Four ways your new website launch could go terribly wrong (and what to do about them)

Four ways your new website launch could go terribly wrong (and what to do about them)

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Refreshing an old website with a new design can be one of the best ways to boost conversions on your website.  With a simple website redesign, we were able to boost monthly revenue 400% for a single-product eCommerce store.

In the midst of the excitement of launching a new site, it’s entirely possible to forget some critical steps that can make or break a successful website relaunch.

In this post, we’ll address four of those mistakes and show you how to fix them.

1.) Not redirecting old pages to their new URLs

When launching a new site, the URLs of your content will likely change.  This is especially true when you update a static site (built with individual HTML files for each page) to a database-driven website built with a modern content management system like WordPress.

If your URLs have changed, and a visitor has bookmarked your site or arrives at your site via a link on another website, they will receive a “404 – page not found” error.  Put yourself in their shoes.  You’ve probably had this happen to you, and you probably immediately left the site to find the solution to your problem elsewhere.

Equally important, search engines assign a popularity score, like PageRank, to each page on your website.  If your URLs have changed, it’s important to let search engines know so they can pass the ranking to your new pages.

When you launch your new site, then, it’s critical to redirect the old pages to their new locations.  For example, if your about page was found at http://www.yoursite.com/about.htm and it is now found at http://www.yoursite.com/about-us, then you’ll have to redirect the old URL to the new.

The simplest way to do this is to add a line to your .htaccess file for each URL that has been changed on your site.  The code looks like this:

redirect 301 /old-page.htm /new-page

This automatically redirects search engines and visitors to the new URL of your website, and passes link value from the old page to the new page.  This is a pretty straightforward process for websites with only a few pages of content, but it can quickly become a monster of a project if you have a long-running blog on your site, etc.

Need some help making the transition from an old site to a new site without sacrificing your SEO value?  Let us know – we can help.

2.) Using the same title/description tags on every page of your site – or forgetting them altogether

Two common oversights when launching a website redesign are your title and description tags.  Depending on the content management system you’re using, you website may automatically generate title and/or description tags, but these are usually pulled from the content on your page and don’t specifically address the keywords that your page is optimized for.

When launching a new site, take the extra time to write a title and meta description for each page.  Keep your titles below 65 characters–after that, many search engines will shorten your title for you, cutting out some of your keywords and decreasing your click through rates from search engine results.   Meta descriptions work the same way, and you’ll want to limit them to 150 characters or so to avoid automatic shortening.

3.) Failing to install analytics software on your site to track visitors and conversions

Google Analytics is a free and powerful tool for measuring traffic and conversions.  Many marketers install an analytics package on their sites and then “set it and forget it,” rarely–if ever–checking the results.

Google Analytics includes conversion tracking features to help track sales, lead generation, and other business metrics.  By using goals creatively, you can track exactly which traffic sources are converting to business, and assign a monetary value for each visitor and each traffic source.  Spending a bunch of money on SEO, Adwords, or social media?  Goal tracking can help you monitor your return on investment.

For many clients in low competition niches – like local service-based businesses – we have found that the cost per visitor from organic search/SEO is significantly lower – and the conversion rate is significantly higher – than with pay per click advertising.

Not sure if you have analytics installed on your site?  Try our SEO Grader to diagnose and repair some of the most common website SEO problems.

4.) Not testing your site’s functionality before you go live

You have tested your site’s functionality, right?  You’ve clicked every link to ensure that it points to the right page?  You’ve tested your contact form, newsletter signup, or shopping cart?

Not testing before you go live can cost you thousands of dollars in revenue.  We recently launched a website for a client who produces $25,000 per week in online revenue.  A single broken link, or an extra half second of loading time, or a single missing image…  If any one of those factors caused just a 10% decrease in conversions, the client would have lost $2,500 in sales.

Always, always, be sure you test your site’s functionality before you go live, even if you’re a mom and pop shop or a solo pro offering your services online.

A brief website relaunch checklist

When you launch a new website, make sure you’ve done the following:

  • Redirect your old page URLs to their new locations with a 301 redirect
  • Write unique titles and meta description tags for each page on your site
  • Install an analytics package on your website and ensure the tracking code is installed on every page.  Bonus: configure a goal funnel to your sales or lead generation pages to track conversions.
  • Test your site’s functionality before you go live.  If there’s a problem, be sure to address it, even if it means delaying the launch of your new site for a few days while you fix the issue.

Need help improving your website?  Our SEO and conversion optimization services might be for you.  Get in touch and ask how we may be able to help.

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