In the Hands of the Agency Gods

Hand of God

Most businesses at some stage have to place their online business in the hands of a Digital Agency. Whether it is a major redevelopment or simple redesign we are forced to use an agency for these services. This is where the fun begins!

What’s best practice? How will the old site move to the new one?

Question mark

These are both questions which can often be either overlooked or just ignored by developers who just simply might not know any different!

The problem that arises from all this is that the implications of getting this wrong can be catastrophic. In the last 12 months we have seen the following examples.

• A busy commerce site launched with “No Index No Follow” tags on the site, meaning that within two weeks the site had lost the majority of it’s hard earned rankings and traffic. These tags are designed to tell the search engines not to index a specific page, great when building a site but not when you want it live.

• A B2B services site launched a new website but forgot to redirect all the old URL’s from the old site. This resulted in a drop of over 60% of site traffic and when clicked all the old URL’s showed an error message. Very quickly the search engines began to remove the old URL’s from the search.

• A global ecommerce site launched a new website and redirected all the active URL’s within the search to a Generic Global site page. This resulted in a 70% drop off in traffic and is still falling. Search engines are now reducing the index of the existing URL, losing all the current rankings. Users who go to the old URL’s are taken to a generic page increasing the bounce rate!

These are just three examples, but these incidents are much more of a common occurrence than most people would imagine.

So why is this so important?

Well simply put, we spend our time trying to get our sites picked up by the search engines and expect to rank for the terms appropriate to our business. Every page of your site is seen as unique and is individually indexed by the search engines for the phrases and terms that are appropriate to the page. If you suddenly move this then the search engine will realise this page is no longer appropriate and begin to reduce the importance of your page resulting in you disappearing from the search.

So what do you need to consider when looking at making significant changes to your website?

These are some simple questions you should ask about what you are doing with your redevelopment.

Is the redeveloped site going to be Like for Like?

Like for Like

The new site might be an exact copy of the existing site, in this case you have very little to worry about. Simple checks with your project manager or agency liaison will ensure that there are no hidden issues like the “No Index or No Follow” or codes in the site files such as HTAccess file or Robots.txt.

 

Where is a site structure going to change?

Site Structure

This can involve simple changes such as changing the file structure for products, categories, site pages or blogs, either way consideration must be given to how these changes are going to be interpreted.

There are two main rules which should be considered at this stage,

Is the old page going to appear on the new site?

Old Page

If this going to appear on the new site a simple 302 or 307 as a temporary solution* or 301 moved permanently redirect can be used to instruct the search engines where the old URL has moved too. Care should be taken, a 301 redirect is a permanent solution you need to be sure before you implement this.

Where a page no longer exists, this page should be redirected to the most appropriate RELEVANT page. Consider what this page has been about, what would anyone looking for this page like to see? These pages have credibility, just pointing them to the home page as many agencies do is a complete waste.

In this scenario it’s imperative that your content is updated to mirror the new locations of elements such as images and links. These might seem trivial but these elements are overlooked and make a huge difference to your site. This might seem like a major task where you have thousands of pages but your agency should be able to advise how this can be managed on mass! Sometimes all it comes down to is pure hard work! You have spent time and money building up your business, don’t waste all that effort.

Moving Content

Moving Content

Every page within your site will have a title of some form and in many cases (It should have!) a description, when moving the site these elements should match the existing content at least, or be improved. From an SEO basis you don’t have to stuff these full of phrases, keep it simple, a straight forward title telling people what the page is about will do. Remember this is going to be shown in the search results and is the first opportunity you have to communicate with a user.

Once again we stress the importance of changing Image URL’s and links within the content, this can often be overlooked.

From an SEO basis

Dependant on your situation you will of spent time using outreach to build links to your site. When you move pages or change a link, it’s worth the effort of contacting the link owner and asking them to update the link URL for you.

Analytics

Ensure your analytics data is passed over to the new site. This is a monitoring tool which allows you to clearly see the implication and effect of a new website. Ideally your agency should be looking at the processes and making recommendations of how and what should be configured in your analytics to allow you to track and see the benefits of your new site.

Tips

Google Webmaster Tools / Google Analytics
These tools are free and tell you what Google see’s on your site, this should be looked at daily.

Products Redirects

For ecommerce websites old or no longer available, products can be a big problem as these can be difficult to manage. From an SEO basis you should be redirecting these to either an alternative product or a Parent category. These links have built up credibility and should be cherished, this can obviously vary on the scale in which you operate, but it is recommended that this should be applied to your site. Once again the 301 redirects should be used, Please bear in mind the URL will no longer be available so make sure you’re never going to want that product again.

Get advice

We offer an inclusive consultative service and can assess your requirements and provide briefs to your agency of what you need when moving or redeveloping your website. This is your business which you’ve spent years building these mistakes can cost you big time! For more information about this and any other service we offer please contact us:

We recommend using a temporary redirect initially just in case anything goes wrong, once happy it is best practice to use a 301 redirect.

By 2018, 42.4% of world’s population will be plugged into the internet, with around 3.6 bn people able to access it at least once a month.
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