Have you discovered aspects of your website that aren’t up to modern standards? Are you rebranding your business with a new logo and graphics, too?
You’ll want to relaunch your website to ensure your brand elements look cohesive. Relaunching a website is no cakewalk, though. Your website includes frontend elements like your brand colors and user interface (UI), as well as backend elements like analytics integrations and forms.
To launch your site without hiccups or making any of the biggest SEO mistakes, you need a plan to bring what’s useful from your old site to the new one while ensuring the new design works great. Here’s everything you need to know to successfully make the transition.
1. Content and SEO Components
Content from your old website is perhaps the most important aspect to carry over. First, if you haven’t done so previously, you’ll want to make a content spreadsheet (sometimes called a content library). This is the document that contains all the website content you’ve published.
Second, log into Google Analytics (GA) and look at your blog posts that are getting the most traffic. It’s useful to save all of your content, and definitely that which is producing traffic, i.e. 10 visitors per month or more. You can find your top-performing pages in GA by Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium > Landing Page.
Third, export that list from GA and copy the URLs over to your content spreadsheet. Also copy the URLs’ average monthly traffic numbers,
Fourth, log into Google Search Console (GSC) and look for your blog posts that have the most backlinks. You can find this info in the GSC menu by going to Links > External links > More. This will take you to a list of links titled “Top linked pages – externally”, which you can then export and add to your content spreadsheet.
Once all your content is listed, include a separate column for any of your URLs that need to be changed. Keeping your URLs short is one of the simple ways to quickly improve your SEO, and a website relaunch is the perfect time to review which URLs need this most.
Taken together, this data shows you what your most effective and popular content pieces are. Notice what content topics your audience craves, as you’ll want to produce content that expands on your existing success. This is one of the three stages of SEO and helps you generate stronger traffic moving forward.
Once your top-performing content list is complete, set up 301 redirects from the old URLs to the new ones. This is the only way to ensure the SEO value of your old content is carried through to your new website.
2. Technical and Analytical Components
With your existing content on its way to producing traffic and leads for your site, the next step is configuring analytical capabilities. Making sure GA is set up properly offers peace of mind and creates a clear view into your metrics moving forward.
First, make sure your new site’s GA tracking code is added to your website. Accomplishing this depends on what content management system (CMS) or hosting platform you use. Refer to your hosting service’s dashboard for instructions on how to do this.
Second, you’ll want to filter out your own IP address, or as many as are applicable. This prevents GA from showing you traffic that’s coming from you or your staff. You can do this by getting your public IP address, then going to Create filter > Exclude > Traffic from the IP addresses > That are equal to, then adding yours and clicking Save Changes.
Third, set up your most important conversion goals in GA for the new website. Tracking this information in GA shows you not only what your most conversion-friendly pages are, but also how effective your funnels are.
You can start this process by looking in the main menu for Conversions > Goals > Overview. You can use GA’s conversion goal templates or create your own if you’re comfortable doing so.
Being able to access traffic and conversion data at a moment’s notice helps you maximize your business strategy. If you find any unexpected dips in traffic or lower-than-usual conversions, you can spot it right away and course correct.
3. Appearance and Navigability Components
With the technical aspects of your new website in place, it’s essential to review your site’s appearance. Your website’s navigability and client-facing look will create a bigger first impression than anything else once it launches.
Appearance and navigation components include your main menu, search bar, ease of locating contact information, and content organization. Let’s break each of these categories down into detail:
A) Main Menu
Your main menu is typically the first place visitors look on your website, especially if they’re brand new to your site. They’re going to be looking for your blog, About page, contact information, or Shop page.
The menu on your site should be large enough to be noticeable but small enough to be useful. Aim to include the following options at a minimum:
- About Us/About Me
- Services and/or Consulting
- Contact/Contact Us
- Email List/Newsletter
Your menu should link to all the basic info your visitors need about your business without overwhelming them. The six pages above are enough to prompt one or more actions in your prospects so they contact you or engage with your content.
B) Search Bar
A search bar is another navigational aspect to get right. Whether your visitors are existing clients or cold leads, they need a way to find specific information.
Your site search bar should be easily located and also placed in different areas of your site. It’s wise to add one in the top right or left of your website, and also on your blog homepage and site footer.
People are always looking for information; you don’t want to give them a hard time with it. Test your own site search functionality and see if it’s working as expected before launching.
C) Contact Information
It goes without saying that your business contact information should be effortless to find. Website usability research demonstrates that most people look for contact info in the upper right hand corner of a website.
Users should see a contact button, phone number, or email address in the upper right hand page. The button should take them to a dedicated contact page with all of your contact details and a full-size contact form.
