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Complex projects require good team dynamics

Rebuilding a German-language web-site to deliver SEO gains

A successful collaboration is often more reliant on how you work together than the level of collective intellect. Mix in new and diverse teams and an aggressive deadline with new technologies and you have yourself a good challenge: Fast-tracking ramp-up, building trust and ensuring open communication lines to ensure the project is delivered.

But with a bit of ingenuity that mixed business with pleasure (and some sight-seeing), we were able to bring an otherwise group of strangers, together, in order to reach the same goal. We had a Germany-based client who were looking for support to move their content from one Content Management System (CMS) to another.

SEO was another major challenge and they recognized that they needed advice on restructuring their site to improve their search engine rankings on Google. We ran a preliminary analysis of our client’s online presence and performance to determine how it could be improved and what approaches might work.

This project involved a number of stakeholders including digital, marketing and IT teams. That’s a lot of people working long, intense hours within a tight time frame — we had three weeks to deliver so we did what anyone would do while working with a German client in Frankfurt: We hired a Bier Bike.

What’s a Bier Bike you ask?

What’s a Bier Bike you ask? It’s basically a pub on wheels that you and your companions have to pedal in order to get around. You can only imagine how well we got to know each other as we bonded over German bier and necessary exercise!

At one point, there was one poor guy who was the only one pedaling as the rest of us had stopped and by the time he realised, a funny memory had been made and a bond formed among the new team.

The next few weeks of hard work were able to go smoothly as everyone had solidified to form one entity following that fun night out. We were also able to learn more about our client’s strategy during our time on the Bier Bike!

Analysis and metrics showed us that there were parts of the website that were getting a lot of investment but limited visitors. Put simply, they needed more visitors and for those visitors to see the right content. Once we knew where our client wanted the website to go, we got to work developing tools to aide in the migration and design of the new site.

This included mapping existing content against the new format so we could then push it across automatically by applying a few custom-made scripts into the new CMS.

The days were long, but the collegiality and good spirits made it fun.

Because we were working with a Germany-based company and website, it meant everything, including the URL, was in German. This is a potential problem when rebuilding a site in another language as Google handles German umlauts and ligatures differently and this can in turn affect where a website or URL sits in a search engine — so basically, you’ve got to know how a different language is going to be processed by Google in order to determine where that website will land. For example, where the German umlaut character is unavailable, it is usually replaced with the underlying vowel, followed by an ‘e’ (eg. “Gebühren” = “Gebuehren” = Fees; or “küsse” = “kuesse” = kisses).

But while that might be common practice with writing, our research found that in a URL, Google actually preferred the stand alone ‘u’ without the added ‘e’ which in turn influenced our recommendations for the new website’s URLs.

Once we’d completed the migration and rebuild of the new site, we further assisted the Germany-based team by hosting training sessions with the authors on the CMS and others who were working within the various components and features.

We did this to help ensure our client’s new team structure not only worked well but remained effective long after the site went live and we went home. As the content management strategy was updated — and a few language and performance issues rectified — search engine rankings improved and the traffic followed which was exactly what our client was after.

Titbits and takeaways

When rebuilding or refreshing a site, it is important to start with a clear and aligned vision for your digital platform — thereby aligning your content management strategy to your business objectives and goals.

Moving or upgrading systems? Consider treating it as an opportunity to review your information architecture (IA). Look at all your content and determine if it needs to be ‘migrated’ to the new site. Could the structure could be altered to better suit how you go to market? A site performance assessment can confirm or test your assumptions on content viability and accessibility.

When working with multiple languages and grammatical changes, it is a good idea to understand what search engines look for and how to best optimise the URLs, content and code base appropriately.

Team cohesion on a high pressure project can be challenging if you’re bringing together individuals who have never worked together. Think about getting the team interacting and sharing feedback.

Transform the way the world sees you.