When it comes to changing a website, things are never straightforward and each migration presents its own set of unique challenges.
Changing sites has the potential to be disruptive, losing traffic and rankings overnight. You should expect these things to happen, plan for the worst and mitigate risk by thoroughly communicating with the development team, CEOs and the SEO migration team at every step of the way.
There are many reasons to migrate your site:
- Adding https to your site
- Raise page load speed, another Google ranking factor
- Improve user experience
- Update design
Having SEO at the forefront of the site design stage is paramount for ensuring changes are made with organic traffic in mind to keep your visitors and Google happy.
SEOs need to know well in advance of any migration project to spend time influencing site structure, top performing pages and getting existing optimised Title Tags, Meta Data and H1s moved over. This can help to lessen the shock once the switch is flipped and the site goes live.
Top Questions To Ask Before Going Ahead
1. Are you changing content?
Changing your content can be a double-edged sword. If you have had duplicate content issues then this could go a long way towards ensuring that you don’t risk a penalty from Google for it. However, you can’t escape a penalty which you have already got, so this is not the process you need if that is the case.
Changing content means that you could lose the keywords you currently rank for on that page. This loss can be mitigated by an SEO ensuring that the best pages you have currently are either moved over or matched to a similar page with relevant content.
Find your top-linking pages from Moz and prioritise getting content published on pages to match up when redirect mapping.
Redirects can help, but must be applied carefully. Only apply use redirects, and never 302 – this tells Google that this redirect is temporary, and Google reacts by not sending the power from the previous page to the live page.
2. Keeping Current Taxonomy or Changing Structure?
If you have structural changes then it makes the redirect mapping more difficult. However, it may be beneficial to apply a more logical structure to the site both for User Experience (UX) and so that Googlebot has no trouble with crawling the site.
To work around a new URL structure, you should aim to map all redirects to the most relevant new URL. Don’t get sucked into the idea that you should be reinventing the wheel- Googlebot better understands consistency and clear directions. Consider using similar category names or rules to keep the 301 redirects towards the most relevant.
3. How will Google Know What’s Going On?
Your SEO is going to tell them.
Once you’ve mapped the URLs you will need to upload them to the root, test that they work and upload a sitemap. Upload both an old and new sitemap and refer to them both on a new Robots.txt file. This will tell any crawler in the neighbourhood that you have these URLs pointing at these URLs.
This is far from all you need to know about site migrations. Site migrations will affect your SEO and is not a thing to be undertaken lightly. If it is done carefully, with SEO at the forefront of your mind from the beginning, the disruption will be minimal and your traffic and rankings will recover, possibly getting better than before, leaving you with a new site which performs well.
If your business needs a new site and you want to keep your traffic, contact us for further information.
- 3 Questions to Ask Before a Site Migration - August 17, 2017
- RankBrain and Search Optimisation: Is It Possible? - May 10, 2017