It’s rare these days that we implement a new website for an organisation that has no existing web presence so, when putting the new site live, suitable consideration needs to be given to the old site.
It is essential that we preserve the value that has been accumulated in the old site as far as possible and limit any immediate drop in search engine rankings to the minimum. We also want to be able to monitor the benefits that the client gains from the new site.
These are some of the activities that we undertake when putting a new website live.
Keeping the Value
Every website develops some value during the time it is in existence. Here I am talking mostly about links from other sites, including social media posts and the knowledge that the search engines acquire about the site. Google, Bing and Yahoo will have crawled the site (hopefully) and will have created a list of the pages that they are aware of on the site – effectively a list of links to the web pages. Don't lose this value!
Now, normally, when a new website is created, the names of the individual pages do not all remain the same as the ones on the old site (home, about and contact perhaps do). For example the page http://www.businesssite.com/services.php may no longer be available on the new site but there is a new page that contains similar relevant information called https://www.businesssite.com/accountancy-services/. The original page may have been mentioned in social media posts, it may have been linked to from other sites, it could have been bookmarked by potential clients and the search engines were aware of its existence.
If we do nothing to address this situation then, when the new site goes live, anyone trying to access the old page will get a ‘Page not Found’ message. Clearly that is not helpful as it could give the impression that your business has disappeared and it is not good for the search engines as they may draw the same conclusion. The search engines will find your new site (assuming it’s been developed properly) but it will take some time for them to do this and place the new pages in their index so they appear in the search results.
The professional approach here is to ensure that, for every old URL that will no longer exist on the new site, we automatically redirect visitors (human and search engines) to the most relevant new page. In other words, if someone clicks on the old URL http://www.businesssite.com/services.php they are smoothly transferred to https://www.businesssite.com/accountancy-services/ without them being aware of it. The same would also be true for the search engines.
Human visitors now get to see appropriate information on the new site and search engines can start indexing the new pages without delay so minimising any dip in search engine rankings caused by the implementation of the new site.
Many business websites have a large number of pages and creating the mapping between the old pages and the new ones can take a little time and needs great care. It also requires testing to ensure it works properly. A site we implemented recently required 382 of these redirects but we knew that there were plenty of links into the old website so undertaking the necessary analysis and testing was worthwhile to protect the value that had been built up in the site over the previous 5+ years.
Our clients want to know that the implementation of the new website is beneficial for their business (as do we, of course) and one part of that equation is examining the statistics that are collected. We want to see an increase in visitor numbers but it’s not just a matter of numbers; we want to see greater engagement which means we expect to see that visitors spend more time on the site, visit more pages etc.
In order to measure the benefits we need to ensure statistics are being collected properly and that we can make a valid comparison with the statistics from the previous website. These are essential activities at the point of implementing a new website.
We have a comprehensive post-implementation checklist for use after a website has gone live which includes items such as:
- There are no references to the test website anywhere on the new site
- Security is properly set up for users, on the database, on sensitive files etc.
- The blog feed is migrated to the live version
- Ensure the search engines can ‘see’ the pages we want them to see
- Ensure backups are being taken
- Check contact form and any other forms are working correctly
- Make sure the redirects work
- Check the stats collection
In the days and weeks following implementation we continue to monitor the stats, the search engine activity on the site, the search engine rankings, the backups and so on. This is sometimes accompanied by answering questions from the client regarding details of making updates to the site which may not have been fully covered in the training and also making small adjustments to some pages as requested by the client.
A properly planned and executed migration strategy is an excellent way of preserving the investment you have made in your old website at the point of implementing the new version.
Implementation of a new website is a significant milestone in the history of many organisations but it is certainly not the end point of the web project. Ongoing support and maintenance of a site together with regular and frequent updates ensure that the business maximises the benefits to be gained from the investment.
We’d be delighted to help you in developing a new web presence or in providing consultancy on migration strategy. Please contact us for details.