In the mad dash to the finish line that is a new site launch, it’s easy to get bogged down in the details and constant back and forth. But after all the bugs have been fixed and all your hard work is in place, it’s tempting pull the trigger and finally click the launch button you’ve been hovering over for so long.
But wait – your website is not the Field of Dreams; you’ve built it but that doesn’t mean the world will come flocking to view your glorious, shiny new website. Planning for a successful search strategy should start from the beginning, but there still more tactics to consider that could help bolster the inbound traffic to your fresh new site and ensure a successful launch.
1. Maintain Your Authority
When transitioning from your old site to new, maintaining the link equity you’ve already invested in is essential for getting your new site to rank quickly. The best way to do this would be to leave all your URLs unchanged; however, this is not always feasible especially if you’re moving to a new domain or trying to improve your URL structure. 301 redirects tell search engines to permanently send link authority from one page to another. There is a slight loss in value for links that pass through a redirect but the remaining value is still far greater than losing it entirely. To ensure no URLs are left behind, set up a redirect matrix mapping all the old URLs to the new, make sure you’re sending the redirects to relevant new pages. If an area of your old site is being shuttered entirely, redirect this content to your home page.
2. Tag Your Images
Images are essential for making your new website shiny and engaging. Unfortunately, search engines still haven’t reached a point where they can decipher image-based content. Using alt tags helps search engines to understand the meaning of images and is also helpful for the visually impaired. Alt tags should be descriptive and include the same keywords your page is trying to rank for. More granularly, naming your image files with descriptive keywords can have a big impact on how you rank in image search, which can bring in a surprising amount of traffic.
3. Link Up
While external links help bring link authority into your site, your internal links help distribute that authority across the pages of your site. The navigation bar has the most influence over the flow of ‘link juice’ so optimize your anchor text across site navigation to target your most important head keywords. Opportunities for contextual cross-links in page copy are often overlooked during a redesign. Page copy can be a great place to link to deeper site pages with anchor text targeting long-tail keywords. It’s important to remember that both robots and humans will be following these links, so be careful to only link to relevant pages and avoid sending the user outside of your conversion funnel.
4. Get Local
Since Google launched their ‘Venice’ algorithm update last year, local results have taken greater prominence in the SERPs. Depending on your brand, local may be more of a strategy than a tactic but there are some tactical recommendations to consider in conjunction with your new site launch. The most obvious tactic for local is to optimize internal links for local keywords and support your optimizations with localized content. If you have a ‘Contact Us’ or ‘Locations’ page on your new site be sure to use Schema markup for your Name, Address, Phone Number. Offsite tactics like citation building are also extremely important for performing well in local search. For more tips on local search, check out:
- Common Local Search Questions Answered
- The Latest News in Local Search from Mike Blumenthal
- Local Citation Checker
5. Become an Author
Authorship is a relatively new feature of Google search that’s only going to grow in importance. Attributing an author or publisher to site content such as blog posts helps Google to further trust your site. Authorship also provides a rich snippet for search results of authored pages which can improve click-through rates. The future of authorship is a system called AuthorRank where pages will be ranked based on the authority of the writer rather than just the page/site authority. Investing in authorship now will help you in both the short and long term.
6. Help the Robots
Creating a site map and robots.txt file will help web spiders to crawl your site. Sitemaps give spiders a better understanding of your site’s structure and should be created using XML. Your robots.txt file tells web spiders which pages you want indexed and if links on that page should be ‘followed’ (pass link equity). While your site is in testing & development, search bots are commonly blocked in the robots.txt file so it’s important to make sure you’ve unlocked the doors to the bots once your site goes live. For further reading on sitemaps & robots.txt check out:
7. Get Faster
Site speed has become an increasingly important factor for search engine rankings. Besides the SEO implications of site speed, users want your pages to load in a reasonable amount of time or they may bounce from your site entirely. There are many ways to improve your load time, from image compression to code optimization. Unless you’re an extremely technical SEO, you’ll probably want to talk with your dev team about implementing different load time optimization techniques. To get started on optimizing your site’s load speed, check out these posts on the impact of site speed and how to improve:
8. Start Measuring
You can’t know how successful your new site is without data, so make sure you have the right tracking tools in place to measure your progress. There are many analytics packages on the market but Google Analytics is one of the most robust – and it’s free. Make sure you have the tracking codes set up properly to get the most accurate data. Google’s Webmaster Tools are also essential for SEO’s to manage and track their site. Following a redesign, WMT allows you to see your crawl & index status so you can be sure your new site is being picked up by Google. WMT also allows you to make sure your schema mark-up was properly implemented and gives you a glimpse of the keyword referral data that Google Analytics is no longer providing.
9. Check Your Work
Finally, before you go live or shortly after make sure to check your work. After investing your time in strategy and tactics you want to be sure everything was implemented correctly. The best way to do this is with a spider tool; there are many available but our favorite at THINK is a tool called Screaming Frog. With this tool you can audit your meta-data and redirects, check for duplicate content, and evaluate your internal link flow. Spidering tools are also a great way to check for broken links and 404-errors that need to be fixed. Using spidering software helps to automate the QA process and guarantees the visitors you’re bringing into your new site are getting the best possible experience.
It may seem like a lot of work but making your site easily findable by major search engines ensures all the hard work put in by the rest of your team will find a greater audience. Most importantly, effective SEO will make your clients happy; greater traffic through organic channels saves money that would otherwise be spent on paid advertising and leads to greater awareness and conversions.