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SEO Checklist for Ecommerce Website Redesign

by Laura Thieme (@bizwatchlaura)

Planning to redesign your website?  Here is a SEO checklist of 21 tasks for an ecommerce website redesign:

1.  Look at your Google Webmaster report for search queries – what are the top referring keyword phrases?  Download and save this data to an Excel spreadsheet format.  You only need the keywords that are sending >5 clicks per month or for a large website, >25-50 clicks/month.

2.  Pull a thorough SEO ranking report for your top 50+ referring keyword phrases – keywords that consistently drive new customer acquisitions, ecommerce conversions and/or qualified leads/conversion forms and phone calls.Archive and trend your SEO visibility for important keyword phrases to be pulled every two weeks before/during/after your website redesign.  Webmaster Tools does not show the URL that’s ranked, nor does it store the information for more than 90 days.

Get a free SEO report for 10 keywords –>
Upgrade to $299/mo for 50 additional keywords and a one-hour consult each month or order a custom SEO audit online after you’ve gotten your free SEO report.

3.  Determine which URLs are ranked for your top referring keyword phrases.  The URLs that are ranked will be crucial information for your website redesign strategy.

4.  Try not to mess with top 5 organic ranked pages -
If internal pages are ranked in the top 5 organic search results and these keywords have historically sent proven traffic & conversions, then these URLs, their titles, page headings, content and links to/from these pages are crucial.  You’ll need to have a very strong redesign strategy to make sure these rankings are not lost.

5.  If page URLs are getting redesigned or re-named, you need a thorough 301 redirect strategy in place, or you will lose SEO visibility, traffic, customer acquisitions, and ecommerce conversions.  Ultimately, you will cost your company revenue.  Some 301s are handled internally in content management systems (CMS) through the admin platform, or using an .htaccess file.  Work with an experienced SEO professional to ensure your site does not lose rankings.

6.  Create a custom 404 page to explain you have recently redesigned your website.  Look at your Google Analytics top content pages report.  What are the most often viewed pages? Make sure those pages, if redirected using a 301, are also referenced in the custom 404 page.  Some 404 pages are inventive and apologetic in a fun way.  Depends on your website, audience and customer behavior.

7.  Ensure you have a website mobile design strategy.
This is becoming increasingly important for ecommerce sites, not to mention other websites.  Recently, Google Webmaster sent out emails informing site owners which pages are not mobile friendly and ways to improve mobile design.

Google systems have tested 140 pages from your site and found that 100% of them have critical mobile usability errors. The errors on these 140 pages severely affect how mobile users are able to experience your website. These pages will not be seen as mobile-friendly by Google Search, and will therefore be displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users.

 We learned that content heavy blog pages were our biggest problem, so we are going to have to come up with a mobile friendly blog platform, or these pages will not rank as well in the future.  It used to be that these pages were easy to read with a “reader view” app on your smartphone, but that has changed.

8.  Don’t leave out the Google Analytics code
Common mistake is to forget to put this on the new website, or to leave it out of certain pages.  Get the Google Tag Assistant that works with Google Chrome, it’s free.  Then check your domain, and/or specific pages.  Google will tell you which pages are missing Google Analytics code.

9. Don’t forget your Google conversion code
Common mistake is to forget to put it on newly designed contact / ecommerce conversion pages.  Make sure you retain those pages, or if redesigning, make sure the conversion code gets put on the newly designed ecommerce conversion pages (e.g., /thankyou or /checkout-confirmation)

10.  Name your ecommerce conversion confirmation pages /thankyou or checkout-complete or checkout-confirmation.
Make it easy for website analysts to know which pages are your confirmation pages – call them /thankyou or something like that.  This will help your company’s marketing team to audit and track the marketing performance post-redesign launch.

11.  Keep call to action buttons brightly designed, contrasting color and above the fold
Work with an ecommerce conversion analyst to ensure the website redesign will not negatively impact conversion rates.  Keep your call to action buttons bright and in a contrasting color to the rest of your website.  Some use bright green, red or orange.  I personally like bright or kelly green.Make sure call to action buttons such as Buy Now, Add to Cart, are above the fold.  They should be big, especially for mobile designs and fat fingers.  :-)
Make sure they work well on the top referring/used mobile devices based on your Analytics data.  Test, test, and test some more.  Have your marketing team and your conversion analytics guru look at your concepts as well as proofs before it goes into full-staging environment.  Then test before it goes live.

