Welcome back to the Foremost Media Marketing Chat Podcast. In this episode, we’re discussing challenges when redesigning a website while sharing actionable insights along the way. Bonus backlink building tip you don’t want to miss. 

  • 301 redirects and why they’re important [04:50]
  • Pay attention to what’s driving traffic. [10:04]

Resources: 


Intro: You're listening to the Foremost Media Marketing Chat podcast with Jon Ballard and Evan Facinger.

Evan Facinger: Alright, everybody. Welcome to the Foremost Media Marketing chat. How's it going, Jon Ballard

Jon Ballard: I'm good. How are you today Evan? It's Friday.

Evan Facinger: Yeah, it's Friday today. Not sure when this will be launched, so maybe we'll try to keep it for Friday. So everybody that's listening isn't jealous that we're experiencing that day and they're not.

Jon Ballard: Yeah, that's for sure.

Evan Facinger: So what do you want to-

Jon Ballard: I was out here in Wisconsin and we got a good topic for today. I want to talk about migrating our domains.

Evan Facinger: Yeah. And there's a lot that goes into. And it's, migrating the domain, very common with redesigning a website. You want to get that all setup and get the new domain on there. A lot, I guess, a lot to kind of chat through there. I think it leads a lot of issues sometimes if you don't know all the technical aspects and if you rely on one company to really step in and kind of do all of that without having that kind of basic understanding and knowing the questions to ask. There could be a lot of issues. So let's kind of walk through it and make sure that everybody's got the information they need.

Jon Ballard: Yeah, so the most common thing that we see here at Foremost is somebody is actually just building a new website. Right? So their domain is going to stay the same, but usually what happens is the content management system is really old and they change like URL structure. So instead of a bunch of obscure URLs, new content management systems have pretty nice solid URLs like slash services or slash support or those types of things. So typically then we're directing old URLs to those new ones. I guess the other scenario that we see quite often that sometimes companies will combine two sites into one, which are a little more challenging. And then I guess the third would be you're rebranding or changing the name of the domain, which is probably the most challenging type of move. So where do you want to start Evan?

Evan Facinger: I always like to start with identifying what pieces of content that you have on your current site, what's important, and then what are you going to have to move over and where is that going to be?

Jon Ballard: So what are the tools you use for that and what are you looking for?

Evan Facinger: We're always taking a look at, I mean I think we used a few different tools really for that. We've got to make sure we keep it somewhere where we can make sure that we're keeping it all together. So Excel or Google sheets, I think is a great starting point for that, so you can get all of your URLs listed out there. But then you want to dive into some other third-party tools. You want to take a look at Google Analytics because I think you want to have a solid understanding about what are visitors, for one, where are they landing on your site?

Evan Facinger: Because if you have a lot of pages or a lot of traffic coming from good landing pages that means that they're going to be optimized for search most likely or you're pushing a lot of traffic there. You want to make sure that you're paying attention to those. You want to pay attention to the overall visitor flow too. Making sure that when somebody does land on, let's say the homepage for example, being able to identify are those pages that they're going to after that. What's that overall visitor flow? What sort of information they're looking for? All of that's going to be really critical.

Evan Facinger: Another piece kind of inside Google Analytics we always want to take a look at is the search. If you have that turned on where you can actually see what people are searching for inside of your website. That's great information that can show you, one, if you've got something that isn't being portrayed properly on the website, you want to pay attention to that. Or if they're searching for something, not finding it and leaving it when they're on the search results. All of that can really help kind of showcase what content you should have on your website.

Evan Facinger: But then you want to take a step further too and identify what are the backlinks. Well, what are the pages that you have links going to from that or from other domains to that website? Making sure you've got that complete list there so that you're not missing anything so that way when you start figuring out what are the new pages on the website, you can make sure they're all going to be mapped properly. So when you're putting in those 301 redirects, then you're not going to be missing anything and leaving stuff out there which will hurt you from a backlink perspective or from an SEO perspective and an overall user experience perspective.

