So, you have finally got around to accepting the quote for your new replacement website and you’re set to get started.
It’s exciting and many companies at this point get blind to what they need to do at this stage, engrossed in the design on a desktop appliance, and begging for a site that inspires.
We get it!
When our clients are ready to jump and leave behind their old website for the new shiny model, we know that is exactly where our work begins!
If the client’s site has been relatively successful in the past, if their enquiries were good and it’s just because the site is tired, there are a few things you need to know and to ask your developer BEFORE you make the switchover.
Don’t dump your old site UNTIL you have covered off these points….
Search Engine Optimisation
Is this part of their brief?
I recently waded in after a client had commissioned a new site and the developer told them after it had been built “…we don’t do SEO”.
The site was launched with no thought to what redirects would be needed (the bit that stops you getting broken pages and frustrated visitors), what important keywords they were writing the copy to include, and indeed the keywords the old site was already ranking No.1 for in search.
Google Analytics hadn’t been installed so there was no opportunity for continuity and for understanding what happened to their traffic when they changed. Most of the old blogs had been left behind as being ‘TOO OLD’ (including those that ranked very highly for important keywords that they had been written to support) and the site had been rushed and was full of broken links. The Google Map on the contact page still pointed to the country of origin that the developer had contracted the building of the site out to. Even confidential forms went to the wrong people and Google adverts were left pointing to non-existing pages…
It is never acceptable to go live with so many errors on a site.
Google is indexing quickly now and with so many problems to resolve AFTER it went live, it wasn’t long before Google Search Console was complaining about 404s (broken links) and pages set to “no index” that were already in the sitemap and indexed. The list was endless, and it wasn’t the client’s fault. They had been told the site was ready and they believed it. Why wouldn’t they?
So, what should you ASK your developer before “go live”?
What I say next sounds complicated, but it isn’t, and any website developer worth their salt should know these things…
- Have all the redirects that need to be done actually been done so they will not lose their power? These are pages that had been indexed previously within the search engines, were ranking well, and whose URL structure had changed (or they had been removed) because of the new website.
- Have they done a site-wide check for broken links and switched over any that were linked to the development site?
- Have they tested any forms to ensure they are working and being received by the proper people?
- Is the first basic level of SEO in place? Alt text in the code for pictures, attractive SEO page titles set up, and enticing keyword rich meta descriptions written (the bit you see in the listings when you search).
- Can they demonstrate that they have taken due consideration of what pages on the old site were ranking, particularly popular blogs, and brought the copy over or ensured another page could do the same – although this is less preferable?
- Is the map pointing to the right address?
- Is the developer changing the URL at all? E.g. http://www.mycompany.co.uk to https://mycompany.co.uk. f this is happening, and I have seen this as well, it means yet another level of redirects is needed for the site. Once the number of redirects goes past 2, the search engines lose a bit of love for you: you have upset their definition of a good user experience and made the pages slower to load! This is a problem that can be solved but your devloper needs to do it at server level in the HTAccess file.
- Has the site got an SSL Certificate? This is the bit that secures the site and gives you the much trusted ‘https’ beginning part of the site URL. Check this is included in the price of the site build as some developers charge ridiculous fees to purchase these afterwards.
- Is the site full optimised for speed? Have you any pages that are too big and will load slowly on mobile? Remember, you are ONLY ranked on your mobile site now, so it doesn’t matter how it performs on a desktop, Google doesn’t care!
- Is your Google Analytics (GA) connected? If you have years of information in your account, it is incredibly important to ensure that you can measure the success of this new site as time goes on. GA tells you what is working well.
- If your email is attached to your current hosting platform and that is going to be moved – have they taken this into account so you don’t lose all your current emails?
- If you have any digital advertising pointing back to your site, particularly those serving as landing pages, has the URL changed and does the page still exist? If not, you will be paying out money to send people to a 404 broken page link!
- Will the new sitemap be submitted to Google Search Console for indexing on completion? This will speed up the knowledge held in the search engine databases and help you be found…BUT if you do this too soon, and your site is not really ready for being live on the internet beware that this will exaggerate the problems!
- And finally, it is a very small thing, but you don’t know how important it is until it is not there… the Favicon! The simple little image that sits in the tab of your browser telling to where the page is and that it is still open… make sure your developer includes this handy little feature.
So in short, talk to your developer, a good one will just do all these things and you won’t know they have even been done BUT those with less experience may not have covered off all those points – it’s certainly not the first time I have seen this, and I don’t suppose it will be the last time, but we live in hope!