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Considerations for the website move

Date Posted: Monday, 29 October 2012 11:04
Posted By: brooke campbell

Out with old, in with the new!

For many Marketing Managers, updating a website is met with mixed emotions. On one hand you’re excited about launching this new marketing tool which will ultimately become the anchor for all your digital campaigns; and on the other hand you’re faced with the daunting work load, the looming deadline and expectations of your peers and managers.

Well here are a few things that I’ve picked up along the way, call it my sanity check list for migrating or updating your website. If you have any tips, tricks or comments, please feel free to make these in the comments section below:

Spring cleaning time!

Firstly, I typically export the site map of my current site (the old site) and identify what pages I want to keep. Over time (particularly if your website has been administered by different people), you’ll find random pages and the old ‘inactive’ pages.

You can decide how to go about doing this, but I typically put the site map in excel and have the following columns.

  • Section (i.e. About Us)
  • Sub Section (i.e. Management Team)
  • Page Title
  • URL
  • Keep? (Yes, No or Update)
  • Notes  (just in case you want to remind yourself about this page)

I then methodically go through each page to decide which content I want to reuse. You can add a ‘person’ or ‘department’ column if it would be better for someone else to make the decision.

Creating new content

If you’re creating new content AND reusing some old content, make sure the tone and writing style is the same. For example the previous content author may take a very corporate style, and you may have a very personal/inclusive style.

Your website should have the same personality through and through!

For SEO purposes, make sure you do your ‘keyword’ homework by using some of the free tools and Google tools available. Find out what keywords people are actually searching with to optimise your content for organic search. 

URLs

SEO friendly URLs are really important for SEO and for User Experience. If your CMS generates dynamic URLs (the URL normally contains the following characters:?, &, %, +, =, $, cgi-bin, .cgi)...then find a new CMS!

Which of the following example URLs makes sense to you?

  • www.Example.com/services.asp?active_page_id=117
  • www.Example.com/services/cake_decorating

Make sure your URL is meaningful to your users and useful for SEO purposes.

301 Redirects

This is REALLY IMPORTANT.

301 Redirects are incredibly important when migrating from an old site to a new site.

For example www.Example.com/products/Birthdaycakes, has enjoyed top spot for the search term ‘Birthday Cake Suppliers’; and this URL is listed on 100+ Party supplier websites.

On your new site you’ve got a new structure and URL. This content is now on www.Example.com/products/Cakes/Birthday

If you click on the old URL, you will get a PAGE NOT FOUND ERROR - so what should you do to prevent this from happening?

You need to implement a 301 permanent redirect. Once implemented, this will effectively forward the user or Search Engine crawler to the new site. If left broken, you will very quickly see all your hard SEO work wash away – plus you’ll have some rather grumpy customers :(

Just before you ‘go-live’ with your new website and have all the new URLs in place, you will need to match old URLs with the new URLs. I typically do this in Excel. This is a tedious job, but really important.

Click here to access Google’s 301 redirects page to find out how to implement 301 redirects.

Note: You only have to do this for pages that are available to the public i.e. not private pages. Check if your CMS has the capability to handle redirects. elcomCMS provides you with the ability to manage article redirects, it will also automatically redirect old URLs if you subsequently change your URL after it has been published.

Duplicate Content & Canonicalization

Duplicate content is frowned upon by the Google Search Engine and you can get penalised.  Basically it involves using the same content across multiple pages within your website or on other websites.

Sometimes using the same content across a site or between sites is unavoidable. For example, the ‘About Us’ content maybe the same across your subsidiary sites.

So how do you avoid being penalised? Learn more about Canonicalization here: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=139066

Note: Don’t over 'stuff' your content with keywords! You need to maintain the quality and ensure that your site is still comprehensible. 

elcomCMS also provides the functionality to manage Canonical tags, so that it’s easier to implement for non-technical users (like me!). 

Tell Google when your site moves

If you’re using a new domain i.e. from www.elcom.com.au to www.elcomcms.com, tell Google that you’ve moved!

You can find out how to do this here: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=83106

Keep Google updated!

Sitemaps are a way to tell Google about the pages on your site. By updating Google with your new site map you will help the normal crawling process and allow Google to identify the new pages on your site faster.

For more information about Sitemaps visit: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=156184

Note: Check if your CMS provides the functionality to automatically update Google with your latest sitemap. It will remove the tedious task of updating Google every time you add a new page, if you have this functionality. elcomCMS has this functionality, email us and we can give you a demo.

Ok there you have it, my considerations for migrating, moving or updating your website. Feel free to post your suggestions and feedback below!  

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