New site? Avoid a drop in Google Rankings!

If you are getting a new site made, that’s great! Yay!

We support this, it’s good to constantly improve your online presence.

IF you have a great presence on Google (other search engines) already, here’s something to consider seriously, and before you launch – there’s a risk that the new website will have significantly lower Google rankings on launch.

A bit of explanation on URLs and search results

When you search for something in Google and Google returns search results, the result includes the link to the URL (which means website address) to the page of the website which to them, best matches your search.

This is the same for other search engines like Bing, Yahoo and MSN but for this post I am using Google as I like it best!

Since every page in your site has a unique url and you may want to preserve your SEO listings this way, when you relaunch your site, there is some careful planning you have to do.

A new site often means new urls.

When you are doing a brand new site, often, the URLs will change.

Your main domain name or web address would be the same, but other pages may have new urls.

On a brand new site you would have different pages, some which already existed in the old site, and some which are new.

Pages like the contact page, the about page and the blog might have existed in the old site, and would be in the new site too. If these pages have different URLS from the previous site the risk is that Google will return the URLs, as it knows them, when it last “crawled the site” and these would go nowhere.

For example, you may have a url for your “About” page which is www.yourdomain.com/about-us and the new site has www.yourdomain.com/about or you may have a service page with a url like www.yourdomain.com/specific-service.html and the new site would have like www.yourdomain.com/specific-service/ (WordPress sites don’t have the .html at the end of URLs). You may not have especially high rankings on your about page, and perhaps it’s your specific services page which have more important Google listings and traffic.

Here’s a 5 step process to do what you can to avoid a ranking drop as much as you can:

  1. Find out which pages are currently being listed on Google and other search engines especially on the first page.
  2. Make note of their page URLS.
  3. Where possible, keep the URL the same, if the page has good rankings.
  4. Here’s the technical bit: when the new site is live, do “301 redirects” from any URLs that did have to change to their matching corresponding pages. See this page on Google support for some information from Google about this. You can get your website developer to do this, or we can help.
  5. Replicate the browser title, meta description, page headings and main content exactly as is on these pages listed on Google. See this post “What search engines are looking at” all about what this all means!

Foolproof? Not.

I believe that if you change to a new site there is always a bit of an effect on the SEO so extra SEO work would be needed to counteract this. Sometimes, URLS aren’t good or natural and have to be changed. If you have numbers in your URLs instead of words, this needs to be fixed, keywords are better for SEO. If you have .htm or .html at the end of your specific page urls and you are moving to a WordPress site, then it will naturally change.

From our SEO specialist Tom’s past experience and case studies of e-commerce site transfers using 301 redirects, we know that even 301 redirects themselves can cause a drop in SEO rank.

Tom says: “Even a drop of 1 – 3 SEO rank places can cause a big drop in visits so if your livelihood depends on this, for example with an e-commerce website or a highly trafficked page which gives you many new leads, try precisely replicate the original site URLs.”

Hopefully this has been useful as a little technical interlude on a rather important SEO factor of relaunching your site!

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