In this digital age, website designs can go out of fashion every two years and you might find your company needing to refresh its website and online image.
However, if you currently have good rankings on Google and other search engines, these can be at risk when changing themes, designs or migrating to a new website. The potential loss of regular traffic can be devastating to a business leading to a loss in enquiries and revenue. Fluctuations in rankings are always common when migrating to a new site – and this can take around 2-4 weeks to settle. By following a few simple points below from our SEO checklist, you can minimise the damage and maintain your strong organic search rankings for the long-run.
Track your rankings
Start by tracking your keyword rankings and be sure to include a long list of words that you are trying to target. Whilst you can do this manually by checking Google every day, you can make life easier by using an automated tool that will send you a daily report and allow you to stay on top of your results. At CDA, we recommend using SEMrush or Advanced Web Rankings and you can always use a free-trial during your migration period.
Meta-data and alt text
For effective search results, it is essential to have well optimised meta-titles, meta descriptions and alt-text for every image that you have on the website. Whilst some websites have hundreds and thousands of pages, you want to avoid losing all this information when migrating to a new site. Be sure to include this when are moving the site or for the very least, make a copy of all the meta-data and alt-text in a spreadsheet so that you can always upload it again if need be.
Your meta-titles should begin with a keyword describing that page followed by a hyphen (-) or a gate (|) and the brand name.
Keyword | Brand Name
Red Shoes For Sale | Your eCommerce Store
Your meta-descriptions should be around 150 to 160 characters and given an explanation of the page you are describing. Where possible include your company name, the main keyword of that page and if it is a call-to-action page, include a phone number too.
Your alt text is used to describe an image that you insert into a page. Between 1-3 words is sufficient used to describe the image and it is good to space each word with hyphens.
Crawl errors, broken links and response codes
Crawl errors will emerge on your website when you have changed URLs or removed any pages. Rather than leaving them as 404 pages, you can make your website cleaner and easier to index by using Google’s Search Console to locate these error pages and using a 301 redirect to forward that page to the next most suitable page for the user.
A crawling tool such as Screaming Frog offers a free crawling of your website and will allow you to pick out any broken links and response codes on your website. Broken links are where you have links and pages on your site that are 404s are do not work and response codes refer to when you have links that redirect on your website. By finding the redirects and updating to the full clean link, it will make the indexing of the site smoother and improve your overall rankings.
e.g if the current link in your content is guarantorloancomparison.co.uk, you can simply redirect this to the full link at https://www.guarantorloancomparison.co.uk
Using a crawling tool like Screaming Frog will also help you flag up any duplicate content which is not good for SEO, since every page should be as unique as possible.
Robots txt and sitemap
One of the most common errors when transitioning to a new website is that site owners and developers forget to remove any blockers that might be impacting the website.
This is because most developers will make the website ‘no index’ or ‘no follow’ when making changes so that it does not disrupt the current live site. However, it is imperative that they remove these blockers afterwards.
You can check if your site has blockers by checking the robots txt file – which can be find by typing in yourdomain.co.uk/robots.txt and looking for any pages that say ‘disallow.’
You can also right click on your website and go to ‘Page Source’ and if it is says ‘no index’ – then this is something you will want to remove.
If you have a WordPress site, this can be found by going to Settings > Reading > Tick box of ‘discourage search engines from indexing the site’
Site owners should also re-upload a sitemap to their website and ensure that it is updated with all the new URLs and that any old URLs are not included. An XML sitemap can be formulated using Screaming Frog or generated automatically using Yoast SEO on WordPress.
Analytics and tracking
When moving to a new website, make sure that you have checked that your Google Analytics tracking is still working – and avoid losing any valuable data. Similarly, if you are using tracking to carry out any other activity such as paid ads, email marketing or completion of forms, it is important to check that the tracking still works effectively.
Remove testing site
If you have created a site on a testing or staging environment, it is vital that you turn this off when your new site goes live. Otherwise, this may lead to a Google penalty for having duplicate content on the web.
Once your site is live: test, test, test. Above all, with the mobile first index now fully in place, make sure that you are viewing your website on a mobile just as a much as a desktop – since this is what more users are looking at and what Google takes more seriously when reviewing your SEO.
Do you have any questions? Are you currently migrating a new site and do not want to lose your rankings? Call 02037800808 to speak to someone in our SEO department.