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So then, you’ve decided it’s time to take the plunge & get a new website.  The old one wasn’t working for you (this assumes you’ve been testing and making improvements over the years - quite often spending money on website testing is going to give you better bang for your buck than a full re-design).

Before you head off think about a couple of things:

  • Who is doing the design (making things pretty)
  • Who is doing the website development work (back end, CMS etc)
  • Who is considering the customer in all of this (the actual marketing)

Frequently these 3 (very basic) requirements cannot be covered by the same agency – some are great at design but perhaps lack the marketing or development skills required, the same goes for the technically brilliant web developers who just draft in a freelance designer to do the ‘pretty bit’. We know we can’t do the design or the development bit (we bring in experts) – and that’s why we get brought in by design agencies and web developers alike to do the marketing bit.  Even better is when we start the project & base the entire website development around the customer rather than the Creative Director or Lead Developer!

Remember – you need to focus everything around what your potential customers need.

I digress… This was supposed to be a technical overview, so I’ll continue…

The Technical Checklist

I could go into lots of detail about each element enclosed in the list below but I won’t at the moment.  Consider this as a little checklist to take with you at your meetings with your web developers, designers & marketing agency:

Google Analytics
Is the code setup for the new site, what goals & funnels do we need, have we specified e-commerce tracking, have we blocked the IP addresses of the technical, design & marketing guys (as well as your own). Don’t forget to check it’s actually working!

Webmaster Tools
Set it up (Google & Bing), if you’re moving domain follow the Google Webmaster Tools instructions, monitor crawl rates, ensure there are no issues following launch, check website speed.

301 Redirects
I still can’t understand how so many websites get launched without *someone* asking about 301 redirects.  Not only are you going to harm your organic rankings but you’ll lose pretty much ALL of your organic traffic unless your URLs are EXACTLY the same for every page (I wanted to use more CAPITALS here but wasn’t allowed).  I mean SERIOUSLY how can you forget such a BASIC requirement.  Don’t know what they are – ask your SEO guys, if they don’t know, sack them.

PPC Advertising / Google AdWords etc
Make sure everyone who is involved with your website knows when your launch date is, what impact that will have on any other activity that is going on.  Bear in mind that if you change the name of a URL then that may need changing in other places (PPC campaigns, Social Media profiles etc).  If you don’t update your PPC guys then you’ll be burning money sending people to 404 pages.

404 Pages
Things go wrong sometimes with new websites (hell, they go wrong with old ones too!). Your 404 page is your “We’re sorry” page - especially if you have some teething problems this might be a much visited page until you find the issue!  If a user gets there apologise, tell them why you think it happened & help them back into the site – don’t just give them the standard “Page Not Found” rubbish.

Sitemap.xml
Useful things these. Not the biggest ranking factor by a long stretch but good practice. Just put it at top level as that’s where they’ll look for it.

Robots.txt
Use it if you need to, don’t overdo it & make sure it isn’t stopping indexing of your lovely new pages!

TEST, TEST, TEST
Check everything, do things wrong, check different computers & browsers – ask for your web development team’s testing schedule. Make sure it’s watertight.

This is only an overview of the basics.  But start here & work from there – if you miss these bits then something’s gone badly wrong.

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