Original article published by Susan Finch
Usually, we get tired of our own website designs before anyone else does, especially if we look at it several times a day. It's also important to stay current in design and content making the visitor's experience enjoyable and inspiring them to contact you. There are a few things to be aware of and take care of before you pull the plug on the old site and switch to the new one. Take your time, it could save you tons of 404 errors, frustrated visitors and lost revenue.
BEFORE YOU FLIP THE SWITCH TO THE NEW SITE:
Look at your analytics to see what the top 25 pages are and focus on those first.
Make sure those URLs will still work, or that you have set up a 301 redirect in your HTACCESS file or using a WordPress plugin or any other method your developer suggests. If they haven't suggested this, you may want to consider another developer.
Make a note of these, because any internally linked pages to those pages will need to be updated if the URLs are changing. That can be done with mass replacements in the database or using a temporary plugin like Velvet Blues URL changing tool.
Are you dead set on removing pages?
That’s fine, but make a list of the URLs you are deleting for future redirects.
Are all of your pages changing after your main URL?
I mean, will your pages no longer say https:// mydomain.com/custom/name-of-page.html will they now be /custom/name-of-page/ ? That’s a major change and will require a TON of redirects or thought of how to minimize the redirects.
If it was a really popular page but is just outdated, update the content and tuck it away.
Something to consider, if the pages are just old, but the URLs have been around a long time, why not update the post or page? You can also tuck it away in an archived area, but use it to drive traffic to other areas of your website.
Go to Google Search Console to see all errors and inbound links.
What sites are linking to your content? Are some sites really tied to you? If so, make a list of THEIR ULRs/page links that link to you and what they are linking to. You want to make sure those will work, redirect or that you can contact that site with the update so they don’t look foolish sending people to broken links.
Are you running ad campaigns that link to specific landing pages?
Check in your AdWords, Facebook campaign manager and other social tools, including Amazon. If you also sell books, you may have more links to catch.
Do you have drip campaigns that link to specific pages and posts?
Make sure they are all still working or update the calls to action. Sometimes when we make drip campaigns, we forget to test all the messages each year. Now is the time for that. Make a note of the URLs in the CTA to compare to your list of top pages and pages you are deleting.
WHEN YOU ARE READY TO FLIP IT OVER:
Make sure your testing domain will still work in case you didn't switch all the dev links.
Make sure your SSL certificate is keyed to the new domain and/or location.
This alone can be a multi-day process if you have your site hosted in one place, your domain in another, your DNS in another and your SSL in yet, another place. That's a mess.
Check all navigation and links that they will switch over from dev to the final URL.
AFTER YOU SWITCH TO NEW SITE/STRUCTURE:
Check all forms first, including subscriber forms. I mean really fill them out. Did the person who should receive it receive it? What about CRM systems? Salesforce, Marketo, HubSpot and the like - do you have links in those modules that need updating?
Update/annotate Google Analytics to mark the date and make note of the change to track the dip, if any, in traffic. This will help you see the pattern when your supervisors are wondering why they are hearing crickets in the leads bucket.
Check all nav and footer links next.
Create a new sitemap or resubmit your RSS feed to Google to speed up the process and updating.
Test your 301 redirect list of important pages that moved.
ABOUT 15 – 30 DAYS AFTER SWITCH
Check your analytics and search console for errors, incoming links and more.
Take the opportunity to reach out to companies linking to your site. It may be a future strategic partner or client.
Verify you updated your social media profiles, bios and more so that they don't go to any bad links.
(This article is a modified version of one published by Funnel Media Producer, Susan Finch. She modified it to better fit this site. We hope you found it helpful.)