During the Internet boom your business probably invested in a web page to get your name out on the World Wide Web. Since then you have probably gone through a few website redesigns over the years and now have a website that look nothing like what you originally started with. While simply launching a new website is relatively easy, doing it correctly is not. There are many steps that one must take in order to assure you are not losing search engine placement and important back links to your business.
The first step that I would recommend would be to crawl your site. Your current link structure is extremely important to your current optimization. Odds are that when you redesign your site your URL structure will change. For example: your about us page may have been www.youtwebsite.com/about-us.aspx and your about us has a new URL of www.yourwebsites.com/aboutus.html . Since your new URLS structure differs from your old one, all links that are directed to your old URL structure will now be lost. To avoid losing links back to your site and potential search engine optimization, be sure to record all your old links and then create 301 redirects to the new links. Once completed, this work will save all your old URLs by directing them to their new home on your new website.
The next step would be to analyze your current content. Content is king online and you want to preserve the current use of content on your site. If you have good placement for specific keywords, odds are that the content for that page is well written. This is something that you do not want to lose. Make sure that your content caries over correctly for each page. If you are going to change all your content, analyze the new text against the old text to make sure that your keyword density aligns correctly. Lastly, make sure that in you redesign you are using physical text and not images. Some website designers use images of your text instead of the actual text itself. This is a big no no. Google cannot read that text and all your content is now out the window. A good way to know if the text is an image or actual text is to see if you can copy and paste it. If you can, you all set.
Page titles, meta tags, meta descriptions, Google analytics and webmasters tools will all have to be transferred over from your old site to your new site. This step seems obvious but sometimes it is skipped over by web designers. I recommend creating an excel spreadsheet and capture that data prior to the switch. This will take all the guess work out of it. A new xml sitemap will have to be created for the new site. Since you have all new URLs you will need an all new sitemap. After this is completed, be sure to submit that sitemap through webmasters tools to Google for indexing into their system.
There are a few things that you might not think about when launching your new site. The first is the use of Flash in your new site. While the newest and coolest graphics look great on your new site, they may seriously impact your current standings. Avoid flash if at all possible. Something that is often over looked and unknown to business owners is a “no follow command”. This is a line of code inserted into your website while being designed that prevents search engines from crawling your new site until it goes live. The problem with this code is that sometimes it is not removed from the new site when it goes lives. This little line of code will have big implications for your website if left on your home page. Since this tells a Google not to follow your website, Google will not include your new site in any search results. Out of all the mistakes one can make, this is one of the biggest. This can be fixed and while I might say that changing your content to images or not including meta data might be bigger problems, they are only slightly. If this error goes unchecked, not amount of links to your site will ever get your site found again.
While these changes all seem scary a skilled SEO team can help guide the way. Launching a new website should be a positive experience. This gives you to opportunity to rebrand yourself and also make yourself look more professional. Be sure to announce your new site on your blog and all social media mediums your business uses.
– Matt Wilkos
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