The relaunch of an online shop is the supreme discipline for project managers, SEO specialist, designers and programmers in the field of e-commerce. Do customers like the new online shop? Will the good positions in the search engines persist? Do all processes work after the relaunch? These are just a few questions that are in the room before and after the relaunch. This article is a red thread through the relaunch of an online shop and shows possible steps and solutions. In the first part we go into the preparation of the relaunch and in the last part on the SEO checklist.
Table of Contents
Goals & Requirements
Concept & Strategy
SEO checklist relaunch
Goals & REQUIREMENTS
At the beginning of the relaunch is the desire and the goal to improve the online shop and to make the company more successful. The goals of the relaunch should be written down in the first step in order to bring them clearly visible on a board (wall). Working with one or more large boards helps to create a common understanding and to detect mistakes early on. After the goals of the relaunch, the requirements of the different areas should be worked out next (SEO, Design, UX u). It is also important in this context to honestly evaluate the dangers of a relaunch and bring them to the board as well. Once you have gathered the requirements, they are split into "must-have" and "nice-to-have" to possibly perform the relaunch in a narrower version and to treat as a first release; Of course, it depends on whether you change the online shop software or stay with the existing one. With the same software, multiple releases can usually be carried out without any problems, which has great advantages from the point of view of search engine optimization.
CONCEPT & STRATEGY
Starting a headless relaunch is a bad idea. Concepts are born of goals and are the common thread every project requires; These are strategies and measures for the implementation of larger and more complicated projects, which makes a successful project. There is not just one concept for a relaunch, but many different ones, some of which overlap.
A concept includes the goal, necessary information such as target groups and background experience, reasoning, analysis & results, statistics and the statement itself (concept).
The following concepts should be present at the relaunch of the online shop:
- Design concept
- Usability concept
- Navigation concept
- SEO concept
- Content concept (product- and category pages)
- Online Marketing Concept
When the project is approached, the participating agencies and people must first be selected. The question must also be clarified: Should the existing online shop software be used or will a new one be launch? If a new software is launch, it also means clarifying whether the existing ERP is compatible, etc.
The planning should not be carried out without experts from the respective area. For the search engine optimization applies: mistakes can cost valuable visibility and in the long run. On the important factor search engine optimization we will discuss separately in this article. Areas include: project management, SEO, programming, design and web design.
START OF PLANNING
First, the goals and requirements of the relaunch are checked. The requirements are then split into the following subareas: Planning, SEO, Design & Web Design, Programming Online Shop Software, ERP (Enterprise-Resource-Planning-Software) and Online Marketing (general). Gladly these requirements can be put on a wall, so that together can be further developed and above all a common understanding develops (already mentioned above). The following questions have to be clarified at the beginning of the planning: period until relaunch, costs, available capital (financing), number of releases, development environment, etc.
If the relaunch is carried out in your own company (with your own programmers), then it makes sense to create a large backboard and task board. In the backboard, the major areas of implementation are then created as the top points and including the larger subtasks - the whole procedure is also advisable for the areas of SEO, design / web design and online marketing to always have the full overview. Once all major subtasks have been determined, work must be prioritized. You can draw horizontal lines that contain individual internal releases and sprints. Once that's done, the first sprint (Temporary Framework, for work to be done) can be scheduled with its small tasks on the task board.
The task board now contains all of the major subtasks of the sprint with each other and the individual smaller tasks next to each one. It is important that the tasks are completed within a certain predetermined period, for example two weeks. It is best to use the Kanban method, where the upper columns describe the current status of the task. Possible: Open, In progress, Review, UAT, Done.
There should be a daily briefing in the sprint every day, during which all project participants describe their work from the day before and the planned work of the current day. After the sprint, the results are checked and processes optimized.
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
Search engine optimization is one of the most important areas when relaunching an online shop. Here, it is important to keep the current placement of product and category pages in the search engines (Google Search) even after the relaunch and to make the new online shop so fit that in the medium and long term very good results can be achieved.
Tip: A relaunch in stages is advantageous from the point of view of search engine optimization. If you change too much at once (CMS, URLs, design, content, etc.), visibility may collapse. A relaunch should only be done with SEO experts.
SEO CHECKLIST RELAUNCH
One of the most important tasks during the relaunch is the creation and application of an SEO checklist. This is about what to pay attention to, so that from the perspective of search engine optimization, the relaunch runs smoothly and does not become a disaster. What use is the new online shop and the relaunch if the current positions in the search engines are lost permanently and prevent planned growth fails? The checklist should include the following items:
HTTP STATUS CODE 301 - WHEN MOVING A URL
If you change your product- & category URLs during the relaunch, every single URL must have the status code 301 (permanently moved). If you do not, users who click on a link in the search engines or elsewhere will not be guided to the actual page, but to a 404 page (page not found). The second serious aspect is that every page has a Google search position. So if you do not set 301, the new URL will not be treated like the old one, but just like a new page and lose its position. This is about trust that Google has in their content, pages and the whole domain - or not.
HTTP, HTTPS, WWW, WITHOUT WWW
If there are changes in the transmission protocol because it was switched from HTTP to HTTPs, all pages must also be given the status code 301. Furthermore, you should opt for "www" or (without) "www" - you do that in the Google Webmaster Tool. This setting should also be made without a relaunch because it prevents duplicate content.
Internal links must lead to the right landing page to avoid the following errors:
1. Search engines index wrong pages.
2. Links lead to a 404 page.
3. Users do not find their destination and leave the shop.
Reasons for wrong links: Adoption of wrong URLs of the development environment, changes of the URL without 301 redirect. Internal links can be found in texts, pictures, in the navigation but also in the sitemap.
