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What to expect when your redesign goes live

At Y-Times we roll out new designs, redesigns and other major upgrades to Yahoo stores on a fairly regular basis. Some of the main questions our clients ask are how to prepare for a roll-out and what to expect in terms of SEO and conversions when the changes go live?

For any functional Yahoo store how well the site ranks and how well it converts are probably the two most important metrics. Since pretty much ANY change you make to any page can potentially alter either or both of these metrics, merchants may understandably feel nervous about far reaching alterations to their sites. However, when those functionality and design changes and additions are done right, there is really very little to fear.

First off, what does it mean for a design or redesign to be "done right?" From the technical stand point, search engines look at the underlying structure of your site (the HTML, and increasingly also the CSS and JavaScript code) to try to extract information and meaning from it. If your site has been around for awhile with good ranking, it means that the search engines can easily get the content from your site, and that content is good (it delivers to the customers what the customers want.) If you then have your site redesigned, you want to make sure that the underlying structure - and especially the content - remains as intact as possible. It means that your main meta tags, title tags and copy should still be there as it was in the previous design and that the main navigation structure of the site remains mostly intact. Since Yahoo stores are template-based, with a little added attention by you (or your developer), it is relatively easy to make sure that the content remains the same. However, it is equally important that the content is easily discoverable by the search engines. For example, you want to make sure that static information is still part of the static structure (HTML) of the site and is not delivered dynamically through JavaScript only.

Preparing for the roll-out

Before we pull the trigger and publish a new design, we always make sure that that the main functionality of the store, searching, adding to cart, and checking out works flawlessly. This can be tested in the editor, but right before roll-out, we always publish a couple of representative pages (section and item pages) using the "single ID publish" method ( We can then test those pages live and on various devices to make sure everything works outside of the editor environment. We can then turn the new design off and republish these pages so they don't remain out there with a look and feel different from the rest of the site.

If the store is large (tens or hundreds of thousands of pages) with lots of images, one thing to consider is that the very first publish will have to re-generate all the images used anywhere in the site. This process can be very time consuming, and it's not uncommon for the roll-out publish of some very large stores to take several hours.

We also don't ever recommend a roll-out for a Friday afternoon. Most people in "standard" 9-5 jobs don't work on weekends and in case something goes really wrong with your roll-out it might be difficult to find helpful tech support until Monday morning.

After the roll-out

Immediately after the roll out, make sure you go to the live site and start navigating around and trying as many functions as possible. Most importantly, try your store search and place a test order using various devices and operating systems, including mobile devices. You can place a test order in any yahoo store by using Visa / 4111-1111-1111-1111 as your payment method.

Watching your stats

Once the new design is out, note the date and start watching your analytics stats. However, don't expect to see a dramatic change in either your SEO or your conversion rate; at least not for the worse. Remember from Statistics 101, the larger your sample the more accurate your results! If you average a thousand orders per day, you are more likely to spot something amiss in a few hours than if your average is 10 orders a day. With 10 orders, a difference in 2 orders is a huge 20% plus-minus so your range of error is rather large. Most importantly don't start making haphazard decisions such as rolling back the changes after a day or two, then deciding to roll them back out again. You will need to give your stats some time to even out and start to see a trend.

With regards to SEO, you definitely won't notice a change for at least a few days or sometimes even weeks, depending on how frequently your site is being crawled. If you suspect something wrong, you should first check the cached version of the page in question. You can do that in Google by searching for the page in question, then next to it in the search results pull down the little down arrow and select "Cached". It will tell you when that page was last indexed. If it was before your roll-out then obviously the search engine didn't have time yet to consider your new changes.

When it comes to conversion, it is conceivable that you notice a difference very soon. If it is a positive change, congratulate yourself (and your developer) and be happy! However, if you see a huge drop in conversions it can be an indication of some technical issues with the site. For example the errors in the code may prevent the pages from coming up in certain browsers, or your add to cart function doesn't work, or you have an issue with checkout. Be sure to place test orders to make sure you have no such issues and also ask your developer to test the site again to make sure no technical errors exist.

If the changes you see are negative, you'll have to rule out outside factors such as seasonal changes, or political or natural causes, etc. Compare your results to those a week, a month and a year ago at the same time to see if the changes you are seeing mesh with similar time periods in the past. For example, if the first half of the week is usually slow for you, then an underperforming redesign rolled out on a Monday is probably nothing to worry about. Only once you ruled these out should you start focusing on whether the new design might not work well for conversions. To test, you could roll back your new design and run with the old for a few days or a week or so. If things go back to normal, try the new design again for a few days. If you notice that negative results directly correlate with your new design being live it can be a really good indicator that the new design may have some areas that need further experimentation.


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