The purpose of this document is to share some of the best practices that companies use, when launching a new (replacement) ecommerce platform, to help reduce the risk of losing earned search engine rankings during the switch. One key to maintaining rankings is making sure that all of your high-ranking pages have a new home on your new site, and that search engines can find them. The steps below should be reviewed and followed where applicable for every new website launch. This is especially important for re-launching a high-ranking website.
CIMcloud is not a search engine optimization specialist, nor do we offer search engine or marketing services. Switching platforms has inherent risk. Building and executing a plan, along with periodic post launch progress checks and adjustments, can materially reduce your risk. While CIMcloud can be hired to provide any on-site changes you request, You are solely responsible for managing that risk associated with the potential impact on search engine rankings or any other business generating initiatives. We strongly recommend that you seek the advice of internal (to your company) and/or 3rd party experts to formulate and execute your plan to launch a new ecommerce site, particularly if the new site is replacing an existing site that currently has high and/or business-critical earned rankings in search engines. This document was compiled from experiences shared by our customers and advice provided from SEO (Search Engine Optimization) professionals and is intended to be a supplemental source of information for you to consider.
Content and Search Engine Optimization
- Log into Google Analytics and export a list (CSV file) of high traffic pages
- Log into Google Search Console and download a list (CSV file) of “your most liked content”
- Use an SEO tool to export a list of high-ranking pages.
- Example – www.semrush.com
- Google Analytics Query Report – It’s a free tool that shows all the phrases you rank for, how high you rank and if anyone is actually clicking on your search engine listing. It’s in Acquisition > Search Engine Optimization > Queries (note: this report only contains data for the last three months, Sort by clicks to see what’s getting traction)
- Find the Pages that have Domain Authority and SEO Value
- Google Search Console – The “Search Traffic > Linked to your Site” report lists all the pages on your site that have been linked to from other websites.
- Combine these lists into a spreadsheet. Check the new site to make sure that these pages will still exist or that there is a closely related page for each.
- 301 Redirects: Make a list of URLs for all the top pages on the old site and keep track of which URLs will be changed during the launch. Create 301 redirects from the old site pages to the new ones.
- Reach out to Website Editors: If you can, reach out to editors of the highest ranked sites that are linking to you (found in the report detailed in #4 above). Request these editors update their site to use your new URL for the page they are linking to. Otherwise, the 301 may diminish some value of the link.
- Robots.txt file: Verify the NO INDEX commands used while the site is being developed are removed.
- Sitemap.xml file: Verify every URL from your prioritized list is in the sitemap.xml file.
SEO Best Practices
- Title tags for all pages should meet the following criteria:
- Begin with the target keyphrase followed by the company name (i.e. – Keyphrase | Company Name)
- Be unique to each page
- Include no more than 55 characters, including spaces
- Meta descriptions should meet the following criteria:
- Include the target keyphrase for the page
- Be unique to each page
- Include around 120 characters, including spaces
- Formatting: Check that heac page includes headers and subheaders (H1 and H2 tags). H1 tags should include the target keyphrase for the page.
- Links: There should be internal links between pages throughout the site. When relevant, these links should include the target keyphrase of the page it’s linking to.
- Body text should include the target keyphrase where relevant
- Calls-to-Action: Pages should have calls-to-action that guide the visitor toward the desired actions.
- Images: Images should include alt-tags. These should contain simple descriptions of the image and include a target keyphrase when relevant.
- Note on Keywords: In 2009 Google made it official, the keyword meta tag is no longer a part of ranking and would potentially hurt your ranking if it is abused.
Design Review Checklist
- Compare the approved designs with the final website, reviewing each template for inconsistencies in layout, header style, fonts, formatting and content.
- Check that all images are compressed for web, image quality and image size consistency.
- Are there any stock photos on the website? If so, check to make sure licenses have been purchased for each.
- Check font styles, line height, spacing, leading, imagery, navigation and colors for consistency. If new elements were added during content entry or development, make sure they match the site design style.
- Ensure you have access to Analytics and have been added to the account in Admin > User Management with full access (Manage Users, Edit, Collaborate, Read & Analyze). If you don’t have full access, request that you be added at this level.
