There are many reasons why online businesses might make the decision to migrate or redesign their websites. It might be for SEO-specific purposes, like increasing web traffic and resolving technical issues that harm SERP rankings, or it might be more general as part of an overall shift in brand identity or business focus. No matter what the reasons for the change, it is important that the redesign boosts SEO rather than hindering it.
Unfortunately for eCommerce businesses, maintaining consistency during a website relaunch can be easier said than done. But if planned and executed properly, you can design a beautiful new site while boosting your SEO and attracting new visitors. Let’s take a look at some practical tips to avoid issues during website relaunch.
The key to relaunch is pre-launch
You’re surely excited to get your new site up and running, but before you actually redesign, there are a few things you will need to do to prepare. Then, once you relaunch, you should often do them again to ensure things went as planned. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should help you avoid common mistakes.
Have a detailed plan
Before relaunching your site, you need to ask yourself why you are undertaking the redesign and communicate this to your developers. Are you trying to rebrand your business? Have you been seeing a drop in sales or performance metrics lately?
If you and your design team can’t immediately answer this question, then perhaps you should delay your relaunch a bit to get some clarity. A website redesign can be a big undertaking, and you don’t want to go into it without having specific reasons for the change. And this will be important later when you want to test how the redesign helped (or didn’t help) you achieve your goals.
Once you have an idea of your specific purpose, you can map out a new site structure that is better able to meet these goals. Think about what you definitely want to keep, and what should probably be revamped. Be sure to organize the content and pages that are crucial to your business and are performing well. Think about how changes in architecture and design will contribute to your redesign goals.
Do your research
Related to the above step, as you are formalizing your plans for redesign, it’s important to understand your target demographics and your competitors. While you want your site to be unique, it’s still useful to look at competitor sites and assess what content and pages earn them a lot of traffic.
You should also take a look at websites you like (even if they’re not necessarily in your industry) and see what the latest design trends are that will suit your new themes and goals. As you come to understand these things, you will be better equipped to outline your objectives for your site, predict what will perform well in terms of SEO, and design your new site layout.
When preparing to redesign your website – especially if you did it yourself the first time – you may also want to consult with a web development expert. Keep in mind that many developers have additional specializations that might be relevant in your industry or to your specific reasons for a redesign. According to one survey, 54% of developers reported that they began their careers in another field, so you will likely be able to find a web developer with experience in SEO, marketing, or some related specialty to help you relaunch.
Establish baseline metrics
Web design is as much an art as it is a science, so there will always be some hard-to-quantify things about the layouts and themes that best communicate your brand identity. But before you do your redesign, you also need to have the hard numbers.
Make sure you document significant eCommerce metrics like conversion rate, bounce rate, ROI, load speed, etc. of your old site before relaunching your new one. It’s important to establish a baseline so you can measure growth after the relaunch.
This should also include mapping your internal linking and redirects. Look at all redirects in your site to make sure they work. Then, when you temporarily bring down your site to relaunch, you can check that all the new links still work and that you’re not delivering any 404 errors to your users.
This is crucial to map beforehand because, after the relaunch, this should be the first thing you check. Once your new site is up, you should crawl your own site to test that all pages and links are performing as expected.
Test, test, test
Website auditing should be a pre-launch, post-launch, and ongoing activity. Before your relaunch, you should have an idea of how your website looks and performs on different browsers, on mobile devices, etc. After the redesign, you should check this again, making sure everything is readable, images are clear and optimized, nothing wacky happens with the new layout on different browsers or screen sizes.
You should test page speed for all browsers and devices as well. Load speed is crucial for SEO, and often, additions to your site like new plug-ins or frameworks may slow things down. Google’s PageSpeed Insights does this by showing page load speed reports for both mobile and desktop devices with suggestions for improvement. Alternatively, free tools like Pingdom are well-regarded and perform similar functions.
Finally, gather feedback from your users to see what they like and don’t like about the new site. User experience is one of the most important categories of ranking factors, so you should collect quantitative and qualitative data to measure overall customer satisfaction after changes are made. Also, make sure you have a reporting system in place if customers find problems with your site, as well as bug bounties if anyone finds security vulnerabilities.
Check with your hosting provider
According to Nathan Finch of Best Web Hosting Australia, when preparing to relaunch your site, you need to make sure your hosting provider can help you migrate your current site to a new hosting account.
“Site migration is a fairly broad term often used by SEO experts to describe any significant changes to a website that can influence search engine visibility — such as changes to the content, URLs, UX, or design,” says Finch. “One of the best and most practical ways to transfer your current site to a new hosting account is via FTP (File Transfer Protocol). [Most hosting] providers utilize FTP to upload files quickly and conveniently, allowing you to transfer large files without any problems.”
If your hosting provider is inflexible with site migration, it might be time to find another one. If you’re already redesigning the site itself, don’t be afraid to review your hosting package and consider switching if you’re not satisfied. A site relaunch might even be the time to consider bigger system changes, like migrating to the cloud and going serverless.
Remember that website audits and optimization are not one-time activities. Once you relaunch, you should continue to monitor your site’s performance metrics, double-check for broken links or faulty redirects, prioritize content optimization, and more. SEO and web design go hand-in-hand in providing a quality user experience, which is what your online business needs to continue to grow.