How many times do we hear this? A company spends vast sums of money and spends lots of time and energy putting together a lovely website that everyone is happy with. It is given the go ahead to launch and so we all sit back and wait for the wave of new customers and returning visitors.
The problem is your team forgot to ensure the new website is search friendly and the reality is that your organic search positions drop through the floor. What a nightmare, but one that happens far too regularly and also one that can be avoided if you plan correctly.
When you change your site without thoroughly thinking through the SEO implications, you might do something harmful like remove good content or change every page’s URL without making sure to redirect the old ones, and these are just the beginning!
Luckily, you can easily avoid this frightening scenario altogether by planning ahead and learning from the mistakes that others have made.
Mistake #1: But the new site is visually appealing!
Your designers have added eye-catching images to your new landing pages and got rid of the content all together in the hope of making your site visually appealing. Or maybe you moved to a more visual, Flash based design.
Never remove all of your content for a visual hit because that’s exactly what will happen – a hit!
Don’t make the mistake of forgetting to optimise all new images, or else the pages on your new site may load so slowly that potential customers exit before viewing any of the content.
Relying on Flash elements can also cause huge problems for SEO and will actually prohibit many mobile users from viewing the site.
In the land of online commerce, patience is not a virtue — today’s savvy customers are more impatient waiting for pages to load. Customers will abandon a page within three seconds if it hasn’t loaded.
Consider an example from the publishing world. The Financial Times, ran an experiment while working on a new version of its site. They wanted to understand how speed impacted user engagement, specifically, the number of articles read by visitors, this is one of the primary ways they measure their success. They then used this data to calculate the impact on their revenue.
What they found was that the speed of their site greatly affected their revenue streams, from many hundreds of thousands of pounds in the short-term to millions in the long-term.
Mistake #2: Don’t forget important content
Most of us understand that a successful website incorporates informative and unique content on every page, this content will be specifically targeted to your audience. This includes the behind-the-scenes content, too, such as descriptive alt text on images and meta data that adds clear details.
Although a new site provides a great opportunity to update weak content, it’s also critical to keep content that is already tied to your strong organic search traffic.
In this real-life disaster story of content migration gone wrong, an independent software house was desperately in need of a new site design and was hoping to update its technical content to create a better experience for the average user. Although they attempted to think through how to preserve their existing SEO practices, they proceeded with the update while making one major omission.
During the migration, a field in their CMS that automatically populates as a meta description was turned off and as a result, every single product page on their new site was missing a meta description.
Mistake #3: Don’t forget a No Follow!
When a website launch goes bad, the main failure is typically due to mistakes that were made in the early planning stages. Not allowing search engines to crawl your new site is a common error that often happens when sites are moved from the development arena to the live server.
Perhaps you used robots.txt to block search engine crawlers while the site was in development, but forgot to update the file when the site went live. Or maybe you accidentally put firewalls in place that are blocking site crawlers.
We have seen the case where a webmaster used a WordPress plugin called Wordfence to prevent bots from crawling the site, in an attempt to reduce server load and fake referrals. This plugin allows you to whitelist certain bots, allowing them to crawl the site. He whitelisted several known Googlebot IPs, but unfortunately Google switched the IPs it was crawling from, causing the new IPs to be blocked.
While these new IPs were only blocked for three or four days, it caused the site’s web traffic to halt. When the mistake was discovered, and traffic started picking up again, it remained sluggish.
Mistake #4: How important are mobiles!
Last year, the infamous “Mobilegeddon” update took the SEO world by storm when Google kicked into gear its mobile-friendly algorithm.
Although the impact seemed minimal at first, a later report by Adobe found that the new algorithm had as big an impact as feared. Adobe monitored traffic to over 5,000 sites and then split the results into mobile-friendly versus non-mobile-friendly. The report found that traffic to mobile unfriendly websites from Google mobile searches declined 12% in just the first two months of the update.
Additionally, according to a study from Moovweb, when a site is not mobile-friendly, there are obvious visibility, ranking, and usability consequences. If you focused primarily on how your new site would look on a laptop, you have inadvertently caused yourself more harm than good.
Today’s online shoppers are heavy mobile users who will be ready to bounce if your site can’t be properly read on a mobile device. The big algorithm changes caused multitudes of webmasters to change their sites so that they would still be visible in Google’s organic search results. Up to this point, smaller companies have taken the biggest hit from Mobilegeddon as they struggle to adapt to the mobile changes.
These are just a very few of the issues that website owners have come across whilst going live with their new website. Its easy to plan for these issues as long as you have a plan that looks at all elements, not just the look and feel of the site.
The old sayings are the best, those that fail to plan will plan to fail!