for content, while still counting the original backlink.
Don’t get too redirect happy, though. Redirects can slow down your site, so you don’t want to use too many.
#9: Don’t Forget Your Sitemap
Don’t forget to create an XML sitemap to submit to Google and Bing. A sitemap tells both humans and search engines how to navigate your website. This makes it much easier your search engine bots to crawl your site and completely index it.
#10: Make Sure Your Site Is Lightning-Fast
Having a fast loading site is important for both your readers and search engines. If your site takes too long to load, readers will go elsewhere, and so will search engine crawlers.
Check your site speed with a tool like PageSpeed Insights. You want it to load in under two seconds.
#11: Optimize Your Title Tags
Are all of your title tags around 55 characters? Titles that are too long will get cut off in search results. You don’t want that to happen- your title tag is the first thing visitors will see in search results.
If your title tags are too long, or don’t include the right keyword, now’s the time to change them.
#12: Double-Check Your Meta Descriptions
Right under your title tag, searchers will see your meta description. Because meta descriptions serve as the intro to your webpage, you want them to be catchy and contain relevant keywords.
The official length for a meta description is 155 characters or under.
#13: Have Descriptive Alt Tags
When search engines crawl your page, they don’t see images. That doesn’t mean your images don’t help your SEO, though.
When search engines index images, they look at the image’s alt tag to figure out what the image is about. That means images can help your search ranking, so don’t forget to write descriptive alt tags.
#14: Check Your Internal Links
When you’re performing a redesign, make sure your internal links are in working order. You don’t want broken links because of a page has moved, or you’re using a new url structure.
You’ll also want to make sure any links that you’ve shared on social media or on other sites will work with your new site.
#15: Claim Your Webname on Major Networks
This makes it easier for people to find you, and makes sure that when people google your business name you’re exactly what they’ll find.
Claim your business name or URL on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Hubpages, etc.
You don’t have to go crazy here. Target popular social media networks or the networks where your customers are most likely to spend time.
#16: Don’t Forget Local SEO
If your business has a storefront and doesn’t live entirely online, you’ll want to give local SEO a thought.
Here are a few steps you can take to get started with local SEO:
- Set up a Google My Business page.
- Have a contact-us page with your name, address, and phone number. Make sure this information is available throughout your website.
- Get reviews. Make sure you have a Yelp page, and don’t shy away from encouraging customers to leave you feedback on Google or Yelp.
- When you’re planning your keyword strategy, don’t forget to include your city and region.
#17: Check For Errors
When you’re all done, crawl the new site. Make sure the links are all working. Double check that your responsive-site layout shows up well on different devices. Go over your SEO checklist again to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.
A lot goes into a website redesign; it can be an intimidating project! But a redesign doesn’t have to hurt your search engine ranking. Follow these steps and you’ll be ready to keep climbing up the search engine results.