Jon Ballard: Got it. So I've identified all the pages that I'm going to move. And one of the things I see a lot is with a new site people have a tendency to say, "Let's make it really simple. We've got way too much content." And a lot of times that can be death for a new website. So make sure that you've really identified all the pages that rank and are driving traffic for you. And then make sure that you move them over, even if you simplify them, make sure you've moved the basic page title, description. Keywords aren't so important anymore, but your H1 tags, all that stuff is properly formatted. And then from there, you got the old site, the new site, everything's set up. What do we do next Evan?

Evan Facinger: Well, then we're going through and making sure we've got all those mapped properly with the 301 redirects. Right?

Jon Ballard: That's correct. Yeah. So there's tools out there, and content management systems sometimes do this or this can get kind of technical, we won't get into like the details of how to do a 301 redirect, but your webmaster hole should be able to help you with that. But essentially what it is, is we're telling Google this page has moved. Right? So we've identified the old page and it's moved to a new page so that Google, when they reindex will follow that through in a friendly manner. And then I also like to make sure that we resubmit the site map right away to Google when there's been a change so that we request reindex and that can be done through Google Search Console formerly Webmaster Tools. So what else you got on your list?

Evan Facinger: Another thing I think is important to discuss too is that if you don't have content, so if there's content ... because when you're doing those 301 redirects, right? You really want to make sure that you're mapping relevant content to the relevant page. Sometimes I see the mistake of just 301 redirecting everything to certain aspects and if they don't have that page that makes the most sense, then they just 301 redirect to a home page or 301 redirect to a different page that has nothing to do kind of with that overall topic. And I don't think that's the right approach. I think sometimes it's not necessarily a bad thing to have a 404, right? If you don't have anything relevant to show. So I think it's making sure that those 301 redirects go to the relevant new pages. And then that, of course, carries over for the backlinks. Making sure that you're not losing all of that authority that you've kind of built up and all of that links that you've spent a lot of time gaining.

Jon Ballard: I love what you said about 404 pages. I think that's one of the most overlooked aspects of a site redesign, especially when you're changing pages or structure drastically. 404s don't have to be just a page not found, you can have a very creative 404. You can use art humor is pretty good and also put links on there. And then we've actually started putting a contact form on our 404, "Couldn't find what you're looking for? Fill out this form." And we actually are getting some engagement from that sometimes. So just make sure you don't just settle for just a basic 404 page when you're doing a major redesign.

Evan Facinger: Yeah, definitely. It's a great time to one, not only show a little bit of creativity but two, try to point them in the right direction. Just telling them they found the wrong page doesn't really offer the user a lot of value. But I think if you can do that with a little bit of humor, a little bit of creativity like you said Jon putting a form on there can go a long way. We've seen a good amount of form fills from that. All of that can really help with the overall user experience of the website. I think the other thing too if we're talking about migration and redesigns and kind of what we're looking for for that is just to make sure that you're testing everything and going through it all. That your forms when you do fill it out that you do still receive the notification, they're still getting logged properly. All of those pieces are things that you want to make sure that you're paying attention to.
Jon Ballard: As a web designer the worst call you can get is, "Hey, I haven't gotten leads off my site in three weeks." And all of a sudden you go look at the form and there's been hundreds of leads that have gone through that nobody's got. And so not that we've ever gotten that call, but I've heard stories of other web developers that haven't checked their form. So good point Evan.

Evan Facinger: Yeah, no. And then just to go on to that even further, a lot of times that's the entire purpose of the website is to get people information, get them to fill out a form. So if that's not working, that's pretty drastic.
Jon Ballard: Yeah. I guess the other thing we really need to talk about is backlinks. Backlinks are such an important signal to the search engines about how you rank and they really affect how you rank on search. So one of the other tasks that you need to do right away is identify all the backlinks to your site, make sure that you've set up a new page for those backlinks, and that if the URL structure has changed, that you're 301 redirecting so you don't lose power from all those backlinks. One thing that would really kill your website quickly so.

