By Brecken Branstrator
Lighthouse Point, Fla.--Florida retailer J.R. Dunn recently re-launched its website, giving it a major overhaul with a cleaner feel, bigger product images and easier-to-read information, as well the ability to compare products.

The new website went live the second week of October, but during the process of transitioning to a new domain, from to the new, the store’s management experienced a number of unexpected hiccups along the way.

Sean Dunn, vice president of J.R. Dunn, walked National Jeweler through a few of the issues that arose along the way, and what retailers can do to avoid them when they’re creating and launching a website with a different domain.

1. Do block search engines from accessing the new site until it’s ready. Add a “robots.txt” file to the development website so Google and other search engines don’t crawl it while the old one is still live and in use. “Google doesn’t like to run duplicated content for one company, so neither of your sites will rank very well if you don’t put the block on your development site,” Dunn said. A robots.txt file restricts access to your site by search engine robots until the new site is ready to go.

2. Do use Google Webmaster Tools. It will provide you with reports about your page’s visibility on Google and let you know where you have errors, bad links, etc., to help point out anything working incorrectly on the new site, saving retailers from possible future headaches.

“This is where we found out that we had a major error,” Dunn said. “There’s a common block that you can put in to block the IP addresses that produce spam that can show up on a website. We put a block on them, not realizing that Google was crawling from a similar area, so we accidentally blocked it from accessing our site as well.” Instead of trying to block spammers and risking limiting access further, they added a CAPTCHA program (an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart “) to the site.

3. Do use a ‘301 Redirect’ to permanently redirect all web pages to the new site. Once the new site is ready, the redirect will tell search engines and users alike that it has permanently moved locations to the new domain. Dunn adds that it shouldn’t be done through a single redirect directing all traffic from the old site to the new home page, but by pages. “You’ll lose rankings in Google if you do it all at once,” Dunn said. It’s more work, but will provide a more consistent experience for users.

4. Don’t try to do it all by yourself. It’s best to hire professionals that can help you make the migration to the new platform. J.R. Dunn worked with a marketing firm that was familiar with the aspects of moving a site, and Dunn noted that it’s up to the jeweler to share with that company all the properties the company owns on the web, including all domains, blogs, etc., so that everything that should be carried over makes the migration or is redirected.

5. Don’t think it’s all finished as soon as the new site goes live. Though it might be obvious, this is a big one. “You have to be vigilant even after the launch, and you have to be prepared to be fixing a lot of things afterward. There’s so much you can’t anticipate,” he said.

Dunn added that there’s generally a “dip” in a website’s rankings on search engines for a few weeks after a site transitions to a new domain, but the more attention that is paid during the development process, the shorter it will be and the quicker Google listings will return to normal.

Due to the issues that came up during the process, J.R. Dunn’s “dip” has lasted a little longer than normal. Dunn notes that the company has increased its social media activity in the meantime to counteract it, focusing efforts on Facebook, Pinterest and Google+.

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