seo migration

Website SEO Migration or Redesign SEO Checklist

How to redesign your website without your losing SEO

For a while now, we’ve been itching to create this guide. We’ve lost count of how many of you have asked the question ‘how do I redesign my website without losing SEO?’, so we knew we definitely had to, it was just a matter of time!

A whole lot of businesses – and even other web agencies – that we work with make some criminal mistakes when changing their website. It’s really quite painful watching years of marketing and SEO lost over night simply because they didn’t have the knowledge they need.

With this in mind, we’ve put together everything you need to know about SEO site migration to avoid disaster during a website redesign. We’ve created this written guide, a website redesign SEO checklist, so there’ll be no excuses for any dodgy site migrations!

But, why is all of this so important? Well, to put it simply, if you don’t follow these SEO migration steps when moving your website, you’re going to damage your standing in the eyes of search engines. Your ranking will drop and there’ll be less traffic directed to your website. It’s really not something you want to happen!

Let’s take a closer look at how your website can be affected to really show you why our SEO migration checklist is important…

Avoid an SEO disaster during a website redesign

  • SEO Domain Migration – A domain transfer can be incredibly damaging to your rankings. Search engines can fail to pick up on the fact you’ve moved a website and will take some time to transfer your ranking potential, meaning you can spend between 4-12 weeks way down in the depths of Google.
  • Domain Change – We get asked the question ‘will changing domain name impact SEO’ quite a lot and, in short, yes it will – unless you put in the work to prevent it. Hopefully, you’ll have a lot of links attached to your old domain so you’re going to want to transfer these for SEO purposes. To do this, you’ll have to keep your old domain under your control and redirect the links to your new domain. Pretty easy, actually!
  • URL Restructuring – Again, you can drop temporarily in search results if you restructure your URL but keep your domain. This is usually put down to the fact that search engines need to re-crawl your site to rank you. If you’ve removed keywords, have done poor re-directions or changed the length of your URL, this could result in some very permanent SEO damage.
  • Website Redesign SEO – Changes to your web mapping and site hierarchy can also affect your search results if not done with SEO in mind.
  • Content Changes – By making changes to your content, you could be removing vital keywords or valuable links that were boosting your rankings. Be wary of what you remove and also what you add in, as it can work in the opposite way to boost your results too.
  • Host Changes – The question of ‘does changing website host affect SEO’ is another one we get quite a lot. It can do, mainly due to the server location changing, but by following these steps that change will be very minimal. You’ll have everything else in place so that changing host won’t even matter!

SEO is a very volatile marketing method at the best of times (though also one of the most successful), so when you look at transferring your site it’s important you know have an SEO migration plan. Otherwise, all the hard work you’ve put in to get yourself where you are could disappear – which no one wants!

Have we frightened you enough now? Good – we’re sorry but it had to be done.

Now let’s move onto how you can combat this search engine misery with an actionable guide for a successful website migration with SEO.

Before your Move – Website Migration SEO Checklist

  • Spot your Ranking URLs

    Your first step is to head over into Analytics, then navigate to ‘Behaviour’ and then ‘All Pages’. Once here, you’ll be able to view all the URLS which were visited within differing periods of time. Change this period of time to 1 year and then make a note of all URL’s that have been visited at least once.

    Ranking URLs Google Analytics

  • URLs with Backlinks

    URL’s with backlinks are all of those which have been linked to from another site, so you want to either find all those that have or, if they all have, which have been linked to the most. To do this, login to the Google Search Console, select your site, head to ‘Search Traffic’ and then over to ‘Links to Your Site’. Here you’ll be able to see which sites have linked to yours and which content has been most linked to – simple!

    Backlinks Google Search Console

  • URLs with 301 Status

    Before doing this, you’re going to have to install a free tool onto your computer, such as Screaming Frog, which will analyse your domains to check if you have any URL redirections. When running the programmes, it’ll identify which of your URLs are 301, 302, 303 and so on, as well as whether they have a permanent or temporary status and where any redirects lead to. When you’ve made a note of all your redirects, you’ll have to make the decision of whether you’re happy with them or whether you want to direct them to a new URL.

    Check Screaming Frog in action

  • Google Analytics Code (GA)

    To check your GA code, simply open the homepage of your site and right-click to find ‘Inspect/Inspect Code’. Click Ctrl-F to find ‘UA-’, the identification of all GA properties. If you don’t get any results, which can happen, go ahead and try the Tag Assistant add-on as this may work better for your site.

