If you've been through a website relaunch before you know that content is normally one of the last elements to be considered. In reality, it should be the first.
All too often brands approach a website relaunch with a 'lift-and-shift' mentality when it comes to the content, bringing over everything they've created in the past and hoping it will look good in its new home.
In reality, that almost never goes well, and it can have a negative impact on the new website.
Why is this?
Depending on how the two websites are built, the old structure may not match the new one and the content may not pull across seamlessly.
Your URL structure may be completely different.
And often internal connections between pages may not carry across.
Newer content management systems (CMS) like Sitecore are item-based, where the content and the presentation sit separately from each other. This provides great flexibility and ease of managing content in a single source.
But on an older CMS, the content and presentation are often intertwined. It can be time-consuming and expensive to try to unpick.
Look and feel:
A relaunch normally includes new designs to ensure that the website feels fresh and modern and uses new functionality which means new CSS.
If your old website was a two-bedroom city flat with an open layout and high ceilings and your new website is a four-bedroom country cottage with cosy rooms and exposed beams, it's unlikely that your current furniture is going to fit well in the new space. And it's the same story with your content.
The length of text that needs to fit into new components, trying to fit landscape image into a portrait box or vice versa, the styling on buttons, the formatting of numbered lists or bullet points - it can all throw off the new designs and leave the user experience feeling clumsy.
Brands evolve and change over the years. Old content that no longer reflects the brand and isn't relevant to your current customers' needs will fail to engage.
And if the branding and tone of voice of the company has changed, content that made sense two years ago may feel like baggage now.
So, if we shouldn't lift and shift, what should we do?
7 steps for getting your content ready for a website relaunch
1. Perform a content audit
Unless you've been at the company from the beginning, it's likely that the content on the website pre-dates you. And you may have more of it than you realise.
Time for a content audit.
I know you'll be tempted to skip this step. It is a lot of work.
But a content audit is a key document in any content marketers' toolkit and you'll find yourself turning to it constantly as you develop and implement your content strategy. So, take the time to do it right.
You want to be able to answer the following questions:
How much content do I actually have?
What channels are we using to publish content?
What are the key topics we create content around?
Is this evergreen content (that holds its value for customers over time) or seasonal content (more topical with a shorter shelf life)?
What is the purpose of this piece of content? To educate, persuade, entertain, inspire?
Who is the content for?
What role does this content play in the customer journey?
How are we measuring success?
Who owns this content within the business?
Has this content been updated recently?
You'll want to be able to sort, filter and update this document as you go through the project, so make sure it's in a format that's easy for multiple people to access and modify.
2. Review all the content and rewrite if you need to
Now that you have a complete list of your content, it's time for some tough decisions.
Go through every page and decide whether you're going to:
keep the content in its current form,
improve it by rewriting or putting it into a new format (or because the formatting was broken with the last website migration...), or
delete the content entirely because it's no longer relevant or because it's no longer on brand.
Remember what we said earlier, lifting and shifting content from your old site to your new site simply brings all the old problems with it.
It is likely that the majority of the content on your site will need to be improved or rewritten. While it may look like a daunting task, you can break the content into sections or topics and assign it to a subject matter expert to help make the updates. Attack a few pages at a time - I promise it will be worth it.
And for your evergreen content, set a schedule of when you'll review it to ensure it stays relevant for your customers. That way you'll be confident that it will always be something you're happy to point people to.
One final tip - depending on the structure of your new website, your old URLs may not map exactly to your new ones. Don't forget to add a URL map to your content audit to help speed up the redirect process. And if you do delete content, ensure you plan to redirect the link to another relevant page. Speak to your SEO consultant if you need more guidance on this.
3. Update your metadata
Meta data can help your brand be found quickly and easily by search engines by signposting what the content on your page is about.
If you're dealing with old content, you may not have meta data in place. But even for pages that do have meta data, make sure you review it. It can date with time.