12.  Make sure your ecommerce conversion process doesn’t become more complicated.  This is an awesome opportunity to consolidate the checkout process.  The top websites don’t require a username/password to checkout, unless it’s Amazon or some sites that require you to be logged in all the time.  But who uses Amazon.com as a mobile site, you use the app, right? Your information is saved.  But for the rest of us, we need to NOT require a username/password to checkout.  Give them an opportunity to do that later AFTER they become a customer.  Make sure your ecommerce checkout is one page, no more and works easily on a mobile device.  Think of how many sites you’ve failed to check out on, because you had to log into your Facebook account, or your Paypal account, and you couldn’t remember your password, so you abandoned your cart. Don’t do that to your company or your customers.

13.  Make sure social is worked into every page.  Make it easy for people to like, share this page, including by email.  But you do not need to include 10+ icons.  Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus (G+), Instagram, Pinterest and email are the top share icons needed.  In some cases, send to phone is necessary.

14.  Consider placing your phone number placement in the masthead, in addition to the contact us pages.  Make sure it is text, instead of an image.  Many people will click on that from the masthead on a mobile device. If it’s text, it will prompt a call dialog box, if it’s an image, it will not work.Second, if you are using Google AdWords, consider using their new Google phone extensions code, which displays a unique phone number for each person coming from a Google ad campaign.  There is no cost for Google’s phone call tracking software, just the regular cost you would pay for someone clicking on the ad.You can also use non-Google phone call tracking code, so you can do a better job of tracking referring source, medium and keyword for paid search advertising efforts.

15.  Opportunity to cross-sell items – if you are redesigning, and you haven’t done this yet, consider an opportunity to cross-sell items.  Make sure it will work on mobile, or consider not doing it on mobile.  Look at how Amazon does it on mobile, you can see the other relevant items below, in a horizontal scroll.

16.  Google Remarketing code – if you don’t have it already, you need to have Google remarketing tag on your website.  Google’s new remarketing process involves one Google remarketing tag for the entire website.  You will refer to URLs instead of separate tags in the new process.  Simplified, as long as your URLs are easy to refer to in groups, or individually.

17.  Google AdWords conversion code – make sure the Google AdWords conversion code is not lost on the newly designed contact confirmation page, as well as the ecommerce checkout conversion page.

18.  Other tracking – Bing, Doubleclick, and other forms of online tracking should be added to your newly designed site.  Test your data.  Any time I see a Google Analytics flat line or Bing conversion flat line in a line chart, I look at the date it started.  I refer back to the website redesign launch date.  Usually  the two are directly related.

19.  Your Ad campaigns, Facebook campaigns – everything is going to the OLD URLs.  Make sure your advertising creative, social media marketing is ready for the NEW urls.  I recently reviewed a website that had decided to redesign the “print flyer” pages.  All of these URLS were not redirected, nor were they prepared for the custom 404.  Their website was fed to hundreds if not thousands of websites.  All getting 404s.  BAD oversight.  Even worse, is when the marketing person points this out to the tech support person, and they don’t realize it’s important.  Revenue will be lost as a result of this.  I’ve seen companies lose hundreds of thousands of dollars due to this mistake.  It is very difficult to find and fix these problems after they occur.  It’s best to prevent them from occurring in the first place.  So if you must rename, redesign your URL structure, make sure the 301s are in place as well as advertising is ready to go to the new URLs.

20.  Automated SEO – did your old site have dynamic, automated SEO worked into the page?  These SEO components are crucial for rankings, along with the content on each page.

  • page titles
  • page headings
  • breadcrumbs

Target keywords can be worked into the page titles, headings & breadcrumbs.  Work with an SEO professional and auditor to ensure this is done with your historical ranking data in mind.  Loss of ranking can be simply due to removing it from page title, or page heading.

21.  Too many redirects.  Often CMS redirect web pages due to renaming a category, subcategory, product name, which usually affects the page title, category or page heading.  Google says that it will stop following a URL after it has been redirected more than twice.

Anything else you’ve experienced that I’m forgetting to mention here? Let me know.  Write in your comments.  Spam will be removed.

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