So, you decided to move your site to a new domain or URL structure. Although migrating a website may be a problem-solving necessity, it ultimately puts your site’s SEO at risk.
Avoid SEO nightmares the first time around. Here’s how to retain SEO value when migrating your website.
What is a Website Migration?
Website migration is a process of moving a website from one domain to another that can affect your search engine visibility — from changing URLs and merging sites or content to switching from HTTP to HTTPS, hosting providers, new CMS, domain names and so on.
The good news is, even though website migration can be frightening, if done right, it can ensure that there’s little to no adverse effect on the website’s rankings. It is possible to retain your Google search rankings after a site migration—after all, redesigning a website can also increase your SEO strength.
Crawl your Old Site
Crawl your existing site using Screaming Frog (or any similar tool) before making any changes. This data will show you the URL list of each page on the website along with SEO titles, meta descriptions, and so on. Saving this data lets you track your site’s rankings and traffic by comparing what your rankings were like before and after the migration.
Recreate Old Pages on the New Site
To ensure that the SEO value on your old site won’t be lost, keep the same URL scheme with your redesigned website as much as possible. It’s best to have your most relevant pages still on the same URL as they did on the old site. In other words, don’t make ‘www.mywebsite.com/about-us‘ your new “About” page when it was previously ‘www.mywebsite.com/about.’ If not, make sure that every significant page from the old site has an equivalent or comparable page on the new site.
Add Permanent 301 Redirects
If a page on the new site doesn’t share the same URL as its corresponding page on the old site, don’t worry — 301 redirects can still save you.
Adding a 301 redirect is extremely important for SEO. Not only is it vital for driving traffic from the legacy domain to the new one; It also essentially informs the browser that the page it’s trying to load has been permanently transferred elsewhere. The 301 redirect gives the browser a new page URL, and the browser loads it instead, helping you keep your search engine rankings in place and update its index accordingly as well.
Check New Website for Broken Links
Don’t forget to check the new website for broken links, 404 errors, missing images, posts, duplicate content or title tags, and missing meta descriptions. There are cases where a few of the links and pictures break within the content during a site migration. These errors provide poor user experience — and that’s something we’re trying to avoid.
Generate New XML Sitemap
A sitemap is basically a map of your website that includes new URLs and site structure — all the links to the web pages and content you have on the site. This is used by search engine crawlers to show outcomes on search-results. The aim of creating and submitting a sitemap to Google is to improve SEO.
Thus, create and upload your new XML sitemap to your Google Search Console property once the site has been changed.
Update Google About the Domain Change
One of the most significant steps in migrating a website is to update Google Analytics and Google Search Console information on the site. To do that, make sure to have Google Search Console set up and verified on your old site. Use the “Change of Address” Tool in the Google Search Console, where you can submit both old and new URLs. Utilizing this tool will notify Google about the new site and the migration without losing its SEO ranking.
Also, don’t forget to index your website once it is up and running. On Google Search Console, select “Crawl” and then “Fetch as Google.” Then, click “Request Indexing,” and within a few days, Google will crawl your new site and index all of its pages. If you need to report any issues or errors, go to “Crawl” then “Crawl Errors” to check if there are any pages that Google is having trouble finding.
Google Analytics is another must-have tool for your site. Get Google Analytics running to keep track of traffic and user activity, and help improve your SEO strategies on your website. Keep an eye on Google Analytics for the next few months to ensure that all traffic is being redirected to the new site.
Let the Users Know About the Change
Public announcements, call-to-action are a great way to let users know about your new site. Write a blog post to your new website, list your old and new URL, and explain why you are taking a big step forward. This can help you quickly remember your new domain name in several ways. Asking people to get feedback on their experience and whether they find any bugs or bugs on-site or other posts works as well.
Also, don’t forget to share news about your new domain on social media platforms.
Don’t Abandon Your Old Domain Name
To abandon the old domain name after moving to a new one is a colossal mistake most website owners are making. Keep in mind that if your old domain name expires, the 301 redirects will also get terminated. Also, these aren’t good for cybersecurity reasons.
The right thing, therefore, is to keep renewing the old domain name to maintain the ranking.
Why an SEO Expert Should Lead Your Website Migration
A poorly executed site migration can negatively impact your brand’s performance in the search results, losing not only traffic but also search ranking position, affecting the long-term revenue and growth of the site, and obviously, you want to avoid this kind of recovery time at all costs.
This is why hiring an SEO agency to help you build the right site and move the old site correctly over to your new website is very important. Contact us today for a free consultation.