  • Bing Code

    When inspecting your Bing Code, follow the same steps as for Google Analytics (above), but instead of searching ‘UA-, search ‘name=”msvalidate.01”’. This’ll allow you to inspect the Bing code which is installed in your site’s header as a meta tag.

After your Move – Website Migration SEO Checklist

  • Check and update Schema

    Use Google’s Structured Data tool to verify and update your schema markup. Head over to https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool/u/0/ before popping in your site’s URL and clicking ‘Run Test’. The tool will then let you know which times of schema (it could images, local businesses, organisation etc.) you have, but it’ll also identify the code on your site so that you can copy it for your new website.

  • SEO Plugins

    You’re going to need to match all of your site’s SEO plugins to your new company and website details. What you do here depends on the plugins you use, but they usually refer to images, logos, business name, contact details and all that great stuff. It’s super important to change all of this stuff so that no trace of your old site is found on your new one.

    Image result for yoast seo Image result for all in one seo

  • GA Code

    If you’re keeping the same Google Analytics properties, then you don’t need to do this, but if you do need to change it if you were already using Google Tag Manager (GTM), then it’s pretty easy. Simply update your GA properties before adding the GTM code to your new site. If you need to install GTM and don’t know how, just pop over to https://tagmanager.google.com/#/home and create your website account. You’ll then be given instructions of how to install the code on your own site. Easy!

  • Identified URLs

    You should’ve identified the URLs you need before the move and now you’ll have to map and organise them so that they redirect the user to a similar page. Old 301’s should also be re-directed to prevent long chains of destinations. If you haven’t got a similar page to redirect to, just take the user to your new homepage.

  • New Sitemap

    Create new sitemaps for your content, images and video and update and verify them in Robots.txt, Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. You can create new sitemaps using a whole bunch of plugins, and the SEO plugin you have will probably have sorted the content sitemap out for you already, so you can just resubmit the whole thing. If you didn’t already have a sitemap for your media (videos and images), just find a plugin that works for you and your website.

    Sitemap Google Search ConsoleSitemap Bing Webmaster Tools
  • Fetch URLs

    Fetch your URLs in Google Search Console so that they will re-crawl your pages and take into account new content and changes even if those pages are under the same URLs. To do this, head to the Google Search Console before going to ‘Crawl’ and ‘Fetch as Google’. Pop in the URLs that you want Google to know that you’ve updated. If you have URLs with both visual and content changes, you’re going to want to use ‘Fetch and Render’ rather than just ‘Fetch’, which is just for content updates. You’ll then be able to request Indexing, which will open a new window where you can enter simply the URL or both the URL and direct links, which is great for site wide alterations.

    seo migration Google Search Console Fetch URLs

  • New Domains

    If you have a new domain, use the ‘Change of Address’ in Google Search Console to aid the transition and reduce the damage to your rankings. Before you do this though, you’re going to need to prepare by carrying out the following steps:

    • Complete all content migration before changing your address. This is vital to make sure everything runs smoothly, so please make sure you’ve followed all the above steps before this!
    • Add your new website to Google Search Console and make sure to verify it.
    • Request your change of address and voila, it’s done!

    To request the change, select the site you’re moving from on the Google Search Console home page, then click the gear icon and then ‘Change of Address’.

    Change of Address Google Search Console

What keywords should I be using?

Website Migration With SEO Focus

It’s incredibly important that you follow all of these migration SEO tips when moving your site. We know can be a pretty long and sometimes tedious process, but, trust us, it’ll be well worth it. If you do it all properly then you’ll be well on your way to a happy and healthy website move! With our help and this handy SEO website migration guide, you’ll be able to easily redesign your website without loosing any of that all-important SEO. Hooray!

If you think you need to some visuals for this all to make sense (we know that it can get kind of confusing), then check out our screenshots for more details and easy to follow instruction. You should also download our website migration SEO checklist before you start your move so that you can make sure you’re doing everything you need to as you go along. In situations like this, it’s important to prepare and be aware – no one wants to drop in the rankings, so don’t allow your site migration to let you down!

If you have any more questions about your site migration, get in touch with our team at Geeky Tech today. We’re self-confessed geeks when it comes to anything involving SEO and websites and we’re also a pretty friendly bunch, so don’t hesitate to ask for our help! We know site migration’s can be tricky, but we’re here if it all gets a bit too much.

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