SEO for a Site Redesign

A website redesign is a significant inflection point in the lifecycle of a domain. As you begin planning for a redesign, it is going to be essential to have an SEO expert ‘in the room’ to ensure that SEO is at the forefront throughout the entire redesign process. The UpBuild team has been through countless site redesigns, being brought in at the start of the planning process for some and the final weeks before launch during others. We can say that hands down, the former option is far more ideal and efficient, eliminating the need for dreaded rework and inevitable launch delays.

Q: In an ideal world, when should you bring on an SEO partner for your new site redesign project?

A: You should bring on an SEO partner at least three months before your new site’s projected launch date.

Let’s chat about why three months is the ideal lead time. A simple way to understand this is by looking at site launches in 4 key phases. 

Phase 1: New Site Planning

Phase Length: About 3 Weeks

This phase coincides with the planning of the new site, ideally before design starts or concurrent with the start of the design phase. Having your SEO partner on your team during a site redesign allows for them to become even more immersed in your brand from the get-go of the engagement. They will gain an even better understanding of your needs, who you are, and who your target audience is. That is a beautiful formula for some spot-on keyword research and information architecture development, the drivers of the entire SEO project.

Keyword research at this stage will help inform the new site’s information architecture and drive the organic targeting strategy, ensuring that the site has the right information to support your customers through every step of their purchasing journey; it’s a key activity that’s essential to an SEO-friendly site redesign.

Phase 1 will also be the perfect time to discuss vital technical SEO building blocks such as:

  • which content management system to choose, 
  • whether dedicated servers or CDNs will benefit the site, 
  • taking a mobile-first and performance-centered design approach, and 
  • secure connection considerations, among other things.

Initiatives during this phase may include:

  • Keyword Research
  • Information Architecture
  • SEO Build Guidelines

Phase 2: Design

Phase Length: About 4 Weeks

This phase takes place once a site map has been agreed on by all parties and design has begun. This will clear the way for a finalized keyword mapping, and the design team can use the keyword-research informed architecture to begin work on wireframes. While that’s all underway, optimized page titles and metadata creation can take place.

Connecting your design team directly to your SEO partner is always a good idea. This seamless communication will allow both parties to have key UX and SEO considerations at the forefront of decision-making and ensure that page templates have the functionality they’ll need to serve users’ content needs. 

Initiatives during this phase may include:

  • Keyword Mapping
  • Optimized Page Titles & Metadata
  • SEO Design Reviews

Phase 3: Content

Phase Length: About 4 Weeks

During this phase, content is planned and written for the new site. A streamlined optimization workflow that works for the SEO partner and content team will help mitigate some of the inevitable content holdups or stall-outs. This phase will be most useful if your SEO partner can work directly with content creators. 

I probably don’t need to tell you that content creation is hard. It takes a long time. Flexibility during this stage is going to be key to moving forward. That’s why we recommend making unambiguous, explicit SEO guidelines for content creation and providing a roadmap for the content team, so that they aren’t just working from scratch, staring at a daunting blank word document.

Initiatives during this phase may include:

  • On-Page Content Optimization

Phase 4: Pre- & Post-Launch

Phase Length: About 2 Weeks Before Launch & 2 Weeks After Launch

This final phase begins in the weeks leading up to launch and continues through launch. For this phase, your SEO team will ideally have a staging site to review, so that they can hop in and assess how well everything is adhering to the SEO build guidelines you provided in Phase 1. Ultimately, they’ll be ensuring that everything you choose to be will be accessible, crawlable, and indexable for search engines. This phase allows your SEO partner to identify and prioritize any significant threats to your site’s organic performance and proactively set the site up for success upon launch.

I wouldn’t be a true UpBuilder if I didn’t mention analytics here. Please don’t forget to include an analytics strategy and implementation once you have access to a near-complete staging site; you’ll want to make sure analytics is set up properly to track every page on the new site, and start thinking about what Events and Goals you’ll want to set up to measure site success.

At this stage your SEO partner will also be creating a 301 redirect map and strategy to ensure you’re not missing a beat once that domain propagates. Ultimately, this will allow you to salvage as much of that hard-earned value that your old site gained over the years as possible and pass it onto the new site to give it a leg up.

Extra pairs of eyes on a site pre- and post-launch are never a bad thing, especially when they are expert pairs that have seen it all when it comes to site launch issues. This quality assurance checking, along with making sure that everything is buttoned up when it comes to search engines crawling and indexing the new site, speaks to why you should keep your SEO partner on through at least a few weeks post-launch.

Initiatives during this phase may include:

  • 301 Redirect Strategy & Mapping
  • Staging Site SEO Evaluation & Recommendations
  • Analytics Implementation
  • Post-Launch Transition Assistance

Designing and launching a new website is a vast undertaking but gives you so much opportunity for SEO success if done thoughtfully and deliberately. Set your entire project up for success and eliminate the need for rework by bringing on your SEO partner at the very beginning of your redesign and collaborating with them throughout the process for as smooth a launch as possible. 

Written by
A strategic leader on the UpBuild team, Laura’s career includes 10+ years of agency experience working on everything from SEO and the semantic web to analytics and CRO.

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