Here are the elements of meta data you'll want to check:
Meta titles: This 55-character title for your page will show in search results as well as social posts that include a link to your website, so be sure it's clear and uses the primary keyword for that page.
Meta descriptions: Acting as teaser copy on the search results page, your description should be compelling and assure customers that the information they're looking for can be found after the click.
Alt text: Often overlooked, adding alt text to your images is essential for two reasons - the first is that it can help with SEO by reinforcing what your page is about, and the second is that it makes your website more accessible for people using screen readers.
Include your new meta data on your content audit so you have it as a quick reference as the website relaunch progresses.
4. Make your calls to action (CTAs) stronger
Our UX Lead, Alex Lee, summed it up perfectly when he said, 'As a rule of thumb, CTAs should tell you exactly what they do in the shortest, most legible way.'
We can do better than the standard 'Read more' or 'Click here'.
With your CTAs, you're trying to prompt an action from your customers. Be sure to use an active voice where possible and include strong verbs.
Look at the page you're taking your customers to next. What will they find there that solves their problem or shows the value that you offer? Distil that solution and put it into your CTA.
And treat your CTAs as an extension of your brand voice. They're a great opportunity to insert some personality into your website.
On a page talking about job opportunities that leads to a list of open roles, 'read more' could become 'join our team' or 'find your next role'.
If you offer customers a chance to trial your products before they commit, don't use 'learn more' when you could say 'order a free sample pack'.
On a page inviting customers to get in touch, 'contact us' could become 'start a conversation today'.
5. Ensure your links still work
The internet is a fluid, ever-changing environment where content moves or disappears constantly. As a result, the hyperlinks on your website will regularly lead to nowhere.
Running a broken link report is a great first step to finding the links you need to update, but as you're going through the content on your site, I recommend clicking on all the links you reference - both internal links and external ones - to ensure that they still take your readers to the intended destination.
It's also a good opportunity to make sure that any external websites you're linking to are still the right fit for your brand and that they're still a trusted voice in your marketplace. You wouldn't want your reputation to take a hit by linking to a brand or personality that is no longer aligned to your values.
6. Agree your file structure and naming convention
If you're anything like me, the idea of opening a media library and seeing an unstructured mess of files with names like 'DSC34765' or 'u955' or 'istock-41988566' makes you shudder.
Even if you're not obsessive over your file structure, you'll see the benefit of organising folders in your CMS by section of the website and uploading files with names like:
It can help with SEO, but the true benefit will come when you start building out your pages for the website and especially for on-going website maintenance. You'll save so much time in the future that it's worth doing as part of the website relaunch.
7. Implement your personalisation strategy
Context marketing is when you're able to join together all the data points you have on your customers and provide them with the information they need at the right time and in the right way. Sitecore is our preferred marketing technology platform for this because of its flexibility and extensive functionality.
If you're using Sitecore or another platform that allows you to personalise content for a specific audience, make sure you get everything in place for your website relaunch.
Outline your key customer types and then segment them into specific patterns of behaviour so you'll recognise how they interact with your website.
Tag your content for those customer profiles so that as they move through your site you know what will be relevant and useful for them.
Set up digital goals that reflect the path to conversion so that you can see where your customers are in relation to the ultimate goal.
Launch personalisation rules that will determine which piece of content to show your customers to help them move forward.
Schedule quarterly reviews of your personalisation activity to ensure it's working hard for you and test new ways to connect with your customers.
Website relaunches are complex projects. But by making content a focus early on in the process, you can avoid frustration and additional expense as you go through the process.
And you'll be setting yourself up for success on go-live day when the new designs and the new functionality work hand-in-hand with clean, clear content tailored to meet your customers' needs.
If you want to find out how we can help you with your website relaunch or content strategy, get in touch with me today. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01233 467800, I would love to hear from you!
This blog was originally published on 26th November 2018 via the Sagittarius website.