bab.la is in the process of relaunching its website bit by bit. We started with our most important product: the bab.la dictionaries. There are many aspects to take into consideration to relaunch such a big part of the website. Here I would like to compile a checklist of factors website owners, SEOs and programmers should acknowledge and evaluate.
- Firstly it is vital to define a strategy and with it the goals you want to achieve with modifying your web presence. It should not be the case that you or your boss are just tired of the design of the page because you are looking at it every day. You should consider the audience and users’ needs when deciding on new designs, changing the navigation or adding new tools. Also, an excellent website relaunch is planned, takes place in phases, is tested and constantly improved.
- A search engine friendly site architecture is an important factor for a crawler and ultimately for the user to discover and understand a website. Sites that generate a lot of traffic should not be on a low hierarchical level so it is easy to travel to that site from the homepage. Furthermore a cross linking between the strong pages is vital because this is increasing the link popularity and finally the ranking of the site.
- When relaunching a website it is most likely that you will change the site architecture and with it the URLs as well. Examples are that you are renaming or merging categories or that you change from or to subdomains. These decisions need to be discussed and agreed upon at the beginning in your vision and strategy. Here it should also be considered to change to SEO/user-friendly URLs. Now you need to map out all old pages and relate them to the new URLs with a 301 permanent redirect. This will eliminate 404-Error pages and direct users from search engines to the now correct pages.
- On top of that you also want to keep tracking your traffic, conversions and your adwords campaigns. This means to transfer your old analytics to the new website so your account will continue to show all your data. Especially now, but also on any other day, it is crucial to see what is happening on your website, how users react to the changes, if the bounce rate increases and if you still get enough people through the important and correct sources. You should also let the Google Webmaster tools know that you have moved to a new domain.
- Redesigning and restructuring the website is not the only part you should be thinking about. It is vital that you also consider your mobile users. There are certain options you can choose but the most advanced technique is probably building your website with HTML5 and make it responsive to all mobile devices. Additionally you can also create apps for the most popular mobile operating systems iOS and Android.
- As many SEOs in the industry point out it gets more and more important to create a brand, especially since the recent Panda and Penguin updates. Meaning that a keyword domain, or an exact-match domain (EMD) as Google calls them, will not generate success in the long term. Build a brand, design or redesign your logo and update your website with all the relevant brand messages.
- Careful with duplicate content! This seems to be an evergreen subject but it really is important, especially since the Google algorithm updates (especially Panda and Penguin). Remember that search engines read texts, so do not hide the good content in images. This is also important for the navigation because flash menus are invisible for search engines. Use the important keywords wisely and do not overdo it. Do also take a look at your titles and description in order for them not to be duplicates either. Check the Google Webmaster Tools in the HTML Improvements tab to find out more.
- When you moved parts of your website or the whole project to different domains and URLs then your link building strategy has to accompany that change. Contact all the websites again and ask them to include your new link and explain shortly how you improved the website.
- Now, and this should be done throughout the whole process, it is time to test. Test everything. The new design, new products, new functionalities and the new site architecture. Also consider different devices and browsers. Test it within your team because they know how the website should work and can spot mistakes easily. But then you also need to test with external users who are not as familiar with the project as you and your team are. They will uncover problems you would not have thought of in a million years. Things that are obvious to you might not be so obvious to a ‘normal’ user of your website.
- Lastly, you also want to let everyone know that you have relaunched your page. Use press portals, social media, your corporate blogs and newsletters to direct attention to your new site.
There are obviously more things you have to consider when relaunching your website, and they also depend on the structure of your site, the goals you want to achieve, and the target groups you want to reach. If you think there are some important points missing then please add them in the comments below!