About to redevelop your tired, outdated website? It’s no secret that Google recommends updating your website on a semi-regular basis – and there is a very good reason for this! Internet technologies are evolving at such a rapid pace, that websites considered cutting-edge two years ago are now almost obsolete. If you’re redeveloping your website in 2019, here are seven SEO steps when launching a new website:
Critical New Website SEO Steps:
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7 SEO steps when launching a new website
This is a fancy way of saying that you should ensure your new website’s URLs are standardised. It is recommended that you keep the same domain name for your website, as Google has already indexed it. So, if your website address is www.fancypants.com, keep that same URL for your new site instead of something like www.betterfancypants.com.
When keeping your same domain name, Google only has to re-index the new site and heed any new content added. If you change the domain name, Google will have to index your new website from scratch, which could significantly affect how long it will take to see your website pages appearing on the Google search results pages.
Every single page on your website, from the home page to the terms and conditions page, has its own unique URL (www.example.com/page). So, when redeveloping your website, be sure to chat to your website hosting providers about whether or not you’ll need any redirecting. This involves ‘pointing’ from an old website page to the new one – and is something better left to the professionals.
For example, if the products page on your old website is www.example.com/products and the same page on your new website is www.example.com/our-products, you’ll need to setup a 301 redirect from the old page to the new one. This is so that, should an internet user come across an indexed version of the old page, they will be redirected to the new page once clicking on the link.
XML Sitemap Creation
A sitemap is pretty much exactly what the title describes: a map of your website. A sitemap does not go into specific detail regarding your website’s content, but rather serves as a hierarchical structure of how your website’s pages interact with each other. So, a sitemap usually shows the core page of your website (Home, About Us, Services, Blog, Contact, etc), then shows how certain pages lead off into sub-category pages (Legal Services, Business Services, etc) and so forth.
One thing many website redevelopers forget is to submit a sitemap for a new website to Google Webmaster Tools, and this is a critical step in the website redevelopment process. An XML sitemap is simply a website sitemap that has been developed on Microsoft Excel and saved as XML format. Not sure if you ever submitted a sitemap for your existing website? Check with Google Webmaster Tools right here! Prefer to load your sitemap manually? Be sure to place it correctly in the robots.txt file.
Metadata & Headings
Another important consideration when redeveloping your website is ensure that your metadata and page headings are being transferred correctly. Each page on your website features a title tag and meta description that briefly describes the content on the page. This metadata is the information Google and other search engines will show on their search results pages for each of your website pages.
There are a number of ways you can access this metadata, from Google Chrome plugins to applications that crawl your website. The application we use here at WSI Durban is called Screaming Frog and it is completely free to use. Download Screaming Frog, install it onto your PC, insert your home page URL and click on crawl. This will assess your entire website and allow you to save your existing metadata and headings, which you can then use to add this metadata to your new website!
The next step in ensuring your new website’s SEO is optimal from the start is to install your Google Analytics tracking code (Google UI code). This will allow you to track your website usage and make informed decisions regarding your online marketing actions. Google Analytics can show you how many visitors you’ve had to your website, which devices they use, what actions those visitors took on your website, and how much time they spent on your website – to name a few insights.
We’d highly recommend letting your website developer deal with your Google Analytics tracking code installation, but if you’ve built your new website on WordPress – there are many plugins you can use to make the process much simpler! DIY kind of website owner? If you’ve got experience with HTML, here’s a handy Google walkthrough on how to set up Google analytics tracking manually.
Check for Broken Links
We’ve redeveloped our fair share of websites in the past, and the one thing we hear more often than we’d prefer is, “please just move everything that’s on the old website to the new website theme.” You might think your website is solid enough to simply replicate it, but a hidden SEO issue could be lurking just below the surface: broken links.
Google hates seeing broken links on a website, because they serve zero purpose and offer nothing to the people who are unfortunate enough to stumble upon them. By simply migrating your total existing website structure to a new theme, you’ll be taking along any and all broken links. Here’s a completely free online broken link checker you can use to check for broken links on your website.
Test Your Site Speed
In July 2018 Google announced that it was rolling out an algorithm change focusing on website speed. Let’s face it – nobody wants to wait ages to see the content on a website page. Research has shown that website pages loading slowly (over 3 seconds on average) are conversion killers, as most internet users will bounce from a slow website page to a similarly relevant website page that loads its content almost immediately.
For this reason, we at WSI Durban love asking Google themselves if our clients’ websites are too slow. We do this by using Google’s PageSpeed Insights website, which allows you to insert your website URL and let Google assess it for areas that could be improved. A score lower than 90 is going to cost you on the search engine results pages, so be sure to follow Googles guidelines for optimising your new website’s speed.