SEO Best Practices Checklist for Web Design & Development Projects
There are several reasons to redesign a website, such as improved design, user experience, functionality, or platform. When it comes to redesigns, SEO is another factor to consider in the overall strategy.
In its simplest form, SEO is important in a redesign for two primary reasons:
- Maintain the existing organic value
Strategize for new organic growth potential
How to Maintain SEO in a Redesign
Any time a website undergoes significant changes, there is an inherent risk to the existing SEO value. To ensure the redesign doesn’t negatively impact the website’s keyword rankings or organic search traffic, there are several steps to consider at various phases during the redesign (planning, development, and post-development). The first step begins with understanding the current state and what carries organic value. The rest of the steps are outlined in the SEO redesign checklist below.
How to Build an SEO Friendly Website
Building an SEO friendly website involves several components such as thoughtful keyword strategy and content experience, quality design and user experience, clean web development and coding practices, fast-loading page speeds, and a stable environment. With hundreds of ranking signals in the search algorithms, SEO truly comes into play in all components of a web design and development project and can’t be neglected along the way.
SEO Redesign Checklist
To maintain existing organic value and strategize for new organic growth potential, follow this SEO best practices checklist for web design and development.
- Review Existing Organic Traffic & Analytics Data: Identify the top-visited and top converting website pages. Understand what channels drive the most valuable traffic. Confirm Google Analytics is tracking correctly and data is not skewed.
- Keyword Research & Strategy: Learn which keywords are driving the most traffic to the website. Determine which keywords have the highest value to the business. Identify keywords to improve and new keywords to target.
- Scrape Existing Website: Conduct a front-end and XML sitemap scan and scrape the search results to identify current URLs. Review existing status codes, canonicalization, redirects, and SEO elements (Titles, Headings, Meta Descriptions).
- Review Designs for SEO: Work with the design team to ensure the new designs consider key elements for SEO such as appropriate content blocks, headings fields, etc.
- Review Information Architecture for SEO: Compare the current website architecture and the new, planned architecture. Identify whether key legacy pages are important to maintain for SEO or whether new pages should be added for SEO purposes.
- Plan URL Naming Convention: Ensure the URLs follow a logical naming convention. Avoid unnecessary subfolders and utilize keyword-friendly URLs whenever possible.
- Write SEO Friendly Content: Whether carrying over existing content or writing new content, ensure it incorporates target keywords, utilizes appropriate headings and formatting, and meets an adequate word count.
- Plan SEO Markup Elements: Compare the existing keyword rankings with the existing SEO markup (Title Tags, Headings, etc.) to determine which markup to keep and which markup to re-write incorporating insight from the keyword research.
- Plan Structured Data Markup: Ensure appropriate structured data markup is utilized throughout the website. Refer to Google’s resources on format, guidelines, and testing structured data.
- Optimize Images: Scan images to ensure there are no broken or overly large image files. Ensure appropriate image alternate text is utilized for both SEO and accessibility requirements.
- Complete 301 Redirect Mapping: This one’s important! To maintain existing SEO value, it is crucial to redirect old URLs to new URLs on a one-to-one basis. Avoid sweeping redirects at all costs.
- Complete Content Review for SEO: Once the website is closer to launch, ensure all appropriate content was carried over to the new website. Compare to the original crawl to ensure nothing is missing like high-ranking PDF files or blog posts.
- Review Internal Linking: Review and update internal linking to ensure users (and search engine crawlers) can easily move through the website.
- Review Canonical Tags: Ensure the canonical tags are either self-referring or canonicalized to the appropriate version of the page.
- Review Robots.txt File: Confirm the robots.txt file is not disallowing any areas of the website that should be accessible to crawlers and vice versa.
- Review XML Sitemap: Confirm all eligible URLs are on the XML sitemap and it only consists of pure 200 status URLs (no canonicalized, redirected, or broken pages).
- Test Website Page Speed: Run page speed tests on the website it meets adequate standards and visually loads within 3 seconds.
- Google Analytics Setup: Ensure Google Analytics / Google Tag Manager setup is mirrored on the new website to avoid any loss in data.
- Google Search Console Setup: Verify the website in Google Search Console and complete appropriate actions such as resubmitting the XML sitemap. If changing domains, it is crucial to work with your developer to Complete a Change of Address.
- Measure & Monitor SEO Performance: Once the website is live and in the wild, keep an eye on it to ensure everything is running smoothly. This includes monitoring Google Search Console for crawl errors, ensuring the URLs are being indexed, watching keyword rankings, and reviewing Google Analytics data.
There’s no shortage of SEO considerations during a redesign project! For best results, ensure there is a dedicated team member or agency partner allocated to the SEO components of your redesign project.
Let us know if you’re planning an upcoming redesign and need a hand – we’re here to help!