In this article we present the most frequent SEO mistakes that usually occur when relaunching an online store, and we will give you some tips on how to avoid them. This will ensure that your organic traffic does not disappear.
Let's start with the most important: Redirects! It cannot be said more clearly, the redirects are the basis of the relaunch.
This is the only way you can ensure that your organic traffic, the one you have worked so hard to get, is not lost (or reaches 404 error pages) and that your visitors continue to land on the correct URLs. Thanks to redirects, you have a good chance that Google will accept the rankings of the previous web page.
With redirects there are a few things to keep in mind. We have summarized the most important
Unfortunately, not redirecting, or simply redirecting home page or parent category URLs, is not the solution here. Make sure that for EACH URL on the current web page there is a RESPECTIVE URL on the future page and that these are assigned.
If possible, try to redirect URLs automatically. If this is not possible, you will have to assign the URLs manually.
If your website is very large (more than 2,000-5,000 URLs) and automatic redirection is not possible, define the most important URLs and redirect at least these.
Here to find out what they are, see which URLs bring organic traffic, achieve sales volume / conversions, receive rankings or contain inbound links (backlinks).
Also check that the old existing redirects are changed to the new destination URLs.
Check the internal links on your new website and adapt the links to the new destination URLs here as well.
Also make sure that you always redirect to a secure variant ( SSL encryption ).
You can also set up 302 redirects for a certain period of time, and then, when they have been verified and set up successfully, switch them to 301 redirects.
At the end the redirects must be of type 301.
Don't forget to include files or photos here! These must also be redirected.
Especially in online stores, where organic traffic through Google Image search is relevant, image retargeting is essential.
Set the redirects first in the sandbox. Use a tracker (for example Screaming Frog) and check if the redirect works as it should.
As soon as the website is online, you should repeat the tests to make sure that all the redirects work correctly and there are no problems.
Then, check Google Search Console for any errors you missed and redirect 404 errors via 301 redirects.
No wonder there is the topic of redirects at the beginning of this article.
So the conclusion we come to is that: When it comes to relaunching a web page, redirects are very important, and dealing with them after the fact is going to cost you a lot of time, money and nerves... So in The sooner you get rid of it the better!
Perhaps you think that it would not be bad to take advantage of the relaunch to start from scratch. Make a “clean slate”, so to speak, eliminate everything that came before and present the client with a completely new and tidy website.
But be careful: from an SEO point of view this is a serious mistake!
Instead, it is advisable to carefully analyze the content of the website to decide what content should be removed, kept or even improved and supplemented.
To do this you should ask yourself these questions: What content works especially well? Which URLs especially have the most traffic, conversions, sales volume, rankings, clicks, and inbound links?
Do you have other content worth keeping? Check which files and images work fine. Particularly in online stores, own images or product information in PDF format can lead to better rankings and more traffic.
Tools like the Search Console help you, for example, to collect information about the impressions and clicks of the different URLs; to determine traffic, sales and conversions there is Google Analytics, and to identify top rankings and backlinks from URLs there are SEO tools like Sistrix, Searchmetrics etc.
Create a table with all the URLs and the most important key indicators to decide on this basis the content of your website. Because in no case should you delete the content that works well.
If there are topics that overlap a lot, you can think about merging the content. Also note what content or topics may have potential in the future. In this case, the content could also be expanded directly during the relaunch.
Over time, menu items, categories, and links have historically taken root on the website. It may be that in the meantime the categories and their names are not so clear or that over the years the guiding thread of the information architecture has been lost.
Companies also often transfer internal structures, concepts and categorizations to the structure of the website and thus to the navigation, which may not be as understandable to people outside the company.
The names of the menu items and categories also often reflect the terminology and internal structures of the company, which, on the one hand, are not easy for third parties to understand. On the other hand, from an SEO point of view , this does not contribute to the positioning of the products.
So in the course of a relaunch it often makes sense to rearrange the information architecture, ie the menu/navigation, as well as the structure of categories and their names, as well as other link structures on the website.
There is a danger of making important pages less relevant by minimizing internal links. Here the important thing is to check:
- What should be changed?
- Do the changes have a big impact?
- Do entire blocks of links disappear (eg "similar categories" in the sidebar)?
- Do categories that until now were visibly linked in the top menu move to the dropdown menu or disappear altogether?
These are just some of the most important questions to keep in mind when redesigning your link structure.
So when reviewing link structures, you should keep all of this in mind. Take a close look at the old and new structure and check for factors like:
- High traffic pages
- Pages with strong sales volume / conversion
- Important Products/Categories
- Pages with relevant keyword rankings
In general, the information architecture of the website should help the user to find the desired content quickly and intuitively and should not lead to confusion.
The navigation and categories of an online store must present the range of products in a structured way and also facilitate the user's orientation in the store.
The aim is that the user can reach the content with 3-4 clicks. Therefore, the navigation must be user-friendly, self-explanatory and intuitive.
Ideally, menu items and categories speak the language of the customers, not the language of the company. If this is not the case, there is a risk that the customer will not be familiar with the website and will leave the store.
It is also worth checking that the names of the categories match the intentions and the search volume, so that they are better found.
Make sure that the menu items and categories of your online store have names that speak for themselves and are generally understandable.
When in doubt, carry out the Card Sorting technique , in which you ask outsiders to classify and order existing names and, if necessary, suggest alternative names.
Surely you have invested for years in SEO.
You have corrected and eliminated technical errors based on recommendations and SEO audits. You have been able to establish significant keyword rankings, increased visibility and generated organic visitors to your website. Now you want to relaunch it, maybe even switch to a new system and start from scratch.
