So business is looking up and you have decided to retire your current website. It’s done the heavy lifting, taking your business from humble beginnings to where it is today, but it’s time to make way for a fresh design, and cleaner look and sharpen your online presence ready for the a new wave of clientele.
With a design bedded down and development site seeing the finishing touches, it’s time to consider how you transition to the new site without upsetting Google. Now, before I continue, I would like to clarify two things.
1. In Australia, the term “search engine” = Google. Don’t take my word for it
2. Google’s modus operandi is to offer the best user experience possible, so when I refer to pleasing Google I generally mean pleasing the user. This is why I personally believe Google will continue to dominate the landscape in future.
Where to start?
At the heart of every good site is great content, often it’s just the delivery of that content that sets sites apart. Ensure that all the core concepts of your previous site are discussed in the new iteration. By all means, pull it apart and reconstruct it in a more informative OR entertaining way, but if you were seeing traffic for a specific area make sure you only expand on this area in the new site. Images alone won’t fill the void of strong content.
Often a new design will be rich with imagery and the latest web technologies. Improving the aesthetics and usability will take you a long way to improving conversions on your web site, but be wary of the hidden costs.
Ensure all images, especially photos and large graphics are compressed as heavily as possible. As a loose rule of thumb, try to keep within 200KB per image. The smaller the better. Ensure your web designer/developer has compressed all assets (JS/CSS/images etc.) as much as they are able. Page load is an important signal for Google as not only does a reduce page load mean that they can crawl more pages on each site visit, but it enhances the user experience of your site. Every second users have to wait for your site to load determines if they stay or leave. Want some of Amazon’s traffic, aim to beat their page load speed.
Does everything work on the new site? Sounds silly, but often there are broken links on new sites, that haven’t been fully tested. Sometimes, images don’t render due to broken links (often you can’t see these issues visually) OR a style or script file isn’t linked correctly in the code. A great tool to test these scenarios is Screaming Frog. The free version will crawl 500 assets (please note 500 assets doesn’t equal 500 pages), and the paid version is a sound investment for larger sites.
The next big challenge is retaining visibility. This is one of the biggest mistakes site owners make when energetically pushing a new site live without considering the ramifications. Think about it this way, if your site was receiving considerable enquiries for a particular product OR service you offered on EG/ www.example.com/service-aaa and on your new site this page no longer existed, instead a revamped version is now found at www.example.com/aaa how will Google know this? How will other sites that may have recommended and linked to this service know the page has changed? They won’t!
To retain visibility and ensure visitors are not directed to dead links on your site a full set of redirection rules need to be established prior to going live. Each page from the old site is to be meticulously directed to the best page on the new. If it no longer exists, redirect it to a similar page. If a similar page doesn’t exist, redirect to the subcategory/category page it best fits to. Finding the most suitable page is important to retain the visitors’ interest. Worst case, redirect to the homepage, but this should be considered a last resort.
Ultimately, it is expected that your new site is a bigger and better version of your previous offering. Not only is the content retained, but it has been improved upon to better meet your audiences’ needs. Remember people consume data in different ways, be it, picking off the main points, reading a particular section of a page, reading only the summary OR the whole thing. Try to cater for all personality types.
Ensure your site is quick and responsive, the code streamline and efficient. If you are migrating more than one site to the new site OR moving from one domain to another OR looking to increase your audience (by going global), make sure you pay careful consideration doing it the right way. There is plenty of great support documentation out there (start with https://support.google.com/webmasters/), but also feel free to reach out either myself or one of the team at Tell IT Media, who are more than happy to impart some wisdom or point you in the right direction.