There are many strategies that go into creating a new website and launching it properly. But many times website owners, web design companies, or digital marketing agencies don’t understand how to relaunch a website properly. They don’t know they need to have an SEO transition plan and strategy in place to preserve SEO traffic and user satisfaction. Without a transition plan in place, many websites need to undergo a traffic recovery audit and have a strategy built to recoup traffic levels.
For those who want to try to figure out why they lost traffic after their website redesign and build their own SEO traffic recovery strategy, below are a few key areas to check.
Traffic Recovery Task 1: Make Sure You Didn’t Block Google
Blocking the search engines from crawling a new website (while it’s being built) is done to keep it from getting indexed by Google. Blocking it while building the website is ok, but most forget they’ve blocked it, and publish the website with the code still in place.
This usually happens in one or more spots, and can keep Google and other search engines from seeing your new website, which makes them think it no longer exists.
1. In WordPress Websites
To find this setting navigation to Settings > Reading > Scroll to the bottom. You will see the following option. Make sure it’s not checked.
2. In Your Robots.txt File
This is more of an advanced option. A robots.txt file is located in the root folder on your server. If you see something like this inside that file, you’re blocking all search engines and crawlers.
Simply remove the line that says: Disallow: /
3. In your header code
You can see your header code if you go to your website and view the source code. Within your header code of your web page, you will see a section for Meta Robots Directives.
If you see that there is a nofollow or noindex wording in this, you’re blocking crawlers.
Traffic Recovery Task 2: Check Your Analytics Implementation
Make sure you have installed your analytics program properly and that data is being received. It may just be that your analytics code is not on every page, or that it’s not firing properly.
If you’re using Google Analytics, view the source of a web page, and make sure the Google Analytics Tracking Code is installed – it will usually be in the footer or header area of the code.
Traffic Recovery Task 3: Check The SEO Redirects
As we’ve mentioned many times, whenever a website is redesigned, transitioned, or relaunched and pages are moved, deleted, or consolidated, causing a new page URL to be created, it’s imperative to map your old pages to your new. When looking over these there are two key things to check.
1. Where They Done?
This can be checked by finding an old primary product or services page from your website in the search results, and click on it. If you get a 404 error then redirects were most likely not done.
2. Redirect Type?
This can be checked by using an old page from your old website (not your home page) and using a tool such as web-sniffer.net to get the header code response.
There are two types of redirects that are most common; 301 redirects and 302 redirects. Both will send the user to the new page, but how Google understands each of these is different, and can affect SEO rankings of your new page.
A 301 redirect is an instruction to the server to permanently redirect one URL to another URL. Users and search engines that request the first URL will automatically be sent to the second.
The benefit of using a 301 Redirect versus another redirect method is that the 301 Redirect passes most of the “link juice” to the site located at the second URL. This means that you can pass the first URL’s SEO ranking power to the second/new URL. 301 redirects can be used when moving a site to a new domain, cleaning up dynamic URLs and preventing duplicate content.
A 302 Redirect is an instruction to the server to temporarily redirect one URL to another URL. This method passes none of the link juice to the second URL and is not optimal for retaining SEO ranking.
Traffic Recovery Task 4: Check Your Priority SEO Pages
Check to make sure you didn’t delete high-value pages for SEO, that were ranking for priority keywords. This is one of the top 3 things that cause a traffic drop for new website designs.
What usually happens is that the person planning the new website design and structure does not think the page is valuable, and just removes it. This creates a gap in content and keyword target, and thus a loss in rankings and traffic.
It is important that if you’re changing the structure of your website and building a new information architecture, that you include an SEO in the process to analyze structural changes.
Traffic Recovery Task 5: Check Your Tagging and Headings
Prior to relaunching a website an audit and baseline data should be pulled – this includes tagging for the website. You can now run a program such as Screaming Frog SEO spider to crawl your new website and return all the title tags, description tags, headings, and alt tags for each page.
You’ll now need to do a comparative analysis to determine if any tagging changed significantly.
For the header tags, each page should contain one H1 tag (primary topic of the page), and a few H2 tags (subtopics of the primary topic).
Traffic Recovery Task 6: Check For 404 Errors
Login into your Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) and check the 404 errors report.
Your Website > Crawl > Crawl Errors.
This usually takes a few days to populate when a new website is launched, but it should give you an idea of pages that were missed during your redirect strategy.
Traffic Recovery Task 7: Hire A SEO Versed In Traffic Recovery Strategies
If you don’t find issues with these SEO data points, then it’s time to contact an SEO that understands transition planning and relaunch strategies.
If you need help with any of the items above feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to do a complete traffic recovery audit and strategy to help you earn back the traffic you lost after your website redesign.