Part 3 of our Site Rebuild Series: Technical Hurdles

hurdles

Website Launch Technical Hurdles

If you don’t know what to expect once your online store launches, here’s the best piece of advice we can give you – Expect the unexpected. Yes, we understand from an E-commerce supplier, that’s probably not what you were expecting to hear, but it’s the truth and it’s how we manage all of our successful site launches, by always expecting the unexpected. Of course there is protocol in place for a number of hurdles we typically jump, but what about those that slip through the cracks? We’ve assembled a list to help you avoid those cracks by utilizing intelligent and practical web practices. So let’s begin.

Web Address / URL’s

It is not the most comforting thing to hear, but in the real world, change carries risk. When going through a site redesign, if you are changing your URL structure, the most perfectly executed URL change – with 301-redirects – is going to take time for Google to process those changes. During that time, you could encounter a slip in page rankings and even get some errors. In the end, it comes down to deciding whether the change in URL structure is worth the risk. If you decide it is worth the risk, keep in mind these points:

  • Use proper 301-redirects which will automatically redirect the search engines (or any human visitor who has the page bookmarked) to the new page URL
  • Redirect URL-to-URL, for every page you want to keep.
  • Update all on-page links. The crawl paths in your site are still the most important signal to the robots that crawl your site – make sure you’re 100% internally consistent with the new URLs.
  • Don’t chain redirects, if you can avoid it.
  • Add a new XML sitemap. When changing URL’s it is important to let the search engines know that the URL has been updated. Without telling the search engines your site could result in 404 Not Found which will result in a negative hit in your search engine rankings
  • Create a custom 404 Not Found page. If you are not going to redirect the user to a new page it is a good practice to create a user friendly 404 – Page not found where you can offer a sitemap or a search box to help the user find what they are looking for on your new site.

Even done properly and for the right reasons, measure carefully and expect some rankings to bounce over the first couple of weeks. Sometimes, Google just needs time to evaluate the new structure.

Analytics / Web Master Tools

  • When building a new site or rebuilding your current site it is important to remember to include the analytics code on the new site.
  • Google Analytics helps monitor the traffic on your new site and without it you will lose vital information on the data that your site track.
  • Request a site re-crawl through your webmaster tools account. Most popular search engines offer a way to request your site to be re-crawled. Although the search engines will eventually re-crawl your web pages it is best to request a re-crawl of your popular pages so that users do not see outdated information in the search results.

TIP: Webmaster Tools is a free service offered by Google and is a great way to monitor errors on your site and other important information that the search engines see.

Sitemap

Adding a sitemap is crucial as it is a search-engine friendly index of your websites pages. If you already have a sitemap it is important to update it with any new URLs or the new URL structure that you implemented. Then it is important to submit the sitemap to the search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Download this free Moogle Module to get more of your store listed on Google.  And to learn more about sitemaps visit Sitemaps.org

Using Valid Code

An important factor in a new site is that it is using valid and up to date code. Using valid code will ensure that your site will be consistent across all browsers.
For more information on valid code or to validate your websites code visit Validator.w3.org

In Conclusion

There are many project-specific considerations that you must be mindful of during a site rebuild but the ones mentioned above are universal. The most important aspects are to make sure that the search engines and users can find your new site and that everything is consistent. Also, you need to be aware of user experience and sometimes you may have to sacrifice design for user experience.