In any case, you should integrate SEO into the relaunch process and include SEO requirements from the start. In the worst case, if the new CMS/store platform does not presuppose your previous optimizations, you will end up worse off than before!
Therefore, it is essential to 1st take over at least all existing optimizations and 2nd take a closer look at the technology of the new website!
Where are you well positioned? What has been optimized so far? This is the minimum you should ask the new system for SEO requirements.
Make sure to fully crawl the old website and take inventory of the most important components.
For this you can work with a tracking tool like Screaming Frog, Audisto, Ryte, etc. Some of the topics you should definitely look at:
- What types of URLs are there?
- What are the status codes?
- What metadata have you defined for the URLs?
- What are the headlines?
- Are there special meta tags?
- Do you use structured data?
Do you work with crawling or indexing prompts (eg Canonicals, Noindex, Robots.txt, hreflang, etc.)?
At the same time, also carry out an SEO audit of the test environment and compare them. What changes? How does the new system position itself in the relevant SEO points?
Here you can compare the test environment with the evaluation of your old website. This results in the points and requirements that must be included in the relaunch. Integrate SEO into the relaunch process!
Before the relaunch, you should also check these requirements carefully. Only a good analysis of the test environment, based on the catalog of requirements, can guarantee that the website is as good or even better than before, in the best of cases.
Many clients come to us when the new website is already finished and when it is about to go live.
We also often receive inquiries when the relaunch has already been completed. Obviously checking AFTER the relaunch is very important. But even more important is the check BEFORE the relaunch. And this is better done with enough time to make corrections.
During the tests, all the points that have been previously defined as requirements must be checked. Requirements that come from, for example, the SEO audit of the sandbox (see Sin #4: Making technology worse).
Here the important thing is the documentation of the points to check. It should also be defined exactly who is responsible for what and who is responsible for checking what.
A process should also be created to determine where errors/bugs are collected and the responsible employee assigned to fix them.
After rectifying the points, they must be checked again. Project/query management systems such as Trello, Asana, Jira or similar are suitable for this.
Much less convenient is exchanging emails about it, copying many involved. In this case, important points are often forgotten and hardly anyone feels directly responsible.
With a tracking and feedback system and assigning tasks to those responsible, you can ensure that nothing important is missed or forgotten.
Just as a pre-launch SEO audit helps uncover gaps and set requirements, a post-launch recheck of all relevant SEO audit points helps determine if there are still gaps to be addressed.
At the end of the day, the goal is to be better than before!
You must also make sure that the sandbox does not end up in the Google index. Yes, because even though the sandbox is not linked anywhere, or is only briefly activated to plan for the relaunch, the indexing unfortunately happens faster than expected.
The sandbox can be protected from indexing via Robots.txt and a password. Even more important will be to check, after the relaunch, that crawling and indexing is allowed and that password protection has been removed.
Examine the Robots.txt here, crawl and check all URLs related to Noindex and Nofollow tags, as well as other specifications such as Canonicals, Hreflang, etc. Also make an XML sitemap available to Google in the Search Console.
In the rush during the relaunch, it's not uncommon for one to forget to include tracking. Until this is discovered it can take days and that's when you panic and wonder where the traffic is.
To prevent this from happening, you should definitely put the tracking issue on the agenda.
It is recommended to integrate the tracking configuration already in the test environment, through the Google Tag Manager. In this way, all functions can be easily tested on the test system. These can be easily published during the relaunch.
Tracking, destinations or e-commerce tracking should be tested directly after commissioning to check whether all relevant data is transferred here as well.
To quickly check whether tracking is working, real-time analytics can be used directly in Google Analytics. Via the source code or, for example, Screaming Frog with the custom search, you can also check whether the code has been integrated.
In any case, right after the relaunch, regularly check your data. To do this, in Google Analytics you can also analyze the traffic, for example by hours, and compare it with the same day of the previous week to see if the level of traffic is stable.
As happens in classic project management, it is not uncommon to make a mistake when calculating the time and that the relaunch project has to be postponed (from experience) from 3 to 12 months.
Therefore, it is important to clarify first if there is a fixed date (whether for example, because the website must be ready for the launch of a campaign, because the press releases already have a date, because the relaunch has already been announced, etc.). The key here is to plan the relaunch with a window of time!
If there is no fixed date, in the end you should mainly invest the time in fixing errors and avoiding a hasty relaunch.
Create a roadmap for the relaunch, with all the important phases of the project, for example, content preparation, design, programming, corrections, quality control, etc.
Determine in it how much time you need for each phase and in which work packages the phases can be subdivided. Based on this document during the project you can check if you are still on schedule.
It is also important to include the mundane in your time planning. Who is on vacation and when? What day of the week and at what time should the relaunch be carried out? Will the relaunch take place in high season? Are all parties involved (both internal and external employees, eg the SEA agency) informed?
Make sure that during the critical phase of the relaunch none of those responsible are on vacation. It is better that the relaunch takes place on a Monday or a Tuesday. This will give you enough time the rest of the week to correct any mistakes.
If you relaunch on a Friday, in the worst case, the errors can last all weekend. When is the high season? Check in Google Analytics at what time of the year your website has less traffic. Make sure not to schedule the relaunch in high season so as not to suffer large losses in sales.
Tip : If you realize you're running short on time and need to meet the relaunch date, keep in mind Mistake #1 in this article anyway: Redirects are the bare minimum you should set up! !
You've made it to the end! If in the great relaunch project you manage to avoid these 7 mistakes and follow all my advice, nothing can stand in your way so that the relaunch is a success and your SEO traffic continues to increase.