It’s finally happened, it’s been a long time coming, but you’re finally in the process of having a brand new website. Not only that but one that has been developed and designed to improve and optimise a scope of different factors; usability, efficiency and searchability.
Before you re/launch, have you thought about the transition and how to keep your old site’s assets? An SEO audit can ensure that you haven’t missed anything, meaning that the risks of any errors can be fixed before Google gets their hands on it and penalise your via a decrease in rankings.
A typical SEO audit looks at Visibility Issues, Meta Issues, Content Issues, Link Issues, Image Issues and Semantic Issues. It sounds like a lot, but it’s everything that your website is ranked on. Looking at the proportion of page errors, the amount of titles, how much content is on your site and how many people you’re linking to and from.
Unlike a typical SEO audit on a live site, a pre-launch SEO audit looks at both the new and old website. This may not seem like a big task, but to be able to audit a website that isn’t yet live can be particularly difficult. This is because you simply can’t crawl it with a tool like you can a live website: New websites are hidden behind robots files, password protections or even on internal servers which makes it impossible for this audit tools to work their magic.
A website relaunch SEO audit involves going back to basics and manually ticking/checking the source code across the website. At Rooster, we break a relaunch SEO audit into two reports; pre-launch and post-launch (once on the development link and one live).
It’s true, you can just wait until a website is live to perform a post-launch SEO audit, but it’s better to catch and fix issues before your audience (and search engines) discover them on your website.
Fixing issues before Google and Bing crawl the website can reduce the risk of search ranking penalisation. The more issues that occur all of a sudden, the more it will impact your new website negatively.
This is how the SEO team at Rooster perform a pre-launch SEO audit:
We look at the tagging, did your old website have Google Analytics, Lead Generation or Google Tag Manager? Has the new website been given these codes too to ensure that no data is lost in transition? Just because you’ve had a redesign, doesn’t mean you need to create a new Google Account. However, a completely new domain change requires a different setup.
We look into how your old website worked, compared to how it works now. Is content easy or easier to find? Do the URL’s follow a good structure? Do the images work and are they optimised? Is your website mobile friendly?
One of the biggest known factors to search position is page speed. If your website is below the recommended, it can impact your website by moving from the first page for unbranded keywords, which could dramatically decrease your volume of website visitors. We highly encourage you to test the new site using the Google PageSpeed Insights.
Another factor mentioned above is mobile friendliness. In January 2017, Google switched to the mobile first index, meaning that if you have poor usability on mobile, you’re likely to be ranked down because of it. Not sure? Use Google’s Mobile Friendly Testing Tool.
Does your new site use structured markup? A relaunch holds a great opportunity to tidy up any templates or site code, so using GWT Mark Up Tool can be extremely useful!
Your website looks great, it works brilliantly and there are errors highlighted that will be fixed. But does your content deliver? Are the images appropriate for the page? Is the content interesting and useful? Is there a clear call to action?
These things could all be the most important thing to consider and audit. Without a proposed action for a user, how will they complete the expected journey? Having a lovely new website with a new CMS that enables all parts of your business to contribute, is great – but they’re unlikely to understand the importance of SEO and unlikely to keep things as optimised as possible. You need to look at images being uploaded, tables being used and the type of content being added. Relevance is key.
SEO used to just be all about the linking structure of a website, now it’s a combination of factors such as the type of content linking to you and the type of website. Have you got other websites linking to you? Are these valuable? Are you linking to other valuable pages? Are a lot of URL’s changing in the relaunch?
If your URL’s are changing, have you mapped out your 301 redirects properly? Ensuring that 301’s are ready to go with the new site launch is fundamental. These redirects will allow Google and Bing to replace already indexed content with the correct URL without penalising you. If URL’s are left broken for a long period of time, Google will eventually un index them completely. A great way to find a list of links currently on your website is using spidering tools such as Screaming Frog. You can export an HTML list of current URL’s and match these with the new website. If any have changed, you can create a redirect.
If your domain isn’t changing, and you take care of 301 redirects to ensure an easy transition, inbound linking might not be a major issue with a relaunch. However, you certainly want to be sure that you optimise your internal links from page to page on your site. You can also address this post launch, but certainly, if you’re in the process of adding or editing content, it’s a good time to change any internal links to pages.
So you’ve done the tough bit. Finally, just before the relaunch goes live, It’s a good idea to benchmark where the old site. Taking note of what is the organic traffic to the site from various search engines currently and what are the current rankings for various high-traffic keywords. This can be used as a measure of success for the new website to see whether your SEO efforts are a return on investment or not.
Congratulations! Your new website is live. I’m afraid the audit is quite over, though, you’ll need to continue to monitor it closely, looking for any changes in rankings and traffic. At Rooster, we recommend running checks daily for the first few weeks, and then weekly for the first few months.
If you begin to see any dips or decreases in traffic, you need to identify this quickly, is there a problem with any of these?
Are any pages still blocked? We often see that the robots.txt file hasn’t been changed with the rushing of setting a new website live, this blocks Google and Bing complete from crawling your website.
Are there any broken links that have been missed? You can look within Webmaster tools and look under Crawl Errors. Fix these with 301’s as they may have been from an old publication or old link.
Are there any missing Titles or Descriptions for your pages? Are they even showing in the source code? Sometimes using plugins such as Yoast SEO can ensure that your titles and meta descriptions are as optimised as possible.
If all the 301’s have been correctly implemented, do all the links have relevant ALT text? A description of a link gives crawlers a sense of the next page topic, indicating a journey structure.
Is there any No Follow links listed? Or ones that haven’t been added? Just remember that every link you make to another website means that you are giving someone else a small segment of your authority. If you link to everyone and anyone, you can be seen as a spam website. It’s best to ensure you have both lots of inbound links and outbound links.
Are your images as descriptive as they could be? Do they have ALT text and a relevant title? Images play a huge part in the way a page is viewed for both users and crawling bots. If any images are broken, the ALT text and titles ensure that they still show that an image should be there.
Even if you have to delay a website relaunch date, it’s far better for you in the long-term to ensure that your redesigned site will launch as SEO-friendly as it can be to help ensure that you keep the rankings and traffic growing rather than getting worse.