Revamping a website is an exciting time. For a company’s online presence, it’s an opportunity to portray a new look and follow a new brand direction. But it is also a time to be reasonably nervous as bugs, misspelled words or malfunctioning forms can arise anytime. In SEO, there are also things we need to pay attention to. Some are done way before a website relaunch takes place; others need to be performed at the very moment the site goes live.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/studio5/
I guess a common question asked by webmasters and website owners is “I have a new website revamped, what must I do to ensure I don’t lose my search engine rankings?” If you are about to embark into a website revamp or about to sign off that redesign project, here’s a simple checklist for your guidance.
1. Update tracking at Google Analytics
It is imperative to apply our current Google Analytics code to enforce continuous tracking of website traffic and other important metrics. But it’s also equally important to ensure consistency through updates in tracking website goals. This is usually recommended especially when changing the structure of the site that results to modifying the URLs. Missing this step means we will be unable to track the performance of the website at such crucial transition time.
2. Redirect old pages to new ones
This is probably one of the most important recommendations in this list. Unless we are not changing the URL structure of our website, we need to implement this step. By doing so, we will be certain that inbound links, bookmarks and other external references are pointing towards the right destination instead of a broken link. It’s even more impact in SEO; our listings in directories, citations on other blogs or bookmarks in Delicious or submissions in Facebook, Digg and StumbleUpon are preserved and not wasted. Also note the proper way to do redirections.
3. Implement robots.txt and Sitemaps.xml
One way of letting search engines know about our new website (or at least its new make up), updating sitemaps.xml at Google Webmaster Tools helps. If necessary, let’s update robots.txt; it is not required to update it if we don’t have any folder to restrict from search engines.
4. Check custom 404 Error
Ensure that a custom error page shows up when a visitor reaches a non-existing URL or a page that has moved elsewhere within the website. This helps keep a visitor from leaving the site. I checked the 404 error of hotels and at the time some have not complied this usability issue. But even if not all search engines have proper way of treating this page, we should do it on ours.
5. Update Google AdWords settings
Just like the first item, any change in the URL could impact somewhere. In the case of Google AdWords advertisers, revamping the website could mean altering the landing pages if we are using deep links as landing pages. Since the AdWords campaign is already running and the URLs are previously working, we can’t expect Google AdWords to send us message alerts.
6. Update ranking reports
If we are monitoring the ranking reports for certain URLs, it’s also imperative to make the necessary changes in settings. Otherwise, we’d be stunned to see sudden drops in search engine visibility.
7. Update Google Places
Google Maps also contain website address that needs updating, especially if we decide to use a new domain name for our website. However, if we implement the proper redirection method, an old URL listed in Google Maps will promptly forward to the new one.
8. Check www and non-www versions
Check if our website displays properly on both www and non-www versions. We know not a lot are doing this* (see Fitness First, Chinese University, Wellcome and Citygate Outlets).
* These websites display “Page not found” at the time of posting this blog.
It is recommended that these steps be done, otherwise that nice looking revamped website might disappear from search engine results.