In the course of my work as an internet marketing consultant I often get asked for my advice on how best to approach a web redesign project. It is really important to protect the performance of a successful website that just requires a new look!
- Keep Your Current URL Structure
Where possible keep your current URL structure. This means that if the contact us page of the website current exists at www.mysite.com/contact-us don’t change it to www.mysite.com/contact.
If your widgets are currently to be found at mysite.com/catalogue/widgets don’t move them to mysite.com/widgets
Make a list of all your current website pages to make sure this doesn’t happen. A Sitemap generator such as http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/ is a useful free tool for getting this information. You should not need to change URL’s at all if your website only needs a ‘Facelift’ in terms of graphic design and you are not adding or removing products or services.
- Map old pages to a relevant section of the redesigned website using a permanent 301 redirect.
If you are getting rid of old services or downgrading their importance and absolutely need to move or remove the URL, decide where you want to send visitors and search engines that are looking for the old page. Prepare a document of all your old/defunct URLs and specify what the new URL will be or where you want to re-direct people who have book-marked the old page or search engine spider that are trying to crawl it.
- Make sure each page has a purpose
This is fundamental to a successful website and to the implementation of an effective internet marketing strategy. If you are adding new pages to the website make sure they have a purpose. What content will you be adding to the page and what is the purpose of that content? Will visitors find it useful? Unless it is a form of some type the content on a page should exceed 75 words. If you don’t have more than that to say you possibly don’t need the page.
- Prepare a Tender Document for your Web designer
Prepare a document for your website designer that includes all of the expectations and requirements that you have in relation to the website, such as the points above and how you need the website to perform for you – i.e. that the goal of the website is.
Include in the tender document that once the website is paid for that it becomes your property. Make sure the domain name is also registered in the name of the company and not the developer. This is hardly ever an issue anymore but better safe than sorry.
- Google Analytics Tracking
Don’t forget to include your current Google Analytics code in the new website. Don’t create a new one –you don’t want to start from scratch. Make sure the company owns and has access to the Google Analytics account. I had a client who told me they had previously lost 5 years’ worth of analytics data when the google account was closed by a disgruntled employee of the website developer.
- Check for broken links
You should do this regularly anyway but specially after going through a redesign. Use W3 Schools link checker. http://validator.w3.org/checklink
- Don’t move server
This one is fairly self-explanatory. Don’t move server at the same time as making other major changes to your website.
- Link Canonicalization
Ensure correct link canonicalization is in place. E.g. www.mywebsite.ie & http://mywebsite.ie
- Mobile First Design
Most people now access the internet on mobile devices and tablets. Make sure that your website design is built mobile first. You should test/review the site on mobile as well. Find out more in this blog article on responsive website design.
- XML Sitemap
Create and submit a new XML Sitemap to tell search engine crawlers what pages are contained in your website. Use the link above to create it. Find out how you can submit it to Google here