If you’ve decided to get a new website, it can be a very exciting time, as your site brings with it the promise of increased business, more opportunities and a chance to update your brand online. However, it can also be a very concerning time, especially if your current website has a certain level of online presence that absolutely has to be maintained.
You may have rankings in Google you don’t want to lose. You may have a level of traffic you can’t afford to drop. You may have a stream of sales or enquiries you need to maintain. Whatever the situation, here are some steps you can take to ensure you experience no disruption to the business your website currently brings. These are also some of the basics that web designers neglect when creating new websites for clients, so it’s worth sharing this with your web designer as well to avoid any mistakes.
1. Ensure all content is migrated across to the new website
This is, perhaps, the most important thing to consider when having a new website designed if you already have an existing one. This is also missed so often by web designers, causing a complete drop in search rankings for the client, a drop in website traffic and, of course, a drop in business. If your website has hundreds, or even thousands, of pages that have been added over the years by you or your digital marketing company, you will need to ensure they are included on your new website.
Think of it like this; every page of your website – every blog, feature, product page and services page – is a separate destination. They are all indexed by Google and other search engines. They all bring visitors to your website. If those pages vanish when your new website goes live, you will lose hundreds (maybe thousands) of listings within Google. All of the visitors to your website from those listings, to those pages, will stop.
By not ensuring all of your content from your existing website is migrated to your new website, you are essentially throwing away all of those listings, all of those visitors and all of that potential business.
We’ve seen it happen – many times.
2. 301 redirect all pages to their new locations
In addition to migrating all of the content, you need to ensure it is 301 redirected to its new location. What do we mean by that?
Let’s imagine all of your current blogs sit in a folder called ‘news’, so your blogs might look like yourdomain/blog/yourpost.html. On your new website, your website designer decides to change the folder from ‘blog’ to ‘news’. All of those pages are indexed by Google and they have suddenly disappeared. All of the new pages exist in /news/ and they need to be reindexed by Google. This takes time. While that’s happening, you are losing website traffic.
Even if Google wasn’t the issue, what about those other websites that have linked to pages on your website? They’re now linking to pages that aren’t there, as they have moved. This produces a ‘404 Page Not Found’ error. I’m sure you’ve followed a link from a website before and have been presented with one of these. It’s annoying, isn’t it? It’s also very easy to avoid.
Redirect your pages to their new locations – all of them.
3. Remove the ‘no index’ command from the robots.txt file
Ah, the most destructive error made by website designers when launching a new a website. Also the easiest error to make.
When designers are working on new websites, they often block them from search engines while they’re designing them. This is common practice as it means the website doesn’t get indexed by search engines while it’s being built.
However, they often forget to remove this when they put a new website live. This means the website, your new website, goes live and contains code that completely blocks search engines from accessing it. You will receive no traffic from Google because Google has been told, categorically, to go away.
It’s such a simple mistake, too. The offending code looks like this:
The ‘User-agent: *’ means all user agents, or all search engines. The ‘Disallow: /’ means to stop them from accessing all files and folders after the ‘/’, which is your entire website. What the code should say, is this:
Spot the difference? The absence of the ‘/’ means that all user agents, such as Google, are disallowed from nothing. In other words, they can access the website and index it. It’s one character, but it’s the difference from you having lots of traffic to your website, or no traffic at all.
4. Ensure codes, such as Analytics, are copied across
Another common issue, and one we see all the time, is when the website designer neglects to copy across essential codes to the website, such as Google Analytics, Google Console verification code, Facebook Open Graph or Twitter Cards meta data. The Analytics code is the most important of these codes, as it constantly tracks visitors to the website and, if it’s missing, will lead to a loss of data for your website’s traffic.
You may also have goals and events set up in Google Analytics, tracking your sales, downloads or content form submissions. If these are not included and amended as necessary, you will no longer have any goal or event data.
5. Take care when moving the domain and email
This one is such a complicated subject, it could be a blog in its own right. Actually, it could be a series of blogs.
If your new website is being designed by a different web designer to your current one, and they’ll be taking over the domain management, there are a host of potential issues with the domain name.
Firstly, moving the domain gives them control to renew it. You will now have to renew your domain through them and, should they go out of business, you may find it difficult or impossible to get access to your domain name. We have seen businesses lose their domains entirely when their web designers shut up shop.
Your Name Servers need setting and your DNS needs configuring. If this sounds complicated, it’s because it is. Your Name Servers reference the server, the physical server, that your domain points to. At Engage Web, we have our own Name Servers we use to manage DNS for our clients. Some companies use their hosting provider, such as 123-REG or 1and1 Internet. The DNS then needs to be configured to point at the server where your website is hosted, and it needs setting up for your email
Did you think about your email in all of this? If you use something like Office 365, the DNS records need to be copied across for this to continue working. If you use iMap, you’ll need to download your email, replicate the settings on your new server, and import your email to ensure you don’t lose any data.
You’ll also then need to change the settings on any devices you use, such as phones, tablets and computers.
Finally, you’ll need to ensure any contact forms have been properly configured to work with the new server and email settings. We’ve seen this before when the new server was configured incorrectly for its Mail Routing, which meant the client wasn’t receiving email through their contact form.
These are just five matters you need to consider when getting a new website designed. There are a lot more, some obvious and some very technical. All of them have the potential to scupper your website and any business you might receive through it. Make sure that whoever you choose to design and build your new website knows what they are doing.
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