Built into your website are a number of contributing factors that work to generate organic search engine traffic to your site. Many times during the launch of a new site, these contributing factors are over looked or not coded properly. When these factors are not transferred properly, the result can be a dramatic drop in traffic to your site. To avoid this potential drop in traffic here are several key points to speak with your web design team prior to your website launch.
301 redirects – Your website is constructed of many pages that each have a unique URL structure. Many websites URLs end in “.htm”, “.html”, “.aspx” or a number of different URL structures. Over the course of the life of your website, links are generated to each different URL on your site. These links help provide a boost to the SEO power of your website. When your new site launches, your URL structure may have changed. Now when someone clicks on an old URL, that page has moved to a different URL on your new site. When this happens the online user will not arrive at their desired location. This leads to a 404 error and can lead to a dip in traffic and SEO strength. So how can you avoid this potential mishap?
301 redirects are simple lines of code that act as instruction for web browsers. This set of rules determines where a person ends up when they click on a link to your site. When launching a new site one needs to make sure that their old pages line up to the new pages. (Example: If your old contact page is www.example.com/contact.html and your new contact page is www.example.com/contact/ , you will require a 301 redirect that tells traffic to flow from the old URL to the new URL)Failure to add in these redirects can lead to a significant drop in traffic. 301 redirects will also help to eliminate internal broken links by providing a proper redirection from an old page to a new page.
Rel=Canonical Tags – Depending on the amount content of your site, you are bound to duplicate some content across your site. With the frequency at which Google changes its Panda algorithm, the last thing you want to do is upset Google. Avoiding duplicate content at all costs is a must. Canonical tags are a great way to help avoid a penalty from Google. A canonical tag is used to give power to the content of one page over the content of another. ( Example: your website sells shoes and has a page for the same shoe in a number of sizes. Each of these pages will have relatively the same content. To avoid a duplicate content penalty use a rel=canonical tag. By placing a tag on each page that points to one singular page you will give all credit for the content to that page. This will tell Google that all content belongs to a single page and Google will not penalize you for the duplicated content)
Cross Browser Function – Does your current website work the same across all browsers? This is a common issue for websites. Your site may have components that work fine on Firefox be appear completely different on Internet Explorer or Chrome. Sometimes a web designer will build a separate CSS code for each different browser so your website looks the same universally. Slow load times can lead to negative SEO performance. Search engines prefer to recommend those sites that load cleanly and quickly. Users are also more likely to leave a site based upon its initial load time and its functionality. Make sure that your site looks and work the same across all internet browsers.
Mobile Friendly and Responsive Websites – With the growth of smart phones, tablets and iPads, responsive websites and mobile websites are more important than ever. A responsive site is one that changes layout based upon the size of the screen that a user is viewing it on. The change in layout makes it easier for the customer to view and use your site. This will lead to return users and help decrease the number of people who leave your site due to functionality. Mobile websites are similar but are normally designed completely different than your normal website. These sites are the same on all mobile devises regardless of screen size. Both mobile options will help customers navigate your site and increase user experience. The preferred (and recommended) option is a responsive website.
Social Media Buttons – Traffic to your website comes from a number of different places. When properly promoted on your website Social Media can be a large asset to your overall SEO traffic. By placing your social media buttons at the top of the page you can increase the odds of a website user viewing your social media. Those followers of your social media are then more likely to return to your site.
Is your new Website SEO Friendly? – Your website has SEO indicators that help search engines decide what page comes up for what keyword. Page titles and meta descriptions are SEO tools used to help increase your SEO capacity. Each page should have a unique set of page titles and meta descriptions. If your site is performing well for specific keywords it may be because of the meta data on the page. When launching your new website, make sure that your old meta data is transferred over for each page. This will help a page maintain its current placement.
It’s most important to make sure that your current site offers the tools to input page titles and meta descriptions. Many times websites are launched without this capability or the entire site uses the same meta description and title. This is a huge SEO mistake. Lacking the ability to control the page titles and meta descriptions for your new site can lead to drastic decrease in traffic and search engine standings.
New Blog Integration – Did your old site have a blog? Was that blog offsite or on site? A blog is a very powerful tool to help increase your search engine performance. Every time your write a blog you are adding a new page of content to your site. Each page represents another opportunity for your website to be seen online. While off site blogs are good, they do not create new content on your main site. Make sure your blog sits on your own domain name. (Example: Check that your blog has a URL such as : www.examples.com/blog or blog.example.com) If you have an offsite blog at the moment and want to launch your new site with all that old content, make sure your old blog directs to your new website or uses a rel=canonical tag. These measures will help your new site avoid a duplicate content penalty and avoid a dip in traffic.
XML Sitemap, Analytics and Webmasters Tools – An XML sitemap is a blue print of your website. This is a list of every URL that your site has. When attached to your website, this file can be sent to search engines to help increase the number of pages that a search engine reads on your site. Your old site and new site may have drastically different sitemaps. Odds are that your new site has a different URL structure and therefor almost none of them will be the same as on your old sitemap. To increase how fast your new site is read by Google, be sure to construct an XMl sitemap and load it onto your host server.
Google Analytics will not increase or decrease your search engine performance but is a great tool to track how your new site is performing. Be sure to find your current UN number for Google Analytics and install this on your new site. This will ensure that you do not have days without tracking numbers.
Finally, “Google webmasters tools” is an important addition to make sure your new sites indexes quickly. Since your new site has pages that Google has never seen, webmasters will speed the process for which they are read. With webmasters tools you can submit your XML sitemap for indexing and give Google all the content of your site at once.
Page Content – Do you have a single blog post or page on your site that shows up over and over again on Google? Odds are that the content on that page is very strong. When you launch a new site you may think rewriting all the content is the best idea, but this is not the case. Those pages with strong content should be kept relatively the same and other pages that are lacking need to be boosted with better content. So how do you decide? Using analytics numbers you can see which pages are landed on most frequently. Those pages will probably show up the most in search engines and therefor have great content for a given keyword. Make note of these pages when you decide whether to rewrite or not rewrite.
Content in general will be an important factor in the transition of your website. Before you launch your new site, check to see how many pages your old site has and compare it against the number of new pages your site has. These numbers do not have to be exactly the same but you want them to be in the same ball park. If your old website had 300 pages and your new site has 100 pages, odds are you are going to see a dip in traffic by this fact alone. Although not all content is great content, losing 200 pages of content decreases the number of chances your site has of being found.
Evergreen Content – One of the most important things when launching a new site is to make sure that all the content of your site is original. I cannot stress this enough. Do not take content from others sites unless it is your old site. Farming content from other pages will lead to a penalty from search engines. Make sure that you write all your new content from scratch. I would also check your old site to make sure you didn’t have farmed content that you did not previously know about. If your old site had duplicated content I would either remove it or have that page rewritten.
By Matthew Wilkos