The time has finally come to update your outdated website.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 GetListed.org 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.
11 thoughts on “Website Redesign Checklist: SEO 101”
These are great points. I especially like the reminder about custom 404 pages – I was making a list and would have left this out if you hadn’t mentioned it!
Another thing that can be useful is a site map or xml sitemaps or both. I think I’m gonna add that to my list too. I like the idea of having a site map that links to pages using smart anchor text.
“Ensure there is a good call to action on every page if you want to convert visitors in some way.” That is a step that many web designers/developers are missing. If a call to action is overlooked you may get traffic but once there your target audience will say “I’m here, now what” Great post Stephanie!
Eric – I did include a HTML sitemap on the list, but did not include XML sitemaps. In hindsight I probably should have because I do normally create them for my clients! Having your sitemap include good anchor text is an interesting strategy I haven’t actually considered – I am going to look more into that one.
Corporate Web Design – I am always surprised at how often web dev companies forget CTAs. It’s such a simple tactic, yet often overlooked in lieu of a great design. Some designers need to learn that the two (design and CTAs) can work together in perfect harmony.
For that last one, I think its 5 seconds to figure out what the site is about and not find what they need. Certainly, it may take longer than that to find certain things – particularly on e-commerce site. Think consumer electronics or computer hardware.
You probably just need to get some more backlinks from reputable sites linking to it. Google devalues links more than Yahoo so where the links you have are being tracked as good by Yahoo, Google is probably not counting them.
Gennady Lager – Yes I agree with what you say for sure. I had my marketing cap on when I wrote that. What I mean is: in the world of marketing, people are looking at websites to fulfill a need (whether it be to buy something or find out information). We have 5 seconds (on average) of a visitor’s time to see whether or not we can fulfill that need.
@Eric Werner and @Stephanie Woods on the XML Sitemap…. I not only optimize the sitemap page using target keyword phrases (both in the linking architecture and the actual meta data) I even build links to the sitemap page itself as well. I`ve found that this encourages a deeper crawl and ensures all of my pages are getting continued visibility.
@Jenny That’s interesting. I’ve never heard of someone building links for their sitemap. I am curious to know how well that works out. Thanks for your input!
Also important to remember when building sitemaps – if it’s a large site, go with xml. Smaller ones are more feasible for html.
Bill – It is possible to build HTML sitemaps for large sites as well. In fact many larges sites have done so successfully. The key to creating a sitemap for a large site is to not include every single page on the site, just the top level and main category pages. To include every page, like you mentioned, you need to use an XML sitemap.
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