By Paul Hickey on October 8, 2013
Heading into the fourth quarter of the year, it’s time for new websites. Many organizations are launching new sites this month, while others are beginning new projects that will launch before the holidays.
Website redesign projects can be very fun. There’s an opportunity to refresh your company’s brand, look, feel, presentation and ability to market and generate traffic. It’s a very exciting time, but it’s also pretty hard to launch a new website. I mean, no website redesign project is “easy.” Having sat in many-a-room with many-a-smart group of people and having had the great opportunity to help them walk through every intricacy of transitioning from their current website to the newest iteration – one thing has become obvious: we all have a tendency to overcomplicate things.
Let’s assume that we’re at the end of a full website redesign process. Having been through this several dozen times, there’s always a real risk of several things happening.
1. Getting crippled by your content
I can totally understand the need for good content. I preach it all the time. But there’s a difference between wanting to put your best foot forward, and trying to win a pulitzer prize. The reality is that people expect your content to change, so it makes no sense to really stress over it. Yes, you want quality content, but you also don’t want web copy to push back the launch of your new website.
2. Too many opinions
Everybody wants to weigh in on the design of a new website. Personal preference is hard to ignore. It infringes upon every scenario, even when that’s not the intent. Inevitably, after all the work is done, and the final bill is paid, there are changes requested. Sometimes folks are generally scared to see their new face go live to the public. It’s like hearing their own voice on the radio – they hate the idea of it.
Others just want to “get it right.” That’s understandable and admirable, but not possible.
Unfortunately, too many opinions can kill an entire project, and sometimes derail it completely.
So instead of taking opinions, make data driven decisions. The best possible way to combat opinions is with facts. So instead of “shopping around for internal approvals,” a smarter move is to invest some of your project budget into usability testing and analytics analysis. Also, saving some of your project budget for making post-launch changes is always better than trying to solve every issue before going live.
Something will break. Something won’t work the way you thought it would, and people will interact with your site and demand things from your site that you didn’t anticipate.
That’s all good. Anticipating those things and planning to address them after your website hits the market is the way to craft the best possible experience for your constituencies. Google does it. Speaking of Google, let’s not forget to address probably the most overlooked piece of a website redesign.
3. Proper SEO considerations
What does this mean, exactly?
Well, there are some core things that need to happen pre-launch.
Content Migration – It seems silly that it would even be possible to miss migrating content from your old site to your new site, and I’m not taking about refining down and eliminating unneeded pages and words. I’m talking about moving from one house to another and leaving boxes of your stuff on the floor. If you’re launching a new website, please make sure that you take the time to audit your old website and double check your new one to make sure you’re web development team has a content strategy. Once you lose your old stuff, it’s hard to get it back – and it will create an initial drop off in traffic. Why?
301 Redirects – Think of it this way. While a website is always a work in progress, each page that’s published is actually permanent in some way. For example, when you make a blog post, or edit a page, it lives forever somewhere. Even if you’ve never emailed that link out to people, posted it on social media, included it in a printed marketing piece, e-mail signature or verbally told someone to check it out – chances are, Google has indexed it.
A website that gets launched without 301 Redirects will lose valuable traffic. A 301 Redirect ensures that when a user finds an old like that has been indexed by Google, or clicks on a link from an old bookmark, the content on a page like www.abcxyz.com/oldsitelink.aspx gets sent to it’s new equivalent at www.abcxyz.com/newsiteequivalent.
301s are easily the most overlooked part of a website redesign, but the most important from a practical standpoint.
Proper Meta Data Implemented on each page – The purpose of a 301 redirect is so that traffic isn’t lost in the transition, but the overall SEO goal is for the new site links to out-rank the old site links anyway. This is where including the proper meta data and search engine titles on each new page is extremely important. Again, it’s easy to basically get blinded by how great your new design is, and miss some important things. The simplest and safest thing to do is to recreate the same format that exists on your current site, but this launch is also an opportunity to refocus your keyword strategy and try some new things.
Don’t Forget about Post-Launch SEO Tasks
- Verifying webmaster tools
- Submitting site-maps
- Monitoring SERP (search engine results pages), and making necessary tweaks and adjustments to optimize
- Google Plus Local Verification
There’s a lot to consider, but at the end of the day, it’s pretty black and white. If you can make sure you’re strategic and calculated about going live, instead of striving for perfection before going live, then you’re on the right track.
Paul Hickey is the managing director of Cabedge Design, LLC – an Atiba Company – and chief marketing geek for the Atiba Family. He specializes in strategic web design, organic and paid search, brand creation and helping clients and partners accomplish business goals. Paul loves writing and communicating, and helping drive relevant traffic to websites.
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