Do you know or even need to know how to protect your SEO from your old website to your new one?
Problem is low cost website providers don’t either or do but don’t factor in any time to protect any existing SEO and the time necessary to do so. Any established SEO you have built up will just disappear once your new website goes live if the following steps are not considered.
I have explained below some of the aspects necessary to protect existing SEO, it’s what we do here at Retox when creating new websites for our clients. We always aim to protect your established search engine rankings and incoming links as standard.
Let’s start with Redirects
If getting a new website also means getting new URL’s for the pages, it’s important that we use 301 redirects to inform the search engines that the content has permanently moved to a new location. The search engines then know that the new pages have the same or similar content, and they will then assign the same rank to the new page. We make sure that every page on your old website has a 301 redirect set up, which points to the same content on the new website. Its bad practice to make a general redirect that redirects all the old pages to the home page of the new website. If we did this it will annoy users and search engines alike. It’s also cutting corners and not doing the job correctly. Where it’s not possible to do a one-to-one match between the old and new pages we aim to have at least the old pages point to a new page with similar content. If this isn’t possible to do automatically and you have too many pages to do it manually we try to do it for your most important and most visited pages.
Changing your Domain
If the transition from the old website to the new website includes a change of domain name, you should consider breaking the process down into two separate steps. First move the old website to the new domain, setting up 301 redirects to one-to-one. After this is done (ensuring it has worked), then launch the new website on the new domain, again with correct redirects. This will minimize the risk of something going wrong in the process.
We can establish if there are any referring links to your website by running a simple report on backlinks, we can then identify the most popular. This information can typically be found in an analytics or SEO too. In an ideal world you or we would contact the owners of referring websites and have them change the link to point to your new page, but this isn’t practically possible. To only contact to the owners of the most popular backlinks is preferable to have these changed and then we make sure that the pages which the rest of the backlinks point to are properly 301 redirected.
Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
We make sure that all pages on your new website have page titles and meta descriptions. We can transfer these from the old website – if it’s got them. Page titles and Meta Descriptions should be unique and descriptive of the page content. I’m afraid it’s really common that the majority of websites we look at don’t have any or what they do have is very poor and ineffective.
When you launch your new website it’s a good idea to have 2 complete sitemaps configured: an HTML sitemap for users and search engines, and an XML sitemap for search engines only. A very quick check can establish if you have either or none. Every week I come across a number of sites that do not even have a site map. A site map is important so the search engines can crawl and index your content faster and should be a standard feature in any website.
404 Page not found page
We create a 404 Page- Not Found page that’s both user friendly and search engine friendly. Even though we have created 301 redirects for all content on your old website it is still important to monitor 404 errors.
A good 404 page will help the users and search engines get back on track in an easy way. One way to do this could be to implement a search box on the 404 page, so users can easily search for what they actually looked for. It is also a good idea to keep the menu of the website on the 404 page for increased usability.
Besides having a user friendly 404 page, it is also very important that the page actually returns a http code 404 so search engines are made aware that they followed a broken link. You should also ensure that you have tracking on your 404 page so you can identify the referrers and fix the broken links. If you aren’t careful you could end up having the 404 page being one of the most visited pages on your new website.
We Review and update your robots.txt file, if you have one on your old website. The robots.txt file is used to inform search engines about pages you don’t want crawled and/or indexed. This should be updated to match your new URL structure.
It’s also important to make sure that any development or test websites aren’t crawled as this can result in duplicate content issues. In this case, it’s a good idea to use robots.txt to block the search engines, and at the same time add password protection as an extra level of security.
Avoid Broken Links
Use a quality assurance tool to ensure there are no broken links on the website. Even though we’ve set up 301 redirects for all your old content, problems can still arise.
The Transition Period to your new website
Last but not least, Google recommends that if you have changed your domain name, you keep the old domain name with the 301 redirects for at least 180 days as a period of transition. If you keep in mind the simple tips to consider you can be one step ahead of your web developer and check that the above work is carried out. If you come to us here at Retox Digital this is all standard as part of the site build and reduces any risk of your website having diminished search results from the search engines in the transition.
When thinking about a new website, remember to think about more than the design, functionality and features. Think seo and how you will be found and what you need from your old site before it disappears.
Ask your developer if they have all of this covered and know where to look to check this work has been completed.
A well-built, responsive and SEO-Optimised website is worth its weight in gold to your business and can provide you with a significant return on investment.
To find out how we can help your business grow online please contact Julie Charlton and the Team here at Retox Digital.