As we have discussed in the first blog post, relaunch management offers many opportunities to optimize and enhance a modern company website for target markets, lead generation, and search engine visibility. In order to mitigate the risks involved in a relaunch, using a professional relaunch management service can ensure that the project is delivered on-time and that the investment for the project pays off.
The Planning Phase
Investing in a website relaunch is not a small endeavor, and needs to be planned intensively due to the complexities than can arise throughout the process. It can be extremely costly to go back into the programming or technical side once the new website is live to fix an error or implement a forgotten feature. This is why planning should be done by professionals who know the ins and outs, as well as what to expect from the process and experience to know how to handle issues as they arise.
Status Quo Analysis
Running a status quo analysis in the beginning of the planning phase is crucial. It’s essential to fully analyze where the website (and its content) is performing well in search engines and lead generation (also vis-à-vis competitors), and where there is room for significant improvements. Looking at search engine rankings for each page, important keywords, as well as studying website traffic patterns and inbound leads helps those involved better identify the strengths and weaknesses—thus allowing the planners to fix errors and improve usability, searchability, and website functionality simultaneously.
Customer Survey and Analysis of Target Groups & Markets
Of course, while search engine visibility is an important factor for driving potential customers to your website, it is important to remember that ultimately it is people that are the ones using it and looking for information. Therefore, it is important to have a good understanding of how your customers and target groups view your website in terms of the content available, structure, and contact features. This also includes looking at who is the decision maker for your customers, and what type of information do they need to decide? Videos, images, and case studies can enhance decision-making processes. Each industry and target group has different needs and expectations, making it imperative that your website offers all of these touchpoints.
It is also important to think about different cultural differences (such as images, colors, branding, etc.) that could be potentially offensive or off-putting to certain markets. Making sure there is local contact information, and that the content is localized (not merely translated) to key languages can offer a professional and much-appreciated touch to key markets and potential customers.
The best way to discover these weak points is to engage directly with the customer—after all—this is the entire purpose behind having a web presence to begin with.
Based on preliminary research and analysis, the next phase of planning for the new website can begin. This includes deciding about the site structure, layout, design, content, etc. and should fit into a complete content strategy. While this step can be tedious given the many decisions and decision-makers involved, it is important that the website have a clear plan as early as possible, so that it can be incorporated into all following decisions and processes. This includes adhering to deadlines.
Early discussions of SEO are also crucial to the relaunch process. Websites should be reviewed and optimized on conceptual, technical, and content-related factors of SEO principles. There are several tools available, both free and premium, that can assist with this process. Google Webmaster Tools is one of the most common, and involves placing a verification code onto the website before it goes live. It is also important that the new XML sitemap is added into Webmaster Tools, which helps Google’s algorithm to find and crawl your new site. Other important factors that affect Google rankings include regular content updates (such as blog posts), the value-add of content, backlinks, and social signals. New websites also need to have a clear, readable structure by making use of clear navigation, simple URLs, use of H1 and H2 headings in text, internal links, rich media such as images, PDFs, and videos, as well as metadata for each new webpage. Keywords for which the site or page should be ranking need to be included in the page title, description (snippet), and the URL itself from the beginning. It is better to get these tasks out of the way early on, so that once the website is live, it can receive the full SEO benefits from the get-go.
The most important piece of the relaunch management is the implementation of 301 redirects. There are several ways to go about this process. In order to receive the most SEO payback for your investment in the old website, each and every old URL needs to be forwarded to the appropriate page on the new site. Because old URLs (links) continue to rank in the Google index even after a relaunch, it is important that visitors are directed to the new content, rather than receiving a 404 error. If a website has a sudden increase in 404 errors, not only can the pages not be accessed, but this substantially harms that website’s ranking in Google and other engines. Therefore, it is important to forward these links with 301 redirects to preserve rankings as well as protect against future decreases.
Finally, in order to measure web traffic and the performance of the website after the relaunch, a tracking program must be developed for the new site. For example, if new contact forms or callbacks have been implemented, it’s essential to keep track of the number of submissions, and more importantly—where those submissions are coming from (Referral traffic). Without tracking, measuring the performance of a website is almost impossible.
The Implementation Phase
Once the planning, testing, and above mentioned points have been put into place, there are still a few things that need to be implemented prior the go-live date.
Online Marketing Campaigns
For a website relaunch, the URLs need to be updated or changed in any online marketing campaigns, such as SEA campaigns or banner/display campaigns. Otherwise, it is a waste of money to have users end up on 404 pages. Furthermore, Google AdWords will reject any add with such an error in its target URL, so it’s best to avoid future headaches and change these items.
In additional to online marketing campaigns, any links to the website that are included in catalogs, portals, or presentations also need to be updated. Company profiles on social media should also reflect the new URLs, as well as any links on partner or customer websites. Again, this prevents users from landing on a 404 page and preserves the investments already made in backlink building.
The Follow-Up Phase
Now that the new website is live, Google Webmaster Tools, any SEO tools (such as Searchmetrics or Xovi), and tracking (Google Analytics) should be monitored daily. In particular, the index status, crawl activities, number of 404 errors, site rankings, and traffic/lead levels should be carefully watched. In the initial phase, it is possible to correct any errors or weaknesses and thus minimize and adverse effects on search rankings. The more the new website is optimized from the beginning, the faster the process will be as a whole, building upon previous successes.
These recommendations relating to relaunch management provide an overview of the most important concepts and processes to incorporate into your own relaunch project. The key to success is to carefully and in detail plan, budget, and schedule the relaunch to as to remain within resource constraints and stay on track. Accountability within the team managing the process keeps everything moving smoothly and ensures that nothing can get in the way of your website relaunch.
For more information or to see how effective world can assist with your relaunch project, please contact Ms. Sara Valerie Noori by phone at +49 621 17893 150 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.