Businesses that already rank well in search results are often terrified to redesign their website, especially when it means moving from one content management system (CMS) to another and changing the URL structure. Whenever a URL changes, search engines consider this a brand new page and don’t have any way of associating it with the old page on your old website, which means you will completely lose your rankings if you don’t follow the simple steps below.
How To Keep Your Rankings
There’s three things you absolutely must do if you want to keep your rankings (or even improve them) once you launch your new website:
1) 301 Redirects: A 301 redirect is a special type of permanent redirect that is coded into your website or .htaccess file that tells search engines and website visitors that your webpage has moved to a new location. If your old URL was SimpleSEOGroup.com/SEO and you changed that to SimpleSEOGroup.com/SEO-Services then you need to setup a 301 redirect. With the redirect in place, search engines and visitors will automatically be sent to the new page when they type in or crawl the old URL. Many web designers don’t do 301 redirects because they don’t understand the importance of search engine rankings or because they’re too lazy as it’s a long, time consuming, manual process to code 301 redirects for hundreds of web pages, so make sure your web designer is aware and utilizes these redirects on your new site.
2) On Site SEO: On page SEO accounts for over 20% of where you place in search results. On your new website, make sure your new page is just as SEO friendly as your old page. This means checking every element of the page, from the coding to title tags to content to URL to images to make sure they’re just as optimized as the old site. This will assist search engines in properly indexing your page and will help you either keep or gain rankings with the new site.
3) Off Site SEO: It’s helpful to have some links pointing to your new page. Your old links will still be valid as long as your 301 redirect is in place, but it always helps to build some new, fresh, quality links to your new URL. Whether you try to get some press mentions or send out your own press release, make sure you have at least a few links pointing to each new page on your website.
Waiting For Rankings
It can take search engines anywhere from a few hours up to a few weeks to remove your old pages from the index and index your new pages. During this time, you may notice no change at all in rankings or you may notice some wild search engine swings. Either way, I always suggest waiting at least a month when launching a new site to check where you rank with your new pages.
These three steps won’t guarantee rankings, but they will definitely help make sure you retain your hard earned search engine positions even with your brand new website.