Redesigning your website is an exciting process. It usually means you’re making active efforts to improve your site’s user experience and how your organization is represented on the web. You could say something similar about establishing a domain name change—that you’re on the path to a powerful new rebrand for your organization that better represents who you are and what you provide.
But there are scary elements to both of those processes—side effects that might make you squeamish about going through one of them—such as drops in your organic search rankings, broken links, a loss of domain authority or confused users.
Fear not. There are steps you can take to reduce the blowback from these big changes and help mitigate any SEO damage they may cause.
How the Internet Views Your Domain Change
If I suddenly decided to pack up my house tomorrow and move across town without telling anyone, it would probably take quite a while for my friends and family to figure out what happened and where I went. Sure, they may be able to track me down eventually, but it’s possible I’d lose some acquaintances along the way once they stopped being able to contact me.
That’s kind of how the Internet views you moving your site to a new domain. It’s similar to moving houses. You may know you’ve moved, but others need to be told where you’ve gone so they can still get to you.
But what if you’re not changing your domain and instead you simply want to make your current website a better version of itself?
How the Internet Views Your Site Redesign
If changing your domain is like moving to a new house, a site redesign and restructure is like going through an intense home renovation.
After you remodel your house, you still know how to find your way around. But the next time you have a dinner party, your guests might now know anymore how to find their way to the bathroom. If you’ve shifted where your hallways are located and where your doors lead, you’ll have to show your guests around and direct them to where they need to go.
The same goes for the Internet. If you drastically restructure your site, the World Wide Web still knows how to get to your domain. But crawlers may no longer understand how to navigate the pages and pathways that make up the bones of your site. They may no longer understand where your service line content is located if it’s now been moved somewhere new.
Sounds a little scary, right? Luckily, there are solutions.
How to Reduce the SEO Impact of Site Changes
Whether you’re redesigning your site or moving everything to a new domain, you can put measures in place before, during and after your site changes to try to reduce the SEO impact of these alterations on your site.
Check out our infographic on how to stem the flow of lost organic search traffic when redesigning and restructuring your site. The three phases—Plan for Site Launch, Implement Site Launch and Monitor Post-Launch—will walk you through how to create some baseline reports and benchmark numbers pre-launch so that once you get through the launch process itself you’ll be set up to monitor everything after it’s over.
You can apply these same steps to reduce your traffic loss when changing to a new domain. You’ll just need to add a few additional steps during the Implement Site Launch phase. In that phase, when you’re launching a new domain, follow these steps:
- Program and implement 301 redirects at a page level from the old URLs to the new URLs.
- Register and configure your new domain in Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools); do the same for Bing in Bing Webmaster Tools.
- Use Search Console to inform Google that your old domain has moved to your new domain; do the same for Bing in Bing Webmaster Tools.
- Submit a new sitemap.xml to Google via Search Console and utilize “Fetch as Google” to ask Google to re-index your site; do the same for Bing in Bing Webmaster Tools.
- Check that your robots.txt settings are correct.
- When possible, modify the external links leading to your site so they send users to your new URL.
- If available, use your CMS’s recent-changes RSS feed to inform Google when page changes are made on your site moving forward.
And as always, if you have any questions, the digital marketing team here at Geonetric is always willing to jump in and help you make your site launch as successful as possible.
Want to learn more about SEO best practices? Watch our webinar: The State of SEO in 2016.