Chapter 3 - Launch Day Priorities and Ownership

Whether re-platforming, changing domains or overseeing a website consolidation, the launch itself is a culmination of hard work, planning and collaboration between all of those involved in the project. Whether you’re in-house, agency-side or a consultant – James has prepared four key tips that he believes can help any SEO or Project Manager working on a website migration.

StrategiQ is a full-service agency providing both website development and marketing services to our clients as part of an integrated service. One advantage that this gives is the ability to work together on client website migrations allowing the roll-out of a new and enhanced website whilst also leveraging new SEO potential off the back of a successful site migration or launch.

Here’s a summary of the top ‘Migration Launch-Day’ tips:

Tip 1: Earn your relationship with the developers

Tip 2: Distinguish roles and accountability 

Tip 3: Develop a stoic launch checklist

Tip 4: Layer with a custom launch checklist for external collaborations

Tip 1: Earn your relationship with the developers

Having spent ten years as a hands-on frontend developer, James can’t stress enough the value of building and earning your relationships with project developers and engineers. Whilst some developers are curious about and understand SEO, it’s fair to say that many are still understanding the true potential and facets of how their work can be enhanced through the lens of SEO. Early on in the project, share the opportunities that you identify with the team so that they can be factored into the project specification and sprints from the outset. 

Articulating the value of an SEO-related task can also be effective. For example if you’re pushing for faster load speeds, sharing information such as the rumoured Web Core Vitals becoming a ranking signal in May can not only emphasise value from an algorithmic perspective but you could layer this with real-world examples and data of how performance improves user-experience and conversion.  

Developers are problem solvers and can love challenges that utilise their existing skills but give them a chance to learn new things, try out new code and build something effective that they’ve not done before. Present the objective and encourage their ownership of the solution. Ask them how they would go about achieving the objective and enable them to solve the problem rather than telling them how they should go about it.

Building your relationship with a development team, whether for just a few short weeks or over the course of months and even years, comes down to collaboration, trust and respect. If you earn the relationship over time, you’ll develop a strong reciprocal relationship where your input is heard and implemented rather than being perceived as an inconvenience.

There’s hundreds of other fantastic tips and experiences on the above tweet by John Mu which I’d highly recommend checking out.

James Bavington

Technical Director at StrategiQ

James Bavington is Technical Director at full-service agency StrategiQ who are based in both Warwickshire and Suffolk UK. James started his career in 2006 as a designer and front-end developer, gaining an affinity for SEO and Ecommerce prior to joining StrategiQ in 2015 to own the cohesion between the development and marketing teams. Remaining hands-on with clients of all shapes and sizes, James has worked with brands ranging from The Dorchester and Reuters to local businesses and charities including The Air Ambulance Service. Over the course of the pandemic James has stayed sane WFH by setting up a desk surrounded by Lego and taking up mountain biking.

Watch our Tea Time SEO session here:

Table of Contents

Tip 2. Distinguish roles and accountability

During the live Tea Time SEO session, Sara raised the importance of planning for any website migration project. When it comes to the days just before (and launch day itself) it’s incredibly important to clearly define roles and accountability between all of those involved and hands-on with the website migration.

A website launch at our agency will almost always typically involve the following four individuals on our team as a minimum:

  • Account Director and/or Project Manager
  • Lead Developer
  • QA Analyst
  • Lead Technical SEO

And even for inter-agency/in-house collaborations there is usually more people and more roles too. Therefore, from the outset it’s important to clearly and visibly agree who is doing what and when. If as the SEO or Project Lead, you delegate tasks to others, don’t assume they’re going to be done – ensure and verify that they have or will be done. This early planning throughout a project pays huge dividends on Launch Day itself because it allows you to stay in-control of your own priorities rather than discovering something you thought was being handled – actually isn’t.

Discuss with the team an effective communications strategy for launch day itself. James has seen challenging and complex sites launches (which can often require the full attention and focus of the development team) hindered by an over-eager SEO or QA colleague flooding Slack with questions and distractions mid-launch which are actually under control. Collaborate on a launch checklist and feedback system that allows you to record and prioritise observations in sprints – so that you can more clearly prioritise tickets and observations for the developers in an effective manner.

blank

Tip 3. Develop a stoic launch Checklist

After watching Tim Ferriss’ Ted Talk on ‘Defining your fears not your goals’ a few years ago – one tip that has always stayed with James is the process of writing lists – allowing him and his team to plan and mitigate what can go wrong in a website launch or migration. This process lends itself well in preparing a core ‘Website Launch Checklist’ that you can build up individually or with your team to note down common issues, checks or actions required for a site launch/migration. 

Having initially started theirs in Trello, then Google Sheets and then back to Trello again – they’ve settled over the past year in building a centralised inter-department launch checklist within Process Street.

blank

This animation above highlights the clean user-interface of Process Street’s checklist style application that allows different teams to collaborate on Master Checklists that we can roll-out for each new project we’re working on. The whole while, key authors from each team are continually tweaking and updating it to ensure it aligns with best-practice or new issues that may have caught us out for the first time. Examples of items for your checklist might be:

  • Dev: Ensuring that the Meta Robots tag isn’t set to noindex,nofollow after launch.
  • SEO: Submitting fresh XML Sitemaps in Google Search Console
  • PM: Ensuring that realtime data is coming through in Google Analytics
  • QA: Checking that caching and other performance metrics are working

The beauty of having a Master Checklist with tools like Process Street, Trello or Google Sheets is that you can:

  • Refine, evolve and continually develop your Master List over time
  • Create variants or Add-ons for specific platforms like Ecommerce
  • Collaborate and delegate tasks to other teams from one checklist
  • Concentrate on the niches and priorities of your work on the migration, knowing that you have a reference of the common, consistent actions or checks to perform.

Tip 4. Layer with a custom Launch Checklist for external collaborations

Building on from Tip 3 is the more tailored approach in creating a launch checklist for external collaborations. In-house or personal checklists are fantastic, but they are typically alien to external collaborators who are either unfamiliar with your tried and tested format or just need something specific and tailored to them rather than the whole project.

When we’re working on a site migration with another agency whereby maybe we’ve built and they’re leading the SEO, or if we’re consulting on SEO for an in-house development team – we typically opt to create an ‘External Checklist’ that is built out with key points and actions from our Internal Checklist. Collaborations shouldn’t be a barrier for utilising and organising your tasks within a checklist.

blank

Introduce and agree the format early with the whole team, rather than pushing something on everyone mid-project or in the run-up to launch. Format isn’t really essential as even at the start of this year, we’ve worked on SEO Launch checklists in both Trello and Google Sheets. What matters is simplicity, clear delegation and prioritisation for a single point of reference for the whole team.

blank

In the example above, you’ll see a custom Google Sheets format that we build out from scratch for a project collaboration whereby we’re advising an engineering team on a replatforming project. 

Tasks, status, priority and ownership is clear and central in a single, visible place for all involved in the platforms build and launch. All of the consulting, audits and recommendations provided in the early stages of the project are simply referenced here for checks to ensure their readiness ahead of launch.

Conclusion

In order to succeed in a website migration, SEOs need to have a solid plan right from the moment they get involved. However, having a solid plan without the support of devs is not enough.

Solid planning, support from developers and technical knowledge of how to migrate a website need to go hand in hand in order to succeed.

If you’re planning a website migration this year – then good luck.  Don’t be afraid to ask for advice and a helping hand in ‘The Optimisers‘ – a community of fellow search engine optimisation pros helping each other on the journey to the top of the search engines”.

Menu