Any time you plan on redesigning your website, there is the possibility of losing a ton of organic traffic. However, if you keep these 3 Must Dos in mind, you can mitigate traffic loss during your website migration.
Map Current Pages to New Pages
Even if you’re changing one letter in your URL structure, you need to map all current pages to their new URL. The mapping needs to be done in the following way:
- Map your content on a page-to-page level
- Use 301 redirects when you implement the physical redirects
- Do NOT mass redirect pages into category pages (Google now treats many of these as soft 404s)
- If select pages will not exist within the new website design, redirect them to the most relevant article/page
- Put the redirects in place the second you push your website design/URL structure live
- Update all external links where the URL has changed (and that you directly control) pointing into your website immediately after launch
Ensure all Tracking Codes Are Maintained
During a website redesign / website URL structure migration, one thing you need to do is ensure are tracking codes are maintained. If you drop a Google Analytics tracking pixel or Google AdWords code, you can lose days, weeks, possibly months of data post launch. When various changes are occurring on the site, it’s very possible that the existing (or new) tracking codes are not even considered. So before you launch that new site redesign, be sure to do the following:
- Take inventory of all analytics/tracking pixels
- Document what they are used for and whether they will be necessary in the new design
- Ensure the necessary analytics/tracking pixels are accounted for in the redesign
- Monitory all analytics/tracking platforms immediately after launch to ensure they are still tracking data
Update Robots.txt Files/XML Sitemaps Accordingly
The robots.txt file and xml sitemaps associated with a website are often forgotten over time or just not even considered during a website redesign/migration. The fact of the matter is the robots.txt file and xml sitemap(s) are two of the most crucial elements to ensuring a smooth website migration. They send signals to search engines that can have a drastic effect on your website’s visibility. So before you finalize your redesign/migration, be sure to do the following:
- Check the current versions of the robots.txt file & xml sitemaps
- Update the robots.txt file & xml sitemaps based on the new URL structures and additional content which you may/may not want crawlable/visible to search engines
- Do NOT use the same robots.txt file on the new live site that was used for the dev/staging site. In most cases, the robots.txt file for the dev/staging site is blocking the entire site.
- After launch, resubmit your xml site map to Google via Google Search Console AND double check your robots.txt file
By following these simple 3 Must Dos during your website migration, you’ll be able to mitigate any serious drop in organic traffic to your site. Skip any one of these Must Dos and you’re putting your website’s destiny in Google’s hands.