Redesigning or migrating your website is a huge undertaking. Many firms move forward with the effort and investment in hopes that their sites will be more discoverable and bring in more traffic and leads – but that doesn’t always happen.
Website migrations that don’t take search engine optimization (SEO) into account ahead of time often lead to serious negative results. SEO is essential to the success of your launch, so before you relaunch your law firm’s website, check this list. We’ll cover items to check to avoid disaster with your law firms SEO during a website redesign.
No matter what goals you have for your redesign, you’ll want to protect the value and equity your site has already built. To do so, focus on the following:
✓ Goals and project plans
You probably have compelling reasons for why you are embarking on a website redesign, from enhanced user experience improvements to marketing initiatives to SEO improvements. Set goals and establish KPIs in order to confirm improvement and ROI on the website redesign project.
✓ Information architecture and content
The themes of your website and how it’s organized make a big difference to performance. Changes to the information architecture, sitemap, and overall content plan in the redesign can impact SEO, and ensuring that everyone on the project understands how is important. Ensure that pages that are currently important for SEO are not omitted, and that the overall messages remain intact. Use a crawling tool like Screaming Frog to find all pages of your website, and then work from your current sitemap on requirements for the new one.
✓ On-page optimization
At a page level, the key is making sure content remains relevant to the user’s search intent. After you know what context and overall architecture is changing (or remaining the same), you can take steps to protect or proactively optimize at the page level, focusing on specific on-page SEO elements that help with relevance. Look at things like URLs, page titles, meta descriptions, body copy, alt text, etc. If you need to make changes to your staging site or code-base, do so prior to launching.
You don’t want to serve up a 404 error page to a user if you can avoid it. Make sure that you map out 301 redirects for all pages that are getting new URLs and those that are going away in the redesigned site.
You can use Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools to see which pages the search engines crawl on an ongoing basis, and make sure you don’t miss any redirects. If you have a large website, this could be a time-consuming part of your migration – but it’s essential.
At launch time, follow along with your platform’s go-live checklist and perform any quality control checks of the work you have done on the staging site to date.
Don’t give the go-ahead for launch if any of your on-page work or redirects are not in place or tested.
No matter what your timelines are, it’s easier to delay the launch than to correct mistakes after or roll back to an old website.
Remember that once you’ve launched there’s only so much you can do if things go wrong. That being said, there are a series of activities you can perform once your migration is complete.
✓ Check redirects
As soon as you launch, go back to your redirect file, old sitemap, and old site crawl to test and ensure that all old site URLs perform 301 redirects to new site URLs. Find stray 404s and implement new redirects quickly.
✓ Dev-to-live audit
Hopefully, all pages and specific on-page optimization carried over from the dev site to the live site. Carefully audit to be sure. This is particularly important if you have dynamic content on your website, because sometimes elements like databases and tables can get missed in a migration.
✓ Validate code and performance
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your live site will perform exactly the way your staging site did.
Use a mobile-friendly testing tool to go through the home page and key pages.
You should also run page speed tools to discover potential areas for improvement. Differences in servers, hosting, and other loads on the production site can cause issues that you wouldn’t necessarily have found on the staging site.
✓ Submit XML sitemaps
Submit the XML sitemap only when you’re satisfied that the redirects and on-page SEO elements are working properly. Your dynamic sitemap should include the desired full set of destination URLs. If you are using a static sitemap, generate a new one now, audit it, and submit it.
The hard part is over! But that doesn’t mean your work is done. For the next few months, pay close attention to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools to watch for reported 404 errors, crawl errors, and any HTML on-page issues detected. Make time to address any problems quickly.
Follow these steps to avoid disaster with your law firms SEO during a website redesign and relaunch. It’s important to take every opportunity you have to use the redesign and relaunch to make SEO performance improvements in order to maximize the return on your investment from your site. Once the dust has settled a little bit, revisit your original goals and see how you’re tracking against them.
Don’t forget that in order to continue to rank well on search engines post-launch, you should continue to add new SEO optimized and authoritative content, whether it’s in written, audio or video format.
Do you need an experienced team to help you redesign your website or create one from scratch? We create modern, professional, and beautiful websites that rank highly on search engines and generate real results for our clients. Get in touch with us for a free consultation.