One of our clients has recently rebuilt their website with a fancy new design and published it on the existing domain. Immediately, they experienced a drastic drop in site traffic. The graph below shows their site traffic for the relevant period:
As you can see, the drop is not only significant, but traffic never picked up again to meet previous levels. The reasons why this negative trend occurred are obvious to any SEO professional and can easily be avoided, but few web designers or webmasters will consider SEO aspects prior to moving pages.
At Pure SEO, we specialise in website optimisation for SEO purposes, which includes relocation and design strategies. So let’s use this example to discuss best SEO practices for changing websites.
Why Should I Consider SEO Aspects for Website Changes?
As far as Google is concerned, every individual page on your domain is treated separately in terms of its content, and is ranked accordingly. If a page generates a lot of traffic, it has a high PageRank and a high ‘trust factor’.
Having several high-ranking pages on your domain helps your domain as a whole to achieve even better rankings. It builds ‘trust’ over time. Therefore, if you move, delete or redesign pages without search engine optimisation, you lose the ‘trust factor’ Google has identified, and your pages will be treated as new pages that do not rank.
Please note: The presented case study is not an isolated incident; this happens all the time!
Solutions & Best Practices
Prior to making any changes to your existing website, it is of utmost importance that you make a plan for all changes to all pages on your domain. Each current page should correspond to a new page of the same or very similar content and be redirected to the new location using 301 redirects. For example, if you list your services on a page URL such as www.yourcompany.co.nz/services.html, and the same content will move to www.yourcompany.co.nz/services/php, set a 301 redirect to that URL.
Redirecting pages happens on a one-on-one basis. If an existing page has no equivalent in the new design/format, do not just get rid of it, but redirect the page to your home page.
Your existing ‘trust’ will still have positive effects for your whole website this way. Ideally, all pages should be redirected, however, with large websites that accumulate hundreds of subpages, this is not always possible. In that case, prioritise! Redirect your high-ranking and heavily-trafficked pages first, then work your way through the remaining pages as time allows.
Most importantly: Don’t forget that redirections need to be planned ahead of changes being implemented.
We specialise in mapping website relocation and can work with your web developers to achieve the best benefits for SEO. Contact us if you have any questions and we will be happy to discuss your situation further.