Website relaunch: checklist for restarting your online project

A website relaunch is when an online presence is reworked. This doesn’t necessarily mean superficial changes such as layout and design, but fundamental alterations to the website’s structure (architecture). In order to increase usability, a website relaunch focuses on redesigning the website structure. Content is adjusted and navigation paths are adapted so that the online project’s performance can be increased sustainably. There are many reasons to relaunch a website; often adjustments are required in order to satisfy large search engine’s ranking factors and adapt to user behavior. A relaunch often goes hand in hand with a reorientation of the products or range of services.

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Ten tips for a relaunch

If you make a mistake when tweaking a website’s architecture, you run the risk of losing visibility, which will in turn lead to less visitors. The following checklist contains essential information that website operators should be aware of in order to perform a successful website relaunch.

1. Navigational structure: the basis of a successful online presence is the logical structure. Visitors need to be able to navigate the site easily, so a clean and clear navigational structure is a must. Once you have the concept for the relaunch, you should check how long the click paths to relevant subpages are, and make adjustments accordingly. Visitors should ideally reach their goal within a maximum of five clicks.

2. Redirecting: if a domain transfer is needed as part of the website relaunch, or if existing subpages have to be moved to new URLs, website operators should ensure that visitors can find the content in its current location, even if they don’t know the new address. Internet users that continue to use the old URL to access the website after the relaunch should be redirected to the new subpages with a permanent 301 redirect.

3. Backlinks: every web project typically has a backlink profile, which is the total number of links leading from other websites to your project. These inbound links are essential for the search engine to determine your site’s relevance and it’s important to keep track of them during a relaunch. It’s highly recommended that you analyze the backlink profile as part of your relaunch project. High quality backlinks should remain even when the landing page’s URL changes. Website operators can contact owners of the sites that link to theirs and ask them to adjust the link URLs. Alternatively, you can save some of the link juice through a 301 redirect. If you happen to find any unwanted links in your backlink profile, this is the perfect opportunity to remove them.

4. Internal linking: if the website relaunch includes changes in the site’s structure, website operators should ensure that all subpages of the project are linked internally. Internal linking is a powerful SEO tool and is essential for a website to be fully indexed. What’s more, internal links also inherit link juice. A good amount of websites don’t have many external links, but Google finds them nonetheless. Even subpages that have no relevance signals in the form of external links can achieve good rankings in the search engines. Web crawlers use the internal link structure of a website to access it completely. If you factor internal linking into the restructuring concept before the website relaunch, you can make sure that link juice is distributed optimally.

5. Indexing management: a relaunch is usually prepared in a development environment. Website operators don’t want a website to be indexed before it goes live and so they rely on robots.txt and the robots meta tag to block web crawlers. These security mechanisms must be removed at the start of the relaunch, otherwise you’ll find a distinct lack of visitors. It’s worth checking blocks in the robots.txt and making any needed adjustments.

6. Meta data: a website relaunch offers the ideal opportunity to check how well your web project is optimized for onpage. Basic requirements for a good ranking in the search engine are unique meta tags and descriptions for each subpage and image descriptions in the alt attribute of each graphic.

7. Duplicate content: if you stumble across identical content during restructuring, you should label it as such for the benefit of the search engine. In onpage optimization, a canonical tag has even been established for this very purpose. This allows website operators to identify content as duplicate and to refer to the URL of the original resource. Ideally, the canonical tag should be used on each subpage, with the difference being that URLs with unique content point to themselves.

8. Sitemap: sitemaps are lists of pages on a website that are accessible to users or crawlers. All new URLs that are to be added to the web project during the relaunch, should be listed here. While the link to the HTML sitemap page should be available to visitors on every subpage, the XML sitemap itself is stored on Google Webmaster Tools. This is how website operators can ensure that the search engine indexes new subpages as quickly as possible.

9. Tracking: website operators using tracking codes like Google Analytics should also integrate them into the source code of new subpages. To avoid data errors, Google offers the Tag Assistant, which is a free validation tool for browsers.

10. Loading time: a major factor in the usability of a website is the page loading speed. Search engines, like Google, count this as a ranking factor when evaluating how relevant a site is. Website operators should ensure that their online project continues to rank well after the relaunch. Tips on how to increase the loading time of a website can be found in this article.

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After the relaunch

There’s a control phase in every website relaunch. In the first few days after the restructuring, you should monitor the site heavily. This gives website operators the chance to register negative effects, identify sources of error, and promptly start any countermeasures that are needed.