If you feel like it’s time your site got some new flair, or it’s evolved beyond your initial vision, a website redesign may be in your future. Redesigns can be very exciting – new pictures! new functionality! – but before you jump in, take a step back and understand everything about how your current website performs. The last thing you want to happen when you launch that gorgeous new site is for your search rankings to tank. We’re going to share a few reasons why every site redesign needs to start with a website SEO audit.
It’s common for websites to be handed around from developer to client to maintenance staff, etc. It can be a big game of telephone where the intricacies and details of a site build can get lost. SEO site audits are an opportunity to look at the entirety of a website through the eyes of a search engine, allowing for a better understanding not only of its structure but also any problems that could prevent an appropriate search ranking.
Evaluate Your Technical Details
At minimum, there are three things that an SEO audit should accomplish:
- Ensure all pages are indexed
If you have a blog post written around a specific topic, you likely wouldn’t want your homepage to show up in searches for that topic. Ensuring all pages are indexed allows searchers to find relevant content more easily.
- Test the appropriateness of a website’s robots.txt file
Is it set up to block the appropriate resources, while allowing proper indexing? A robots.txt file can tell search engines which parts of your website not to crawl through the use of noindex and nofollow meta tags, which can lead to pages not being indexed. Blocking off parts of your site can certainly be helpful as a development resource – if you’re working on new pages or a new iteration in the background of the “live” site – but pages should generally not be blocked off unless absolutely necessary.
- Ensure a sitemap exists
This allows a search engine to understand the structure of your website by only crawling a single page.
You should also review general website health factors such as broken links, the presence of ALT tags on images, meta descriptions, and duplicate content.
Evaluate Your Backlinks
We’ve talked about the importance of building your backlinks. After all the work of building them up, you don’t want to lose them by changing your URLs in a redesign without a redirection strategy. Every time that you change a url on your site, you should set up a 301 redirect to let Google know that your awesome content has moved, and where it can now be found. This will save your visitors from landing on the dreaded 404 File Not Found page.
If your redesign involves a wholesale change to your link structure, your redirection plan is going to be the heart of your migration strategy. Botch it and you’ll pay dearly in link juice.
Evaluate Your Content
This is the step where you’ll dig into your analytics. Examine your stats, including unique visitors, total page traffic, keywords, metadata, site speed and responsiveness, number of backlinks, and the total number of pages indexed. Use the information you gather from your audit to determine what’s working and what isn’t.
Do you have under-performing or otherwise lower-ranked pages? Can they be improved and brought to a position where they’re more in-line with your goals, or is it easier to justify their deletion?
Ultimately, an audit is intended to help you determine the best way to streamline and organize the content on your website from an SEO perspective – the great equalizer. You could have the greatest content ever written, but if it doesn’t have the ability to get search engine traffic, it’s not very likely to be seen, and an audit will inform you of such issues so that you can begin to overcome them.
Of course, SEO work can be difficult and time-consuming, and there are a lot of moving parts to keep track of. If you want to make your website better, check out our free eBook to learn about common SEO mistakes and what to do when faced with them.