Who doesn’t love a website redesign? You’ve got a new look, new content and new features that will have customers flocking to your virtual doorstep. But behind all of this excitement lies one nagging question: How do you launch your new site without losing your hard-earned rankings?
A high Google ranking is more than a testament to your technical know-how—it’s business. A nose dive in the search results will lead to a loss in traffic, and ultimately a loss in revenue. And nobody wants that.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when migrating your website:
A single redirect from your old website to your new website might seem like an easy way to avoid the dreaded 404 page, but it’s also an SEO killer. Instead, use a 301 Redirect to permanently redirect all pages on your old site to your new site. Not only does this tell Google that your site has permanently moved, but it also provides a more consistent and transparent experience for your users.
It’s unlikely that your old site will be a perfect match, content-wise, to your new site. If that’s the case, be sure to redirect those “homeless” pages to new pages with similar content.
Custom 404 Page
When migrating a site, your obvious goal is to make the transition as seamless as possible for your users. But no matter how careful you are, it’s inevitable that some broken links will slip through, resulting in the dreaded 404 (Page Not Found).
While annoying, 404 errors don’t have to ruin your life. Simply create a friendly 404 page that helps users reorient themselves and continue on their way with as little disruption as possible. Include a link that directs users to a useful place, such as the homepage, so it’s not a complete dead end (for both users and search engines).
Setting Page Titles, Descriptions and Meta Tags
Page titles, descriptions and meta tags are an SEO necessity, so it’s a given that you will move these over to your new site. But while you’re at it, use the migration as an excuse to clean up your SEO. Make sure it’s not only up-to-date with what people are searching for, but also that your strategy is on par with current Google standards. Back in the dinosaur years, it was totally acceptable to flood your site with keywords. But today? Keep it clean and simple. Your rankings will thank you for it.
No matter how much you plan, something can always go wrong. So to further put your mind at ease, choose your migration time wisely.
Thinking of launching on a Friday? Think again. Do you really want to spend your weekend dealing with unforeseen issues? Or your Monday dealing with a 2-day-old loss of revenue?
Specific business sectors also have specific needs. If you’re a retail business, think twice about migrating your site just before Christmas. If you’re in the travel industry, try to avoid shaking things up during your busy revenue months. And if you find yourself rushing your website migration to finish "in time," stop what you're doing and postpone it until later. Better to push back your launch date than let loose a site full of devastating errors.