When a website undergoes any type of change, we don’t want it to lose the organic traffic and domain authority it has earned over the years. With this in mind, we take steps to best maintain its SEO. The process differs from site to site and also depends on the scope of a project. However, there are a few things that are done in the initial stages when moving a website—we’ll go over a handful of them below.
1. Perform a crawl to evaluate a site’s current content.
If a site has existed for a while, there may be unnecessary posts and pages. Perform a site crawl to identify:
- blank pages
- duplicate pages
- pages with placeholder text
From there, you can discuss the next steps with your team and the client. A site move is an ideal time to clean up any pages that aren’t adding value to a website.
2. Review the XML sitemap.
Make sure a website’s most important pages aren’t hidden. During a website re-platforming, create a new XML sitemap and confirm that it contains the proper URLs and “instructions” for Google. Once complete, submit it to Google Search Console.
3. Set up permanent redirects and review the new URL structures.
Set up permanent redirects, also known as 301 redirects. 301 redirects are recommended for SEO because of the high percentage of link equity they pass on to the new URL. This is the case as long as the new page contains high-quality content and covers the same topic as the previous page. Additionally, make sure that new URLs are relevant to their corresponding pages, contributing to positive UX.
4. Ensure that metadata has carried over to the new site.
When moving a site, make sure optimization work that was already in place isn’t lost. Before pushing a new website live, check that title tags and meta descriptions have carried over and that they align with the correct pages.
This is also a good time to take care of optimizations that may not have previously existed. Unique, keyword-rich title tags (that are different from a page’s H1 tag) and enticing meta descriptions should exist for a site’s most important pages. Plan to have these optimizations complete for site launch to hit the ground running for authority in the SERPs.
5. Keep the existing content.
Plan to keep the existing on-page content intact and live. This can always change in the future, and it’s okay for these changes to take place over time. This is all a part of the process.
For a great organic search presence, it’s vital to provide well-structured content. If it’s informative and engaging for website visitors, search engines can determine that a website is worth showing as a top result. In contrast, if there’s a lack of content, users and search engines will have no information to go off of (which leads to a lower ranking in SERPs). If a site lacks content, the next step is to create a content strategy that prioritizes the pages where users will convert. This can be tackled after the initial steps of the website move.
Remember, these are only a few of the many things that go into maintaining a site’s SEO during a site location and platform change. There are numerous factors that will affect a website’s ranking through times of change.