Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When Redesigning Your Site Or Blog, Don't Forget To Grandfather

I recently redesigned my author website. It's something many of you will do at some point, whether to add features, get a more professional look, put the focus on a specific book or service, or just because you think it's time. Whatever the reason, when bringing in the new, be careful not to get too overzealous about throwing out the old.

Some of the content on your site may be quite popular, with many links, tweets, backtracks and so on all over the web. Check your site statistics or pageviews to get a quick read on which pages or articles are getting the most traffic, check for backtracks/backlinks on any of your content (backtracks and backlinks are instances of other sites linking to yours) and also take a trip down memory lane to remind yourself which pages or articles you have heavily promoted in the past. Be particularly alert to any content that has been mentioned in the media or highlighted on others' websites and blogs.

When revamping your site or blog, be sure to keep that popular and much-linked content, and keep all of the associated web page addresses and links intact. After all, you've already put in the effort to create the content, and it's bringing new visitors to your site or blog on a regular basis. Why on Earth would you want to toss that valuable information and goodwill asset on the junk heap?

In the case of my old site, there was a very popular page containing a BookBuzzr widget which displayed the first edition of my book, The Indie Author Guide, online in its entirety for free, as well as a free guide to Kindle publishing. This page has received numerous positive mentions (with links) in the mainstream media. It was no cakewalk building my author platform up to a point where outlets like The New York Times, MSN Money, CNET and The Huffington Post were sending new site visitors my way, and the articles in which my guide had been mentioned will still be on the web for years, or even decades, to come. Even though that Kindle publishing guide is currently out of date and I'm in the process of updating it, and an updated and revised edition of The Indie Author Guide is on its way as well, it would've been a mistake to completely eliminate the page and leave a slew of broken links in the wake of my site redesign.

It so happens that I didn't intend to include this specific page in my new site. I'd created a new organizational scheme and the page just didn't fit. However, I didn't want to turn away any new visitors who might discover me through all those links to the page.

So I created a new version of the old page, to match the new site design, and ensured it had the same title and web address. I added a statement indicating I'm in the process of updating the guide and when I expect the new version to be posted, plus a statement with information about the revised and updated edition of The Indie Author Guide, so anyone landing on that page will get the most up to date information.

Note to those who actually write the code for their sites or blogs: even though the new page didn't have any need for HTML anchors to be included on it, I ensured all anchors present on the old page were included in the new one, so that any links pointing to those old anchors wouldn't be broken, either.

I didn't include this page in my site's navigation bar, because again, it just doesn't fit the new scheme. But anyone who clicks on one of those old links will not be disappointed, and since the navigation bar for my new site is on that "secret" page too, it's possible new visitors may click around a bit and learn more about me and my books.

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