There are many reasons why you might have a dead website. Maybe you tried to start a blog a few years ago, but grew disinterested and abandoned it. Maybe you started a business but the business folded, and you never did much with your website. Maybe the foundation of your website crumbled, like it was based on technology no one cares about. PagerWorld was just too beautiful for this Earth. Maybe your site was hacked and rather than fight back, you left it to ISIS. Maybe you were out grave robbing, and you found a dead man’s passwords tucked into the breast pocket of their suit, begging someone to take ownership of their digital possessions. You know, many common reasons.
In any case, you have a dead site and you want to resurrect it. How do you go about doing so without causing issues?
Examine What’s Left
Before you start to relaunch, take a look at what already exists for the site. Is it a complete unknown? Does it have some valuable backlinks or useful content that still receive a tiny trickle of hits? Does it have a popular brand attached, leading to a huge waste of potential?
You need to decide if you’re going to keep the current look and feel of the site, or if you’re going to rebrand it completely. This isn’t a trivial decision; if there’s any residual loyalty, you can’t make too big a departure or you risk losing what advantage it has.
What about the current site architecture? Is the coding up to snuff, or is it old, out of date and riddled with security holes? You need to, at the very least, update the code. You might need to invest in a whole new site design, complete with a mobile-ready responsive design. Remember, just because the site is old, doesn’t mean you can get away with living in the past.
Examine Existing Content
Content is the biggest site audit you’ll need to perform. You need to determine if the content meets today’s quality standards. If the content is old and thin, out of date, or valueless, you lose nothing by getting rid of it. On the other hand, if you have some valuable content, you might want to figure out how to keep that content around. While you’re at it, make sure you note the URLs of any content that has valuable incoming links, so you can preserve those links, either by keeping the URL or by implementing a redirect.
You will also want to make sure your content isn’t stolen or plagiarized. If you were buying content from disreputable freelancers or scraping and spinning it before, this can be a common problem. Another problem might be if you bought the site from someone else, as-is. You never know what baggage it carried along with it.
Check for content theft outside of your site as well. If you have good content, it might have been stolen, and you want to report that theft to make sure your relaunched site has as much power as possible.
As a side note, check your images! People today are extremely conscious of image rights. If a lot of your images came from unsourced Google searches years ago, you probably don’t have the rights to any of them, and you may want to replace them. For that matter, resolution standards have increased, and an old site with old images just looks old.
Assess Any Penalties
This is a quick check. If you have a working Google Analytics account attached to the site, just log in and look for manual actions and penalties. You will also want to check for the unannounced penalties, like Panda and Penguin.
Often times, the lack of traffic associated with a Google penalty is what kills a site in the first place. You will need to clear up the issues that led to the penalty in the first place. Part of this is accomplished in your content audit, when you look for thin or copied content. Part of it will involve looking for code errors or looking for a bad backlink profile. You may have a lot of work ahead of you.
Prepare a Fresh Start
Depending on the extent of the damage you had to fix or replace, this could be easy or could be difficult. Implement any new site design and code you need, remove any dead and valueless content, and disavow bad links. Work to return to as much of a fresh start as possible.
Once you have this fresh start, begin to build a content calendar. You’re going to want to fill out your site will all of the basic content, as well as buffing up any borderline existing content and restoring content that maintained value before your relaunch.
From here, you need to produce and post content on a regular basis. Content marketing is the core of all successful web marketing and growth today, and you need to get into it and hit the ground running. Take your time scheduling out posts for several months, just to make sure you’re going to have the leeway to deal with any issues that pop up unexpectedly.
Hype and Marketing
In the weeks and months leading up to your relaunch, you should start advertising its impending arrival. If you have an old mailing list, send out a message about the incoming return. Post on any attached social media accounts and start to get them active as well. Run advertising when the site goes live, to draw in a fresh influx of new users.
Moving forward, you will need to monitor your site performance and your users. Analytics tools of various sorts will help with this. Figure out who is visiting, where they’re coming from, and what they want to see. Entice them with more of the same, and bring in more users by refining your targeting on ads and with content posts.