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20 Ways Website Switchover Pains Can Be Avoided

Another week of frantic calls from clients that did not advise me when they were cutting over to a new website provider.  Does anyone really pay attention to what I say or write?

So, I thought I would take to the keyboard and send out a reminder to dealers who are not aware of the impact that changing a website provider can have on their marketing analytics. 

 

Changing website vendors is a commonplace event in our industry.  Changes in management are often accompanied by throwing out all the previous vendors associated with the past regime.  Sound familiar?  That could be another blog post on its own!

 

Other times, website vendor changes are a result of a thorough analysis of the current performance of a dealer's website.  A current list of the top performing website vendors can be found by visiting the 2012 Automotive Website Awards website. 

 

Website Cutover Checklist

 

Regardless of how many times I speak on this topic, rarely do website changes go smoothly.  So I decided to create a checklist when changing a website platform.  ADM members can also add their own suggestions in the comments area below.

 

  1. Document the current Google Analytics User Account (UA) number tagged on your current website BEFORE changing vendors.  You can find this by viewing the source code on the home page and searching for the letters "UA-"
  2. Make sure you have Administrator ownership rights to the Google Analytics Account identified by that UA#.
  3. Provide that UA# to your new website provider and request that the FIRST day that the website is made live, that all pages are tagged with your existing Google Analytics UA#. This will assure that you have an unbroken record of website traffic as you switch vendors and will allow you to compare important engagement statistics.
  4. Contact your current Google Adwords vendor and ask for the conversion code to be placed on the "thank you" pages after leads are submitted.
  5. Request that the new website vendor deliver your website day one with the conversion tracking code installed.  This will ensure that your Adwords conversion metrics are not lost during the cutover.
  6. If you are using enterprise analytics like those provided by Dataium, send your new website provider the tagging code and require that the 1st day of the website launch, the enterprise analytics code is installed.
  7. Provide your new website company with any merchandising code from PureCars, HookLogic, etc, so that all inventory pages have the SAME enhancements that the previous website platform had installed.
  8. Make sure that your chat company's pop-up code and banner code is installed in the new website prior to going live.  You can't afford to have your chat down when the new site goes live.
  9. Confirm that your inventory feed providers know that you are switching website platforms. Make sure you see your live inventory working on the new vendor "test" site before cutting over live.
  10. If you are using tracking phone numbers from company's like CallSource or Century Interactive, make sure that the new website vendor has those tracking numbers properly installed.
  11. If you are using a website platform that has replaceable phone numbers during a paid search click visit, make sure that the code and numbers are properly configured with your Adwords provider.
  12. Check ALL lead forms to make sure that they are coming into your CRM system properly.  Submit a lead on every form and test leaving out certain information to see that the required field rules are correct.
  13. Check the "framed in" forms that are often found on service and finance application pages to make sure that they work and are properly formatted visually on the page.
  14. Check to see that manufacturer incentives are properly formatted and displayed for your region, if the website company provides automated OEM specials pages.
  15. Check that your mobile website is served up when you visit your main website URL from a cell phone.
  16. Check to see that leads submitted on your mobile website arrive in your CRM properly.
  17. Make sure that your mobile website has Google Analytics installed as a separate UA account number.
  18. Check how your website is displayed on an iPad and an iPhone.  Make any formatting changes to your new vendor in advance of going live since 30% of automotive search queries are done from mobile devices.
  19. Check that your new website has been crawled by Google and that all pages are indexed.  Use the site command to see how many pages are in the Google index.  Example: "site:http://www.abcnissan.com"
  20. Make sure that your new website is setup in Webmaster Tools and that your sitemap has been submitted.  Check to see if there are any crawl errors.  Inspect to see if there are too many Duplicate Page Titles and META Descriptions.
  21. Identify and custom landing pages or SEO content pages that were created on your existing site.  Note the page titles, tags, and URL structures  Make sure that these pages get included into the cutover process.  (Thanks Tim Martell)
  22. List your top 20+ pages that you would reference from offsite blogs, press releases ,etc. and have permanent redirects programmed on the new site.  Common pages that would be considered a candidate for remapping would be service appointments, specials, about us, new cars SRP, used cars SRP, staff page, finance application, etc.  (Thank Joey Abna)
  23. Test inventory feed in parallel for a few days before the cutover.  (Thanks George Nenni) 
  24. Test the new website in all common browsers and make sure all animation, forms, coupons work in all browsers.  (Thanks George Nenni) 

 

 Avoid The Common Mistakes

 

If you follow this checklist you will avoid unnecessary pain.  If ADM members have some additional checklist items, please add them in the comments.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  If you want better strategies for your digital marketing investments in 2013, I suggest you attend this conference just prior to NADA in Orlando this February. 

 

Happy New Year to all ADM Readers...and avoid the pain of website change-overs.

 

Brian Pasch, CEO

PCG Consulting

brian@pcgmailer.com

732.672.2356

Views: 215

Tags: automotive websites, best automotive websites, cars, changes, changing website vendors, dealers, website

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Comment by Brian Pasch on December 28, 2012 at 12:38pm

Joey, great point about setting up page redirects.   It is a tedious process but it really helps to leverage existing blog links to service pages, specials pages, etc.   The key is to pick your top 20 pages and have those hard coded redirects as part of the cutover. 

Comment by Brian Pasch on December 28, 2012 at 12:37pm

Good point Tim.  If you paid good money for custom pages for SEO goals, they should be part of the cutover deal.  I'm going to add that to the list for sure. 

Comment by Timothy Martell on December 28, 2012 at 10:23am

Brian, I might add something about internal landing pages. During my experience in retail, I found that many vendors were unwilling to scrape the landing page data from existing sites that SEO vendors or even internal staff had created which were well optimized and converting. 

Its important not to lose successful components like landing pages and it is equally important to have 301 redirects implemented should the sites url structure differ from the previous iteration.

Comment by Joey Abna on December 28, 2012 at 9:29am

Great list Brian. An additional concern I would have in switching providers would be a change in url structure. Page urls on the old site most likely will not be the same on the new site. This can cause any existing pages that currently deliver organic traffic to go to 404 pages and for backlinks to old page urls to also 404. Also, check for incorrect header status codes, some providers don't handle 404 pages or redirects properly by default.

Comment by George Nenni on December 28, 2012 at 8:40am

What a useful checklist, floating this one around internally.  Only item to add might be to check sites on multiple Browsers and versions (Chrome, IE, Firefox).  Step 9, you may want to have inventory feeds run in parallel for a while to make sure listings are correct leading up to switchover.  Also, if video provider is separate  get them involved early and make sure website can accomodate.  Finally, steps 15-17 don't apply if you have Adaptive/Responsive site.

Comment by Kim Essenmacher on December 28, 2012 at 6:36am

Brian, should the content, keywords and page names stay the same as well so it doesn't have to be reindexed?

Comment by James Easter on December 28, 2012 at 5:57am

nice post Brian

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