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Relaunching or redesigning a website? Use this SEO checklist and avoid disaster

If you’re redeveloping your website, for example a redesign or changing cms, you MUST take steps to ensure you dont lose your hard earned rankings and organic traffic otherwise you’re heading for trouble.

Ive seen high volume traffic sites almost completely die overnight because the correct procedures and considerations weren’t thought through and thats really not a pleasant experience if you rely on your site for revenue or you have to explain to the boss why suddenly you have no positioning in the search engines.

Avoid SEO diaster when redesigning or relaunching a site! The following checklist sits on a word doc I refer to and rewrite every now and then.

Let me know if you think anything should be added to this:

  1. Make sure all old pages are carried over and if any urls have changed 301 them to the new url. If there are pages you don’t want to bring over check if there any decent external links pointing to those pages and make a decision if you can afford to lose the juice or not.
  2. If you change urls tell those sites linking to you with those urls that you have changed and ask them to update the links.
  3. Any urls you aren’t carrying over still 301 them to closely matched pages so it doesn’t look like the site is broken and you still import all possible link juice from those pages.
  4. If changing urls don’t add in further parameters e.g. don’t change /widgets-red to widgets/red
  5. Don’t change navigation structure unless your really have to, it gets more complicated if you do. If you are changing the way you navigate to pages e.g. category pages, product pages etc try not to do it in a way which buries the content deeper e.g. if it took 2 clicks to get to product x from the home page, don’t change it so that it takes 3 clicks.
  6. Make sure all meta data for the pages is carried over.
  7. Make sure the xml sitemap is carried over and up to date.
  8. Make sure alt tags are carried over.
  9. Make sure any ‘no follow’ links remain no follow. (Not as important as when I first started this list)
  10. Don’t add in any strong tags to template elements e.g. cart, price etc.
  11. Make sure if possible content is high up in the code. If it was high up on the old site, this increases the importance of this.
  12. Make sure h1 & h2 tags are high up in the code, again if they were high up on the old site this is more important.
  13. Make sure nothing new and unwanted is happening with robot text files no index and no follow tags.
  14. Make sure the old analytics code is in place so there is no stats downtime. Use the existing analytics profile/code not a new one.
  15. Add Google Webmaster Tools to the site so any crawl, technical or duplicate content errors can be indentified. If changing to a completely new address you can let Google know this in webmaster tools.
  16. Check robots txt file make sure anything you want indexed isn’t disallowed
  17. If you’re moving address be aware you don’t want 2 sites with identical/near identical running for too long without 301 redirects or canonicalising the urls.
  18. If your changing your CMS in the re-launch read up on any seo implications it may have and any ‘add ons’ you may require to get the system to do what your require. This can be a huge problem, make sure your developer/s understand it. As an example some ecommerce CMS systems can create duplicate content when creating page 2,3 etc of products or ‘view all’. (Google better understands and allows for this kind of duplication since I wrote this/ Also things like the google rel next /prev tags and Google Webmaster Tools paramater handling tool can help now)
  19. Watch Google Webmaster Tools & Analytics like a hawk post launch to find any issues.

Added July 2013: Heres a good read from Hannah Miller at 4Ps Marketing – SEO Considerations When Relaunching A Website

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