When redeveloping a website for a client, it is important to follow some key steps to ensure the switchover is a success, and to avoid damaging a site’s existing authority or position in search.
These steps comprise:
- Website Strategy inc. analysis of existing site, competition and target market.
- Content including implementation of SEO best practice
- Pre-live checks
- Post-live actions
- Monitoring, analysis and continuous improvement
1. Analysis of existing site
When creating a new site for clients you should start by analysing their existing site to see where improvements can be made, as well as identifying what works well so this can be retained on the new site.
Besides ensuring that the design reflects the company’s brand whilst being attractive to its target audience, key elements that need consideration are:
- Ease of navigation
- Mobile responsiveness
- Browser compatibility
- Site load speed
Some great tools to analyse these are: Hotjar, Google Mobile-Friendly Test, Google Pagespeed Insights, Pingdom.
Often it's helpful to gain insight into website redevelopment best practices whilst analysing & creating a strategy. Feel free to ask our MD, Steve, for an (expert) outsider's perspective.
By completing a thorough analysis you can then create a detailed specification document for the new site, which will ensure your web designer and developer are fully briefed on what is required to make the new website as effective as possible for the target audience.
To ensure that a website is achieved that meets the client’s requirements, the actual design and development should go through a number of stages.
The design stage consists of:
- Home page design (flat visual): To ensure the client is happy with the general look and feel.
- Inner page design (flat visual): To demonstrate how inner pages of the site will be developed from the agreed home page design.
- In most instances, once these two elements are signed off by the client, the website will move into development.
3. Content - including implementation of SEO best practice
From the outset of the web project, consideration must be made with regards to the content that will appear on the new website.
To ensure that the content is keyword rich for the greatest optimisation potential, research should be undertaken to ascertain the best keywords to use relating to the products or services you provide.
It is also imperative to implement SEO best practice. This includes ensuring keyword rich meta data is completed including - but not limited to:
- Meta descriptions
- Image alt tags
- Page titles
- H1 tags
Once the designs have been signed off by the client the development team will work closely with the content team to work out the desired page structure and required functionality between pages/sections.
The build will then commence and will be built using the best practices available;
Cross browser and device compliant
Semantic HTML5 markup ensuring for best possible SEO
Optimise all assets to ensure load speed is the quickest possible for each device.
As soon as the main framework of the site is up and running the content team will start adding the content and images, it is at this point when the site really starts to come alive. Once we are happy with the how the site is functioning we will send the client access to the staging site for them to preview and check over the site before it goes live.
See our client projects for insight into the latest website redevelopment techniques.
5. Pre-live checks
We cannot stress enough the importance of thorough pre-live testing on sites to ensure there are no glitches, errors or navigational issues that have been missed which could affect the user experience.
This should include:
Search engine visibility, SEO, social and metrics
Content, styling and links
Browser testing - on multiple browsers and across multiple devices.
301 redirects (see more information on these below).
When switching an old site over to a new site, you should ensure that 301 redirects are implemented. These tell search engines that your site - and the individual pages within it - have permanently moved. We do this by checking through every old link and making sure they have a 301 redirect sending it to the relevant page on the new site.
This process ensures that the site is not affected in any way by the switchover - a smooth process is what you're aiming for - so that there are no residual effects on the site’s ranking in search results.
The main goal when doing 301 redirects is to avoid any 404 (page not found) errors, when users click on links to your site, as this can affect the site’s performance.
6. Post-live actions
After a site goes live there should then be a process of post-live checks to double-check that the site has switched over correctly.
Post live checks include:
- Creating an XML sitemap
- Configure Google Webmaster console and submit sitemap
- Submit forms and check goals are working
- Test 301s are working
- Check on Google to ensure site appears
- Add to Bing Webmaster console
Submitting the sitemap to Google and Bing Webmaster tools ensures that the site can be indexed by search engines. A sitemap should be re-submitted every time fresh content is added to the site so that it can be re-indexed.
7. Monitoring, analysis and continuous improvement
Setting a new website live is just the beginning. To ensure that your website continues to perform well, attracts visitor traffic and converts customers, it will require constant monitoring and analysis, and continuous improvement (you can see our content-focused approach here).
Google Analytics allows you to track a site’s performance and to set up and check goals to see if the site is converting visitors effectively.
Paying close attention to site visits, bounce rate, and organic search visits also allows you to monitor user behaviour throughout the site.
Data from Google Webmaster tools also allows you to check that the site continues to work correctly, as it identifies web crawl errors that can then be fixed.
The aim of search engines is to ultimately deliver the best result to the user; one that will provide them with the content most relevant to their search query.
Search engines crawl the internet looking for the sites, and pages on sites, that meet this criteria. They look for content that is relevant, fresh and reliable - i.e. from a site that has a good authority.
To give your site the best chance of being returned high in SERPS (Search Engine Results Page) it is important to continue adding fresh, new, relevant content to your site that will appeal to your target audience. This can be in the form of case studies, news items, articles, new pages etc.
There are always new techniques and trends, or search engine algorithms, that can help to improve your site, so it’s important to be aware of these and implement those that could have a positive effect.
Redeveloping a website can be a daunting task, but when you follow best practice, and engage professionals to help you through the process, it can be achieved and ultimately deliver you a more effective website for your business.
You can contact our MD Steve directly for advice on next steps, or look through our latest client projects for inspiration.