Was your old site was starting to look a little stale? Now for most people a website re-design can do a lot to increase conversions and reduce bounce rates, however if you do not do it correctly you could wind up losing your valuable SEO rankings and losing major traffic consequently. This means you need to make sure to follow all of the necessary steps to make sure you don’t lose any rankings! As Tampa SEO experts, we upgrade entire websites with new installs of WordPress with brand new themes and information without one drop in rankings for target keywords.
Included here are the steps we follow to ensure our SEO labors will never be lost:
You can do this yourself should you redo your site by yourself or at least make sure the company you hire is doing this. We sometimes see prospects decide on lower bidders only to discover that their companies simply take the shortcut (a simple 301 redirect for the entire site!), and we get the call to help fix things after its too late.
Step 1: Develop your new site in an environment that Google Cannot Crawl
This is a step a number of people overlook, but can have ill effects on your rankings prior to the new site has gone live. In our case we install a new WordPress on a separate extension, then we then added the following text to our /robots.txt file:
Now what this does is tell Google never to crawl our new site while we develop it, unfortunately this does not always ensure your site doesn’t get crawled (and lots of times it does actually get crawled). So we must also add the following code to the <head> area of the Header.php file of the wordpress theme you are using for your new site
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex” />
This should make sure that your new site is now not crawled during development which is very important because if Google sees duplicate content on a a good number of new pages on your site you may get hit with a penalty even before you finish the new site.
Whether you are a trying to construct a local (like in the Tampa area), or a national site, and you are using WordPress to develop your new site we would also can’t help but recommend you employ Under Construction plugin on the development site so that peering eyes don’t get to jump on your site.
Also – Be sure to remove the no index meta tag to your site after you have successfully launched your brand new web site.
Step 2: Figure out the pages on your site that are ranking and indexed in Google.
First of all trying to determine which of your pages are ranking in Google is not a very cut and dry process and there are a number of tools which assist with this process, namely Google Analytics & Google Search.
First open up a blank spreadsheet in Excel. You can name it anything, like “Tampa SEO results” (yes, we are in Tampa, FL…).
Let’s Start with Google Search:
Now we will do a search in Google to see all the pages on your site in their index, go to Google.com and type this:
with “www.yoursite.com” obviously being replaced with your site’s url
This is going to illustrate every page Google has indexed of your site, note every one of and add them to a spreadsheet in Excel.
Moving On To Google Analytics:
First Make the Dates in the top right as far back as they go.
Go to Content>Site Content>Landing Pages:
This is will give you a list of all the pages that everybody have landed on your site received from Google search, note all of these urls and start gathering them in the spreadsheet as they will be used for possible 301 redirects later on.
Step 3 – The Spreadsheet
Now that we have gathered all URL’s that are both indexed in Google and are bringing your website traffic we are going to need to make sure that every one of those are redirected to the relevant page on your new site and we can commence adding those new URL’s to our master spreadsheet.
We are going to utilize this spreadsheet to make certain that all of our indexed/ranking URL’s in Google are redirected to the new page after the site is re-designed.
Step 4 – How To Set up the Old Ranking (And Non Ranking) Pages on the New Site
So now that we have our new site being created in a “sandbox”, where Google has not yet seen us, and we also have gathered all the important URLs on our old site we can begin to create the pages on our site that are ranking (and not) so that when Google examines our site for the first time our site they won’t find huge variations in tags or content that might make them begin re-assess and drop our sites rankings
The 1st step is to export all Blog postings on the old site (This part is unique to wordpress or other blogs/cms) Do this by going to the WordPress Dashboard and finding Tools>Export picking Posts and downloading the xml file that resulted. Then go to the Dashboard on the new site and go to Tools>Import and imported that xml file, putting all your old blog posts/comments on the new site.
You can follow that same process with all the pages but because that the pages on your old site could formatted with a bunch of shortcodes or stuff unique to the old theme and because of the fact that the pictures were all in the old storage gallery and may not be used, Most people will just recreate those old pages using the new themes shortcodes and re-uploading all the images to the new site.
When you re-create the web pages on the old site, ensure to keep the site extensions, content, title tags, & meta tags EXACTLY the same as they were on the other site.
So if I had a page on my old site that was /tampa-seo-company with the title tag ” Tampa seo company”, the extension on the new site for the duplicate page was /tampa-seo-company with the same title tag “tampa seo company”. Also make sure that the content and meta tags were exactly the same so that the pages would be almost indistinguishable in Google’s eyes.
To ensure that is the case, use the “All in One SEO Plugin” and just copy and paste all tags from the old pages into the new pages.
Step 5 – Backing Up Everything
Before we begin the procedure of actually updating the old site with the new site we get to one of the most crucial parts of this procedure – BACKING UP ALL NEW AND OLD FILES. This is a step that no one should ever ignore when you build a new site as it can rescue you from any screw ups which could happen along the way. In WordPress this means backing up the database for both the old and new site as well as downloading all the site files for both sites. So now we have the new site totally made with the same pages, content, meta-tags, url format, & title tags as the old site we just need to exchange the old site with the new one.
There are several ways to get this done, if you are using WordPress, you may create a new database in MySql and then importing the database from the new install into the database we just made in PHPMyadmin. We then just need to change the wp-config file in the new site files to mirror the new database information and we are ready to upload our new site!
Step 6 – Going Live & 301 Redirects
Before we get rid of the old site files in our server and switch it with the new ones we want to make sure that we have the correct 301 redirects in place just in case any of our pages have changed names during the process. This is when our big spreadsheet of old and new URLs comes in place. Let’s pull our spreadsheet up and initiate publishing some 301 redirects.
If you use WordPress there are a couple of choices for you:
If you are not using WordPress, or you simply want to do it the old fashioned way because that’s the way you are, then we will create a .htaccess file to write these redirects. This is done by crafting a new file in a text editor adding the necessary redirects in this file using this format
Redirect 301 /theoldpage http://www.yoursite.com/thenewpage
Redirect 301 /theoldpage2 http://www.yoursite.com/thenewpage2
Once you write all the necessary redirects save the file as .htaccess (no file extension) and save it in the root folder of your site.
The most popular option is the redirection plugin which does all the heavy lifting for you, that’s why we use it (did we mention it’s free?). The plugin very easily adds redirects from old URL’s to the new ones using this plugin and that is why we use it. If you do elect to use this option you would first eliminate all your old site files (after backing them up of course), then just upload the new site files and add the important redirects with this plugin.
Now that you have recreated all pages on your site and you have set up the necessary 301 redirects, you can delete all the old files and upload the new site files with the .htaccess in the root folder. (if you don’t see the .htaccess folder in your browser you ought to be able to see it in your FTP client due to the fact that it is by default a hidden file type).
BAM! Now you have an innovative new site design with all the same SEO power and swag as your old design, but devoid of the high bounce rate