3 Best Practices for Website Switchovers

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Congratulations on your shiny new website!  A better website user experience, more intuitive navigation, and contemporary look and feel can make a big difference in terms of how prospects find and perceive your brand so congratulations on putting in the time and effort to get your website to the next level.

Now that you’re almost ready to switch over to the new website, let’s go over 3 things that are easy to overlook but that could be hugely important for your website switchover being seamless:

  • Redirects
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • AdWords

Redirects
If your new website features changed URL names or pages that were on the old site but not the new site, it’s important to have redirects.  For example, if your old site used to have a page with the URL www.example.com/sweaters but your new site’s equivalent page has the URL www.example.com/products/sweaters, it’s important to have a 301 redirect so users who type in www.example.com/sweaters (from an old search in their browser history) are directed to www.example.com/products/sweaters.  If a page is permanently removed and no longer exists on your new site, it is probably best to have a custom 404 page that lets the visitor know the page no longer exists.

Forgetting to put in redirects can confuse and frustrate users, and diminish your site’s perception in the eyes of search engines.

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to undertaking efforts to optimize the standing of your website for search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. This can involve many things, both those off your website (like getting your business on online directories and setting up/optimizing Google+ pages) and on your website (like the actual words on your web pages and the meta data on your website).

When switching over to your new site, be sure to not forget about the meta data, like title tags (the blue text in the links in Google search results) and meta descriptions (the 2-line description below the title tag).  Elements like these have a big impact on how Google and/or website searchers perceive your website so it’s important to review your website’s current meta data and ensure everything is applicable and optimized for your new site.  Google places value on meta data consistency for website transfers but if it is outdated (applies better for the old site than the new site) or not optimized, it is probably prudent to change it.

AdWords
Google or Bing AdWords enables you to place ads in search engine results pages (SERPs).  These are the results at the top of pages (or, until recently, on the right-hand side, in Google’s case) denoted with a yellow “Ad” symbol.  AdWords accounts are divided into campaigns, which contain ad groups, which in turn contain keywords.

A common best practice is to have your AdWords account structure of campaigns and ad groups mirror your website’s structure.  For instance, if you have an e-commerce golf products website, its top nav may include “Clubs”, “Balls and Tees”, “Accessories”, “Gear”, etc.  Your AdWords campaigns could also be “Clubs”, “Balls and Tees”, “Accessories”, “Gear”, etc., with “Clubs” having ad groups like “drivers”, “irons”, and “putters”.

If your new website has a different navigational structure than your current site, or has new features to showcase (potentially new campaigns, ad groups, or keywords), it’s especially important to check your AdWords account and see if it needs updating as a result.

Conclusion
A new website can have a powerful set of benefits for your business.  But when the big day comes for your new site to go live, simply switching it out for your old website is a recipe for limiting its power.  3 critical considerations for your new website switchover are:

  • Redirects
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • AdWords

Think of how your new site differs from your old site, and what this means for your business, particularly in the context of redirects, search engine optimization, and AdWords.