Are you planning or in the process of redesigning your martial arts website? In addition to all the design, content and hosting considerations, it’s a great time to start thinking about search engine optimization. This SEO checklist was created to help you minimize/avoid rankings drops and technical snafus that can lead to catastrophes down the road. Although martial arts website examples are used in this post, the post and checklist can be used for businesses in a variety of industries. After reading through this article, you can copy and print the Google Docs checklist at the end.
1. Baseline Reporting
Before jumping right into the redesign process, it’s a good idea to run baseline reports to gauge the current performance of your website and inventory existing pages. If you haven’t already installed Google Analytics, this can easily be added to your website so you’re ready to track user visits, pageviews, and visitor behavior. Start tracking data before you redesign your site so you have a baseline to compare the performance of your new website.
Next, you’ll want to configure Google Search Console (also known as Webmaster Tools) so you can identify the number of crawl errors and backlinks and understand which search queries your visitors are currently using to arrive at your website. After this, it’s essential to crawl your current website to log your existing page URLs, titles, descriptions, headings and more. There is no better tool than the Screaming Frog SEO Spider to accomplish this task. The free version allows you to crawl 500 URLs, which is enough for most martial arts websites. You can crawl the site and download the details into Excel. These details will be required for the redirect map you create at a later stage.
2. Keyword Mappings
In many cases, the structure of your new site will be somewhat different than your existing one. Maybe you’ve added a couple new programs or decided to add an online schedule. The navigation may change and total number of pages will likely change as well. This is the perfect time to conduct keyword research and begin mapping target keywords to individual pages on your site. Each page should target one primary, unique keyword (ex: "hamilton cardio kickboxing").
The Google Adwords Keyword Tool is a great free tool for conducting local keyword research. Your target keywords should be placed strategically in your title, description, page headings and paragraph text.
3. Noindex Staged Site
When developing your new website, you’ll want to make sure the search engines don’t index it. If this happens, your current webpages may have to compete with your new pages. And we wouldn’t want prospective students landing on unfinished webpages. The solution to these problems is to add noindex tags to your site to let search engines know that they shouldn’t index it yet. This is a relatively simple solution whether you are using PerfectMind SocialSite or if you are using another content management system like Wordpress. Using SocialSite, you can tell search engines not to crawl your new site by adding this short code snippet to the Advanced section in your website SEO settings. You only need to do this once.
You can also block search spiders from indexing your staged site by using your robots.txt file. Be sure to remove this code when you launch the site or it won’t show up in the search results! For more information on noindexing, read this article.
4. Robots.txt/Meta Robots
The robots.txt file tells search engines which pages you want crawled and which ones are off limits. If you want all pages of the site to be crawled, the file will be quite simple. If you have gated content like ebooks or schedules that live behind a signup form, these URLs can be excluded as shown in the example below.
Another (better) way of telling search engines which URLs to crawl is by using the Meta Robots directive shown in #4. Rather than creating a robots.txt file, you can add the same line of code to your HTML page head telling search spiders not to index the page. If you have a secure page that you only want available to your employees, you can easily configure this on a page-by-page basis in SocialSite page options as shown below.
If you are using Wordpress, you can use an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO to automatically add meta robots by simply checking a box on your page/post settings.
5. XML Sitemap Creating and registering an accurate sitemap can help get your new pages indexed faster and more frequently. Thankfully there are several free tools that can take the pain out of this process. An excellent tool for creating your sitemap is the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. Yes, the same tool you used to crawl and inventory your old website can also be used to quickly create a sitemap. Follow this link for more information.
Once you’ve created a sitemap for your new site, it should be submitted to Google using the Google Search Console. Hopefully you’ve already setup an account and verified your website. Now it’s time to submit your new sitemap. You can test the URL before submitting it for Google to crawl and index.
6. Redirect Map Perhaps the most important SEO component of redesigning a website is mapping redirects from the old pages to the new ones. Redirects tell search engines that old content has moved to a new location. They also redirect web browsers to the new pages automatically so your visitors won’t end up visiting nonexistent 404 pages. Permanent (301) redirects should always be used instead of temporary (302) redirects. Permanent redirects pass most of the SEO equity from the old pages to the new ones. Temporary redirects should be avoided since they pass NO EQUITY WHATSOEVER. Making this simple mistake can cost you all your valuable rankings and severely reduce traffic to your new website.
This article is a good, though slightly advanced reference on how to create redirects and add them to your web server configuration file. For ChampionsWay clients with ongoing SEO and website plans, we take care of these redirects for you during the design stage.
Once you’ve created your redirects and added them to your server configuration file, you can test them automatically using the Screaming Frog SEO Spider (paid version only). You can also use the free Ayima redirect checker plugin for the Chrome browser to manually check redirects. This is one of my favorite SEO plugins and it’s great at identifying redirect chains which can suck up your page equity.
7. Post-Launch Monitoring
Your sparkly new site has been launched and you’re getting compliments left and right on all the great new content. But your search engine optimization tasks are not complete just yet. Monitoring the new site is essential to identify any technical issues that could negatively impact your rankings. Luckily, the Google Search Console has you covered. Learn to love this tool and check it often the first couple months following the launch of your new site. The search console will identify crawling and indexing issues, problems with mobile compatibility, the status of your sitemap, page rendering issues and more. For more information about the Search Console, try this beginner’s guide.
Sign in to your Google account, then make a copy of the checklist for your own use. Happy optimizing!