We all know the excitement that comes with a new website.

We get to fix all of the usability issues we’ve known about, we get to make it faster, we create an overall better experience for our customers.

And maybe… Just Maybe… We’ll improve the conversion rate!

That’s always the intention any way.

But, to the horror of a lot of folks that have been through this process, the relaunch of a website usually means the damage to years of SEO work.

That’s years of links, content, and effort down the drain.

Full disclosure, I do several audits a year of websites that are about to relaunch. The purpose of this post is to share the top three things to make sure you do so that you don’t totally throw away years of effort.

And, apologies for the strong language in the title.

I am not happy to report that for every website that executes my recommendations perfectly, there’s another that ignores these recommendations, and it’s frustrating.

So, if you want to successfully relaunch your website without throwing away years of SEO… follow these three steps.

First, do NOT use this opportunity to change your content

This often comes as a shock to folks launching a new website. Many website owners use the opportunity of a website facelift to change the content too.

Big mistake.

It is critical to keep your on site content, meta tags, and image alt tags AS IS for the relaunch.

See, one of the things that Google really likes is consistency. They want to see incrimental improvements over time.

So if you’re throwing a totally new website at the crawlers, they have to re-acquaint themselves with your website pages. If the content they are familiar with is different too, it’s a lot for Google to process.

My recommendation in this case is to go through the relaunch process, then after Google re-indexes your website, update your content at that point. This gives Google one thing to tackle at a time.

Second, write your 301 redirects BEFORE you relaunch

Quick recap… 301 redirects are used when your URL structure changes. If you change your URL, a 301 redirect acts as a way of “mapping” the old location to the new one. A 301 redirect also acts as a permanent redirect, which tells Google that this location is where this content will now live for the foreseeable future. If you accidentally use a 302 redirect, it’ll be a signal to Google that the OLD location is coming back. No Bueno…

Ok, all that out of the way… I’ll start this section by stating what’s on everyone’s mind.

301 redirects are a pain in the ass.

I get it…

But… writing 301 redirects is not nearly as painful as losing 10-30% of your revenue overnight because you didn’t write 301 redirects.

Typically, many website owners will want to just wait and see what a website error log brings back in 404 errors and correct them from there.

At this point it’s too late. Especially if the traffic is coming from Google.

If Google serves up your website in the Search Results, their visitor clicks, and that visitor gets a 404 error, that makes Google look bad. And in turn… They will remove you from those rankings.

So take the time and write the 301 redirects. Typically, you can run some form of automation to do this for you and all you have to do is spot check it.

Finally, don’t forget to update your XML sitemap.

This one’s easy to miss because the XML sitemap sits in the background.

Fortunately, it is an easy fix! All you have to do is re-run the XML sitemap with the new URLs then re-submit to Google.

Super simple to do, but also super simple to forget.

Are you relaunching your website?

If you are relaunching your website and think a second set of eyes would be helpful, feel free to reach out.

Or… If you’d like, we have our BRAND NEW, UPDATED Relaunch Checklist that you can download now!

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