META-TITLE AND META-DESCRIPTION
The Meta-title (Title-tag) tells search engines and search engine users what the page is about. He is one of the most important ranking factors at all. The meta-description will be displayed on the search results page, just below the title-tag and the URL. It describes the content of a page to users and can contain keywords, symbols and a call-to-action. During the relaunch, the current title-tags and meta-descriptions should be checked so as not to lose visibility in the search engines. Errors happen especially at online shops that use a new CMS. However, it should be checked before every relaunch so as not to lose valuable positions.
META ROBOTS - INDEX, FOLLOW
Before and after the relaunch, it should be checked whether all pages can be indexed by search engines. You can check this for example with the tool "Screaming Frog". The following Meta Robots information should be listed in the head code of the online shop: <meta name = "robots" content = "INDEX, FOLLOW"> or no indication of the tag. If the attribute "noindex" is listed, the page would be removed from the index of the search engine at the next crawl.
A Canonical link stands in the head of a page and refers to the original resource (URL), if there are several pages with the same content. Canonical Tag thus prevents pages from being indexed multiple times in search engines. If it is not used correctly and does not refer to the original, for example, but to an incorrect URL, then the wrong URL will be indexed. This is then the big error, as it slides the search engine rankings far down and is also linked to the wrong page when clicking the search result (in the search engine results pages). Be sure to check this!
PREVENT CRAWLING OF DEVELOPMENT ENVIRONMENT
It must be prevented that search engines index the development environment with all sides of the online shop. This can happen on the one hand with the Robots.txt file, with Http authentication or with an Access Control List (ACL).
What would happen if the development environment were indexed in search engines? If it concerns the copy of the old Onlineshops, with changed Domain or URL's, search engines could index the contents, whereby the contents of the Onlineshops would be duplicated in the search engines.
The URLs of the sitemap must be checked before the relaunch so that it does not show the wrong or old URLs. What can happen with a bad Sitemap? It can lead to duplicate content, as each link leads to a page that probably already exists. If no page can be reached, the link would lead to a 404 page (at best). Important: It should not be forgotten to update the sitemap in the webmaster tool.
It can be after the relaunch, pages can not be reached and lead to a 404 page. This can be countered by building a sophisticated 404 page that is not a dead end, but helps users find their desired page.
HTTP STATUS CODE
All pages should be checked for their HTTP status code. The default for a page to reach is the HTTP status code 200 (OK - the request was successfully processed and the result of the request is transferred in the response). As already written above, pages that have a new URL should have the HTTP status code 301 (Moved Permanently - The requested resource is now available at the address specified in the "Location" header field (also called redirect) Address is no longer valid.)
URL OF PICTURES
If we change the image URL during the relaunch, we should also set up a permanent forwarding for every single image (if possible). The reason is quite simple: Even images have good rankings in the image search engines and thus contribute to the success of the online shop. If pictures get a new URL, they have to work their way up again. Also, the placements of the images affect the normal search results, which can have a negative effect after changing the URL.
Also check if Alt-Tag exists for each image. The Alt-Tag gives search engines information about the content of the image and decides decisively on the placement of the images in the image search engines. Decreasing the placement of the images may also affect the normal placement of the pages.
PRODUCT- AND CATEGORIES HEADLINES
Before the relaunch, all product and category pages should be put through their paces (of course, all others too). This includes, if there is an H1 (<h1> Headline </ h1>) and if the texts are even available. Within this content audit, pages without text should be safed in a document to create and implement after relaunching (or before) a new text.
The loading time of a website is an important ranking factor. The check before the relaunch is a must-have. A charging time of less than 0.2 seconds is required, with a charging time of 0.5 seconds, an online shop can live, over 1 second is a no-go.
It needs to be checked if Google Webmaster Tool and Google Analytics tracking codes exist. You can found this in the head of the website. Both things enable the evaluation of user movements.
SEARCH ENGINE INDEX
Before the relaunch, the number of pages indexed in Google Search should be counted. If it changes unexpectedly after the relaunch, this is an alarm signal: if the number increases, it could be due to duplicate content, it decreases, there is a possibility that there are problems with the indexing (double content).
FORMULAS & CHECKOUT
Before going online, all forms must be checked for their function (test in all browsers, devices and e-mails).
ORDERING PROCESSES IN FRONTEND AND BACKEND
Extensive testing around the ordering process is not part of SEO, but it does affect search engine optimization. A smooth checkout process in the frontend and the ordering process in the backend is a must-have and should be carried out with extensive testing in all browsers and devices.
Google AdWords ads should be scanned for their landing pages if the URL structure was changed during relaunch. The same goes for Bing. It also makes sense to break AdWords on the day of the relaunch to avoid mistakes.
EBAY & AMAZON CONNECTION
Check the connections in all sales portals. Again, all connections should be checked before and after the relaunch.
CONNECTION PRODUCT- AND PRICE SEARCH ENGINES
Check all product- and price search engines like Google Shopping, Idealo or guenstiger.de to function after the relaunch. Here applies the same as in the paragraphs before.
A successful relaunch is the combination of good planning, cooperation of experienced specialists and an extensive checklist. If it is possible, the new requirements should be implemented in several releases, first, not to endanger the positions in the search engines and second, not to be crushed by the big task. Also the topic SEO should be taken very important, because here supposedly small errors can have very big "negative" effects.