The Art of Moving On: Website Transition Isn’t Easy
No matter how much you loved your website when it was new, there may come a time when you don’t love it so much anymore.
It makes sense — the Internet is always advancing. The only thing constant about it is change.
It’s never long before you find yourself clutching the memories of what you once had, thinking the grass must be greener on the other side. Watching your competitors move forward, you decide to take on a website transition.
So you find yourself a younger, more exciting marketing agency. Together, you construct a beautiful new SEO machine. You find your passion for publishing great content renewed.
But then some time passes, and you realize: your SEO has actually tanked. Years of effort have vanished from the Internet, and no matter how much you plead, Google just won’t look at you.
How could things go so wrong with your new website?
It’s Time to Take Matters into Your Own Hands
Speaking from past professional experience, web developers can deliver a great website, but they’re seldom experts on search engine optimization (SEO). They won’t do everything necessary to preserve your years of hard-earned SEO.
I’m not knocking web developers. They have budgets and time constraints, and while there are some things they can do to help your SEO, they can’t do everything.
Let’s face it: even if you’re working with the best web developers in the industry, they’ll never care about your success as much as you do. You’ll want to check their work.
To preserve your search ranking during your new website deployment, make sure these three things happen.
3 Ways to Handle a Website Transition
1. Always Have a Backup Plan
Hopefully, you’re not reading this too late! Before you launch your new site, back up everything you can. That way, if it turns out you missed something, it’ll be no big deal to go back and get it.
One critical piece to backing up your website data is your sitemap.xml. This can be an invaluable reference when creating 301 redirects if your URL structure and navigation have changed. (They will.)
2. Remember Your Goals
Since a new website launch is likely to change your page URLs, it’s important to go through and update all your goals to ensure their conditions are still met.
Check your URLs here:
- Google Analytics goals
- Google AdWords goals
- Facebook goals
- Google Tag Manager triggers
3. Check Your Google Analytics
If you’re carrying over your old Google Analytics property (which I recommend if at all possible), review who has access to the account. Your old web developer, marketing agency, or former employees don’t need to continue to have access to it. Give ’em the boot!
Only allow admin access to those who need it. Usually, this means your marketing team or agency and your current web developer.
Then, check your goals in Google Analytics. Now that your website structure is changing, you may need to update the requirements for your goals. Again, this usually only applies to goals set on your primary website. Goals that are set for HubSpot landing and thank-you pages don’t need to change.
Got HubSpot? You’ve Got More Work to Do
As a longtime HubSpot partner, we’ve helped many car dealerships and other service providers migrate websites while keeping their HubSpot accounts running uninterrupted.
The trick? Plan ahead. Pre-stage everything you can before turning on the new site.
Here’s a handy checklist for all you HubSpot users:
- Update your HubSpot template design to match the new website. Do this while the site is in staging, so the new site and your HubSpot portal can launch the new design together.
- If your website is changing web hosts, be sure to set up your HubSpot subdomains in advance. If you’re not comfortable with the Domain Name System (DNS), just send a simple support ticket: “Please add a CNAME pointing [info.mydomain.com] to [123456.webhost77.hubspot.net].” (Your domain and destination will vary, of course.)
- Are you email marketing with HubSpot? Don’t forget your email sending domain — it can be the difference between a great open rate and a devastating spam rate.
- Chances are your URLs will change with your new website. Be sure to update any URLs in your smart lists, workflows, and CTAs to point to the new locations.
- Review blog posts and landing pages for broken links. Internal links in your existing HubSpot content won’t break, but links going back to your main domain probably will.
- Did your favicon change with your new website? Be sure to update it in your HubSpot settings, too.
- If your old marketing agency held your Google Analytics account hostage, you’re going to need a new one. Be sure to update the UA code in your HubSpot content settings as well.
Check Your Work with Google Search Console
You’ve come this far — you’ve done your due diligence to ensure you move forward without regrets. It’s time to take your final steps before riding off into the sunset.
Be sure your website is still verified in Google Search Console. If your site has lost its verification, just follow these steps, and you’ll be back in action in no time.
Good to go? It’s time to let the world know. Ask Google to re-crawl your URLs. After a couple of days, go back to Search Console, and check for errors.
Miss something? It’s okay! You’ve got backups, and you’ve got a plan. Any URLs you left without a forwarding address can be fixed — just add 301 redirects to point your visitors in the right direction.
When you’re done, submit your site for reindexing again. Plan to come back later to check your work, but for now, you can take satisfaction in a job well done!
Change Is Hard, But You’ll Survive a Website Transition
Whether it’s because of an agency that disappointed you or it’s just time to move on to something new, everybody has to go through a website migration at some point.
I’m not softening any blows here — I can tell you from years of experience that website transition is a pain in the ass every time. But with some planning and attention to detail, you’ll do just fine.
If you’re looking to fall in love with a marketing agency that knows the ins and outs — the heartbreaks and victories — of marketing online today, give us a call. We’d love to get to know you.