Redesigning an Ecommerce website

Ecommerce websites undergo redesign to maintain brand relevance, improve user experience and keep pace with evolving web standards. In a redesign project, it is important for SEO professionals and developers to maintain communication. SEO professionals must follow the following checklist to keep track of changes:

1. Analyzing and auditing the original site
Use Screaming Frog, a crawl tool to get an index of the pages, pieces of meta data and list out in a spreadsheet any of the following issues that you found:

– Duplicate& Missing page titles, image alts, H1 tags, or meta descriptions
– Page titles under 150 pixels or over 512 pixels
– Meta descriptions over 923 pixels
– Links to 404 pages and 301 pages
– Links to any other 3xx, 4xx, or 5xx status code URLs
– Any inconsistent use of https vs http or www vs non-www.
– Mismatch in the number of URLs crawled by Screaming Frog and those indexed by Google
– Make a copy of the XML sitemap and robots.txt file

2. Setting up the Test Site
Advise the developers to keep the following in mind:

– The original site crawl should act as a template for the new site. Make a copy of it and note changes that need to be made in new site.
– Address issues that you found in the old site and map them to changes in new site.
– Ensure that the new site is no indexed from within the robots.txt file.
– Don’t make unnecessary changes to any URL folders and filenames.
– Changed URLs should also have links to them changed. Set up .htaccess to redirect old URLs to new ones.
– Eliminate any links to pages that are getting removed.
– If the pages are getting consolidated into a large central resource, update the links to the pages, so that they point to the new resource.
– Ensure removed pages are displayed as 404s.

3. Analyzing & Auditing the New Site
Crawl your test site again to ensure that issues discovered in crawling the original site are not present in the test site crawl. While doing this make a copy of the notes of original site and perform a search and replace operation so that the URLs have the same structure as the test site. Now set the crawler to “list mode” and crawl the test site to check each URL individually and verify if there is a corresponding pages on new site for every page on the old site. Export and name this file final test site crawl. Maintain the following files to ensure that there is no discrepancy in the following steps:

– A crawl of the original site and test site and a copy that you have made edits to in order to address any fixes.
– A testing crawl text file containing the original site crawl edited to match the test site’s URL structure.
– A final test site crawl containing the results of checking each individual URL using the testing crawl text file.

4. Matching up your content
Take the following steps to ensure that the old site and test site align with each other:

– Address 404 pages in the final test site crawl first. It is OK if the pages are getting removed completely, but if they are only being moved or indexed, set up redirects in .htaccess
– Identify any 404 pages that are not removed or relocated by doing a crawl on the test site.
– Make a copy of any 301 page and ensure that links to these pages are updated later on.
– Ensure that that there are no duplicate or missing title tags, meta description tags, image alts, or H1 tags on any of the pages in the final test site crawl.

5. Setting up redirects for all changed URLs
Identify changed URLs for which no redirect has been set up:

– If a title is found for a 404 page, set up a redirect in .htaccess from old to new URL.
– Repeat this process for each 404 URL.
– Search for keywords and metas for those 404 URLs for which no matching title is found. If at the end, there is still no match found, leave those pages as is.

6. Consistent internal link architecture
Ensure that all links on the new site are pointing correctly to the appropriate pages.

– Scan your test site after updating .htaccess in step 5 to ensure that all pages are either status 200 or 301.
– Bulk export all of the links on the site from your crawler.
– If any 404 links remain, address them first.
– Update the links to 301 pages so that they point to relevant pages instead of redirected URL.

7. Finalization and launch
Do a final crawl before launching and verify the following in the launch process:

– Remove noindex from the test site during migration.
– Ensure that .htaccess is operating on the new and correct URL structure
– Do a final crawl after the launch to ensure that there are no issues

Ensure that you have accurate crawl data on the original site as well as the test site and act proactively to seek clarity on matters that could lead to issues and what needs to be avoided during redesign.