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Don’t just “flip the switch”

When we launch a new site, we often say we “flip the switch” to make it go live.  This either means turning off the “coming soon” page, updating DNS records, or whatever needs to be done to make the new site active.  However, we do a lot more behind the scenes to make it a smooth transition.

We recently had a client approach us that had launched their new site (built elsewhere) a few weeks prior and saw their traffic plummet.  In fact, the first few weeks on the new site have been their lowest in more than three years, and were a sharp decline in traffic from pre-launch.  Here’s a snapshot of the past few months for their site; can you guess where the new site went live?

traffic-dive

In their case, the problem was that no one looked at setting up redirects from the old URLs to the new ones (such as pointing the old “about.html” to the new (“/about/”).  As a result, Google had to drop hundreds of their pages from their index and now they will slowly bring in the new pages.  It’s remarkably similar to an example I posted about more than six years ago.  While we work hard to stay on top of the latest trends, we also don’t ignore the long-standing basics.

When you launch a new site, setting up proper redirects will provide you with two big benefits:

  1. You tell Google immediately where to find the corresponding new page for each old one.
  2. You’re able to pass most of the link equity from any inbound links on those old pages.

While this client will eventually recover all of item #1 in the course of time, item #2 is a big problem.  Any sites that linked to one of their internal pages over the years are now pointed to dead links.  That’s bad for users, and Google won’t appreciate it either.

When we launch a new site we spend a great deal of time to make sure every small detail is taken care of.  Along with setting up redirects, we add the site to Google Webmaster Tools, install Google Analytics and a variety of other tasks.

Missing the redirects was a very small piece of the process of building and launching a new site, but it had a tremendous impact on the effectiveness of their new site.  Skipping just one detail can cause big problems, so be sure that you’re looking at your site from every possible angle.

About the Author

Mickey Mellen

Co-Founder and Technical Director

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