Launching a new website? Now’s the time to think about SEO

Posted on July 22, 2011


With the excitement and pride that comes with launching a new website for your company, one of the things that often gets put on the proverbial ‘back burner’ is SEO. SEO is considered by many to be something to think about after a new website has gone live, not before, as SEO companies can’t actually do any work on a website that isn’t finished.

This is of course a big mistake and, as many companies who do leave SEO until after the launch of their new site find out, one that costs them a lot of traffic, rankings and lost revenue.

Let’s look at an example: Say your company’s website has been around for several years, and you’ve been steadily building a strong online presence all of that time. Your website has a lot of organically built links from related websites, such as suppliers, news resources and blogs, and your site has hundreds (or even thousands) of indexed pages brimming with unique, relevant content. In other words, your website is in a ‘good place’ from an SEO point of view.

Then, however, you decide that a company rebrand is in order and you want a new website, built by a new company, to give your website a much needed overhaul of your image. There is of course nothing wrong with this – companies rebrand all the time, but how you plan the rebrand and relaunch online can be the difference between a seamless transition and one that costs you dearly in terms of online sales and conversions.

Worst Case Scenario

What’s the worst that can happen? If you’re an established brand with a strong identity, surely SEO isn’t even a flicker on your radar? The trouble is, without considering SEO when you launch your new site you could find all of your website traffic disappear overnight… and we mean ALL.

Say your new web design company decides on a domain name change, just to appeal to a wider audience, or because your company has merged with another, or because you simply want to rebrand? Again, nothing wrong with this; companies change domain names all the time too. However, if you simply change domain names and don’t handle the SEO aspect sufficiently you could find your website disappears from Google almost instantly (and when we say ‘find your website’, that’s just it – nobody will). To avoid this most disastrous of outcomes (and they happen more often than businesses would care to admit) you need to ensure that every page from your old domain is redirected to the equivalent page on your new one. This will tell Google where your new page can be found, and will allow you to retain the rankings your site has worked so hard to achieve all these years.

You also need to ensure that all of your content is ported across to the new design. Cherry picking the content that you think is the most important, or is worth the time, and abandoning the rest will see your website reduce in size and, therefore, reduce in worth to Google. Google isn’t going to be too happy to see a website go from 2,000 pages to just 300 and, as you have the pages already, why handicap your website in this way?

Think like a store

If you imagine changing your website as though you were changing your business address, it should make things much easier to understand (and emphasise the importance of SEO). If you move premises from one building to another, you would tell your customers wouldn’t you? You’d tell your suppliers and you’d tell everyone that needed to know – you’d also redirect your post, so you don’t lose anything important. Changing websites is the same principal. With a 301 redirect on every page, you’re informing people that you have moved and ensuring that they can still find you. Without doing that you’ll lose customers, as customers who can’t find you are no longer customers.

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 20 years’ experience in these fields.
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