Now as many reader know I talk quite a bit about redesigning a website, what to do and what not to do along with ideas about how to make it a better redesign for all involved from the designer, to content writer to the end user… all oh which is important. This post may rake over some older ground that was once covered (I admit) but this is your 101 SEO checklist for a redesign of a website and the transition between one site to another without loosing any of the search ranking you’ve battled for.
Your Website Redesign SEO Checklist
For all the old URL’s that you aren’t using enable 301 redirects – this shows search engines that you are permanently moving to the new url from your old url. Generally this is done in a .htaccess file but can also be done using a php redirect in the header of the old location. Basically, you are pointing the old url to the new url. (eg. example.com/bob.php – old site to new site – example.com/about-bob)
Re-install (and if possible update) your analytic code … leaving this behind will mean you will loose ground because you have no statistics.
Create a new sitemap (both HTML and XML) and submit the new site map to the search engines.
Create a new robots.txt file … tip: start a new robots file otherwise you may prevent search engines from seeing directories you want them to now see but didn’t on the old site … a common mistake.
If your business is based in a locality ensure your registered with local business directories (including google local business centre).
Local business (eg salons like spirit beauty salon haddington) should include their address in the footer.
Use a .htaccess file to forward a www and non-www to the other (or vice versa).
Include the canonical meta tag on all pages (more info about the canonical tag)
Organise your content and architecture into a solid forest formation – information architecture is a vital part of a site and enabling both maximum user access and search engines (for advice or help contact me)
If your site is anticipating a high volume of visitors consider all optimisation and don’t put needless 1mb flash files in your header… saving bandwidth means you save hosting costs in the long run, also by removing this type of file you are reducing the load time for both user and spider significantly.
Again if you anticipate high volume demands consider a layout change to put content where users want it and need it … think facebook updates every few months.
On any new site you should refresh all meta tags and title tags (as well as the content) a total content refresh is preferable to just a minor redesign of the layout … it is also likely by rewriting content you will help your natural keyword inclusion … reiteration can refocus your keyword focus and help in search rankings.
Ensure all tags are unique and no two tags are the same … this includes the title tag
On a redesign you should always increase the structure usability of a page … using H1, H2 etc tags is a good way of doing this and sectioning content. (don’t forget they can all look the same you just need to change the CSS for that tag!)
Use a logical and friendly url structure and embed keywords in the urls – more importantly make the memorable.
During testing you should look at layout of the site overall, page structure, overall design and more importantly your calls to action(CTA’s) … getting a good CTA on all pages is vital to make a site something more than a static page … and get your return on investment.
Optimise images by reducing file size (don’t use 300dpi images, reduce to around 80% quality … but don’t loose the clarity of the image) and by including an image alt tag on all images.
Create a custom 404 error page to redirect people to the right place … if you think its best and your structure is simple just return people to your homepage instead of a 404 error page.
Use anchor text for internal linking that you would do for external links … also make all internal links absolute (this means if someone tries to copy your code they take your link with them! and its also nicer for search engines).
Finally think about the 17 second design theory, if you users doesn’t find what they want within 17seconds of seeing your site they will simply leave and go to another site… load time and scan-ability of content is vital.
So that’s that then … your all sorted to move forward with your redesign.
Ok maybe not I know everyone who contacts me generally has a question about a post somewhere along the way, maybe the aren’t sure about one seo factor or need advice on how best to do something without hurting SEO on the site… either way I’m here to help so tweet me your SEO questions or even better tell me what you want to see in my new SEO book.