#121 – The Struggles of Rebuilding AuthorityHacker.com

Last week we launched our new AuthorityHacker.com website! A new design, rebuilt content, new tech stack, a fresh start.

So far everything looks good:

  • Traffic seems to be fine
  • Time on site is up 22%
  • Pages/session up 15%
  • Bounce rate down 5%

This is the second site we rebuilt this year: the first was HealthAmbition.com.

With HealthAmbition, we had a professional designer and a developer build it, with lots of custom elements.

With AuthorityHacker, we wanted to show that you don’t need all that to build a great looking site. We’re not designers and have very limited coding abilities, but this is probably the best looking site we’ve ever built.

In this episode, we want to share some important things you have to do if you are considering a redesign like this. We also made a site launch checklist you might want to grab for yourself.

First, How We Got Here

We started AuthorityHacker.com in 2014. The Goal was to just get something up.

  • We had a basic Thrive theme
  • Branding was this super generic Shutterstock vector character
  • Actually turned out quite well for what it was

Here’s a tip: start producing content. You don’t need to make it epic on day 1. Lots of people make this mistake and it costs you time. You’ll change it anyway as you grow.

We worked on many client campaigns before this, but were still new to Authority sites back then. So there was a lot of figuring things out:

  • Testing tech / plugins etc
  • Using Leadpages and Thrive
  • Thrive Content Builder to Thrive Architect
  • Lots of plugin conflict potential

We also created a lot of bloat:

  • In the WP database code
  • On the site in general
  • Too many elements
  • Article uploads were too complex and tiresome
  • Mobile responsiveness was not great

Branding was not super nice either:

  • While the AH character was memorable, the branding wasn’t so professional
  • First-time visitors lacked trust in the site (we have actual data from Zeda labs to back this up)
  • Our faces weren’t prominent enough – we’re talking Tim Suolo thinking Gael was a short fat guy :)

Goals for the Rebranding

Tech

Besides fixing minor quirks (e.g ah.com/podcast-2 → change to /podcast), we wanted to simplify the site: make it easy to work on, simplify the process of uploading content, etc.

Technical reliability is also important, especially during launches. We’re using the plugins, tools, themes we are now recommending (e.g in the new TASS)

Level up the Design

We’ve grown a lot as a brand and have become well recognized in the industry. But our design was well below where it ought to be.

You could say we almost kinda seem to know what we’re doing…

You know nothing

We’re now doing more paid traffic – so many people are coming to the site who aren’t familiar with us. First impressions are important for them.

Membership

The old MemberMouse system was clunky, outdated, and a poor user experience. We wanted a sleek setup that would give customers a more premium experience

What Went Well And… Not so Well

Astra + Elementor Theme Builder (Went Well)

  • Really easy to work with
  • Display rules allow you to have different post types

Design Choices

  • Went through many versions, will post some on podcast shownotes
  • When your site is your baby it’s hard to pick an identity and make radical changes
  • Many misalignment with designers
  • Ended up taking the psd we got and kind of tweaking it while working on Elementor

Lead Generation

  • All plugins are bad…..
  • Nothing plugs with Everwebinar
  • Thrive leads: couldn’t even open the editor
  • Convertflow: good idea but complex and clunky to operate, no WordPress post category targeting
  • Convert pro: no post category targeting
  • Opt in monster: clunky mobile design

Re-uploading Content

This was looooong and painful.

  • 300 pages/posts to transfer
  • Had to maintain an error log (broken videos that we needed to fix, issues with blog posts that needed to be updated)

We went through several ideas. We had a professional designer help us. We had to answer survey questions to build a concept.

We then got presented with multiple options, but we hated them all. So we settled on super basic bold AUTHORITY. It worked because AUTHORITY is a strong word.

The Migration Itself (Featuring a Few Important Tips)

We used a Kinsta staging site:

  • Kinsta is an expensive but great host
  • Allows you to do all of this easily

Check That URLs Are the Same

Make sure to run this check again as the last thing you do before migration. Our SEO Plugin caused us issues in this area.

Migrate Comments Wisely

In WP, they are attributed to the post ID. If you can keep post IDs the same, that makes everything easier. HealthAmbition didn’t and we had to remap them.

Image Optimization Is Important

Size plays a big role in site speed. Alt tags are also good to have. Consider naming so you can find and re-use images.

After Everything’s Live

  • Activate HTTPS
  • Activate CDN (We use KeyCDN)
  • Change podcast feed URL
  • Mailgun
  • Resubmit sitemap
  • Re-check opt-ins
  • Connect customer support plugin
  • Re-captcha on contact forms
  • Check that Google analytics work
  • And many more….

Important: Write a Checklist!

Pilots use checklists, and marketers should too. You think you’ll remember everything….but trust us, you won’t.

We have an entire podcast episode dedicated to checklists and the importance of documentation in general.

What You Can Learn From Our Experience

Don’t try to copy AuthorityHacker if you are just starting out. It’s built for Stage 3, not for Stage 1.

It will take 2x the time and 2x the money you think it will take (like renovations).

Tech impacts your motivation, make it easy to create content.

Simplify your content (Page builder bloat sucks).

You will probably need to overhaul your site every 4-5 years if you actively work on them like we do.

There is more work to do once it’s live. However, remember that you’ve unlocked new potential!

You have done this so that you can work more on the site in day-to-day operations.

What Is up Next

The new TASS course is juuust around the corner for existing member, and we’re creating a new member area as well. We’re also planning on implementing a new checkout system.

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