Any company preparing to redesign or replatform its website is going to have a long and complicated list of tasks to manage. Whether it’s large changes to the site’s appearance, structure, or the entire platform itself, or smaller adjustments that help improve functionality, everyone has to work as a team to complete the changes and ensure quality.
More often than not, there’s one vital element overlooked or discounted during these seismic shifts to a website’s core structure: careful and meticulous SEO management and development. A company can redevelop its website into a beautiful, perfectly functional platform that its customers will love, but if the site isn’t optimized and ready to show its new face to search engines, then that company could be in serious trouble.
It’s All About Maintaining Organic Value
A key focus of any replatform project or major redesign should be maintaining as much SEO value as possible. It can take a while for a domain to build and retain organic value, but that same value can be very easily reduced or outright lost during major updates without proper SEO care and planning.
In most cases, a company’s domain that is set to be redesigned or replatformed falls into one of two categories:
- The domain already has a solid level of organic value, so the team must take steps to maintain the site’s rankings and value in search results
- The domain has low organic value and will benefit from the update, which means the site needs to launch with the best-possible setup
Both situations highlight the need for organic optimization and monitoring, but it’s important to remember that a domain will always see ranking changes with a replatform or redesign. Search engines will need several weeks (or months) to reevaluate a domain after significant updates. So, even with a perfect SEO strategy in place, a domain is still going to see a time lag related to changes as everything settles.
The Good, Better, Best SEO for a New Website
The Good SEO Elements
If a company doesn’t have the time, budget, or capabilities to manage a comprehensive SEO update with its redesign or replatform, then it better be sure it’s double-checking and guaranteeing the functionality and accuracy of the items listed below. Once a site is up and running, it’s recommended the internal or external teams begin expanding the SEO work as soon as possible.
- XML sitemaps provide search engines with a list of every URL attached to a domain
- Be sure the domain has a working XML sitemap that contains every unblocked URL on your domain
- Multiple free tools exist to test an XML sitemap, like xml-sitemaps.com
- The Robots.txt file tells search engines which categories, pages, and parameters should not be indexed
- The XML Sitemap URL should be listed in the Robots.txt file
- 301 redirects are used to point one URL to another URL, usually when a page is deleted
- Redirects are highly useful for maintaining and transferring organic value and should always be part of a redesign or replatform
- Every accessible URL (those not hidden behind a login or blocked in Robots.txt) should resolve as a 200-level status code
- Any URLs or in-text links resolving with 301, 302, or 404 status codes should be updated before launch, so they aren’t indexed
In the past, I’ve worked with clients who have come to us after launching websites with broken sitemaps, useless Robots.txt files, missing 301 redirects, and serious issues with status codes on live pages. Missing these critical steps can easily lead to a significant loss of organic value. Plus, it can take serious effort (i.e., costs and effort) to fix these issues, which is why it’s so important to be sure you have the basics ready before you launch a new website.
The Better SEO Elements
The items listed above will help ensure a site has the basics ready for search engines, but in the long run, those base technical elements are not going to help a domain build real value and knock its competitors out of top positions. Taking the time and energy needed to create well-researched meta data, descriptive headlines, and developing a base interlinking strategy are vital for helping a new site maintain and gain organic value.
- Title tags and meta descriptions are extremely important for developing page value and encouraging clicks from search results
- The title tag is the first thing a search engine checks when it lands on a page, which means it must have a valuable, related keyword (or two)
- Page headlines range from H1 tags to H2, H3, H4, and H5 tags
- Website managers can use headlines to add secondary keywords or keyword variations that support the title tag and help raise the URL’s overall organic value
- Creating connections between related pages with internal linking is one of the best ways to transfer value from high-level pages to deeper pages
- Links should be created with valuable keywords as the anchor text, though global navigation links don’t apply
Plenty of new or redesigned websites go live without paying much attention to their meta data or internal linking strategies. I’ve seen several domains that use the same title tags and meta descriptions for every page and wonder why their new domain lost or never gained value after launch.
They may seem like minor elements, but after you’ve updated or launched a site, search engines are going to be reviewing everything very carefully. With quality meta data and a solid interlinking strategy, you can help search engines better understand your domain and begin building new organic value.
The Best SEO Elements
Finally, if a company is looking to make a massive impact with its new site, then it’s time to take the final step into content development, link building, and optimizing the website’s speed & performance.
For Google, content is king. This means that well-written, fresh, and informative content is highly valued over any competing areas. Domains need to rely on quality content to help establish and expand organic value, which means writing, managing, and updating content a company knows its users will want to see.
- Remember that the site’s on-page content can also appear in search results. Google will sometimes replace meta descriptions with scraped page content that it feels is a closer match to a searcher’s intent, which makes quality page content even more important.
Beyond page content, the team should look into link building and ways to improve the site’s overall speed and loading performance.
High-quality page content
- On-page content is the best way to expand a page’s organic value and gain rankings for secondary keywords and keyword variations
- The perfect opportunity for creating and implementing natural internal links and expanding a URL’s value
- Receiving links to your website from domains in related industries
- Links can be solicited, and many marketing groups will help companies gain more backlinks for their domain
Image loading & speed
- One of the last major organic value development factors is a site’s overall speed and performance
- The faster and smoother a site loads, the better – huge image files, outdated coding and styling, and other “junk” can significantly hinder a domain’s performance
Launching a site with minimal content, limited external links, and improperly loaded images is also a common problem and can majorly affect a site’s value. I’ve worked with many clients who’ve launched a site with a solid technical foundation and unique meta data, but who aren’t seeing real growth. With campaigns aimed at improving and expanding on-page content, gaining links from related domains, and improving overall site load performance, struggling domains make significant organic gains in months.
If You Build it, They
Will Might Come
Keep in mind that the items listed in this article are just skimming the surface of everything that can be done to optimize a website. I’m not even dipping my toe into structured data, keyword cannibalization, content duplication, backlink management, local optimization, mobile/desktop usability, any many other areas. SEO is endless and no domain is fully or perfectly optimized.
CQL Will Help You Maintain Organic Value
With careful work and a solid strategy, you and your team can help ensure that search engines and their users value your new or relaunched website. All it takes is an eye for detail, and commitment to maintaining the efforts, and maybe a little help from the search engine optimization experts at CQL.
For an easy reference on tips to maintaining or improving organic value, download the below guide to “The Good, Better, and Best SEO for a New Website.”
CQL has over two decades of experience with helping clients create customized websites and applications, and our new digital marketing offerings will help push your new site to the top of the search listings. For more information contact us below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.