When it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization), redesigning your website can feel like stepping into the hazard zone – for one just simple reason – you could lose all your search engine ranking and you will have to start all over again.
Thankfully, this does not have to happen if the transition is done correctly.
Below are 9 tips to keep your ranking high in search engines during the transition!
If your new website has a new set of URLs, 301 redirects are necessary – as these are used to notify search engines that your material has been permanently relocated to a new place.
This lets search engines know that the new pages have the same or similar content as the old ones, and that it’s safe to attribute the old page’s rank to the new one.
This is true even if you just changed the extension, from “http://example.com/default.html” to “http://example.com/default.aspx for example.
It’s very important that every page on the old website has its own 301 redirect, both for SEO and to keep your visitors from visiting broken links.
Some website owners take the shortcut of setting up a broad redirect that leads all of the old pages to the new website’s homepage, but this is not very helpful for both visitors and search engines.
If a one-to-one match between old and new pages is not possible, the old pages should point to a new page with similar material.
If this cannot be done automatically and you have too many pages to redirect manually, make sure to set up 301 redirects for your most important and most viewed pages.
2. Change of Domains
If the conversion from the old to the new website incorporates a change in the domain name, consider “dividing” the procedure into two parts.
First, change the old website to the new domain, creating one-to-one 301 redirects for each page, and then launch the new website on the new domain and make sure that the redirects are working properly.
Doing this will reduce the possibility of something going wrong during the process.
Gather all statistics on referring links to your website (backlinks) and determine the most popular.
This data is often obtained in analytics or different SEO tools. Ideally, you would contact the owners of all referring websites and request that the link be changed to redirect to your new page, but this isn’t very efficient.
Alternatively, contact the owners of the most popular backlinks and request that they be adjusted.
Finally, you need to make sure that the pages to which the remaining backlinks point are appropriately 301 redirected.
4. Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
Check that all of the new website’s pages include page titles and meta descriptions.
These can be transferred from the old website if they are unique and they describe what the page is about.
If your titles and descriptions are not up to date, a redesign will allow you to pay attention to developing more search engine-friendly meta content.
Having two complete sitemaps set up is a good idea when launching a new website: an HTML sitemap for users and search engines, and an exclusive XML sitemap just for search engines.
An XML sitemap enables search engines to crawl and index your website more quickly. You can submit an XML map through the webmaster tools of any search engine – such as Google.
6. 404 Page Not Found
Although you want as few visitors as possible to come across the (in)famous “404 Error Page”, this is still an essential element when redesigning your website.
Even if you’ve set up 301 redirects for all material on your old website, users will still come across broken links every now and then.
A smart and engine-friendly 404 page will assist users and search engines in quickly getting back on track by providing valuable links, a search box, or, at the least, a redirect to the homepage.
It is also a good idea to maintain the website’s navigation on the 404 page for improved usability.
Apart from having a user-friendly 404 page, it’s also crucial to ensure that the page returns HTTP code 404 so search engines know they followed a dead link.
In addition, you should also include tracking on your 404 page so that you know who referrers are in order to fix those broken links.
But be careful, as you may end up having more visitors in the 404 page rather than your actual website.
If your old website had a robots.txt file, it is essential to review and update it.
The robots.txt file is used to tell search engines which pages you do not want crawled or indexed. This should be changed to reflect the new URL structure.
It’s also essential to avoid crawling any development or test websites, as this can lead to duplicating your content.
In such an incident, using robots.txt to prevent search engines and adding password protection, acts as an additional layer of security!
8. Avoid broken links
To make sure that there are no broken links on your new website, use a Quality Assurance (i.e.: QA) tool such as Siteimprove Quality Assurance.
Even if you’ve put up 301 redirects for all of your old material, issues can still happen, especially if any of the old sites use absolute URLs in their links rather than relative URLs, for example “http://example.com/users/foo.aspx” vs. “/users/foo.aspx”).
9. Transition Period
Finally, if you’ve changed your domain name, Google suggests that you maintain the old domain name with the 301 redirects for at least 180 days as a transition period, as this will allow Google bots plenty of time to crawl and index all of your new pages.
Overall, following these 9 tips, it is likely to reduce the chances of your website disappearing from search ranking during this shift of redesign.
Therefore if you are thinking of beginning a new website project, you should consider having SEO Cyprus in the early stage of the design.
Learn how you can redesign your website with the right elements to help your business achieve more visibility by reaching DomainStar.
After all, your goal is to end up with a brand new and stunning website… So, let’s take a step towards transforming your domain into a star!