- Add the Google Analytics code to the website’s config record.
- Set up filters to exclude traffic from the IP(s) of your office. Find your IP address by typing “what is my IP” into Google.
- Create Filter
- Exclude > traffic from the IP addresses > that are equal to
- Enter the IP Address and Save your changes
- Set up goals for each type of conversion (i.e, /contact-thank-you or /careers-thank-you or /checkout-receipt). It is recommended that you configure a Funnel as well.
- Enable site search. The “query parameter” for site search features is “search_prod”. Enter this into the query parameter field.
- Enable e-commerce.
- Link Google Analytics to Google Search Console. In Google Analytics go to Admin > Property Settings and link to your accounts.
- Make sure that “HTTPS” is selected for both the Property and View areas in the account.
Website Browser Testing
- Verify that each form on the website is functioning properly. Verify the forms do the following as required.:
- Submitter gets an auto-response email.
- Submitter arrives at a thank-you page, which includes an additional marketing message or links to relevant content.
- The website stores the submission to a database, in case the email doesn’t get through.
- Analytics records the submission as a conversion.
- Test file upload feature within the CMS to ensure there are no permission errors.
- Test pages for HTML/CSS errors and compatibility in all major, current browsers on all devices.
- Test all programmed features, ensuring all functions are user-friendly across all devices. Use a tool like https://crossbrowsertesting.com or https://www.browserstack.com to quickly test across multiple browsers and operating systems and devices.
- Test performance grades on Google PageSpeed, Pingdom Tools, or GT Metrix and correct any relevant technical recommendations where possible.
Outside SEO Professional Review and Recommendations
This step, like all others, is optional and at your discretion. If maintaining your SEO rankings is business-critical, we strongly recommend taking this step.
- Obtain an SEO specialist / professional that you trust (CIMcloud does not provide these services)
- Have them complete a comprehensive review of the site and any related efforts and provide a punch list
- Set up a call with CIMcloud and the professional to review the list of action items
- CIMcloud will provide feedback and hourly estimates for any or all of the work
- You and your professional can approve any work you want CIMcloud to do
- CIMcloud will complete the work and submit it back to your for testing, acceptance and approval
- If any additional work is needed, repeat any steps above that are applicable
Final Pre-Launch Checklist
- Check that all third-party items are connected to the proper accounts. Newsletter sign up, Flickr galleries, Social Media, etc.
- Confirm the list of domains. Are there other domains that need to point to the new site? If so, confirm that you have access to all domain registrars.
- Check for broken links using a tool like www.monkeytest.it or www.screamingfrog.com
- NOTE – These tools can have a negative impact on your website while they are running. These and other similar tools have settings to allow regulating the number of pages processed per second, etc. These need to be configured to run as slow as possible to avoid negative impact on your site. It’s also best to start these during off hours/low traffic times on your site.
- Have your SEO professional re-review the entire site and provide any punch list items to CIMcloud
- See “Outside SEP Professional Review…” steps above
- Verify that Google Analytics is collecting data.
- Watch your Real-Time Analytics: The Real-Time report is a fast way to if there are major issues and react. If nothing else, you’ll see right away if there is a problem in your Analytics setup.
- Configure Search Console.
- Note: configure for https://
- Once in the Search Console account for setup for the domain, submit a new sitemap.xml.
- Run your robots file through the robots.txt tester
- Check your sitemaps.xml file for errors
- Check for Crawl Errors
- After the sitemap passes, select Crawl > Fetch as Google, then enter the domain and click “Fetch and Render.” Confirm the site loads as expected in the Render screen.
- In Search Console, select Search Appearance > Sitelinks, then “demote” the URLs for any pages that you do not wish to appear in search results pages in searches for your brand.
- Check the site’s pages to make sure they are NOT set to noindex, nofollow.
- Check robots.txt file to make sure it is NOT set to noindex, nofollow.
- Have your SEO professional re-review the entire site and provide any punch list items to CIMCloud
- See “Outside SEP Professional Review…” steps above
- We recommend conducting this review at 2 to 4 week intervals until you are satisfied the transition has achieved your desired results