Some sites are switching to a live chat only contact option, where site visitors start a conversation with a chatbot. The chatbot then either answers the question or directs the user to a human.
That being said, it’s still useful to have a dedicated contact page. You never know when a prospect wants to send a longer inquiry, file a complaint, or ask a question that can’t be answered by a bot.
D) Content Organization
The final component of your site’s appearance and navigability is your content organization. Most of the time this begins with your blog posts, which is one of the top three content marketing methods used by most businesses.
Your blog home page should feature your latest posts, a list of categories, a clear search bar, and relevant links. Individual blog pages should be easy to click through and understand. Make sure your font and page spacing looks good, it’s easy to find content in various categories, and that your site search brings up several relevant entries.
If you’ve been blogging to improve your SEO and it’s been effective, most visitors will land on an individual blog post the first time. Once they’re done reading, however, your site should offer intuitive next steps. This may be a “Recommended for you” section featuring related blog posts, or a newsletter opt-in form to receive future blog posts.
Organizing content well goes beyond blog posts, of course. It includes your email opt-in forms, eBooks, videos, and any other resources you’ve created. Consider making a “Resources” or “Content Library” area of your website that displays all the content you’ve made in an organized fashion. Experiment with it and ask for client feedback until it’s easy to find any type of content.
4. Usability and Browser Components
While you’re getting excited to launch your new site, you may have looked at it in a different browser and discovered something is off. It can be stressful finding out that your website isn’t quite perfect yet.
That’s where browser and usability testing comes in. Looking at your website in different browsers and on different devices reveals all the kinks that still need to be ironed out. Keep reading for tips on ensuring your website looks excellent across all browsers.
A) Basic Webpage Testing
The first test to complete is a basic page check across Internet browsers. The top four browsers are Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge, so you definitely want to test on those. Look high and low on your website for any issues with headers, images, menus, and content.
While Chrome and Firefox capture the majority of Internet users, you still want to test on smaller browsers like Opera, Slimjet, and Vivaldi. This guarantees that no matter how your site is accessed, it looks immaculate.
Once your browser testing is complete, it’s time for device testing. Download as many different Internet browsers as you can to your smartphone or tablet, and pull up your website.
Put your mobile site through the same rigors as your desktop version. Do your images, menus, buttons, and forms all look the same? Is anything too small to click on? If you do find problems, take notes and speak with your developer as soon as possible.
B) Test Your Forms
The second usability test to run is with your forms. Your visitors rely on your forms working in order to contact you, schedule a demo, purchase a product, or request a quote.
Use a dummy email account to fill out each form on your site before launching it. If your test information doesn’t reach your website’s backend, you can fix it quickly.
Remember that in changing domains or content management systems (CMSs), your old forms may need their API integrations set up again. API stands for application programming interface, which is a fancy term for software that allows third party computer applications to communicate with each other.
C) Test Your Features and File Uploads
The third step is testing all of your website’s features and file uploads. The amount and type of features on any website differs, but they all need to work.
Features include any special functionality of your website, like videos, chatbots, and animations. All of these additions should work intuitively and not slow down page load speed or your users’ experiences.
It’s not often that prospects or clients will need to upload their own files to your website, but you should still function test these parts of your site. Ensure that when files are uploaded, they’re organized neatly in folders so you and your web developer can find them at a moment’s notice.
D) Verify Your Page Speed
If there’s one characteristic to get right, it’s page load speed. As the search engine market leader, Google has emphasized page speed as an essential ranking factor for desktop sites since 2010 and mobile sites since 2018.
You can use Google’s Page Speed Insights to check your site’s speed, which is a free tool. After you enter your site URL in the tool, you’ll get a detailed readout of your speed, plus the factors that may be holding you back.
The Bottom Line
Launching a new website is a big undertaking. It requires the successful execution of multiple moving parts, each of which rely on the effectiveness of the preceding step.
Focusing on your site’s biggest needs is a great place to begin. Here’s a recap of what to do when you’re launching or relaunching a website:
- First, address the content and SEO aspects of your website. Have a list of all the content you’re bringing from the old site to the new one, and ensure 301 redirects are set up so you don’t lose rankings or traffic.
- Second, configure all the tech and analytical parts of your site. Add your GA code to the site right away and make sure your IP address is filtered out.
- Third, review the analytical and navigational parts of your site. Double check that your menu, site search, and blog posts all look and function wonderfully.
- Fourth, run a browser and usability check. Verify that your website looks just as good across less popular browsers as it does the main ones, and that forms and file uploads work without a hitch.
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