You have decided to completely overhaul your existing website. Well done! I applaud your courage and dedication, as revamping your main online marketing tool isn’t exactly a walk in the park. And there are certainly risks involved, of taking one step forward and then two steps back. Like all major undertakings, you need a plan and a timeline. Some steps to include in your website redevelopment plans are:
- Evaluate your current website, and try to establish its strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Do not forget to look into your website’s statistics to see what your traffic is telling you. Learning all about your top visited pages, keywords used to find your site and visitor navigation paths are just a few of the information nuggets that can really help you pushing things forward.
- With all of this information you can determine what to do with all of your assets: your text, images, videos and other web components – without sacrificing anything already established. Think about your website’s preferred structure (“information architecture”), adding/deleting/editing of existing website assets, technical consequences like new file names (URLs), a new programming language or new features like a blog or forum (did you visit the Chamber forum already? Visit forum.cwchamber.ca today!).
- This is the time to dot i’s and cross t’s. Were there additions to your old site that were not exactly elegant solutions? Do you have a custom 404 error page? Is there a nice Thank You page for your contact forms? And if you do have one (well done!), then make sure that all of this continues to work on your new site. If there ever was a time to fix what’s broken on your website, then this is it!
- Send moving notices – virtual ones. Submitting a new Google Sitemap is a good start. But most website renos will lead to the renaming of at least a few file names (URLs) – usually many of them. In this case, incoming links to the old page URL will become dead links. And you don’t want that. This problem is easy enough to solve for incoming Pay-Per-Click links from providers like Google AdWords (you just change the destination URL for your ad; don’t forget!), but for other incoming links (from Google’s main search index, for instance) you will have to do something a little more involved: 301 permanent redirects. These will tell browsers and search engines that your page has moved, and includes an implicit request to update the link from the old to the new address. If you do this, you will see Google indexing the new URLs soon and abandoning the old ones. Other websites and directories will likely not be so proactive, so you should review your visitor traffic logs for 404 error messages (“page cannot be found”), so you can inform specific other websites of an outdated link on their website. A quick email explaining the situation will often lead to the other website adjusting your URL, preventing the 404 error page from being triggered again. And after a while, most of your 404 error messages will have vanishes from your log files. Make sure to ask your webmaster to add 301 redirects to the pages that did not make it to your new site. Google doesn’t like dead links, and will reward you for your corrective measures.
As with any transition you should expect some setbacks. By implementing the advice given in this column you will reduce your risks by a significant factor. It will help you making a smooth transition from the old to the new – and I am not just talking about trading good old 2009 in for 2010; Happy New Year to all of you!
For more information: contact your Webmaster, or contact Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce Director Nardo Kuitert at firstname.lastname@example.org or 519-787-7612.