How I Keep A Client's Site Healthy After A Redesign

siteredesign

It happens from time to time that site owners need to completely redo their website because, let's face it, that 1990's HTML template is just not pulling in the leads like it used to.  As a part of maintaining a client's overall site health, I complete a special list of post re-launch site audit activities. 

I watch out for issues below over the course of approximately 6 months to make sure nothing broke during the transition. Below is a fictional recreation of the actual post-redesign checkup process.

1. Sitemap Issues

sitemap.png

In many cases, it takes a while for Google to index all the pages of a new sitemap. This is normal and not a cause for concern. Sitemaps can take months to become fully indexed.  If you can, you should attempt to an obtain some authoritative links from either a parent site, partner site or other authoritative source to your home page, or a deeper page within the site, to speed up the indexing process. I run a check again in a month to make sure the site is indexing properly.

 

2. 404 Errors

404errors.png

 

This is a common pitfall when moving or redesigning a site. When precautions aren't taken to 301 redirect URLs to new landing pages, you will get 404 errors. 404 errors don't harm your site, but they can interfere with user experience if they are appearing on too many internal pages. I download all of these errors into a spreadsheet for a client and make sure to fix the ones that are in my control to do so. I also keep an eye on this bi-monthly to make sure that 404s aren't increasing.

 

3. Title Tags/ Meta Descriptions

When completing a post-redesign audit, I crawl all the URLs and look for instances where page titles & meta descriptions are either missing or being used on more than one page. Missing title tags can harm your site's SEO because when a search engine crawls your pages, it looks to the Titles and Description to understand the content of that page. If it's not a key category page, it's probably not a big deal to not have a meta tag/description there but you should avoid duplicates. Below is a video of Google engineer Matt Cutts explaining the distinction. However, since meta tags and descriptions are also used to present content to your readers, I like to make sure every page does have them as a part of optimizing the overall user experience.

 

 

I also check to make sure that the Title and Descriptions are the required lengths to display properly in search engine results. The requirement changes often, but best practice in 2015 is to keep Titles to 55 characters and Meta Descriptions to no more than 155 characters.

 

4. Missing or Multiple H1s

I check to make sure that every page has at least one H1 tag. H1s tell users (and browsers and search engines) the overall topic of the page, and headings such as H2, H3, etc. are used to structure the rest of your content into sections and subsections. This is a simplified example and there are instances where multiple H1s can be used such as in the case of a single page website with multiple sections. Post redesign, it's part of my checkup to make sure that these are in line with best practices for your type of website. You can "view source" of your web page and search "h1s, h2s" etc. if you'd like to check how your site is using headings.

viewing source from chrome browser

viewing source from chrome browser

 

Then using the Find command ( Command + F on mac ) to search for h1s or other headings as shown below. 

 

 

5. Missing Alt tags

Alt tags are not a huge issue if they aren't found. However, they are a signal that informs crawlers about the content of your web page and are a part of usability best practices for the visually impaired. I like to make sure my clients sites are capitalizing on as many ranking factors as possible. To find missing alt tags, I crawl the site and download a list and the locations of the images. I can then go into their CMS and add keyword-rich alt tags where needed.

 

6. Word Count

Low word count is a deadly sin of SEO based on a misconception that all web pages need to be 300 words or more. News flash: Google doesn't actually care about your word count as long as your content is meeting your users needs. It is because of user needs that I check on word count. I have completed audits where I found entire pages with no words on them at all, not even a product description, on an e-commerce site. This is obviously not going to meet a user's need who is looking for information about this product. Use the amount of copy that informs, interests and converts, and you've got yourself a landing page.

 

7. Post -Redesign Organic Traffic Trends

It's pretty important to make sure you didn't break anything when you move or redesign your site. The best way to investigate this is to look at Google Analytics. If you see a large sudden decline in traffic this could point to content that wasn't redirected or content you forgot to add on to the new site. Viewing landing page data is a good way to diagnose potential issues. If your most popular landing pages are suddenly receiving no traffic, they may no longer exist in your sitemap! Go to your Google Analytics account and view Behavior>Site Content>Landing Pages to check for any out of the ordinary decreases.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics

 

There are other issues that could pop up as well and in order to know what they are you need to monitor your traffic. I check up after the first 30 days, then again at 60 days, then again at 90 days. To be able to accurately report on any trend, you need to give analytics time to propagate that data for you. If you see a decline post redesign, it's time to start poking around more deeply into the cause. If you have digital marketing specialists (like damolade) on retainer, they will be checking on these things for you every month.

8. The Plan

For the above hypothetical post redesign checkup the plan would delivered to you as follows and next steps would be initialized:

1. Check on the sitemap indexing status within 30-
days. Try and obtain a link from a parent, partner or high-authority site  to
help speed up indexing.

2. Resolve 404 errors.

3. Confirm that title tags and meta descriptions exist on most important pages, are the ideal length, and that none are duplicate.

4. Limit H1use to one per page, (unless site content is using sections) and review pages with
multiple H1 headings for possible H2-H4 creation.

5. Add ALT tags where missing.

6. Check that on-page content/word count is meeting user needs.

7. Post site-launch Organic Traffic trends

Of course, there are other factors we can consider during a post-redesign evaluation such as sitespeed and mobile-friendliness but those are now usually built in on the front end of a redesign. If I think your site has these issues post-redesign I will definitely address them and put them in the plan to fix.

Although I have structured this post to be geared towards a hypothetical redesign, your digital marketing specialist should be keeping a watch on all of these things for you. If they aren't, or no one is, give us a call today. We will keep your site healthy post redesign and beyond!