You’ve finally convinced your boss to get behind your next web design project - nice work. But, now what? Hiring an external agency to design and develop a shiny new CMS for you isn’t something you do every day, this blog provides up to date advice to ensure you lay the foundations for a successful launch.
Write down the goals and objectives of your website
Make sure you document why you are changing your website. This way the agency you approach has a clear understanding right from the start about the goals of your site and what it needs to achieve.
Are you redesigning your website due to a rebrand? Are you changing your website because you need better SEO?? Or perhaps your business model has shifted during the pandemic and you need a complete redo of your services? Whatever the answer to these questions, this will inform the entire way you think about, and how your chosen web developers structure, your new website.
Got your eye on a competitor’s site which you think works really well? Gather a few screenshots and examples together so that when you brief the best web design agencies you can find, you can give them a crystal clear idea of what it is you are and aren’t looking for.
Don’t forget about your buyer personas
As a savvy marketer, you’ve definitely used buyer personas to build out your content marketing strategy so what’s stopping you from using them to inform your website structure? Reviewing your buyer personas (which is not a bad thing to do every year or so) ensures you and your web design agency have a clear understanding of the sort of people that will be using your site and what information they should find to help them on their journey to getting in touch with your sales team. Have your prospects in mind and you’ll inevitably design a website which suits their particular needs and converts website visitors to enquiries with much less friction.
Do keyword research based on your most profitable services
You want to make sure that your new website is optimised for Google (and maybe Bing)! There’s almost no point spending budget on a new web build which isn’t designed to attract new visitors and potential prospects from organic search.
Focus on your key service pages and carry out keyword research so that you can create website content which is tailored to what your potential customers are typing into search engines.
If you’ve never done keyword research before - luckily for you there’s a step-by-step blog on how to do it right here.
Use the insights from your keyword research to inform your draft site structure before you send it to your web design agency. Not sure how to do build SEO into your website? Check out this webinar before you sketch out your website structure and navigation.
Dive into Google Analytics
Often, a new website will require you to change the URL structure of the whole site. This is particularly true if you’re moving to a new Content Management System (e.g. migrating from WordPress to HubSpot). In this case you’ll need to create a comprehensive map of what web pages you have now and what the new URL structure will look like, so you can set up redirects and not lose your website’s search ranking, all your other web traffic and probably your job. There’s more on redirects in the Screaming Frog section but before you start setting up redirects check your Google Analytics.
What web pages on your site are getting traffic? Where is the traffic coming from?
If you have a few stand out web pages getting loads of organic search traffic from Google, you’ll want to consider very carefully if you want to change the URLs. You can use 301 redirects to show Google where that new content lives but because you will likely see a drop in organic search traffic to those web pages for a few weeks, maybe even a few months, you might decide you don’t even want to take the risk of redirecting.
Are there landing pages being used by ads? Make sure you have a plan to include these in your new site and, if you’re going to change the URLs when you put the new site live, you’re ready to change the landing page (or destination URLs) via your ads dashboards. This is because when the new website goes live, most ad platforms won’t run ads where the landing page URL redirects to another page.
What about web pages with a high volume of traffic from trusted referring websites? If your existing website has got some links to various web pages from really big hitters, at the very least you’ll want to check those redirects work beautifully and give careful consideration to them if you want to change the URLs at all.
Sometimes, there’s no way around it, you just have to change all the URLs. The key thing is to make sure you have your redirect map set up (see below) and because you’ve also checked Google Analytics you won’t risk accidentally retiring web pages that you didn’t realise are doing a fantastic job at attracting and converting traffic for your business.
Before you start tinkering around with any aspect of your site, it’s a good idea to download HTTrack. It’s a piece of software which will grab an entire copy of your website - no matter the CMS. This way, if anything goes wrong during launch, you have an entire backup sat right on your desktop. Phew.
Crawl your existing website using Screaming Frog and create a URL redirect map
Use Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider to find all the URLs from your current website. Export all the HTML, PDF (and possibly video) URLs into a spreadsheet. In column A you have all your old URLs and now, in column B you need to write the complete path (including the https:// bit) of each new corresponding page on your new website.
If you’re consolidating multiple sites or multiple pages into one, you should check out this HubSpot article which helps you understand what a 301 redirect is, and when you should use them.
Create a customer journey map for your new website
Most web developers want to build what you tell them to - not us, we do all the strategy for you but most agencies are more about the fluffy cool looking design, rather than helping you make money. So, if you’re not using Noisy Little Monkey to build your new website, you need to really be clear with your agency about the journey you expect each website visitor to take. Explain to your web developers how people will find particular pages and the action you want each visitor to take on each page. Turn up to the first meeting with a customer journey map and your agency will be much better equipped to give you great service - plus there’s no reason they can’t add to what you’ve already created.
Once you’ve got your new pages listed in a spreadsheet and customer journey mapped out you’ll be able to draft out a new sitemap. You can then write a brief based on your sitemap. If you haven’t written a website brief before, read this blog on how to write a website brief in six easy steps. Once your web brief is written up and ready to go, read this blog on how to choose the right web designer.