How to re-launch your website without affecting SEO?
Changes in technology, user experience and design trends mean that you will probably need to relaunch your website every 2-5 years.
While a website relaunch is a great opportunity to improve your information architecture and on-site SEO, it is vital that you have a detailed SEO plan to support the relaunch.
In this post, we will guide you through the process of relaunching a website without compromising your existing SEO.
Setup Google Search Console
Before any site relaunch make sure that Google Search Console (GSC) and ideally Google Analytics are setup on the existing site. This will help to identify crawl errors which are present before the relaunch. Fix these errors first to ensure you are starting with a clean sheet.
Ensure that your site only works on one protocol (HTTP or HTTPS) and has one main sub-domain (e.g. with or without the www).
Perform a site audit and plan your redirects
Before releasing the new site, perform a site audit to ensure that you have a plan in place for all indexed pages. This may be a tedious job but shouldn’t be rushed.
- Auditing your website is an opportunity to check every page on your website and reconsider the URL structure. While you probably won’t want to update too many URLs in one go, a new site release might be a good opportunity to fix URLs in a section or two of the site.
- Find a reliable tool for crawling the website to ensure you have a comprehensive list of all pages. Majestic is a good place to start. Screaming Frog is also worth considering.
- Pay special attention to pages with lots of backlinks - in these cases it is usually a good idea to preserve the existing URLs rather than redirect them.
- To plan your redirects, we suggest creating a matrix spreadsheet which lists existing URLs and the new URLs (if they have changed). If the starting point for this spreadsheet is a URL index from Majestic or a similar tool, you can be confident that no URL will be missed.
- When working through you URL list, think about the most applicable technique for that page. Sometimes a canonical will suffice instead of using a 301.
- Some pages may disappear altogether. In these cases make sure a valid 404 page displays.
- If necessary, ask the client or website editor to confirm how pages should be redirected. They may know the content better than you.
Avoid duplicate content penalties
A new website may introduce the risk of duplicate content - a big no-no for Google. If you’re doing a major redesign, you don’t want to get your content tagged as duplicate.
- Use the noindex tag on pages which feature duplicate content from other sites.
- Use canonical tags on any pages where the same content appears twice on your site.
Don’t forget to update your sitemap
Now that you have created your redirects don’t forget to update your sitemap. Ideally this will be automatically generated by your website CMS, if not, you can use free tools to crawl your site and create a new sitemap.
Make sure that you have referenced the sitemap from your robots.txt file and uploaded the new sitemap to Google Search Console.
And don’t forget to remove any old sitemap files that may be sitting on the server.
Use your social media accounts
Lets not forget any social media accounts which may need need to reflect new URLs and which can be used publicise the relaunch. Not only will this help improve traffic to your site, but is is also a brand awareness opportunity.
Its a new chapter, not a reset
A website relaunch is an exciting new start, but should build on the hard work that your tech and content teams have done in the preceding years and months.
Treat it as a well-planned continuation rather than a reset of your website, and your SEO and web traffic should see the benefit.