Relaunching Your Site? Think A Solid SEO Game Plan!
That online presence is important to your business growth is no longer news, the amount of sales it helps you pitch, its cost effectiveness, the convenience it gives you and your customers in transacting business, the credibility it adds to your business and the fact that it is accessible all the time even when your physical address is closed are advantages that are well known. These advantages may seem endless and indispensable until you outgrow your website. Congratulations though, it is a rite of passage, something your business has to go through but with the process involved in your website relaunch, it is an experience you will all together want to avoid as it is both herculean and expensive.
On expiry, it is important to overhaul your website into something foolproof taking into consideration the search engine optimization factor. This however requires a lot of effort, time and resources; especially when we desire class, workability and sophistication. We want unique page designs, plug in supports, tools for interactive contents that are relevant to our business, and other features customized for our advantage and taste. With the huge effort involved, it might be tempting to throw in the towel on search engine optimization which can impact negatively on the link authority and rankings you have built for your business after such a long time.
It therefore makes sense to lay out a clear plan for your website’s re-launch. The right question is what exactly does this plan involve? The answer however depends on what you intend for your new site to look like. Do the changes just involve visual changes like changes in colour themes or do you intend to make other technical changes like changes in information architecture, URLS, navigations and so on? With the latter your relaunch may risk going through major search engine optimization problems. In such a situation, there is need to conduct the right search engine optimization checkups to ensure that search engine spiders can effectively negotiate your site and find all your contents.
The need for a completely new URL that is your domain name can attract more advanced problems in terms of search engine optimization. The consequence of this is usually the loss of traffic to your site. This problem, of course, is related to user choice. Most users have the tendency to ignore some domains and visit some. This is because they show bias to domains they are not familiar with when they appear in their search results. Your listings may be ignored if searchers are not familiar with your domain. Agreed there are a number of ways to create trust that will help redirect traffic to your site. What about the effect of obscurity to your business between when you renew your URL and when you are able to regain trust.
Google particularly has reservations for new domains even when such domains still show signs of relevance. It is therefore advisable to stay on your old URL. However if it becomes a matter of necessity to relaunch your site on a new domain, be conscious of the cost of traffic disruption to your business. If the worth is far more than few weeks or months of traffic disruption, then you can take a bold step of re-launching on a new URL.
Transferring to new server is not that complicated and consumes less time than other technical changes. It simply requires updating your DNS or changing your name servers through the registrar of your domain. Ensure that your server settings and directives are set correctly and avoid both old and new servers running on IIS. Always check to avoid this clash. Double check to see if your legacy codes are still functional on the new site after they have been ported to the site. Whatever the changes you have to make, minor and major, there are a number of tricks you can pull out of your sleeves to make re-launching your website easy.
The first is to crawl all Uniform Resource Locators. This simply means you can generate the number of URLs in your domain through the web tools known as crawlers. Using crawlers can be time consuming especially when there are many pages and lots of navigations on the site. Despite the demerit of time consumption, the process helps to touch every single page of the site and pool all URLs. The Screaming Frog SEO Spider is highly recommended for this process. It crawls your site, gives a list of every URL it finds, adds information about the URLs it finds, and does much more. After this, you have to check for externally linked pages on your site. This is to ensure that you include every connecting page that receives link authority from your page and still retain authority to them. The link pages can be searched through Moz’s Open Site Explorer or Google Search Console. In the case of building new URLs, you need to make sure that each page corresponds to the new URL.
Mapping your moves is the next thing to do. On some systems, every page has to be done manually which can be a huge task if the site is large and it has very many pages. It is an easier task for Apache Web Server users as the Apache module rewrite comes in handy. The module helps to redirect every URL to its corresponding URL on the new domain with a single rewrite rule. Another useful plugin that does the same trick is the ISAPI Rewrite for Microsoft IIS. Irrespective of the system used, it is always better to create a spreadsheet where every URL will be redirected. This makes moving them correctly incredibly easy and reliable.
