Unfortunately, something we hear all too often, is that someone has launched a fantastic looking new website but in return they lost rankings and traffic tanked.
More often than not, the designer/developer will get the blame, however in the majority of cases the new website is better than the old site with up-to-date coding and a modern look and feel.
Where things went wrong, was that a ‘migration strategy’ was not considered.
Shiny New Car
Think about it this way, you have bought a brand new shiny car, it looks great and should drive beautifully – but without the petrol you’re going nowhere, though it will look great on your driveway!
Think about the migration strategy being the ‘petrol’ for your new website.
When planning a new/updated website, there are a number of steps which should be considered to ensure that any SEO benefit is retained.
A migration strategy should include:
- Full existing content review. Use analytics to see how visitors are viewing your content. Investigate the most popular content and content which hasn’t been viewed. Look at how long visitors spend reading each page and what actions they take next.
- Landing pages. Using analytics, review landing page data. How are your visitors moving on from the landing page, what is the path to conversion?
- Manual content review. Go through the website and read those pages which are most/least popular and see if you can understand why. Is it because there is poor quality content? Maybe there is only a couple of sentences?
- Conversions. Think about the actions that you would like your visitor to take, is it to purchase? To sign up for a newsletter? How easy do you think it is for visitor to complete the action? Are there any blocks?
- User testing. If possible, get a selection of users to do the same action on the site e.g. book a hotel room, and they can give you thoughts on their experience. Collect this data and see if there is a recurring theme.
- Content map. Using all the steps above you should now be able to map out the content which you need on the new website and the structure you will have.
- Redirects. Once the new structure is in place, and the URLs are set, you will need to create a 301 (permanent) redirect map from every old URL pointing to the most relevant new URL. This will help the search engines find your new pages (and therefore passing over the SEO benefit) and will help your customers find the relevant page on the new website.
- Link profile. Go through the backlinks, contact influential sites and inform them that you are having a new website and can they update their link to reflect this.
- Optimise the new website. This needs to be ongoing, SEO is a continual process.
A new website which has the latest technology and cutting edge design is great, but if it can’t be found then it could do your brand more harm than good!