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Website Migration: Change your Design or CMS without affecting SEO

There will be times when you want to migrate your website, i.e. change the design of your site or change the CMS powering your website. When you do such a thing, it’s critical that you keep certain points in mind so as not to affect the SEO for your site.

Sameer Panjwani talks about the few things that you could do when going about a website migration.

A website migration usually invovles restructuring your URLs and it matters most how you handle the file name changes. There is a way to handle a website / design migration without too much of an affect in your search rankings. Watch the video to learn more.

Transcript – 

How do you handle a website migration especially when you are doing a site redesign or you’re changing a CMS platform, say, from Joomla to WordPress. This is the problem that many people have. They fear that they could lose rankings and they even stop themselves from going about the transition.

Let me tell you its not as hard as it seems and if you do the right things, the right way you are not going to suffer any, you might see a blip in your rankings but it will be temporary and I don’t see any reason why there should not be a quick recovery if you follow a checklist which I will outline right now.

First thing you do, before you even start your redesign, before you even start taking your whole site down or implementing the new site, it’s important and very critical that first you get a list of all the URLs that you have on your site in its current form and how do you do that – you can use any crawler tool, you can use Screaming Frog or you can use Mondovo’s website audit tool. Out there, you will get a list of all the URLs that are there on your page.

And, in fact, you will also have an option to see the social strength of each of the pages. You can also check the backlinks that you have for all those URLs using our Bulk Metrics or optional add-on in Website Audit.

So once you have that, what you want to do is you want to make sure that whatever pages that you are planning to implement in the new site, if you’re not going to transition all the old pages to the new ones which sometimes you might see that some pages don’t make sense. What you definitely want to do is – every page that has some kind of social strength or some even one single external backlink, you want to make sure that you have a replacement alternative for those pages at minimum.

If you are not going to replace all pages make sure atleast those pages are transitioned to the new site. Now when you’re transitioning to the new site, if you are not going to have all pages, if you think you could combine a few pages into one page that is perfectly alright. What you must do is you must have a plan for URL mapping.

So, whatever old pages that you have, you must in the same Excel sheet on the right side side put a list of what are the new URLs that you have mapped the URL to. They could be 2-3 old pages which could be mapped to a single URL. Just make sure that the theme of the page and everything is similar so that any backlinks that are pointing to the old page will make sense for the new page.

So, you do want to ensure thematic relevance of the pages in your transition and it’s important that you don’t digress too much from the topic. So, what you do is left side is your old URL,  right side is the new URLs. Once you have that in your “ht access”, you want to set up 301 redirect. So what this does is tells Google that these URLs don’t exist and now they have been permanently transitioned to the new URL.

So, 301 redirect to be setup either via an “ht access” or on the old pages you can 301 redirect using some coding language depending on which platform you are hosted on. Now after you setup 301 redirect and you have made your site live, it’s important that you have configured your site in Google search console why because Google search console will alert you of any crawl errors that faces.

So, there would be time you might have missed out on certain things because if Google detects a 404 error what does that mean? That it could not find the page and if it could not find a page that does not exist means you have not successfully setup a redirect from your old page to the new page.

So, what you definitely want to do is keep monitoring search console to see if there are any crawl errors. If there are any crawl errors, the first thing you want to do is go back and ensure that whichever page it’s not finding and it does not exist, you want a 301 redirect setup to an appropriate new page. If you missed out a new page, develop that page and don’t miss out if you decide not to transition all the old pages, try to atleast redirect it to some new page which is as closely relevant to the old page. Don’t miss out on any opportunity to gain rankings from whatever little traffic that you may have got to the old page.

So, once you’ve set that up you are more or less done. I think the transition could be smooth if you follow the checklist. A few extra tips – if you’re going to invest in website migration, design migration or platform migration, I would strongly suggest that you would implement https SSL based security for your domain. Google does give you a few extra marks for having that set up so I think that’s important, it’s good for the security of your users and good for your search engine rankings and do ensure that you have your domain canonicalized properly.

So, you should have one version. It should be either www.your domain name or it should be without the www. Also, if your domain name.com/index or index.php, it should all redirect to only one version which is www.domain.com or non www.domain.com.

We want only one version for all those four variations. So, setup canonicalization make sure https is setup go through the checklist audit your site pick the strongest pages if you are not going to transition all the pages. Do a 301 redirect monitor search console for all the errors and then I think you will have a smooth transition and if you might see a blip in rankings it will be temporary within a week or so I feel if might not be that long you should see a smooth transition.

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