Once you successfully redesign a website it’s time to relaunch with a bang. Before your new website goes online you’ll want to run a few tests—specifically, an SEO audit.
The sole purpose of an SEO audit is to identify the search engine optimization pitfalls of a website before your customers or Google points them out to you.
You should run a SEO audit before the relaunch so you have time to make necessary changes to your website. Ideally, you will have already run an SEO audit for your original website design. The new SEO audit can be directly compared to the older version to signal changes, improvements and problems.
SEO audit best practices for a website redesign
During a relaunch, a website is not always readily accessible. For example, a redesigned website is usually behind a password protected development and testing environment that is not accessible to the front-end world wide web. This also makes it inaccessible to a majority of SEO audit tools. For this reason, an SEO audit can be accomplished in two phases: pre-launch and post-launch.
1. Pre-launch SEO audit
Why wait till your website goes “online” to catch SEO mistakes? If you wait, you may discover 404 error pages and missing backlinks (which can both negatively impact the popularity of your website).
This is also a smart move if you’re working with a web designer or firm on retainer. Unless specified in the scope agreement, it’s highly likely they can’t be held responsible for SEO issues associated with your redesigned website. You may incur additional costs for SEO-related work.
However, when you complete an SEO audit before the website goes live you can save big bucks. Ideally, your pre-launch SEO audit should cover (at a minimum) the following aspects:
Content Review: Link review and benchmarking
SEO: Analytics Review
When you relaunch your website make sure the analytics are set up to flow from your old website into your new one. This can be accomplished by using the same Google Analytics tracking code, for example. It will create a seamless transition of metrics tracking between the two versions of your site.
Analytics tracking code should be on every page of the new website. It should also be programmed correctly. Use Google Tag Manager (GTM), a free tool that makes it easy to add and update website tags — including conversion tracking, site analytics, remarketing, and more — with just a few clicks, and without needing to edit website code.
However, if you are using GTM for the first time, remove all Google Analytics code from the site and add it via GTM instead.
SEO: Technical Review
Is your website code optimized to perform at its best? Do you know how the images, layouts and design will work across devices? If not, turn to Google PageSpeed Insights and Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to troubleshoot the technical aspects of your redesigned website. ByteCheck, is also a good site speed testing tool. Technical pitfalls can wreak havoc on your SEO.
Word of caution: Websites in development environments often employ a robots.txt file to discourage Google bots from crawling the site. However, before you go live, make sure Google can index your new site quickly by removing this directive and submitting a sitemap. Once your website or blog is indexed, you’ll start to see more traffic from Google search.
SEO: Content Review
A content management system (CMS) makes life much easier these days. CMS makes it easy for someone without technical or coding skills to easily maneuver and update the backend of a website.
WordPress is the perfect example. “No code required, works right out of the box,” is an attractive proposition for website owners. As WPMU DEV explains, “Whether you’re running a simple blog, a small business site, or even a network of sites, you can get by just fine. The array of built-in features and customization options that come with most plugins and themes nowadays enable you to create some pretty awesome stuff.”
Best of all, it can automatically keep your website updated and search engine-friendly. For instance, Yoast SEO is a popular WordPress SEO plugin that can give any site an SEO upgrade within a few minutes. It handles the technical optimization of a site and assists with optimizing content. This powerful plugin will help website owners track readability, focus keyword and content analysis, post titles and meta descriptions, and more.
But this is just the beginning. Make sure to conduct a link review and benchmarking exercise. Here’s a quick overview for each process.
- Link Review
“What is SEO without links?” This is a rhetorical question we often ask our clients when they ask us to skip the SEO audit.
First, optimize internal links. “When you are adding the content and images, it is vital to optimize along with the internal links. After updating the content, you can view internal links in Google Search Console under the search traffic.”
Next, if your domain changes, loss of inbound links can become a major problem if it’s not addressed. The goal is to avoid losing a majority of rankings and organic search traffic when a website redesign is underway. Ensure your current backlinks will still link to the right page, etc. Use Google Search Console to check backlinks and ensure they still work prior to going live.
Benchmark current metrics for comparison post-launch. This includes rankings, home page page rank, domain authority, number of pages indexed in Google with a site:domain.com search, etc. Use this data to compare metrics and optimize a site even further once it goes live.
2. Post-launch SEO audit
If you have done the pre-launch audit correctly you will have very little post-launch work to do. Nonetheless, if you see sales dip and traffic slow, check 301 redirects. Run broken link checks with tools like Deadlinkchecker.com to analyze the live website.
Make sure to build in an SEO audit to your relaunch timeline. Website that perform pre and post-launch SEO audits outperform those that don’t.
It is common sense to make sure that the new version of your website is fully optimized and designed to attract customers and meet the needs of your business. An SEO audit is a critical step to ensure your redesigned website pays off.
This article has been edited.