This week I had a call with a small business owner who is launching a website redesign. He asked me how can we best preserve his existing SEO and makes sure he doesn’t lose any search ranking in the transition. Right away I replied that this was a fabulous question. We then chatted about common mistakes that occur and how we can prevent them from happening with this website redesign project.
Here is the scary part about this conversation: I rarely am asked about this until the website is redesigned and launched and the damage is done. It’s only then that I receive a website inquiry or Facebook post asking for assistance. Sadly, that is way too late in the process to protect your SEO, your ranking in search, and your website traffic. By the time you notice a dip in ranking and traffic, the damage is done and it’s really hard to fully recover.
Since this is such an important topic and one that is many times ignored, I thought I would write about it and create a handy website redesign SEO checklist template that can be downloaded and used by website owners and developers.
My Website Redesign SEO Checklist
The best SEO checklist will blend content planning and execution with technical aspects like code and schema. You can’t have solid SEO without combining traditional content marketing with a solid process and a very strong codebase.
You’ll see my below list combines multiple elements before and after the go-live to make sure website owners have thoroughly reviewed the new website and validated that the existing SEO will survive the transition.
Initial Website Set Up
- Set development website to no follow, no index
- Validate search engine friendly URLs are in place
- Use Dyno Mapper to crawl the existing website to obtain a complete URL list
- Review Google Search Console or SEMrush to document list of top landing pages
- Map focused or targeted keywords to URLs and create an SEO sitemap
- Review content silos and validate proper parent/children relationships exist
- Write updated content that is a minimum of 1,000 words
- Proofread new content for spelling errors and grammar
- Style new content for readability (i.e. small paragraphs, subheaders, bullets)
- Review content for proper meta title and description usage
- Double check top landing pages to validate quality content and SEO is in place
Technical SEO Review
- Review header usage to ensure a proper outline structure exists for search engines and human visitors
- Check website across mobile devices to validate responsive design and coding is in place and working properly
- Validate template coding to W3 standards
- Check code to text ratio on live pages
- Check and validate schema and structured data
- Check images for proper usage of alt text
- Optimize images for load times
- Update internal links to accommodate the new URL structure
- Create 301 redirects for any URL changes to existing content
- Create a new XML sitemap
- Check the Robots.txt file and validate
- Remove no follow, no index on the live site
- Review Google Analytics goals to validate the URL structure and flow match new website
- Upload the new XML sitemap to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools
- Check Google Search Console for any errors and address as needed
- Use Dyno Mapper to crawl the new website and report errors