How Often Should You Change Your Website?
The general rule of thumb is to relaunch your website every three to five years before it starts looking dated.
If you find yourself in cutting edge industries like technology, digital marketing, fashion or design you may need to refresh your website’s look and feel every two years.
As the market evolves so must your web design, UX and SEO approach.
When “new” visitor numbers start to drop, sessions become shorter and you see fewer conversions; this should be your signal to act, and quickly.
Why You Need A Website Relaunch Checklist?
Relaunching a website is not without its challenges. With so many moving parts, a lot of things can fall through the cracks which may ultimately cost you your hard-earned organic rankings.
It’s all well and good to present a shiny, new website. However, if it’s not SEO friendly, this can act as the financial nail in the metaphorical coffin.
Not all stages of the relaunch or migration process will apply to everyone. That is why it is important to check through every point at every phase of the process to ensure everything is meticulously planned for success.
Something as small as missing a “noindex” robots tag on your template file could cost your business dearly.
Migration and Launch Checklist:
This checklist will apply to website redesigns (change of look & feel), CMS or framework change, domain name change and server migration projects, all ranging from low to high-risk levels.
Discovery Phase – Website Content:
Run a detailed SEO content audit to ensure that:
- All content that is driving traffic to the current website is available on the new website.
- Pages with promising search engine rankings are available on the new website.
- All inbound links point to relevant, up-to-date content on the new website.
- All important search topics (keywords) are targeted on the new website.
- All title tags and meta descriptions are maintained or improved on the new website.
- Previous content optimisations have been migrated to the new website.
Technical Roll Out – URL’s & Redirects:
Redirects are a critical technical component to any website relaunch.
If this step is neglected, the negative impact on traffic and performance of the site could be immense. At this stage, you should have run a crawl on the old domain URLs and have them on record. Ensure the following guideline have been followed:
- Unnecessary URL changes have been avoided. A professional SEO team will provide a detailed URL map.
- There is only one version of each URL (no duplicate content).
- Each old URL that no longer exists will be redirected to a correct new (301 redirect map to be supplied).
- Redirect chains have been avoided.
- Redirects for URLs that have backlinks have been added.
- Existing redirects have been changed to new targets.
- The status code of all permanent redirects is 301.
- PDFs, images and other file types have also been redirected.
You should conduct a full redirect audit to ensure the plan has been implemented correctly.
Indexing and Crawlability:
Ensure the following guidelines have been followed:
- All pages that are supposed to be indexed are technically being indexed
- The robots.txt file does not include any unnecessary directives.
- All content is accessible for search engine robots.
- Critical internal links are crawlable.
- All pages that are not supposed to be indexed are excluded from indexing.
- Google Search Console is set up for all versions of the domain.
- A new XML sitemap will be generated and uploaded to Google Search Console.
- A new Robots.txt file will be generated.
- Mobile/Responsive versions are optimised for mobile SEO.
SEO Site Architecture and Internal Linking:
Ensure the following guideline have been followed:
- All internal links have been changed to new targets.
- Important pages have not lost any internal links.
- Internal link anchor texts containing important keywords have not been removed.
- The breadcrumb navigation has not been removed without replacement.
- Important pages have not been demoted in the navigation hierarchy (no more than 3 clicks deep)
Lastly, run through the following checks after you have successfully relaunched your site:
- Ensure the robots.txt file on your new website has been checked.
- Monitor the crawling and indexing of your pages in Google Search Console.
- Monitor and fix any website and server errors experienced by users.
- Verify that all redirects are working correctly.
- Ensure that any canonical tag implementation has not been removed.
- hreflang, if needed, has been implemented correctly.
- Check if pagination is handled correctly on the new website.
- Add structured data to your pages, wherever possible.
- Ensure your new website is served through a secure connection (HTTPS).
- Confirm all HTTP headers contain correct SEO directives.
- Create a custom 404 error page.
- Monitor the page load speed metrics on your new website.
- Conduct a final full site audit to reassess the new websites SEO health.
Important Things to Learn from this Relaunch Checklist:
Implementing The “noindex” Tag
Preventing the unintended indexing of staging or development sites from the SERP is key. Using the site:devsite.com search operator is the most assured way to locate any staging site pages that are in the current index.
You would be best advised to add a following: <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”> in the <head> section of your staging sites template file.
Contrary to popular belief, using the disallow directive in the robots.txt will not be effective as it will only prevent search engines from crawling and not indexing the staging pages.
Adding the “noindex” directive to the staging site will prevent any potential duplicate content issues. This will prevent the two versions of the site (staging and live site) from competing in organic search.
Domain Name Change Migration
If your business has rebranded or migrated to a new domain, it’s important to have created two search console properties for both the old domain and the new domain.
This will enable you as a site owner to submit a change of address request to Google.
This Change of Address tool in Search Console enables site owners to notify Google of the domain change. Google will automatically give crawling and indexing priority while forwarding all ranking signals to the new domain or subdomain.
Preparing for The Page Experience Algorithm Update
Your website will always be a constant work of improvement, do not hesitate to make necessary changes to enhance your page experience metrics.
A successful site relaunch project should result in a website that complies with the 2021 page experience algorithm update. This will solely be focused on the experience users have when visiting your site.
The page experience signals include Core Web Vitals, Mobile-friendly, Safe-browsing, HTTPS and No intrusive interstitials. Compliance will be an entry-level requirement for your new relaunched website to perform optimally in search beyond its pure information value.
This clear checklist can help you navigate through the entire process. Keep in mind that, depending on the risk level of the relaunch, moderate to minor traffic drops are completely normal and should be no cause for concern.
Algorithm Agency offers comprehensive SEO strategy and implementation services that will ensure your website performs at its best.