Content Audits for SEO & Site Migration: Picking a website up on your back and moving it


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Once I was tasked as part of a team moving a large Public Courthouse to a new location. It's something I'll always remember, and I'm reminded of it every time I'm involved in the migration of a new site to a new domain. Success is in the planning, and in successfully tackling small details.

First question I asked everyone is, "How many of you have never moved to a new home? Moving a courthouse is a whole lot more work." No one raised their hand. They can related to the challege.

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  • The people you are creating for are the most important people involved in changing or moving a website. When you plan for and build or move a website, the changes that you make may be aimed at improving the site, but they should be targeted at the audience for that site and meet their informational and situational needs.
  • Why make a change – know the reasons. Anticipate changes carefully - as many as you can. Use effective tools to make changes and inventory your assets, whether physical or digital. Test the changes before hand, as much as possible, and elicit feedback from others. Anticipate that your internal changes will impact others and make changes to those places as well.
  • A friend who was an architect before he became a web designer and I had an ongoing discussion (years long) about how the architecture of a building was a lot like the architecture of a website. Past experiences can provide a useful framework for thinking about things that you might have to do on a project, and the process I went through to move a large public building offered a lot of lessons that could be used when moving or changing a website.
  • This was the Daniel Herrman Courthouse, which was built in the early 1900s, and was a long time home of Delaware’s Superior Court, Court of Common Pleas, and Court of Chancery. I started working there in 1991 as an intern to the staff attorney, and ended up as a technical administrator for the highest level trial court in the State
  • The new Courthouse offered room to grow and a strong infrastructure for new features and technology. We had what was a fresh slate to build a new courthouse with better technology, not unlike a new website
  • We moved five blocks down the street.Have a good reason for moving to another domain, or for changing the URLs for pages, and plan carefully for the changes that you are going to make.
  • How I helped rescue an escaping prisoner during an afternoon break. He escaped by pushing a ceiling tile up, crawling in that ceiling space above a wall from a closed and locked room. The cries for help came from the jury room, which was emptied that afternoon after jury selection. I went in and found a sheriff doubled over in pain from a low blow, and a capitol police officer struggling to put cuffs on a defendant. I helped with the handcuffs.
  • We hadn’t anticipated all of the impacts of our changes, and a couple of years ago, someone in a child custody dispute entered the courthouse lobby with a loaded gun, shot and killed his ex-wife and her best friend, and shot a couple of Capitol Police Officiers manning metal detectors at the front door.
  • We sent lots of records for completed cases to State Archives rather than to the new courthouse, and returned a lot of evidence in finished cases to the agencies or offices that originally submitted them to the Court. For a website, use tools like Screaming Frog Web Crawler, Xenu Link Sleuth, Deepcrawl, and others that can help you manage your digital assets.
  • Auditors looked at every piece of furniture and equipment, and determined whether it was worth the cost of moving or if it would be better to buy new. I checked barcodes on all of those at least 4 times for an office of 80+ people, crawling on the ground to do so, in suit and tie.
  • We also set up one of the most advanced e-courtrooms in the country (at the time) in the old court house, to test all the equipment that we would be using in every courtroom in the new building. You can try out new features on your own site or use a safe testing server and environment in anticipation of the move.
  • A team of us traveled from Delaware to Annapolis, Md., on a field trip to see how they set up Digital Audio, in one of the first court houses to use it in every court room. Testing new equipment, new content management systems is a really good idea, because it can help in planning. Explore what others within your market are doing in terms of the use of technology, and what their websites have to offer visitors.
  • We ended printing and delivery of calendars for court events, especially to offices that were now more than 5 blocks further away. Switching to email resulted in a tremendous savings in terms of printing, copying, and running those documents.
  • This is the District Court in Warrenton, Virginia. I can’t help myself but think about the steps it would take to move it to the other end of Main Street.
  • Content Audits for SEO & Site Migration: Picking a website up on your back and moving it

    1. 1. Bill Slawski Go Fish Digital Tysons Corner Search Engine Marketing Meetup December 10, 2013
    2. 2. “What ever you are creating – be it a design, a product or a painting, if you wish it be successful, never forget that you are creating it for the benefit or the use of people.” -Ron Wayne, Co-Founder of Apple Computers -
    3. 3.  Understand changes/pain points  Anticipate changes  Use Helpful Tools  Don’t transport unneeded assets  Explore changes before a final move  Elicit Feedback
    4. 4. In 2003, I was part of a team charged with moving a busy public building 5 blocks down the street
    5. 5. Moving Frightened Us The move ended up going well, but the planning behind it reminds me of the planning that goes into moving a website to a new domain, or moving it in rankings in search engines in significant ways.
    6. 6. Why We Moved the Court There were a number of pain points that forced us to move, including no room for growth, inadequate electrical systems, unsafe transportation of defendants, little storage room.
    7. 7. We were moving into a building with Family Court! While we were the highest level trial Court in the State, one of our biggest concerns about the move was that we would be in the same building with Family Court, where cases involving custody and visitation issues were highly emotionally charged. Unfortunately, that concern ended up being warranted.
    8. 8. Audit all your (Digital) Assets – Decide what stays, what moves, what gets changed or upgraded.
    9. 9. E-Courtroom was set up and tested in Old Court House
    10. 10. Field Trip to Annapolis Maryland Court House where the first Audio Digital Courtrooms where set up court wide
    11. 11. Know your audiences, listen to them, find out what they really need and try to improve things for everyone
    12. 12. Often for a quick check on error handling (404) and Canonicalization (301) re: subdomains
    13. 13. Check Broken Links, Redirects, and Site Structure
    14. 14. I like this program because it makes it very easy to create a multi-sheet content Inventory for a site, to track different digital assets
    15. 15. An Enterprise level Crawler with an Enterprise Level price tag. It makes bigger sites easily manageable.
    16. 16. Allows for a quick look into the technologies used on a site
    17. 17. Provides suggestions on issues to help speed up a site and information on how to make those changes
    18. 18. Make sure that Schema Meta Data Is set up correctly
    19. 19. Check File Name, Image Size, and Alt Text quickly
    20. 20. Swiss Army Knife of Tools – lets you view pages without images, without CSS, without cookies, and view different elements on a page as overlays
    21. 21. Allows Access to data about a site that can’t be retrieved elsewhere
    22. 22.  Bill Slawski  Twitter: @bill_slawski  Blog:  Site:  LinkedIn:  GooglePlus: