If you’re doing SEO in-house, a site redesign is like being on Trading Spaces (RIP Trading Spaces!). On the one hand, you’re getting a fresh, brand-new space that could be everything you hoped for. On the other hand, you have a bunch of people running around your house changing things, you have no idea if you’re going to like the results, and you’re not even sure they know what they’re doing.
With a site redesign, there are so many stakeholders that it’s easy for SEO to get pushed off the table to meet time/budget constraints. I don’t think I need to say that you cannot let this happen.
There’s no way you can control every element of a site redesign. Don’t even try. Instead, I’ve put together this handy site redesign checklist of must-haves to ask for to make sure this redecoration project doesn’t burn your whole SEO house down.
Site Redesign Checklist
- 301 redirects. Any URL that is going away during the transition from old site to new site MUST be redirected to a new, still-existing page. If the page has an equivalent on the new site, redirect there. If not, redirect to the home page. This is also a great time to make sure that http://www.yoursite.com redirects to http://yoursite.com or vice versa, if you haven’t already.
- Editable text, and the ability to add more content. Your new site’s CMS should allow you to edit your title and description tags, add and remove content, and link to your heart’s content. Also, make sure that YOU will have the ability to do all these things – you don’t want to have to open a ticket with the IT team (bless ‘em) to update some page copy while they’re trying to keep the whole company network from crashing.
- The ability to add new pages. And maybe some sort of blog. Yes, this will probably mean you have to write a blog now. Sorry. But at least you won’t be stonewalled from targeting new keywords because it takes 6 months to get a new page up.
- Text links for navigation. While your CEO and design team are going around and around about whether the links in the navigation “look clickable,” your job (and a very important job it is, too, you fancypants) is to make sure that navigation links are crawlable HTML text links.
- Proper use of Flash. Don’t say “no Flash” or you’ll sound like a hater and everyone will ignore you. Instead, work with the design team to make sure any Flash elements are properly coded and snuggled up next to HTML to be pleasing to users and search engines alike.
- Analytics. Make sure that analytics stays top of mind with the IT team as they’re pushing changes live. Double-checking that the analytics code is complete, up-to-date and on every page should be one of your top QA tasks.
- No Dynamic URLs/Proper pagination. This is a big ask so be prepared not to get it. If you can keep dynamic URLs off the site, and (if your site is very large) make sure a plan is in place for proper pagination, you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches in the future.
- Not to Mention: There are a ton of other items that make an in-house SEO’s life a lot easier. If you have the chance to go for broke, you might also try for:
- Directory depth of ~4 or under (each page is <4 clicks away from the home page)
- Conversion point on every page
- Information architecture: can you find your way around the site, or has your Products page been relabeled “Innovate and Create”?
- Revamped conversion process
- And all the other projects you’ve been unable to complete with the existing site.