For any marketing manager or director who has had to go through the process of relaunching their company’s website, you know how stressful things can get.
Your boss wants a website that is attractive to the eye, filled with graphics and videos built with Adobe Flash. However, the same boss expects the new site to immediately launch with the capacity to meet your yearly conversion goals; so you also need something that can be developed and optimized for SEO to rank well within search engine listings.
The site you have developed over the last six years has tremendous content and you have successfully managed to significantly rank for relevant key terms that draw the highest level of traffic on a monthly basis.
What will happen to all of your hard work when the site becomes something else, something new?
Will you be able to maintain those rankings?
What will happen to all of those links you acquired over the years?
Fear not friends, there is a lot you can control during this period of transition. Understanding what steps you can take to maintain your rankings, avoid duplicate content from forming and preserve your online equity, will go a long way in making sure that your company stays on track for hitting all online goals, while also keeping the boss happy.
1. 301 Redirects
There is always the potential to create duplicate forms of content when going through a site relaunch. Duplicate content does not affect your ability to rank well on search engines, but it does disrupt search crawler’s ability to successfully define value and can force them to pull content from a competitor’s site rather than yours.
So before launching your new site, make sure that you create a comprehensive inventory of your site’s URLs. Tools like Screaming Frog allow you to run a complete scan of your website and identify all recognized links within your site.
After you have your list of URLs, it is important to create a 301 Redirect Map that outlines exactly what URLs will be transferred to which specific sections of the new site. Once this map is completed, go ahead and implement each redirect through your .htaccess file or web.config file depending on whether you are built with Apache/Linux or IIS/Windows.
2. Integration of Company Blog
If blogging was not a part of your old website’s campaign, then it needs to be up and running when the new site launches.
Immediately introducing fresh content to your new site on a regular basis is a must for signaling to search engines that you are still relevant and credible enough to pull content from.
This will also support your ability to be found for relevant keyphrases before search engines are able to properly assess and recognize the transference of authority from your 301 redirects.
Remembering to add all necessary analytic tracking codes is essential for successfully understanding how your new site is performing.
Create a baseline report that lists your keyword rankings, monthly traffic levels and most popular landing pages over the last six months. This will give you a strong idea for how you are performing by comparing your former results with the new.
4. Page Load Speed
In Google’s assertion of what online consumers want out of their personal digital experience, they feel that websites that have a fast load time provide more value to online users than those that run slowly.
One way that you can increase your new site’s load time is through image compression. This action reduces irrelevance and redundancy of the data your images contain, in order to properly maintain or offer data in a fast and efficient manner.
Reducing the file size and dimensions of your images allows search crawlers to recognize and identify forms of your content much faster and reduces lag time for online user’s who browse through your website.
5. While We Are Talking About Images, Make Sure They Are Formatted Correctly
Review all of your landing pages to identify any and all images that are not formatted as JPG, PNG or GIF image files. Any image that is built with Flash or is saved as a TIFF file will not support search visibility and stands as wasted content on your site from a search perspective.
6. Fulfill All Forms of Meta Data
Before the new site launches, make sure that you have a complete understanding of how you are going to fulfill each form of meta data within the new site.
Similar to creating a 301 Redirect Map, you should also create a complete outline that lists specific structures for how each form of meta data should be created, as well as what keywords you want each landing page to rank for.
If you are not sure what keywords to use or how each term in your strategy performs as far as pulling in traffic each month, check out Google’s Keyword Planner to test various branded, non-branded and long tail phrases.
7. Do Not Forget Structuring Your URLs
If you are spending the money to redesign and relaunch the company website, then make sure you also invest in restructuring your URLs.
Convert all of your ugly, dynamic, one hundred character URLs into organized systems that correctly identify each landing page through specific keyphrases.
8. Test Cross Browser Compatibility
The new site may look phenomenal in Firefox, but everyone who uses Google Chrome might not be able to see anything. So make sure that you test your new site’s ability to display on each Internet browser and that all content appears naturally.
There are a plethora of online resources you can use to perform such tests and it is highly recommended that you verify each browser along with previous versions of a particular browser like Internet Explorer 5.
9. XML Sitemap
After each URL has been correctly redirected, all of your meta data is properly formatted and fulfilled and you have everything ready to launch, create and upload an XML Sitemap to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools. XML Sitemaps allow search engines to properly recognize and understand exactly what lives within your website and supports your ability to successfully connect with your target online audience.
Programs like Screaming Frog or Xenu’s Link Sleuth are excellent for generating sitemaps and are extremely easy to use.
Once you have created your new sitemap, upload it to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools so that both search engines are able to quickly understand what forms of content live within your site.
10. Have A Blast Testing
It is extremely important that you continuously perform a variety of tests that identify any and all broken links, missing forms of content or other forces that prevent a positive user experience.
Create tracking goals through Google analytics and add them to critical areas of your website and specific call-to-actions. Understanding how your online audience behaves when they visit your site will go a long way in your ability to properly allocate resources when creating new forms of content in the future.
And Remember, Control The Things You Can Control…
At the end of the day, there are always going to be a few difficulties that get in your way when launching a new company website. The only thing you can do to maximize your new site’s search visibility and conversion opportunity is to properly manage the things you have direct control over.
Checking off these ten considerations as you go through your relaunch process will significantly support your new site’s digital success once it is up and running.