The time has finally come to update your outdated website. Since you have this wonderful opportunity to start fresh, make sure you get off to the right start with the search engines.

The following is a quick checklist of things you must remember when doing a site redesign. If you follow all of these steps, the transition will be a smooth one.

  • 301 redirects. This must be done if you are changing your URLs in any way. This involves pointing the old URLs to the new ones.
  • Reinstall your analytics tracking code. If you use Google Analytics, install the new Asynchronous Tracking code.
  • Create a robots.txt file.
  • Create a HTML sitemap.
  • If you're a local business, ensure you have all your citations up-to-date. This local citations list from is a great place to start.
  • Redirect the non-www version of your site to the www version (or vice versa). This is referred to as canonicalization.
  • Go through a website usability checklist to ensure your site follows best practices.
  • Put some effort into creating a solid site architecture. Properly organize, prioritize and label your content.
  • If you're a local SMB, include your address in the footer.
  • If you have a high-traffic site and decide to change the layout, make sure popular features are still easy to find. (Think Facebook.)
  • Freshen up your keyword research. Natural keyword integration into your content is key.
  • Create unique meta descriptions and page titles for every single page. Consider each page to be a new keyword opportunity and avoid duplication.
  • Order is important: Don't forget semantic structure. Until HTML 5 is in full effect, ensure your headers are listed in order e.g. H1, H2, H3, etc...
  • Logically create search engine friendly URLs with your keywords.
  • Use Flash sparingly. Web savvy visitors prefer practicality. (And yes there are always exceptions to every rule.)
  • Ensure there is a good call to action on every page if you want to convert visitors in some way.
  • Place alt tags on your images.
  • Create a custom 404 page.
  • Plan out a logical internal linking structure. Use good anchor text to link to your other pages.
  • And last, but definitely not least, remember the 5 second rule on your homepage. If your visitor can not find what they need in 5 seconds or less they will leave.

Stephanie Woods is a freelance internet marketer living in Canada. She has been working in advertising and marketing for 10 years now. She has a personal blog where she can be reached. Or, you can find her on Twitter as @steph_woods.