You’ve decided to do a site-wide overhaul, but aren’t sure how it will impact SEO. Never fear! We’ve put together a guide to walk you through the critical steps of relaunching your website. If you have specific questions about any of the steps in this list, your Account Manager will be happy to help.
- What types of changes have an SEO impact?
- What needs to be done before the new website goes live?
- What needs to be done immediately following the website relaunch?
Any change to the website has the potential to impact SEO — however, the biggest changes that can impact SEO performance are changes to the parts of the site Google can “read.” We’ll explain a few of the key ones here and how they impact SEO:
This is the single biggest thing that can impact your SEO. Your page’s URL is like the page’s name or identity in Google’s mind. If you change the URL without properly redirecting, it would be like handing someone a copy of The Great Gatsby that you had retitled The Roaring 20s Were Wild without letting them know. When their other friends recommend The Great Gatsby (or, in SEO terms, when other sites link to the old URL without a redirect in place), your book recipient wouldn’t know it was the same book you gave them. We want to avoid that!
Changes to H2s,H3s, or image alt text
This can have a negative impact on your best-performing pages, as these are what Google “reads” to understand what the page is about. To continue the book analogy, this would be like trying to understand a textbook without chapters, section headers, or captions. We want to preserve these page elements on the new site so that Google can continue to smoothly understand the site’s content.
Site speed and mobile-friendliness
Google increasingly prioritizes sites that load quickly and are usable for searchers on mobile. Any site relaunch should take the technical performance of the site into account.
Changes that are less important for SEO
Some website elements can provide a better or worse customer experience but have very little impact on SEO. These types of changes include:
- Using a new blog template (assuming URLs and text formatting is preserved)
- Adding a chatbot
- Adding additional calls to action
Set up your robots.txt correctly
After arriving at a website but before spidering it, the search crawler will look for a robots.txt file. If it finds one, the crawler will read that file first before continuing through the page. Because the robots.txt file contains information about how the search engine should crawl, the information found there will instruct further crawler action on this particular site. If the robots.txt file does not contain any directives that disallow a search crawler’s activity (or if the site doesn’t have a robots.txt file), it will proceed to crawl other information on the site.
- Semrush has a helpful guide on robots.txt: https://www.semrush.com/blog/beginners-guide-robots-txt/
Ensure you have a sitemap
You can use an XML sitemap to make sure Google can find and crawl all pages you deem essential on your website. An XML sitemap contains all the important pages of a site to help Google determine its structure.
- Here is a resource directly from Google on building a sitemap: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/sitemaps/build-sitemap
- Here’s a HubSpot article on editing/viewing your sitemap: https://knowledge.hubspot.com/domains-and-urls/view-and-edit-your-hubspot-hosted-domain-sitemap
- Yoast SEO is our recommended WordPress plugin for creating a sitemap: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-seo/
Create a redirect plan
Determine the new location for all existing pages on the website so you can put redirects into place after pushing the new website live. Redirects will prevent any loss of existing online authority during the relaunch process.
- We recommend this plugin for managing WordPress redirects: https://wordpress.org/plugins/redirection/
- HubSpot has a native redirection tool that can be used during the website relaunch process and beyond.
Transition tracking and plugins
Bring over any tracking codes or plugins to the new website such as:
- HubSpot forms or integrations
- Google Tag Manager
- Google Analytics (Universal Analytics and/or GA4)
Check all 301 redirects
Double-check that all 301 redirects are functioning correctly to prevent any loss of online authority or 404 errors. This is the most important step to preserving SEO performance, so don’t skip it!
Ensure noindex and nofollow tags are removed
View your website’s source code to ensure noindex or nofollow meta tags are removed to prevent indexing or crawling issues. This ensures pages can seamlessly show up in search results pages, and that SEO “link juice” is passed correctly through links around the site.
Reindex pages via Search Console
Submit core product and content pages for indexing via Google Search Console to speed up the re-indexing process.
Double-check how Google views your pages
Google provides free tools which measure the speed of a webpage and how it will be rendered by Google’s search crawler. Run your website pages through these tools to identify any page speed issues after your website goes live.
- We recommend Google Lighthouse. Learn more about this tool here.
- Google Search Console can also give you more information about how Google views your page performance, mobile-friendliness, and indexability.
Monitor for issues
Check the website regularly for the first 2 weeks after it goes live to identify any issues that arise during the relaunch process such as:
- Tracking issues in Google Analytics or external tools
- Crawl errors in Moz or Google Search Console
- Indexing issues in Google Search Console
- Potential manual actions in Google Search Console