The damage caused by badly executed site migrations is a consistent problem in SEO.
It doesn’t matter if you are a vast global enterprise or a small local business, they are the ultimate destroyer of worlds. Worlds of wonderfully interlinked content and prized search engine rankings. Entire digital ecosystems obliterated.
Here, in under 6 minutes, I am going to explain the dangers and show you how some simple planning can prevent this completely unnecessary disaster happening to you.
Site Migration Examples
You launch a new version of your website. It’s time to chop out all the old and outdated content and bring in fresh new ideas. In come new landing pages, content hubs, videos, and whitepapers; out go all those old blogs, case studies and press releases.
You may have decided to rename some of your services or re-brand entirely. New sections are introduced, names get changed, all the old stuff gets junked.
The new site launches. Everyone gets excited. Press releases are written. Tweets and tweeted. Then…silence. Enquiries drop, inbound dries up, traffic dies.
This is the point when the SEO gets a call. After the oil spill. And given a mop.
What should have happened
Failure to bring an in SEO at the very start of the redesign process is a huge risk, because managing your rankings and domain strength is the most important aspect of any redesign, rebranding, or relaunching project.
It’s vastly more important than all of the layouts, colour schemes and imagery, but often receives about a 10th of the attention. Because it isn’t very sexy.
But if you lose what you already have, it takes a long time to get it back. Your business suffers, and the whole project is deemed a failure.
An experienced SEO will know the dangers and manage them from the start. Protecting your most valuable content and backlinks, avoiding penalties, and preventing indexing errors.
As I said, not very sexy.
301 Redirecting Process
Although there are a number of things an SEO will do when managing a site migration – get in touch here to find out more – the main question you should be asking is ‘who is managing the 301 redirects?’.
When an old URL [AKA webpage] becomes obsolete or is no longer required it is good practice to use a 301 Redirect.
This is a command that automatically sends your visitors and Search Engines from the old URL to a new URL of your choice.
Why bother using a 301 Redirect?
- Prevents dead pages [AKA 404 Errors] which can be a sign of poor User Experience [UX]
- Any backlinks pointing to the old page are passed to the new one. This prevents a potentially damaging loss of ‘link juice’, which is very harmful for your SEO
- Tells Search Engines what is happening – rather than leaving them to work it out for themselves
- When you create a 301, make sure you swap any old links on your website (whether in the navigation menus, sidebars, or written content) for the new URL. This is because SEs do not consider it good UX to have ‘internal 301 redirects’
- Overuse of 301 redirects can slow the site down, so try not to overdo it!
- Don’t redirect to a redirect – having a ‘redirect chain’ is also considered poor UX
- Update your sitemap with the new URL. 301 redirects in the sitemap are also poor UX
Having a good 301 redirect strategy in place at the very start of the process goes a long way to preventing the kind of SEO disasters that come with many site migrations.
Web development agencies often overlook this, because their focus is on delivering the project, not on managing all the SEO implications involved.
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