A website relaunch can have various reasons. Projects that were important years ago no longer correspond to the zeitgeist and have to be updated or completely revised. Web design plays an important role in many companies and its renewal can quickly assume relaunch dimensions. And then there are solid legal reasons, such as a change of name.
For many companies, all of these are good reasons for a new “coat of paint”. Often a relaunch is more of a website migration than just a new coat of paint. In this article, we summarize what you should pay attention to most during a relaunch project.
Websites and shops that look like they did before the turn of the millennium no longer look attractive. Internet users trust these websites less or not at all. Thus, good web design also getting a commercial component – customers feel more comfortable in well-made sites that conversion rate rises.
The triumphant advance of mobile devices also plays a major role in relaunch ideas. A website must be displayed on a tablet or smartphone in a device-friendly manner. In the 1920s, there wasn’t a very sensible alternative to responsive web design !
If a domain move is also tackled in the course of a website relaunch, there are often other, more internal reasons. There can be trademark disputes, the company behind the website is renamed or two companies merge.
A website relaunch that becomes necessary, with or without a domain change, is time-consuming and involves various risks. If you have no other choice, you should at least follow these four tips and tricks so that the website relaunch doesn’t end in chaos!
Tip 1: planning and implementing the website move
Determine in advance which details on the website – beyond the domain name that may be required – need to be changed. Look at all of the content. Think about refining the content. Correct mistakes made when the website was originally created.
Make sure that an internal test phase is considered in the course of planning and that this is adequately documented. For example, use a wiki or a bug tracker.
Carry out the website (and domain) relaunch with a test system and work through the documented steps so that in the end you have a plan for the live migration.
Did the test migration fail? Discuss the bugs with your team, look for solutions, and do another test. You can only ” go live ” with the newly created project when the website is running correctly in the test environment.
The right time to migrate your website
Experts recommend the night for the website relaunch version to go live, as in most cases only a few users are online during the night. If the changeover can only take place during the day, the downtime should be used as a marketing or PR event.
From an SEO point of view, it is extremely important that – out of concern for “duplicate content” – the new live migrated pages are not kept on “noindex” – a setting that is often used for the test environment. If you are careless here, you will adopt the “noindex” from the test version to the new live version and significantly impede visibility in search engine results pages.
It is better than working with “noindex” to keep the test environment “offline” for the duration of the migration. This is very easy to do by protecting the staging version with a password via the “.htaccess” file. This prevents the search engine bots from accessing the new version during the development phase. It is then ensured that search engines can only access this version if all changes have been made correctly!
Tip 2: Check URL structures when moving your website
The URL structure should – compared to the old website – ideally not change ! If the website was previously running under ” http ” without SSL encryption (which was no longer recommended from a GDPR point of view), then you should switch to ” https ” during the relaunch.
If you still want to revise or improve the website structure – for a variety of reasons – or even have to do this because of a change in the content management system, please make sure that correct 301 redirects are implemented so that there is no loss of traffic. These redirects should definitely take place at the document level. For each individual “old” URL a redirect to the corresponding “new” one must be stored.
In order for the website to perform optimally, it should be checked for optimization needs using tools such as https://web.dev and Screaming-Frog and the tool suggestions implemented – if they make sense.
Tip 3: Website audit of internal and external links when moving your website
We have now learned that it is fundamentally good and important to allow enough time during a website move to check the website completely.
An important step here is checking internal and external links. For internal linking, a tool like Xenu’s Link Sleuth is a good choice.
The next look should be taken into the Google Search Console. Here every webmaster can identify external links that point to pages that are no longer available. All of these links should be redirected to an existing destination using a 301 redirect.
If you want or have to be very precise with the external linking, you should – in addition to the Google Search Console – also use tools such as ahrefs or Majestic. These tools often find significantly more external links than Search Console is willing to show.
Tip 4: check metadata when moving your website
Before the new website – possibly under a new domain name – starts, it should be checked whether it can be crawled properly by search engines. A properly set up robots.txt file plays a major role here. Creating a sitemap.xml can also be helpful – especially for large websites with more than 10,000 pages and many images and videos.
In addition, the content and metadata (page titles, meta descriptions, image titles and ALT tags) should be checked. Ideally, the metadata will remain the same – with the exception of references to old domain or company names, which may no longer exist after the relaunch.
Consistency in the metadata is important. The content of these areas – especially the page title and the picture ALT tags – has a major impact on the ranking of the associated websites. If a lot of information changes here, or if information is even lost, ranking losses are often the result.
In general, when you relaunch a website, a large number of changes are usually made in a very short time. If something goes wrong with a website move, it is quite difficult to pinpoint the one problem among the multitude of changes.
So if you are planning content adjustments – even if only at the metadata level, this should not be done at the same time as the design and / or technology relaunch. Performing these things afterwards in a separate work step helps to assign occurring problems to a specific optimization step.
Conclusion: Moving a website is not rocket science
These four tips for moving a website clearly show that such a task is not rocket science – even if it involves a domain change at the same time.
As long as you plan well in advance, nothing stands in the way of a successful website relaunch. Correctly set up 301 redirects, few to no changes to the URLs and the adoption of the existing metadata (page title and meta descriptions) help not to lose any traffic after the relaunch .