If you’re considering a website rebuild, you’ll most likely be motivated by a combination of factors that broadly fall within the following categories:
Your current site is underperforming. If your website can’t be found easily, is delivering a poor user experience, and/or isn’t driving leads or contributing to a business result, then it is underperforming.
It looks ugly and outdated. Trends often come back around, but we all know those websites from the late ’90s are not making a comeback.
The purpose of the site has changed, or it is missing functionality. Just as your business evolves, so may the needs and requirements of your website.
Your competitor’s websites are making you look bad. (How dare they—that is absolutely unacceptable!)
Whatever the combination of reasons you have for choosing to rebuild your site, I’m here to serve a few slices of advice so that you can do so successfully.
1. Lead With Strategy, Not Design
A common motivation behind rebuilding a website is to modernise it with a newer, fresher look. Because of this, far too many businesses will base their early-stage decision making on how they want their website to look and feel.
While I am not here to understate the importance of design (after all, UX-centric design is a crucial component to building a strong website that drives results), unfortunately not all websites with innovative designs will drive traffic and convert users.
Before embarking on a website rebuild, put your design inspiration to one side and your strategy at the forefront.
“Before embarking on a website rebuild, put your strategy at the forefront.”
2. Start With an Audit of Your Existing Website
The first step in taking a strategy-first approach to your rebuild is to audit your current website.
First off, ask yourself ‘why does my site exist?’ so that you can keep its purpose at the core of all your decisions. Having a deep understanding of the desired commercial impact of your website is crucial to its success.
Next, you’ll want to understand what is working well, and what isn’t. Find out:
- What are the top acquisition pages?
- What are the top ranking pages?
- What pages have the most backlinks?
- Which assets are most viewed?
- Where are the conversions coming from?
Based on your audit, you will be able to clearly define the goals and outcomes you want to achieve, which will keep you on track for success.
You may even find that a full-scale rebuild isn’t what you actually need—saving you time and money (win!).
“Having a deep understanding of the desired commercial impact of your website is crucial to its success.”
3. Use Keyword Research to Inform IA
In order to build an effective website information architecture, it’s important to consider how users will interact and navigate through your website based on what they’re looking for and what product/service/solution you want to sell them.
Keyword research is a task often completed after the fact and applied to an already planned IA, which often results in misalignment and an ineffective landing page strategy.
Thorough keyword research, including competitor keyword analysis, will provide you with valuable insights to inform how you should create your site architecture.
Check out our Keyword Research Guide to learn more.
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4. Don’t Make Any Assumptions
It’s not unreasonable to expect that your website rebuild will be executed to a high standard, especially if you’re investing a significant amount of money and partnering with a specialist agency. However, just because you’re right to expect this, don’t assume the fundamentals won’t get missed.
Here are 4 common assumptions that you can learn from:
1. Someone Will Take Care of Redirects
Redirects? That’s someone else’s job, right? While you may not be the one implementing redirects, please don’t assume that they will get done, and done properly. More on this later.
2. SEO is ‘Included’
I have met too many people who have innocently made an assumption that SEO would be an inclusive part of their website rebuild, only to find out that the developer left blank fields for a title tag and meta description to be input, and installed a plugin that rhymes with toast.
If SEO is ‘packaged’ into your website rebuild project, be sure to get a full description of what work is being done.
3. Analytics Scripts Will Be Installed
If you’ve gone through months of work to rebuild your website, you’ll want to make sure you can measure its performance. Don’t assume the simplest of tasks can’t get missed.
4. Everything Will Go To Plan
I don’t have a reliable statistic, but much like babies being born on their due dates, the majority of website rebuilds do not go live on time.
A successful rebuild is one that requires time and good planning. If you’re outsourcing, you’ll likely have an external project manager, but don’t forget to assign a dedicated project manager internally to manage stakeholders effectively. Be sure to find out exactly what the process will involve and who is going to do what.
“Much like babies being born on their due dates, the majority of website rebuilds do not go live on time.”
5. Think About Redirects
I want to write this section in all caps because I feel passionate about redirects. If you can avoid removing pages from your website or making structural changes that impact URLs, then you should. If it’s necessary for your rebuild, then you need to make sure that you have redirects properly implemented for the benefit of your users, and the website SEO.
Why Are Redirects So Important?
Without a redirect, if a user clicks a link to a page that has been removed or where the URL has changed, they will land on a 404 page. This delivers a poor user experience, which neither a human nor a search engine will appreciate.
Improper or missing redirects will significantly impact your rankings, so it’s crucial to know what type of redirect you need to implement, and how it will be implemented correctly.
“If you can avoid removing pages from your website or making structural changes that impact URLs, then you should.”
Always Review the Implementation
The way that redirects are implemented will vary depending on your server configuration and content management system.
It’s important to review the URL routing to ensure that the old URLs are being mapped to the correct new URLs. I’ve experienced first-hand the negative implications of not doing this.
One occurrence was a website rebuild that went live with almost perfect redirect implementation, bar a small number of landing pages that were mapped to the homepage instead of the new landing page URL.
Well, at least they were redirected somewhere, right? Wrong! Because these pages were not redirected to close-match content, we temporarily saw a decline in a handful of Position 1 rankings for high-intent keywords until the redirect was fixed.
Rebuilding a website is a significant investment, so it goes without saying that you’ll want to do it right the first time round. While there is a level of complexity to it, a rebuild project doesn’t need to be a headache—all you need is the right strategy and the right people!