When new sites go live, a lot of things can go wrong. Miscommunication between the creative team and the search team can lead to embarrassing errors. It's always important to make sure the overall goal of the client is being met, and that takes cooperation on both ends. How can you make sure both teams are on the same page? We went to the experts and asked them:
How should creative agencies and search agencies collaborate when relaunching a site?
It's a bit of a "chicken and egg" situation -- Should the search strategy inform the creative or the other way around? In my experience, (if search is going to be a critical piece,) SEO research should come first. I like to figure out which terms we want to target, and weigh them against what's realistic. Then, we can figure out what content needs to be created to support that.
So if a search team is working with a creative team, there might be some initial collaboration to brainstorm keyword ideas. Then, let the SEO experts do their research, and provide the creative team with phrases and topics that will fuel the content creation phase.
There may then need to be some technical tweaking by the SEOs to get the most search value out of that content. (Such as adding or moving instances of a phrase within the content.)
Wes McDowell, The Deep End
Creative agencies need to consider search agencies from inception. Search agencies need to help craft information architecture, labeling, etc. However, so many creative agencies just want to engage search when they have pages ready to look at doing optimization for, but it's late in the game at this point. Searchers begin research before anything hits the table which helps guide the direction creative should go. Without working together you miss opportunity to put together the perfect website, and instead create internal political battles. The outcome, design by committee where nobody really wins.
Jordan Kasteler, JordanKasteler.com
Being supportive of each other's priorities is easily the most critical thing that creative and search agencies need to focus on, in order to avoid conflicts, delays and rework. The solution is clear and constant communication among both the teams. Technology and software can help right from the outset here. Put in place
1) a project management system, for scheduling and collaboration on tasks, and file sharing
2) an instant messaging system, for quick question-answers and status updates
The final decision on any conflicting or out-of-scope edits being made to the site needs to be taken by the client (website owner). It is the responsibility of both agencies to make them understand the importance as well as the impact of every task and milestone.
Manish Dudharejia, E2M
It's so incredibly important for a design/development agency to understand the goals, tone, and mission of each new project. As a development company specializing in eCommerce we are laser focused on goals and how to help our clients achieve them using their website. This is why getting copy and marketing information ahead of going into a design sprint is beneficial to have the necessary context to create the front-end experience to be a catalyst for achieving the goal our clients set for themselves.
Cody Landefeld, Mode Effect
Identify an 'integrator' from Day 1. This person is responsible for 'shipping' a complete site that ties-together the hundreds or thousands of pieces along the way. The choice of integrator will impact project management, account management, and stress management.
Ideally, the end-client serves as integrator, because they have the strongest incentive to make things succeed. Site relaunches are time-consuming, so they should plan to reduce their other work responsibilities during the project.
If the client lacks the technical and marketing skills to be an effective integrator, a project manager at the creative or search agency should be the integrator, in close coordination with the end-client.
If an agency PM is the integrator, it's important to ensure the firm is getting paid for the extra work along the way. There are initial strategy meetings, ongoing check-ins across all parties, the craziness of launch day, and the backlog of inevitable post-launch fixes.
Karl Sakas, Digital Agency Consultant & Coach
The key part of any site build and launch is continuity for the search engines. Few brands are creating websites for the first time nowadays (although SMEs are). For me, the key parts of this agency collaboration are based around making sure the visitor experience for the new site is an improvement on the old one.
You must not lose any of the strong keyword traffic which the old site had. And so a careful keyword tactical plan ensuring similar phrases are used on the major website pages, meta descriptions and alt tags is needed.
Secondly, check whether the URL structure is going to change or not. Frequently ecommerce stores use different structures and so this risks breaking all the historic data for the site. Set up a 301 redirect so that traffic gets to the right page.
As a marketing agency, I always recommend running an inbound campaign to drive traffic to the new site as soon after it launches as possible. This starts the process of "re-educating" the search engines about the new site structure as quickly as possible. And above all, test and measure EVERYTHING.
Rebecca Caroe, Creative Agency Secrets
Work together to ensure searchers can accomplish their task by driving them through a process that gets them to the finish line.
Look at a search query and associated landing page as a funnel. Search agencies get traffic into the funnel, and creative agencies convert that traffic.
The two teams must rally behind a common plan of creating a funnel that solves a problem or fulfills a need a searcher has. Then collaborate to match up the searcher's need with a web page's content, products and services.
Voice of customer research is the best way I've found to uncover problems and needs. Through this research, both teams can gain an understanding of what searchers are seeking and what leaves some searchers unsatisfied. As well as, what makes shoppers buy and why some qualified visitors don't buy.
The two teams must align strategically and tactically to create each web page.