Evan Facinger: Yeah, and also it can help your competition quite a bit because there is a backlink building strategy to go through and find broken backlinks. And then to reach out to people that have the broken backlinks on their site and say, "Hey, this is broken. You should link to this instead." And then you're, not only lost a backlink because it wasn't actually something that was working anymore because of the URL change but then potentially a competition is going in and getting that backlink instead of you now.

Jon Ballard: So we're doing a twofer podcast today. You got a backlink building tip and directions on how to redesign a site.

Evan Facinger: Double dipping.

Jon Ballard: Yeah. So I love that strategy actually. I mean, we've done that in the past where we've checked some competitor sites for broken backlinks and found a few and reached out to the publisher or whatever with some new information. And it does work, I've seen it happen.

Evan Facinger: Yeah no, it's one of those tactics that haven't gone away because it continues to deliver.

Jon Ballard: Yeah. Nothing makes me happier than getting a backlink that used to be going to a competitor either so.

Evan Facinger: He means that too. Literally nothing can make him happier than that.

Jon Ballard: Nope. Easy to please. Yeah so, we've identified the backlinks. What else we got on our list? Anything?

Evan Facinger: No, I think that's a pretty thorough list. What do you think?

Jon Ballard: Yeah, I think that should do it. Again, pay attention to the content. Again, don't cut everything just because you want to make it simpler. Make sure you understand what's driving revenue and traffic to your site as well.

Evan Facinger: Yeah, I think that's a great point. And like you mentioned before, a lot of the overall modern design trend is to cut as much as you can. Make it as minimalistic as possible, don't have a lot of pages. And I understand that from the design perspective and the user experience perspective, but I think that you can't ignore the SEO impact of not having any content on your site. You also can't ignore the actual user experience impact for people that want to dive in deeper, want to keep going to those next levels, and actually read and understand more. So I think it's really just paying attention to how the overall ... how that navigation plays with your site, how a user is supposed to get from one part to another part.

Evan Facinger: I know there's always that push to get people to go as minimum clicks as possible. And I think that that's important, you never want to have a lot of clicks. But I think it's also equally important to make sure that the clicks that you do have, that they're actually not causing friction. I think people click a lot further and go a lot deeper in the site if they want to, if every single click makes the most sense or is easy for them and is logical versus having to figure out where to click next. So I think that's an important piece too.

Jon Ballard: And the other, one thing I really forgot to mention too, is depending on your content management system, a lot of content management systems will have their site show up in the URL as www and non-www. Meaning it could be https:foremostmedia.com and then httpwww.foremostmedia.com. And those to Google look like two separate URLs, so it's really important that you set up your site to automatically pick one or the other. You want www to show up or non-www and then have the entire site focus on one of those. Otherwise, you're going to have a bunch of duplicate content on your site. That's pretty easily accomplished again by the host when they configure the domain and your server, but it's super important and a lot of people overlook that when they're launching a new site too.

Evan Facinger: Yeah, that's a great point.

Jon Ballard: You're essentially flooding your site with a duplicate page of everything if you don't pay attention to that. So just food for thought.

Evan Facinger: That's great.

Jon Ballard: Anything else you want to talk about today, Evan? Or should we wrap her up?

Evan Facinger: Let's wrap it up.

Jon Ballard: Get going on a Friday.

Evan Facinger: I think that was good. It's Friday. We've already double-dipped. I think we're good.

Jon Ballard: Alright. Thanks, Evan, nice talking to you.

Evan Facinger: Thanks, John.

Jon Ballard: Yep.

Evan Facinger: Thanks, everybody.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the Foremost Media Marketing Chat podcast. Don't forget to like and subscribe so you can stay on top of your game by never missing an episode. You can find even more marketing insights and show transcripts at foremostmedia.com.