Having recently launched our own new site, and worked with some existing client’s who had quite large sites and were looking to re-launch, we thought it would be worth a post about some of the things you should do, and NOT do when you are relaunching your website.
Redirect, redirect, redirect!
Aside from the obvious things such as making sure your new site works, redirecting is one of the often most overlooked aspects of launching a new website. What is redirection and how does it work you might be asking….
Imaging your old website is made up of hundreds (or even thousands) of pages. Google knows the address of each of these pages, and keeps a record of them. When your website appears in the search results, Google will displays those pages in the search results.
Now imagine you launch your new website. Suddenly all the old addresses are gone. All the pages Google knows about no longer exist.
At this point you have 2 options; 1. You can ignore the fact, and not worry about it, and accept that your traffic is going to absolutely nose-dive, and the user experience is going to suffer. Or 2. You can create a set of redirection rules, telling Google which page on your NEW site, corresponds to which page on your OLD site. If done properly, Google will follow these redirections, and remove the old pages from it’s index, replacing them with the new pages. Perfect.
Never, never go offline….ever!
No matter what the reason, or who tells you, and no matter how plausible the reason may be….never, ever let someone take your old website offline whilst you wait for your new one to go live. The reason is again…Google. If Google visits your website, and it isn’t there any more, it WILL remove it from it’s index. Your website might have been online for years building up authority and equity on Google…. taking it offline is going to undo all of that work, and leave you in a much worse position.
Launch Out Of Hours
If your new website is on a different hosting server, you will most likely need to change DNS settings which takes time. It can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours for DNS changes to spread around the internet DNS servers. So, when the change is made, there is a possibility that some people will see the old site, and some the new for a short period.
To mitigate any confusion during this time, you should launch the new website at a time when not too many users are accessing it. We normally suggest launching at the end of a working day, so that by the start of the next working day we can be sure that everyone is seeing the new site, not the old one.
Google provide a free tool called Webmaster Tools. It provides information about how your site is performing, and warns you of any problems. Specially it will notify you if for any reason Google cannot access your site, or encounters a large number of errors.
Make sure your existing website is authenticated with Webmaster Tools, and keep a close eye on it during the launch of your new website.
Always plan how you are going to launch your new site, and stick to the plan. Don’t rush into it, and most importantly think about your existing traffic, and existing google listings. The reason anyone launches a new site is to improve exposure, so the last thing you want to do is harm your existing positions and traffic.