Moving hundreds and thousands of URLs with this format (ex. www.oldurl.com/page1 to www.newurl.com/page1), can drive you nuts so you may want to create rules that rely on wildcards and regular expressions, rather than mapping individual URLs one by one in .htaccess or another server configuration file. There is also the need to update current redirect; failure to do this will lead to chains of redirects and with this you get loss of equity. For example, a site may already have a redirect from page a > page b. If the new URL is page c, then not only should page b redirect to page c, but page a’s redirect should also be updated to point directly to page b.
This might look like a pile of jargons to a layman and could keep your head spinning. It is recommended that the services of an expert should be employed in the process of rebuilding from the scratch, so that any problems can be detected and rectified as early as possible. Remember any search engine optimization problem in the old site can be carried over to the new site if care is not taken. On a good ay, an SEO professional could offer you a step by step support. From conducting a comprehensive audit, to the design process, the content plan, the functional requirements, wireframes, mock ups, development sites, staging the site launch and even the post launch. With the help of a professional, you can get the building right on the first attempt and avoid the snag of rectifying mistakes on limited budget and limited time.
During the redesign, it is important to decide on what contents you want to index so the Google duplicate penalty is not slammed on you. There are two ways to achieve this. The first way is to not index the pages on the developing site which means pages will not be stored in Google’s database of search results. This can be done by adding a meta-robots tag with the value of “no index” to all of your pages. For those running WordPress, this is accomplished with the tick of a box in your WordPress. admin. The other way is to disallow directives in the robots.txt file. Technically speaking, you could also issue no index directives in there, too, but only Googlebot recognizes that directive, and it’s unsupported by Google. The first alternative is highly recommended. This way you keep pages out of the index on Google and Bing disallowing using the meta robots tag only stops the spiders from visiting, they do not de-index the pages that are duplicated. You could consider making the changes in phases in order to make transiting easy.
The next step is updating your sitemaps. Updating your sitemaps seems simple enough but it is equally easy to forget your update. There is the need to add new URLs to the XML sitemaps while old URLs need to be phased out. You can also employ the use of multiple XML sitemaps for different contents to keep contents organized. Remember to add the location of your sitemap (or sitemap index, if you have multiple sitemaps) to both your robots.txt file and to Google Search Console, particularly if the URL of your sitemap (or sitemaps) will be changing with the redesign or relaunch. You might as well want to ensure that you have a list of all of the URLs on your current site that are currently driving organic traffic. You can find this by going to Google Analytics, to the “Behavior” tab, then “Site Content,” then “Landing Pages.” Add a secondary dimension by clicking “Advanced,” then “Medium” to create an advanced filter that includes the medium containing “organic.” This gives a list of all the pages that currently get organic traffic.
Since the bulk of your primary assignment is done, you can prepare your launch with marketing efforts that yield results. One strategy is obtaining high authority links to pages on your new site. This will enhance Google’s ability to treat your transition. Since new links won’t just find you on their own, marketing efforts must be made to encourage the influx of traffic. This can be achieved through email notifications about countdown to your site’s launch, getting influential people to create awareness about the launch, offer sneak peeks to interesting features on the website, and create contests that will encourage traffic to the site. Get the news about your launch out in every way possible. However your link building campaigns have to be planned and incorporated into the site construction process. When the publicity of your launch has been set in motion, it is necessary if not compulsory to take stock of your inputs so far. This is not the assignment of a layman. You need the help of a search engine optimization expert to do a technical audit of the site. This is done to detect any other technical hitch which could have been bypassed in the process of rebuilding the site.
After your site has been launched, you can run an Open Site Explorer to find the top 100 URLs sending traffic, and contact any webmasters linking to these URLs to encourage them to update their link. Although your 301 redirects will pass the majority of the link authority, direct links to the new site are ideal. It is pertinent to know also that the changes made may not receive immediate reception. Give it time after you have put in your efforts. While you are waiting for traffic to grow you need to check out for hitches like 404 errors, run a safety check on all your files, run analytics to check for pages on your site that are getting views but not referring traffic and every other thing that could need a rain check. In the case of a temporary or total flop, it is necessary to have an alternate plan even if it is temporary.
With proper organization, planning and auditing you can make smooth transition from your old site to a new one and still enjoy the benefits improved branding, better user experience, improved functionality, upwardly mobile ideas, and increased traffic you intended at deciding on the relaunch.