Website Relaunch: the ultimate SEO checklist
There are many possible reasons for a website relaunch: A new company CI has to be represented online; new functions like an e-commerce shop must be available; technical weaknesses require the transition to a new Content Management System; or more leads and sales should be obtained. For whatever reason a site is relaunched, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will most likely play a very important part.
Why SEO is important for a website relaunch
It is hard to imagine a relaunch scenario in which SEO is not of great importance. Most business models rely heavily on organic search traffic in order to find potential customers. Even if revenue is generated mainly through other channels, the website will still be the first place customers will go to to find out more about the company. It must therefore be well positioned in search engines, at least for branded keywords and for keywords related to the business or industry sector.
When and where to consider SEO
This means SEO requirements must be met within the website relaunch phase. But when and where exactly? The short answer is: anytime and anywhere. The long answer starts from the fact that SEO has several sides to it:
This means that SEO requirements must be integrated when setting up or even choosing the Content Management System (CMS) (technical), when conceptualizing the categories of the website and the navigation (structural) and when writing texts and uploading images (content-related). Furthermore, these three SEO dimensions are interwoven, that is, structural and technical requirements have to be respected when creating content and vice versa. Whichever way you look at it, SEO is crucial for the new website to reach its performance goals (e. g. go-to-market or growth).
SEO checklist for website relaunches
But what exactly has to be done within the relaunch, in order to use the full organic search potential of the new website? We will guide you through the most important aspects.
What are people searching for within your market? And are there search terms that have shown an increase in search volume over time? A keyword research in most cases reveals a lot of untapped search potential. That means there may be a lot of keywords that are closely related to your offer, but have never been targeted by your website before.
The keywords with relevant search volume should then be clustered and assigned to pages on your website, giving every page a main keyword and, if reasonable, several secondary keywords. This usually leaves keyword gaps: keyword clusters that, as mentioned above, have no page to be assigned to yet – a clear hint to create new pages in order to address these searches. Based on the keyword mapping, a plan can be created as to which content needs to be optimized and which needs to be newly created.
Sitemap, URL structure and navigation
Above all else, the keyword mapping helps to create a sitemap, which defines the structure of categories and subcategories on the website. Ideally, more general keywords form the categories, while more specific keywords form the subcategories. The URL structure of the website should follow these different levels of the sitemap to show Google and other search engines (and of course the user) a logically built and easily understandable website. The structure of the top navigation is usually derived from the sitemap as well. The most important landing pages should be placed as high up in the navigation structure as possible. And all relevant landing pages should be accessible with as few clicks as possible via the top navigation.
User-friendly page structure
Not only is the structure of the website crucial, but also the structure of the pages themselves. Adding pure "SEO texts" has become a thing of the past with the latest Google updates. These days, pages need to be organized in a way that is understandable and clear to the user, i.e. with logical heading structure, easy to grasp paragraphs, as well as bullet points, graphics and other elements where appropriate.
This is undoubtedly the most intuitive measure. Keywords should appear in body text and headlines, especially in the H1 heading. Apart from that, attention should be paid to a natural, user-friendly keyword density.
At least as important as keywords are Google's E-E-A-T criteria. The acronym stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. And this is exactly what needs to be communicated in the content to achieve good ranking positions after the website relaunch. In short, content should focus far more on real and unique industry and insider knowledge than on what the reader could otherwise find on the Internet. And yes, the help of AI software is “allowed”, as long as E-E-A-T criteria are still fulfilled.
Both users and search engines must be guided through the website via links in a logical and helpful way. This is done, for example, by links in the body text, by further link elements on or at the end of a page or by breadcrumbs. The more important a page is for the user, the more links should point to it.
Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals are a set of Google metrics that measure whether users can quickly and easily interact with a page. These include load times, the order in which elements load on the page, when the page can be interacted with and whether the layout shifts during loading. There are a couple of technical measures to improve Core Web Vitals. To know more about the topic, download the OMMAX Whitepaper on Core Web Vitals.
The meta data consists of the title and the meta description of the respective page. The title (max. 55 characters) should contain the main keyword and serve as a teaser in the Google snippet on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The meta description (max. 155 characters) complements this "teaser", although keywords have no influence on the ranking here.
If the website is launched in multiple languages, the appropriate hreflang tag should be filled in for each language. This way, users will see the website in the right language for them.
To avoid duplicate content, a canonical tag should be used. Most pages will have self-referential canonicals. But there are cases where a page is accessible via multiple URLs. In this case, the canonical tag tells Google what the “official” URL of the page is.
A common pitfall is uploading huge images. Images should generally only be uploaded to the backend in the maximum required dimensions. In addition, the file size should be minimized with appropriate tools. This has a positive impact on loading times and core web vitals. Furthermore alt-texts should be used. These do not only contribute to accessibility (alt-text can be read aloud to visually impaired users) and provide information to the user in case an image does not load. Most importantly, it helps with Google Image Search rankings by providing the search engine with information about what is in the picture.
Structured data helps to highlight certain types of content and display them accordingly in search results. By using structured data in the code, search engines can recognize FAQs, events or recipes for example, and display them as such and more prominently in the SERPs. A website relaunch is the perfect opportunity to use these markups, if they had not already been used on the old website, in order to increase visibility for users.
XML sitemap and robots.txt
The XML sitemap and the robots.txt file are powerful tools which tell Google which pages are the most important to be crawled and indexed and which ones should be blocked, i. e. not considered. However, only SEO experts should work on these files as it is crucial that they are consistent not only with each other, but also consistent to index/noindex tags.
One of the most critical measures in a relaunch are redirects. It is of tremendous importance that each URL of the old website redirects to a corresponding URL of the new website via 301 response code. For this purpose, an accurate redirect mapping must be set up and implemented. If this is not done, masses of 404 response codes will be generated after the website relaunch, which means that neither users nor search engines will find the pages they are looking for. In the worst case, this can cost the entire authority that has been built up over years in the search market.
Checking, fixing, monitoring
Both pre- and post-relaunch checks are crucial to ensure a well-functioning (and thus search-engine-friendly) website. Many aspects can be checked and a lot of bugs can be detected and fixed before the go-live in the staging environment. But even after the relaunch, a complete check of the live website has to be done. A crawl is one of the most important parts of this step; it detects 404 codes, missing or duplicate H1 headlines, canonicals and many other potential errors. In the longer term, of course, the SEO performance of the website should be permanently monitored, which in turn requires the relevant tools such as Google Search Console, Google Analytics, etc. to be set up correctly.
The ultimate relaunch advice: Always ask SEO
Bear in mind that this checklist is not – and cannot be – exhaustive. Every CMS, every company, every industry sector has its own needs that will result in different functions, requirements and challenges for the website relaunch. The most important point here is that SEO is always considered when making decisions. The web development / IT department or the designer team may find elegant and seemingly self-explanatory solutions for problems that arise. But if these not checked with SEO experts, they can have a huge impact on the website’s performance in Google and other search engines – risking ending up with a virtually invisible website. After all, what seems most obvious is often forgotten in reality: apart from the “beauty aspect”, the new internet presence must contribute to revenue or other business goals.
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