The time has come for a new website to be launched and you are excited for the world to see your amazing re-brand. You put a lot of thought into your re-brand and pitched your messages, colours and imagery perfectly, however, have you thought about SEO? Make sure when launching a new website you don’t throw all your hard work away by forgetting about your hard earned Google rankings! So make sure you have a look at our five steps checklist to be fully prepared for your new website launch:
Redirect your URLs
If you have changed your website you don’t want all the work that has been put on those old URLs, link-building, articles mentions and so on will go to waste. This is because Google will not recognise the new URL as belonging to the same site and some pages will show a 404 error when searched for. So there would go Google’s trust in you and your hard earned work to increase domain authority.
To avoid Google’s judgement make sure you redirect to your new site starting by organising a list of all the URLs that will be used for the new website. Once you have done so map each individual URL to make sure it redirects to the new site. This is an extremely important side of the process as many people often forget the importance of history and established authority in the eyes of search engines. Redirecting is, therefore, the key to not throwing away your hard work, especially if other websites are already linking to your useful and relevant content.
Every HTTP is organised according to their three digits codes, 404 being the one you want to avoid. In order to redirect your old URLs to the new website, it is important that you tell search engines that it is a permanent or temporary move, using a 301 code for the first and a 302 code for the latter. The simplest way to do this is through meta refresh tag. By replacing the meta tag at the top of any HTML page to:
<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”0; URL=’http://newwebsite.com'”/>
Another, possibly safer and more efficient, way to redirect is to use Java Script and change the location to the new website. However be aware that on Java Script there are different ways to change the location:
window.location = “http://newwebsite.com”;
window.location.href = “http://newwebsite.com”;
Crawl errors and Audit
By crawling the old site you will understand the differences in structure between the old one and the new one. By doing so you will be able to analyse exactly what works and what doesn’t work, understanding why certain things need to be changed. This data will be useful when checking the Meta description, descriptions, page titles and optimise the pages of your new site. A useful tool that can help you with crawling your errors is screaming frog:
- Finds Broken Links
- Audits Redirects
- Analyses Page Titles & Meta Data
- Discovers Duplicate Content
- Extracts Data with XPath
- Reviews Robots & Directives
- Generates XML Sitemaps
- Integrates with Google Analytics
You can find these services both in a free and paid version depending on your needs.
Make sure you also crawl the test site to compare it to the current one. To crawl your test site before it goes live you can still use screaming frog, go on the advanced spider configuration settings and tick request authentication. Make sure the ‘respect noindex’ box remains unticked as you want to crawl all test URLs, especially those Google has not indexed.
Use the data you get from screaming frog to also audit your site and see what works and what doesn’t in terms of meta description length, missing page titles and general information that search engines need to find you.
Manually, you will have to make sure to:
- Check XML sitemap
- Check Robots.txt
- Avoid Duplicate content
- Noindex test site
- Check URL structure
- Pages indexed by Google
- Optimise site speed and performance
To stop your test site and pages to show up on search engines make sure you noindex the test site. When writing amazing new content for your new site you do not want search engines to index it. This is because when the new site is finally published the new pages will show up as duplicates and they’ll possibly negatively affect your rankings as a result. In order to do so, you have to add a noindex meta tag to the HTML and make sure the site/pages is/are not blocked by a robots.txt file, as the crawler won’t be able to see the noindex if that is the case. To make sure most search engine see the noindex and stop the site from appearing use this meta tag: <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>
- Check your rankings to see how the new site performs in comparison to the old one for certain keywords and if it should be optimised better if the two don’t match. If the change between the two is significant to check for changes such as the URL, meta data, content, noindex tags and redirects.
- Don’t delete content or landing pages as old blogs are still relevant in the eyes of search engines as they add credibility and a sense of establishment of the site.
- Don’t forget your analytics code especially if you have an e-commerce or goal oriented website. Place the code back in the <head> section of your new site to keep on tracking.
- Unblock site and let search engines index your pages
You went through all the struggles of creating a new website and you’ve done all the checks to make sure your SEO work is not only preserved but improved, now it’s time to launch. Congratulations, your work is done and your website is better and more efficient than it ever was. However, make sure you keep monitoring the new website for crawl errors and your new ranking position, Google Webmasters is a very a useful tool to do this!