You’ve worked long and hard to get great SEO rankings. When updating your existing website you don’t want to lose those rankings. If not handled properly, a website upgrade or domain name change can have a severe negative impact on your rankings.
Start With An SEO Audit
Before making any changes, get an SEO audit of your current website. This will determine the strengths and weaknesses of the existing website. You’ll want your new website to retain the strengths of your current website and improve upon the weaknesses.
The SEO Audits I perform include:
- Page title length and uniqueness
- Optimal page descriptions including length and uniqueness
- H1 headings configured correctly
- Reasonable number of outgoing links
- Structure of page urls
- Valid characters in page urls
- Check for 302 redirects
- Check for meta refreshes
- Determine if a current XML sitemap exists
- Check for a robots.txt file
- Number of pages in Google index
- Page speed insights
- Mobile optimization
- Broken links
- Page not found issues
- Broken image links
- Server issues
- Page access issues
- Slow response pages
Plan for URL Redirects
If your website URLs are going to change, you’ll need to redirect all the old URLs to the corresponding new URLs on the updated website. One or possibly all of your page URLs will quite likely change during a website update. If you don’t redirect the old URLs you’ll lose the individual page rankings which could result in an overall loss of ranking to your website. Whether large or small, page redirects are critical to retain your existing search engine rankings.
To begin with you’ll need to know all your existing URLs. If your site only has a few pages, these URLs can be easy to determine. If your site is more complex, you may want to use a tool to crawl your site and create the list of existing URLs. Your existing search engine sitemap can also be used to determine your current list of URLs.
Once your new site is developed but before going live, create a matrix of old URLs and the new URL to which each will be redirected. Don’t leave any without a redirection partner on the new site. If the old page doesn’t have a comparable content match on the new site, redirect it to a page closest in content.
Use permanent 301 redirects as directed by Google. On an Apache server you can do this through the .htaccess file. If you are using WordPress there are redirection plugins if you don’t have access to your .htaccess file.
Update Your Inbound Links
Inbound links help your site develop authority for a specific search topic. The more authority, the greater the potential for a higher search engine ranking.
Before your site update, do an audit of the inbound links to determine where they come from and the pages to which they link. You’ll need this list after the update.
With the redirects you’ve already created, the inbound links will go to the correct page but direct links are better than redirected links. They have less processes to go through and will be ever so slightly faster than a redirected link. If possible you’ll want to contact each inbound link owner to notify them of the new URL they should use.
Monitor Your Analytics And SEO
Once the new website is up and running, keep a close on your Google Webmaster account and your Google Analytics. If you didn’t have these connected to your old site, be sure they are connected to your new site. Tell Google Webmaster where to find your new sitemap and update it.
Monitor these tools for pages indexed, crawl errors, mobile usability issues and broken links. Use an SEO Trending tool (like the one I offer) to monitor your SEO results before and after the change. If you see a negative trend on any monitored keyword, analyze why and make adjustments to the associated pages.
Success Is In The Details
A successfully updated website is all in the details. If you don’t pay attention, the changes could damage your page rankings. Exactly the opposite of what you were trying to accomplish. Contact me if you are thinking about a site upgrade or want to improve your SEO.