Site redesign or migration is a challenging yet rewarding experience when done right. On the other hand, it's a common problem to encounter SEO problems in the process, which can drive down traffic, leads, and conversions. Therefore, you should consider the impact on SEO that redesigning or migrating your website could have. Let's start by covering a handful of possible issues.
For instance, migrations often cause keyword ranking fluctuations in Google’s index – even if you are 100% prepared. One can go from having high-ranking keywords to moderate- or low-ranking ones. And this issue is strongly related to the next point.
Your previous SEO history and equity can be lost if old-to-new URLs are not mapped or redirected properly. Furthermore, duplicate content can be created dynamically without you even knowing it – and this can lead to self-cannibalization issues or, even worse, search engine penalties.
In a worst case scenario, your keyword rankings and traffic can fall off a cliff permanently with no return.
But don’t let these undesirable possibilities discourage you from the search marketing benefits of making needed site changes. Practical ways around them exist, which we’ll get more into later. First, you should assess the extent to which preparation is needed for successful search marketing outcomes.
What Are Your Plans?
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you’ll need to prepare accordingly to maintain your organic search performance (rankings and traffic):
- Are you moving to a new CMS platform?
- Are you adding, removing or changing your top navigation links?
- Is your URL structure changing (even small changes like adding or removing capital lettering)?
- Are you removing any significant amounts of site content?
- Are you consolidating any content?
- Are you migrating your site to HTTPS?
Prepare With This Handy Checklist
Fortunately, we have created an SEO redesign and migration checklist to ensure your changes occur smoothly. Follow through with it, and enjoy a less stressful transformation process.
- Map old-to-new URL redirects. Protect your SEO history and equity by understanding how previous visitors can arrive at your new site.
- Ensure your robots.txt file isn’t blocking search engine bots. Otherwise, these bots won't be able to receive instructions on your site, allowing its content to rank properly.
- Ensure your staging site is NOT indexed in Google. You don't want Google mistaking it for your live production site, right?
- Make sure all your pages have tracking code applied. This ensures that Google Analytics (and other analytics) receives data about your website, helping to measure progress.
- Update and submit new XML sitemaps to Google Search Console. Make sure your site's new URLs and their unique information are current. This allows search engines to crawl your site properly.
- Create a legacy redirect XML sitemap and submit to Google Search Console. Again, allowing search engines to crawl your site conveniently.
- Ensure that meta data is on every page. This makes it easier to locate specific data on your web pages.
- Check for duplicate HTTP vs HTTPS pages. Google recognizes these two different types of web pages as though they belong to different websites. Therefore, avoid duplication as well as site penalties.
- Check for duplicate www vs non-www pages. For same reasons as the previous tip.
- Ensure canonical tags are on every page. Such tags help prevent duplicate content issues by showing the desired version of a web page.
- Ensure that meta robots “noindex” tag isn’t used on any page that should be indexed in Google. This allows such web pages to appear in search results.
Follow these tips and you're sure to have a better search marketing experience.
Looking for more SEO insight? Read this: SEO helps financial advisory site 19% amid migration to new CMS.