Launching a new website or migrating to Magento? Find out how to manage your SEO during the go-live process!
How we manage SEO during a website launch
A close collaboration between the SEO team and developers before the launch of a website is incredibly beneficial. Not only does it help everybody be on the same page, save time and avoid any miscommunications, but it is also crucial for preventing SEO bugs during the go-live.
When working on a website migration project, we make sure that a person responsible for SEO is also physically present in the room together with developers during the launch of a website (applicable mainly to migrations of existing websites). We are mainly working with e-commerce stores and their revenue directly depends on the performance of the website.
Any website migration comes with risks and we try to make the process of moving from one platform/domain name/design etc. to another as smooth as possible.
Concrete benefits of having SEO experts present during go-live
There are SEO settings which should be adjusted during go-live. And if changes are made, then there is room for bugs to appear. It’s better to identify them right away and find a fix on the spot instead of waiting till the next day and wait when developers find time for fixing them.
Overall, the benefits of being present during the go-live are as follows:
- Detailed QA. In Scandiweb, there are general go-live checklists for each project used by developers and the project manager. They include basic SEO related things, e.g., setting Meta Robots tags to Index and Follow, generating the XML sitemap, updating robots.txt file.
However, developers won’t crawl the website. And even if they do, they might not spot issues which an SEO expert would identify right away. We also check if all predefined server-side redirects are in place.
We had an interesting situation during a go-live — URLs with SID parameter appeared all over the website. It was discovered when crawling the website. Such URLs are included in our robots.txt as disallowed. So definitely not a nice error to face. We quickly discussed this with the developer and make sure we get rid of such URLs.
- Communication. The go-live process is stressful. Errors might appear unexpectedly, which could influence the performance of the website, e.g., 3rd party checkout might not be working, or it might take longer than expected.
And you can’t expect that developers will send you regular status updates as they will be focused on fixing stuff and proceeding with the go-live checklist. When you are in the same room, you can solve issues much faster.
For example, you try to regenerate the XML sitemap but suddenly it’s not working. By being present in the room you will know that whatever you try to do won’t work as there some major fixes happening.
- Knowledge sharing. Not every SEO expert has an IT background, so each go-live is an additional learning opportunity.
A good practice is to plan go-lives during the low season, at the beginning of the week, outside active business hours. Due to the time difference between the Riga office and the client target market you might end up working outside business hours. Sometimes it even means that you will end up working in the office at 1 AM on Monday.
SEO checks are performed very close to the end of go-live. So most often, it is the SEO expert doing the waiting. Therefore, it’s important to plan the day accordingly and work on other tasks while devs are making sure that the website migration was successful.
✅ Go-live SEO checklist
This is an SEO checklist we follow when launching Magento 2 stores. SEO checks take place when go-live is almost done. There is a moment when there is a maintenance notice set for external visitors, while the team already have access to a fully performing website.
- Home page redirect test. Does the home page have a rel=canonical tag to their main version, e.g., https://example.com/ or http://www.example.com. And are all alternative versions pointing to the main one (including HTTP versions and the ones with or w/o www)
- Robots.txt file is updated and doesn’t block search engines from crawling the website.
- Crawl the website. Is the website meta robots set to Index, Follow? Are there any major bugs, 404 errors, internal 301 redirects, on-page SEO bugs, indexation, canonical or any other anomalies?
- XML Sitemap re-generate the XML sitemap to represent live URLs. Test the sitemap — crawl using SF to check for broken links, 301 redirects, etc. Make sure sitemap.xml is added to the robots file.
- 301 redirects. If a 301 redirect map was created, crawl the 301 redirects.
- Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster properties and submit the XML sitemap.
- Fetch and Render as Googlebot on 10 random pages.
- Google analytics and GTM (optional). Check if no bugs and hits are passed to GA (in Scandiweb, GTM and GA setup is usually handled by an Analytics specialist and there is a separate list of tasks)
☝️ Note: these are the main things we check during a go-live. We run additional checks in the upcoming days and weeks after the launch. And, of course, there should be extensive work done also before the actual go-live.