If you’ve been online for a while you have old websites.
Maybe the site is still active, or maybe it’s an archive, but there is still good stuff there.
The material that you bought, created and published three, five, ten or fifteen years ago is still useful.
It might even be more relevant now than it was back then.
But an old website isn’t perfect.
If you’re going to put that old material to good use, you’ll need to do a bit of revamping.
Step 1: Define the Goal
If you’re going to rework a website, you need to know what it is you’re shooting for. Your first step is to always define the goal and scope of your project or risk wasting time and effort. If you’re revamping a big site as a type of rebranding across your company, for example, you will have a significantly greater task load than reworking a website to boost SEO or conversions.
Step 2: Identify Limitations
Sometimes, despite our best intentions, you simply can’t do it all. If you know that your writing skills aren’t she sharpest or that you can’t code yourself out of a box, don’t expect to do very well at those tasks. Likewise, time, our most precious resource, may be so limited that you wind up with a very long timeframe on the revamp simply because you don’t have time to prioritize it. It is far better to know your limitations ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.
Step 3: Isolate the Best Material
Once you start looking at the blog, look first for your best material. What had the best conversions in the past? What was the most popular with readers? The best material should be your focus as you rework the website. Identifying it means more than picking your favorite post. You’ll need to do a bit of digging and checking analytics to find the best overall post.
Step 4: Clarify the Audience
Just like when you launched the site the first time, you’ll need to identify your audience. Who are you selling or talking to? If you didn’t clearly define your audience last time, identifying your target is a huge advantage this time around – it allows you to make clearer choices and work with a target demographic in mind.
Step 5: Research Your New Market
If you’ve changed your audience, you’re going to need to learn more about them. If you used to talk to business owners, but now you’re talking to educators, it’s time for some studying. Learn the lingo and the key themes your audience is looking for. Look for gaps you can help fill with your material – this will help you select pieces to improve as well.
Step 6: Plan the Project Steps
Now that the initial overview work is done, it’s time to plan the specific steps for reworking the content. Use a project management software like Trello to identify the key steps for the process. These steps might include moving the site to a dummy server, checking all of the links, improving or reworking the content of the pages, or adding new graphics. Make your steps as detailed as possible while you are in the planning stages. This will make it easier to execute the steps later as you balance the workload or delegate.
Step 7: Divvy Up the Responsibilities
Speaking of delegating, your next step will be to find the right people for the jobs you need to do. Many of your tasks might be delegated to employees or split between stakeholders in the website. Having clear expectations for each requirement makes it easy to explain what is required and the expected timeframe and level of completion. This is also the time to start looking for freelancers or firms who might take on some of the jobs that aren’t in your current skill set.
Step 8: Identify Keywords and SEO Targets
Now that work is happening, it’s important to update your keywords. Do some keyword research if you haven’t already, and as the content is improving and updating, work in those new words. Those keywords belong in the page descriptions, the page titles, subtitles, article and captions. Not to be spammy, but to be thorough as you focus in on improving your SEO and ranking for particular things.
Step 9: Plan Your Website Map
Your website map should be clean and easy to follow. Your website map is simply the outline of your pages to be sure your menus are clean and prepared correctly. Creating your map will allow you see areas where linking might naturally occur within the site and areas where you may be light on content and materials.
Step 10: Create a Mock-up
As the work comes together, work on a mock-up website. This new version of the site should be live only for your team and should show the up-to-date final product. As you add pages and make changes to keywords, maps and images, this mock-up should show all of the vested parties what the revised site will look like and give them ideas on what to expect.
Step 11: Revise and Edit
When you feel like you’re getting close to the goal, stop. Take a step back. You are never finished with a website until you have someone read over what you’ve written and created. You should testing every link and reading every headline and caption. Bring in neutral parties if possible to be your beta testers. As they discover things to fix, fix them. Find a typo? Fix it. Your website is your visual reputation. A sloppy site indicates a sloppy company.
Step 12: Watch for Creep
As you are approaching the finish line, be wary of overstepping on your scope. Check back on that original goal you set. Have you found new projects and goals to add to the original project? This may be okay, or it may be the kind of project creep that makes you feel like you’ll never finish. Look at your original goal and stick to it. Cut the extra projects or put them in a new file for later updates. You want this site finished and live, not lingering in a constant state of “almost there.”
Step 13: Polish and Publish
Finally, it’s time to polish it up and publish! Push your new site to your old domain and watch your permalinks in your URL to maintain old traffic where it counts. Check for load times and compress images and needed. Check everything one more time to clean up broken links or oddly formatted content and then relax and enjoy the site’s transformation.
A new website is exciting, and when you revamp an old site you’re not just launching a new site, you’re rebranding, reworking and refining what you already know works and turning it into something that should work even better.