As an SEO provider, it’s always a bit nerve-wracking when a client mentions that they are planning to launch a new website. It’s understandable that things need to be refreshed from time to time, however a huge SEO ranking factor is the trust of your website. If drastic changes are made and if certain things aren’t implemented properly during the new site migration due to lack of knowledge, it can result in some of that SEO trust being lost. Be sure to follow these guidelines (and show them to your web developer) when making the switch.
Copy over the analytics code
If you care about the success of your website at all, it’s essential to monitor traffic information, visitor sources, keywords that generated visitors, etc. using an analytics tool. Google Analytics is the most popular because it is free and it’s information straight from Google. Without this crucial information you are essentially flying blind, which is a huge mistake if you rely on your business website to generate leads and sales. When you are switching over to a new site, it’s necessary to copy the Google Analytics code over to the new pages before it launches. You will want to have immediate data regarding how the old site performed in comparison to the new site. If you notice a huge dip in traffic you can figure out what the problem is and remedy it quickly.
Remove the nofollow/noindex tag
When working on a new site when it’s still in testing mode, many website developers will add this tag to the back end code. This tag tells the search engines spiders to stay away so that the site won’t get indexed and won’t appear within search results. It’s absolutely essential that the tag gets removed once the site is ready to go live and generate visitors. If the code stays there for any period of time it means that it will not rank and will not generate any traffic from the search engines.
301 redirect from old to new pages
It’s a manual process that takes time, but it’s important to compare all of the pages that are on the old site to all of the pages that will be on the new site. It’s likely that certain pages are going to be removed or the content on other pages will be consolidated into one new page. Instead of simply deleting all of the old pages that aren’t needed, it’s important to 301 redirect them to the most relevant new page. There could be links pointing to the old pages and if they are just deleted that link trust is gone. In addition, it means that visitors and search engine spiders will be sent to a 404 error page which conveys that the site isn’t very user friendly.
Monitor SEO software after the switch
Technical glitches can happen during the website re-launch process. SEO software like SEO Moz alert you to technical errors on your site that you may not have been aware of otherwise.
If this all sounds a bit technical, then you are getting the idea. Make sure that your technical folks are not so consumed by everything else they must do to launch the new site that they forget these critical steps for SEO.