Your goal with a new site launch should be as minimal a disruption to your search rankings as possible. The following items should all be kept in mind and planned for as you prepare to launch your new site. Each topic could be discussed in its own article, as there is a lot of information and things you should know about each, but for the time being, we’ll discuss them all at a high level.
Early on in your website redesign process, you will undoubtedly establish a content strategy that feeds into your site structure and page content. While this strategy will cover many aspects of the content you will create for your site, as well as the timing for updates and new content, make sure that it also includes a tie-in to your SEO strategy.
For instance, make sure that your content strategy includes methods to evaluate content for keywords and to optimize for your SEO strategy. You will also need to have a clear plan for which content will get migrated from your old site to the new one, and what (if any) modifications will need to made to those pages in order to fit your new site’s content strategy.
Coding, Tagging & Mobile Optimization
One of the benefits of launching a new site is to take care of the latest coding standards and best practices when it comes to tagging. For instance, if you haven’t redesigned your site in a while, quite a few things have changed over the last 3-4 years. This includes everything from some META tags being less important (e.g. the keywords tag) to new types of classifications of content that
One of those things that affects your search rankings in a major way is its mobile optimization. Google has recently begun penalizing sites’ mobile search results if the site is not optimized for smartphone and tablet viewers. An easy way to optimize for this is to take a responsive design approach when redesigning your website.
If you are using a Content Management System (CMS), chances are, the software itself may handle page naming recommendations for you. In most cases, these systems work very well, by stripping out unnecessary words (a, an, the and others).
What these systems don’t do, however is come up with the best suggestions for page names based on your SEO and keyword optimization strategy. That is something that you will have to create as part of your content strategy, but it’s critical to take this step. Once you do this, you can overwrite the default names your CMS creates if needed.
Now that you have renamed your pages, you need to make sure that current search indexes (as well as all your inbound links) will continue to point visitors to the correct place. By creating a redirect from the former page URL to the new, renamed page URL, you will maintain this consistency.
There are a few different approaches to redirects, as some CMS platforms handle redirects within the software itself, or this can be handled at the server level.
Once you’ve established the names of the pages on your new site, and established the method to communicate where their older counterparts were via 301 redirects, it’s time to set up a way
Once the XML sitemap is generated upon site launch, you’ll want to make sure to submit this to Google (and Bing) Webmaster tools, as well as to make it easily accessible at a URL such as www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml.
Once your site launches, you definitely need a long-term plan for Search Engine Optimization. If you’ve set your site up correctly, this process will look a lot like the work you may be currently doing if you have an SEO effort that has reached maturity.
Approaching Search Engine Optimization comprehensively during your website redesign process (as opposed to afterwards) will save you a lot of time and effort, and potentially a lot of cost that may be involved in redoing aspects of your site that were not implemented properly in the first place. After all, many times SEO recommendations for existing sites have as much to do with the coding and structuring of pages as it does on content which may be more easy to edit and update.
Your Current Website
It probably goes without saying, but you also need to keep in mind what you are doing on your existing website in regards to SEO while you’re planning your new one. Make sure that you understand where the two sites diverge as far as content strategy is concerned.
Your 301 redirect plan will need to be kept current, even as you may continue to add new content to your existing site up until the day before launch. This and other things should be added to your website launch plan and strategy.
Planning properly for your site launch will help ensure that your new site will begin its life as optimized as possible. While SEO should always be approached as a long-term marketing effort, taking these steps will give your new site a jumpstart and provides as minimal a disruption as possible.