By Alli Summerford
July 15, 2013
In the excitement and hurry to get a newly designed site live, many site owners and development companies neglect to address some important behind-the-scenes issues – post-launch confusion and an unnecessary hit in the search engines can often be the result. Here are a few, basic items that can make the transition to the newly designed site less painful.
In all likelihood, the new website will have different URLs than the previous site. It is important to tell your users and the search engines where to find your content in the new site. This is easily done using 301 permanent redirects, matching up the old URLs on a page-by-page basis with the new locations of the same content. Doing so reduces the number of frustrating 404 errors for users following links that are not yet updated (from bookmarks, search results, or links on other sites). In addition, the 301s provide a signal to the search engines to pass on the search engine history and equity associated with a piece of content to its new location.
The value of our online traffic analytics is in the aggregate. We need to see data over time to understand the impact of our marketing efforts on traffic. If you neglect to bring over your site’s tracking code to the new site, you will lose important information about the effects of the new site on traffic; there will be a hole in your data until the tracking code is installed. This item is easy to do, but also very easy to forget. If you have the tracking code in place before the launch, you will have uninterrupted data as well as an accurate measure of the impact of the new site.
Google Webmaster Tools
Google’s Webmaster Tools offers of ton of site diagnostic information, all free. Access to use Webmaster Tools is done using a variety of site verification methods. Depending on the method you may have had in place with your old site, that verification can be disrupted with the re-launch. Be sure to include your site’s verification (either an html file uploaded to the server or a meta tag added to the site’s code) in the new site. The site diagnostics can be particularly important post-launch, helping you to identify and correct unforeseen issues.
Titles & Descriptions
If you have invested considerable time in optimizing the titles and description tags of your old site, you do not want to lose that valuable work with the new site. Be sure that your web developer brings over your titles and descriptions as they build the new pages of your site. If you have not given this area of your site any attention before, developing a new site is a great time to look at the title and description tags used throughout your site. You want to make sure that each is unique to a specific page, accurately represents the content on that page, and contains your most important keywords related to that content.
Every site we design and build goes through these checks as well as others to ensure a seamless transition. Redesigning your site always has some inherent risks related to your search engine rankings and subsequent traffic levels. However, anticipating these less obvious issues prior to pulling the trigger on the new site will go a long way towards lessening the potentially negative effects of the re-launch.