Most Web developers put SEO issues on the back burner while moving a website, when in reality, they should be putting SEO as a top priority. If the site is not optimized effectively, people will not be able to find the site, so all of your efforts moving the site or redesigning it will have been for nothing. There are three main components a site move that require SEO: before the launch, during the launch and after the launch.
During the pre-launch period, SEOs should compile a list of metrics and errors to benchmark. This will help point the Web developer in the right direction as he/she is moving the site. It will also be useful to compare the before and after metrics after the site is moved.
These are the five critical metrics that need to be measured before the change happens:
- Traffic analysis: Using Google or Bing Webmaster Tools, check and see if the site has any crawl errors. Understand what needs to be done to resolve these errors, and make a list of recommendations for the Web developer to resolve during the site move.
- Benchmark current keywords: See which keywords you are ranking for before the launch and for which landing pages. This will give an opportunity to provide content writers the ability to incorporate these and new keywords into the copy of pages as the site move takes place. Also consider setting up a tracking campaign for these keywords using the BrightEdge Data Cube to measure keyword performance before and after the launch.
- Landing pages: Record which landing pages get the most traffic, as well as which ones rank for which keywords, and which position they hold for each keyword. Record how many each of the top landing pages internal links they have pointing at them.
- Existing 404 errors: List out the 404 errors on your site that need to be resolved during your site move.
- Redirection errors: Review the redirection response codes across your site to discover unnecessary 302 redirects. Create a redirection plan to ensure that Web pages are redirecting appropriately.
SEO During Launch
During the launch of the site, there will be a lot of going back and forth between the SEO and Web developer, so it’s important that all of the data and recommendations made by the SEO are clear and understandable.
Follow up regularly with the web developer to ensure all requested changes are completed correctly. The following are four aspects that SEOs should monitor:
- Organic traffic levels: Keep an eye on traffic and see what happens during the initial site move.
- Custom 404 page: Make sure the custom 404 page is working after the site launch.
- Check on the 301 redirects: Make sure that the 301 redirects are working as they should. Also, make sure that 302 redirects that need to be changed to 301s are being completed.
- Monitor site errors as the move occurs: Use Google or Bing Webmaster Tools to do this. Just make sure you follow through with the developer to ensure that all of the things with the pre-launch are actually done.
After the site move, you’re going to want to do a complete SEO site audit to see which pieces have fallen through the cracks. The SEO will then need to guide the Web developer through the remaining tasks, even when developers think that everything is complete now that the site has been moved.
Conduct a final website audit that will contain the following metrics:
- 404 errors
- Duplicate data (h1 tags, titles, meta descriptions, etc.)
- Internal linking
- Image alt description
Be sure to create a follow-up report for the developer with the remaining issues and how to resolve them. Continue to monitor keywords and traffic as the site adjusts to the move, and the to the changes the developers continue to make.
Too many SEOs and especially Web developers neglect SEO-centric steps during a site move. SEOs need to be the instigators to make sure these SEO metrics are a priority during this initiative. After all, if the SEO authority is lost during a site move, the move was not worth it.