Technology is changing so fast these days, that if websites aren’t constantly updated with the latest technology, they risk being left behind.
A website redesign is an important part of keeping a business relevant and creating a better user experience for its visitors.
When the time comes to launch a new site there are some important steps to consider that many businesses and agencies simply ignore, and that’s bad news for the website owner.
Launching a new website is one of the biggest updates you can make online and you need to invest in planning before you go live to ensure that not only are visitor numbers maintained but the new site excels.
Below we’ve listed several steps to help you before, during and after website launch to ensure smooth sailing.
Before launching a new website, make sure you know how the website is currently performing in terms of visits and search engines rankings.
Ideally, you will want to record the number of pages of the site listed in Google and the number of visitors viewing the site (a 3 month average is good from Google Analytics).
More than likely there are a few sites that are pointing high quality links to the website, you want to maintain these links when the new site goes live.
You can review the most important links (80% of traffic) using Google Analytics, Open Site Explorer and Google Webmaster Tools. These can be found under:
If you are changing content management systems, server type or page names, you’ll either need to get the owners of these links to update to the new page address or set up a permanent “301” redirect to tell the link where the new page is (this option is easier however it is still better to update the link).
One easy-to-manage process that allows you to track each page is to use a simple spreadsheet that shows all old page URLs in one column and the corresponding new page URLs in a second column.
Every old page on your site should have a corresponding new page on your site. By doing so, you take control over maintaining links and user experience, instead of sending visitors to broken “page not found” pages.
Start off by redirecting your most linked to content first (find this content using the tools mentioned above).
In Google Analytics you can also find the most successful pages performing in the organic search results. Ideally you’d like to keep these pages performing well so they don’t disappear if the content changes.
Making sure the new pages are just as well optimised as the existing ones (if not better0 should keep the pages of the site appearing high in the search results.
Any changes in structure, folders, and paths from the old site should be noted in the mapping of URL spreadsheet. By ensuring your content is well written and optimised for the best keywords this fresh content for the search engines will give the website and SEO boost!
Once the new pages have been uploaded, you want to make sure all the title tags, Meta descriptions and H1 tags are all unique to each page on the website and focussed on the topic of the page and the best keywords, which you can find with Google’s Keyword Planner.
To take this a step further, looking at popular pages on the old site and maintaining the content theme and integrity of the page will ensure that the page continues to perform well in search.
The tracking script placement for Google Analytics is important. If we had a dollar for every time this is not added to a new website theme or design we’d be very rich!
Often it appears that website visitors have just disappeared before it’s realised that the tracking code was not installed on the new site.
Google now recommends the script be placed at the top of the website, before the closing <head> section rather than at the bottom of the website, which used to be best practice.
For websites using e-commerce or Adwords it’s important to make sure all the tracking codes are also set up correctly and that anyone managing campaigns is informed of any updates on the ad destinations.
The last thing you want to do is pay for clicks that go to broken pages because someone forgot to update the ads.
You can also use Google Analytics Annotations to make a note of when the site goes live or any campaigns you run during the launch period. This gives you a visual of the change and impact and is helpful in identifying what caused the changes.
Now that the new website is ready to go live, pages are optimised, content integrity has been maintained and you know which website links and pages need updating / redirecting, it’s time to put the new site live!
Once the content has been uploaded from your old site to your new site, we will need to place 301 permanent redirects at page level, meaning that each page on your old site should be redirected to the URL of the new page on your new site.
Remember to use 301 permanent redirects and not 302 temporary redirects.
Visit an old page URL by typing it into the web browser to make sure it redirects to the new page.
Alternatively if you search google straight away the old pages will still be there and you can test by clicking on them before the pages of the new site are picked up.
Update Ad destination URLs to new new landing pages.
Once your new website has been launched, you should immediately check the following in Google Webmaster Tools and Analytics as well as viewing the source of the new website:
Once the new site is live, you should notify customers and vendors through as many channels as possible. This means making the announcement on your website, in your email marketing, in your email signature, and on any social media platforms.
You’ll soon find out if anything is broken when you start getting a bunch of people to the site.
Create an XML sitemap for the new website and submit the sitemap to both your Bing and Google webmaster tools account. You can visit XML-sitemaps.com to create an xml sitemap.
In addition to submitting an XML sitemap, implementing an HTML sitemap will make sure that any pages hidden deep with the site structure are indexed.
Use Google’s pagespeed insights tool to test your website site speed.
If your site is anything less than 80, send your web developers a link to the report and ask them to follow instructions supplied by Google.
Code and graphic heavy websites seem to struggle with this test which may impact a website’s ability to perform well in the search engines.
Any website built today should be mobile responsive and adapt the the device it’s being viewed on. With smart phone users browsing the web more and ore on their phones, it’s imperative that you test the site on a smartphone and tablet.
As long as you plan, prepare and implement the steps above before during and after a website launch, you should not only be able to provide website users with a better more engaging experience but also ensure organic and paid search traffic is maintained and improved and that you are able to test, measure and report on all aspects of the website launch.
Of course, if you need help with any of this, feel free to contact Digital Arm and we’d be happy to talk with you about how we can help.