You’ve got a snazzy new website all set to launch, but before you hit publish, take the time to make sure the redesign doesn’t tank your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. These guidelines should help minimize the impact of your website redesign and get you back on top in no time!
Optimize Your Pages Before Launch
As you’re building out your new site, be sure to conduct keyword research and focus your content on words and phrases that have enough daily site volume, are highly targeted to your company’s products and services, and are attainable (so you aren’t wasting effort chasing keywords where you won’t gain traction). Make sure your SEO efforts are tightly focused and that each page has a keyword target. It’s also important to continue reviewing your keyword strategy and optimizing pages after launch to make sure you’re getting the best possible SEO results.
Create 301 Redirects and Canonical Tags
Your new content strategy has likely had an impact on your website’s directory structure. To ensure that users – and Google – can find the most relevant content on your new site, set up 301 redirects to map each page on your old site to their corresponding page on your new and improved companion site. This practice ensures that page authority is effectively transferred to the new site while helping Google recognize the consistency in your content.
Canonical tags (a.k.a. “rel canonical” tell search engines which URL is the master version of a page when there are multiple pages on your site with identical content. This tag helps prevent SEO issues and tells search engines which of the URLs you want to appear in search results, essentially informing search engines that multiple pages should essentially be considered as one (without actually redirecting a visitor to the new URL). When you use this tag, you can track visitors to each individual page because they aren’t being redirected, but the search engines ignore the “duplicate” URLs. (If you need assistance in determining which strategy is right for your site, contact our digital strategists!)
Review (or Set Up) Google Analytics and Tag Manager
Before your new site launches, spend some time reviewing your Google Analytics configuration. This includes event tracking, goals, filtering, and other settings that help you keep tabs on the effectiveness of your website. Now is also a good time to configure on-site search tracking so that you can see what visitors are looking for and how effective the results are in driving user engagement, sales, and conversions. By proactively reviewing your Analytics setup, you’ll be able to seamlessly report on your site traffic and user behavior and make adjustments as needed.
Get the Bots to Your Site Quickly
Once your site structure is complete, access Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools to submit the XML sitemap for the new website. While you’re there, also make sure the robots.txt files are working. This gives the search engines a heads up that your site needs to be crawled and indexed sooner than later, which helps you get back on top of the results.