We had a client who had a major website redesign as the year 2015 ended. Come the last few days of December, his traffic significantly dropped from the average daily of 500 visitors a day to 1 visitor recorded in a day post-launch. Yikes!
Are you experiencing the same issues?
Website redesign is not all about changing the theme of a website. It’s not as easy as changing your shirt for another. Redesigning a website needs time and proper planning. In executing a redesign, here’s a simple checklist that you can follow whenever you’re planning a redesign:
Type of Redesign
What type of redesign are you going to implement? Are you also thinking of switching to another CMS? Are you going to implement a new theme? Is it the perfect time to do a redesign? Implementing a redesign will mess up your site’s architecture. If you’re planning to do a redesign, implement it during the off-peak season of your traffic. For example, if you’re an e-Commerce site and you hold mega sales every Black Friday, decide to implement a redesign months before so you can still pick your previous rankings.
Will the site’s architecture change?
Oftentimes, a redesign calls for new navigation within the website. It’s also an opportunity to implement new landing pages, reorganize and declutter pages in the website, and sort out potential duplicates.
Determine new sitemap
Since there will be imminent changes in the site’s architecture, determine the changes that will happen with your website’s flow. Map out your new navigation with a visual sitemap generator so you can clearly see how your navigation works, and if it’s how you expect it to be. Remember, usability is another factor you have to watch out when you redesign your website.
Audit Current Site
Start crawling old site
With your favorite site crawler (I personally use SEMrush), initiate a crawl on your website. Keep the results on record. Take the redesign as an opportunity to implement optimization on the other asset pages.
Check Current Pages
Take the time to peruse through your website’s pages. You might discover a subdomain planted on your site; you can eradicate unnecessary pages by deleting it or tagging non-important pages such as login pages as nofollow via robots.txt or your CMS.
Landing Page Auditing – use Analytics
Before you axe out the pages from your website, determine the pages that mean the most to your website. After checking the landing pages that bring in the traffic and also those that convert, determine if most of these landing pages were accessed through referral traffic.
Map Out Relative Landing Pages – 301 Redirects
You need to plan out your 301s. Individually map out your pages. Check what needs to be retained, changed, or eliminated. Once you decide to eliminate a page, find a relative page on your website instead of letting it end with a 404.
Determine baseline stats
Gather important metrics about your website. This will give you an idea of what to expect as “normal” for your website. If your site has an average of 1000 visitors on a monthly basis, you should expect to see that in a few weeks after the redesign.
Implementation – dev site noindex, nofollow
After thoroughly planning and gathering necessary data about your website, it’s time to get things planned out on the dev site. Remember to set the dev site to noindex, nofollow. We don’t want any search engine crawling the wrong site and giving credit to where it’s not due.
Recrawl Site – Check for 404s, 301 Redirects
It’s time to check if you have properly implemented everything! Check for proper redirects and for 404s. Take this time to check if all your pages are visible. I prefer using Screaming Frog for this job. With Screaming Frog, it’s easier to check for 404s and implemented 301s.
Recheck for usability – navigations, proper site structure
Now, it’s time to take a tour around your website! Do a self-usability testing. Navigate throughout your website, emulate expected responses from your audience. Get your friends and coworkers to check out the new website. Is the site functioning well and as expected? Are there some issues or new actions elicited by the new navigation within your site? Take note of these details, and follow up with your team on how to resolve these issues.
Check for meta issues
In SEO, meta are one of the elements that are taken care of meticulously. As soon as you’re done with your initial site crawl, check if the meta were properly incorporated. Take the opportunity to change your meta if needed. Remember, a good title tag and description entices users to your site, and not just plain explaining what the page is all about.
Check for proper tracking installation
Refer to the Analytics image above. See that flat line from the site launch until before January 4?
The primary problem: they simply forgot to install Analytics on the website. Remember to check if you still have it installed on your site correctly. Ensuring that your tracking installation is working properly allows you to continue to monitor your site’s activity on the following weeks; remember the baseline statistics we asked you to take note of?
Post Site Launch List
Number of Pages Indexed
Yes, we know you might have resubmitted your sitemap but that’s not the end of it. Recheck your site’s pages weekly with “site:” through Google. This is the best way to check if all of your pages were indexed correctly by Google. You can also check for misconfigurations on your site.
When we tested the client’s site against Google, we found that there were some conflicts with another site that’s probably included in the same server as they were.
If the number of pages indexed does not improve over time and as expected, there may be problems with your 301s. Check for duplicate content, and block off pages that need not to be crawled, like your login pages. Weigh the need to implement a 301 or a simple canonical tag.
This can be a good indicator of when Google last crawled your site. You can start expecting changes once Google has crawled your site. To check your cache date, do a quick search on Google, then click the drop-down arrow next to the URL of your site. Click on “Cache”.
Home Page – Page and Domain Authority
In line with the correct implementation of 301s, these metrics should be consistent and constant all throughout.
Site Statistics Checking
Check your backlinks and rankings. After a few weeks, everything should be back to normal. However, if you still see some problems with your rankings and backlinks, you should consider rechecking where you went wrong. It could probably stem from wrong 301 implementations, user experience fail, content changes, and the like.
Yes, you might have noticed that we didn’t talk about keywords and other things; but SEO has already changed and is continuously changing to semantic search. Now, optimization is all about how to make your site crawlable, indexable, and rankable.
What problems have you encountered during a redesign? Did you encounter the same problems as our client did? Share it with us in the comments!
When he’s not grooming his beard, John works as a hosting expert and consultant. He loves to write anything about eCommerce hacks and tutorials, as well as other useful web hosting tools and guides for webmasters.
Disclaimer: All images are provided by author.