It’s hard to rank on the first page in Google search. Staying on top means regularly updating the content on your website, keeping your sitemap up to date, and making sure you fix technical issues on your website. Naturally, this also means making major changes to your website including migrating to a whole new website could potentially impact your ranking. The good news is that you don’t have to worry as long as you’re working with professionals like Think Forward Meda. Keeping a website’s ranking intact is not difficult, it just requires the correct SEO process.
Why Your Google Rank Will Survive Migration
To preserve your Google rank after a website redesign, the key is to understand how SEO works and how it is applied to websites. Your website’s current rank is based on the most important pages and how they connect to each other. As long as the pages (along with the design and metadata details that make these pages) stays the same and can be found at the same URLs, your rank can be preserved.
A complete transference of your rank to survive a major upgrade or migration to a platform like WordPress or Hubspot CMS, you need a professional to cover all the bases. Every link, photo, and page datum will need to be transferred in a way that the crawlers understand while still upgrading the experience for your website visitors. Your Google rank will survive as long as your agency knows the process. Thankfully, Think Forward Media can help! We have worked with a number of businesses who have upgraded their websites to retain and even restore their Google ranking!
Methods to Preserve Google Rank During Website Upgrades
1) Rebuilding or Moving Your Top Pages
Your top pages make up the bulk of your Google ranking. These pages that get the most traffic and channel or receive the most clicks are the cornerstones of SEO influence for the entire site. Your top pages may include a wide variety of options. Likely, your homepage, about, contact, and marketplace pages will be among the top pages. Your service or product pages may also rank.
Beyond your best functional pages, you may have a few top blogs or FAQ pages that get copious inbound hits for their useful content alone. These are also your top pages and should be preserved, even if you change everything else about the website.
For website migrations onto a CMS platform, be sure to rebuild these pages exactly how they are – or a little better – while preserving the key content and page structure that won your Google rank in the first place.
2) Maintain Your Sitemap
The sitemap is crucial to your current Google rank, so preserving the sitemap helps to preserve your ranking. Web crawlers explore your entire site, taking note of the ‘map’ it creates from page to page. The way your pages connect and the specific page URLs inside your site domain are how web crawlers find their way around to re-rank your site.
Don’t want to lose ranking? Keep your sitemap the same – or close to the same – when you migrate your website. Consider your sitemap like the canvas on which your ranking is painted. Change the sitemap, and the web crawlers may assume they are ranking an entirely new brand. Maintain the sitemap, and web crawlers will only take note of your improvements.
3) Keep the Same Pretty-URLs on the New Platform
Along the same lines, keep your URLs the same. Often called “Pretty” URLs are simple, practical address lines like “example.com/services/heat_repair” instead of “example.com/A88yGH5204111b”. A new URL might as well be a new page, and may even be considered a “duplicate” if both the old and new URLs for a page are live at the same time.
So be very careful about how URLs are built on your new or upgraded website. Be sure to preserve the URLs whenever possible, and especially for your most important pages.
4) Using Redirects for Changed or Removed URLs
Redirects are the best solution if you do need to change or remove a few URLs from your sitemap. The goal is to avoid 404s from old links whenever possible. For removed pages, create a non-404 redirect to make sure anyone’s old links on other sites or stored in a Favourites bar lead visitors somewhere useful instead of an error page. For changed links, redirect to the new URL so that users find their way to the right page, even if they still have the old address.
Not only is this handy for web crawlers and your Google rank, it’s essential for maintaining a great user experience as well.
5) Retain Metadata for Page Layout and Media
Metadata is usually where business owners and execs worry the most about rank preservation, with good reason. A DIY website transfer might successfully maintain the content and even the sitemap, but properly replicating each page’s Search-Engine-Optimized metadata is a task for an IT pro. Metadata is the information that builds and informs a webpage, but isn’t visible to visitors and customers.
Metadata includes the page layout, along with mobile responsiveness down to tiny details like each individual image alt-text.
If you’ve already migrated your website and are concerned about losing meta data, give us a call at 705-302-1869 we can run an audit on your website and help you discover missed or lacking meta information!
6) Don’t Go Live Until the New Site is SEO-Ready
Never have both sites live at once. Transferring your website to a new platform or building an all-new site upgrade usually means working with the old site and the new test site at the same time. However, users (or web crawlers) should not be able to access the new site until you are fully ready to make the SEO-preserved transfer.
The reason for this is that under-construction sites are terrible for SEO. This is actually the most common SEO-wrecking mistake for website upgrades. You risk the web crawlers viewing your website as a cluster of duplicate pages and error-riddled dead links instead of the sleek new online venue you are soon to launch.
7) Ensure that All Links Still Work
Finally, before going live, be sure to audit all your links. Every link in the site is now at risk of being broken or obsolete. If you changed, added, or removed any URLs from the sitemap, be sure they are linked correctly or old links are removed. This is also a good time to audit your outgoing links to ensure all your external references are still live and valid. Having functional links is essential for good SEO.
Preserving Your SEO for Website Upgrade or Migration
If you are about to overhaul your website for a big upgrade and/or migrate to a new CMS platform, you’ll need a surgical transplant of data to preserve your hard-won SEO. Our team is here and ready to take care of the delicate transfer, ensuring that your SEO can only go up with your website’s new wave of upgrade improvements.