A website rebuild is no easy task.
If you are considering making structural changes to your site that affect not just the design but also deeper elements like functionality, you need to approach with caution. Diving into a site rebuild without careful planning and consideration could result in damaging consequences for your site traffic or your organic rankings.
Check out these 6 things to consider throughout your rebuild project to avoid any negative impacts on your business.
1. Link And URL Changes
If you are re-categorising your website pages or creating new ones, there is a likelihood that your URL structure may change.
For example, if you change the hierarchy of your pages, the URL will include the new parent page. What started as www.contentmarketingiscool.com/contentstrategy may now appear as www.contentmarketingiscool.com/seo/contentstrategy. Unless you rectify this, visitors will see 404 errors and broken links, both of which will damage user experience and organic rankings.
Implementing a 301 page redirect will avoid any of these risks, and help both Google and your visitors find the content they are looking for. If the page no longer exists, make sure you create a custom ‘404 – error message’ template, along with help for finding whatever the visitor is looking for, like suggested pages or a search bar.
It’s also important to check the links attached to your AdWords and other PPC campaigns, the internal links included in blog posts as well as links embedded in call-to-action (CTA) buttons.
Most people will conduct a website build/rebuild in a test environment, rather than on a live site. It’s vital that you make sure these pages are not indexed, otherwise, when you launch your final site Google might deem your pages to be duplicate content. Not only this but having unfinished and unoptimised pages indexed does not reflect well on your rankings. Make sure the ‘noindex’ and ‘nofollow’ tags are used when creating pages in your test site to avoid Google’s spiders crawling that content.
Before you discard your old site, grab a copy of the site’s structure and metadata (as well as backing up the site, just to be safe). This is important information for building the new site on and ensures that the data matches up.
When you are ready to launch your site there’s no need to wait for Google to index it, you can submit your pages manually to help speed up the process. Visit the Google Webmasters page and enter each URL. The quicker you get on Google’s radar, the better!
3. Content Strategy
Websites exist to provide a home for your content, so your content strategy should be one of the first things you map out before making any changes. There’s no point in designing new pages unless you know what content is gong to be on them – the two processes need to go hand in hand to ensure consistency.
Think about your content strategy during the rebuild and ensure your online objectives for the new site are clear. Your static content is just as important as your fresh (e.g. blog) content, so you need to consider how you will move this over to the new site and where it will fit in (you may also find that some of your content needs rewriting!).
Another mistake that people make when rebuilding is to remove historical pages without checking the data behind them. Google Analytics (if you have it set up well) should be able to tell you which pages bring the most traffic to your site. Don’t think that you need to overhaul everything, because as the saying goes – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Otherwise, you risk losing visitors to your site that enter through those pages.
4. Google Analytics
Speaking of Google Analytics, if you don’t currently have it set up then now is the time do so. You will be able to track all activity and interaction with your site right from the start, which is invaluable to the content marketing success of your revamped website.
If you do have it set up, it’s a good idea to create a separate profile for the rebuild. This will allow you to compare metrics between old and new, and determine where any changes need to be made.
Also, make sure you keep the primary purpose of your site in mind and set up some goals within your analytics. Is it an E-commerce site or does it focus on capturing leads? Your new site should focus on these overarching goals. If you track these goals properly you’ll be able to monitor where your converting visitors are coming from, making it much easier to measure the success of your site and identify areas for improvement.
5. User Experience
Before the rebuild begins, consider the current user experience of your existing site and what improvements can be made.
Think about the navigation, page load times and optimisation for different devices. Users should be able to easily move around your site with clear CTAs, links and drop down options from the navigation bar. If your pages don’t load quickly have a look at what could be slowing them down (things like large video files, images that haven’t been compressed or clunky HTML.)
Your site needs to work across all devices, but your focus should be on mobile. You can check the mobile friendliness of your site with Google’s mobile-friendly test and then manually submit pages for indexing when you are happy with them.
6. Last But Not Least… Have A Good Developer
Rebuilding a website is tricky at the best of times, with a lot of elements to think about, and a number of things that can go wrong. Many people are not familiar with the ins and outs of site builds – there’s a lot more to it than you’d think!
For something so important to your business make sure you take the time to choose the right web developer. Rather than putting your site traffic or your search engine rankings at risk, leave it to the experts to ensure the project is in good hands.