The Seven Biggest SEO Website Migration Blunders

By Loran Simon | Our Service

The decision has been made, the funds ringfenced, the web partner booked, the deal is done – finally, you're getting a new website.

Perhaps you only ever meant for your existing site to be temporary, or its beginning to look dated, out of touch, inconsistent with the practice’s focus. Or maybe you are just tweaking the existing site. Whatever the reason behind the website migration or changes, one thing is guaranteed: if you don’t consider early on how to protect the SEO value you’ve painstakingly built up, it will be lost and with it the monetisation of those SEO gains – more traffic, better targeted traffic and ultimately higher new patient conversions.

In this week’s blog, we highlight the 7 biggest mistakes to avoid when migrating your website. And before we begin, let’s start by defining what we mean by web migration. It’s not only the wholesale redesign of your website, it can include domain or URL changes, transitioning from HTTP to HTTPS, tweaking your web design to make the site more responsive, or other modifications to your web templates.

The fact remains, any changes to your website can have implications for your SEO. The key is to plan with your SEO partner what needs to be done to minimise the risk of traffic loss, keyword ranking drops and other red flags of SEO decline to avoid costly errors.

Done correctly, you don’t have to lose any traffic or rankings but let’s take a look at what happens when you fail to plan:

Mistake #1 - Not Measuring what you’ve got

However much you may loathe your existing site, at one point it was your shiny new toy, so before you consign it to the website graveyard, audit its current performance: google analytics can help but you will want to know:

  • Total traffic
  • Conversion rates
  • Which pages receive the most organic traffic (usually mapped to the best keywords)
  • Usage metrics (bounce rate, time on site, etc.)
  • Inbound links

If you skip this step how will you know whether your new site is simply very shiny, but not very effective? Having these metrics will help you set goals for the new website that align to the practice’s business objectives.

Mistake #2 – Not understanding what you’ve got

Undertaking a thorough site crawl is a must. You need to know what your current website structure looks like now. An SEO crawl should be conducted by your digital marketing partner before you start any new website build in order to identify exactly what is changing and why.  You won’t be able to match the new site up, unless you’ve captured the existing site’s meta data.

Mistake #3 – Failing to NoIndex your test site

When you are in the development phase of your website, you don’t want google to index it. If you’re working on your test site, the last thing you want is for the search engines to index it. If you’ve added great new content, it will get indexed, unless you’ve carried out the ‘noindexing’ steps correctly.  Noindexing prevents Google and other search engines from indexing test or staging sites. Failure to nonindex could lead to pages from the development site ending up in search results. This results in duplicate content issues meaning new content, launched in the new site, will be regarded as duplicate and assigned no value.

Mistake #4 – Incorrect use of Redirects (or worse, not using them at all!)

It’s highly likely in any web redesign for a new URL structure to emerge in the new site. If this happens it’s vital that all pages from the original site are properly redirected to the appropriate version of the new page.  Redirects are a command that tells search engines where to find content that is no longer at a specific URL. These can be 302 (temporary) redirects, or 301 (permanent) redirects.

Permanent 301 redirects maximise link value pointing traffic to the most relevant page on the new site but avoid redirect chains (having the same URL redirected multiple times before reaching the desired URL.  Misuse of 301 redirects can greatly penalise your SEO value.

Mistake #5 – Mis-managing your content

Content migration is a topic all of its own when it comes to website migrations. Naturally, you don’t want to lose any of the hard won SEO equity your content marketing efforts have helped create. But there is also a danger of not being touch enough. It might be time to cull some of that underperforming, bloated content. Again the devil is in the detail. Knowing in detail how content performs on your existing site can inform what you take and what you leave behind and it’s not only about traffic volume, content clustering is also important from a Google perspective.

And, while we talk about content management, let’s not forget keyword optimisation. If you didn’t do it the first time, you’ll want to do it this time, keyword research the only way to properly understand how to get your content seen search engines, allowing you to understand your existing rankings and future opportunities. The Keyword list must then be used to optimise URLs, titles, meta descriptions, header tags, body copy and much, much more.

Mistake #6 – Not sharing your good news with Google

‘We’ve moved’ cards, who sends them anymore or maybe we all just What’s app our friends? But when you move your website, it pays to tell google and all of the other search engines Use the change of address tool in the Search Console for Google to give them an update, but ensure you follow the necessary steps, including submitting the new sitemap. When you forget the search engines have no way of understanding the organisation of your website and you’ll pay the price in rankings and organic traffic.

Mistake #7 - Not Using the Knowledge Panel or Rich Snippets

Google’s knowledge panel has gone from strength to strength in recent years. For local businesses it’s an opportunity not to be missed, letting you display key pieces of information that customers need: contact number, opening hours, reviews, and location - with a link to Google Maps to help them find you.  SEO specialists can increase your chances of getting rich snippets in the search results. For local businesses, this is an opportunity not to be missed.

If nothing else, hopefully, this blog has given you some food for thought around what you must consider if you are planning to change your website, if you are to avoid damaging your reputation.

This is by no means the exhaustive list but by starting a conversation with your web team you are already joining the right path. Sometimes, your web partner will be frank and tell you SEO is not their thing, in which case get yourself an expert partner quickly. This is not uncommon. SEO is not easy. It's time consuming, constantly evolving and web designers are not expected to be SEO experts.

That’s in fact where we come in. It’s what we do, we love it and we pride ourselves on having the most robust, most comprehensive, most affordable service out there, specifically for dentists.

By taking SEO into consideration at the very start of the web design process and by ensuring you have the right partner to make the very foundations of the site SEO friendly, you’re making a crucial decision that will pay for itself hundreds of times over when you new shiny toy finally sees daylight.

If you would like to find out more about our Digital Marketing Services, including our SEO and Social Media Service for Dentists, then please book a 15 minute call with us and don’t risk a website migration without talking to us first.

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Loran Simon

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About the Author

After generating more than 85,000 patients for our own dental lab, and for the clients of our digital marketing agency for dental practices, I cracked the code for running successful online marketing campaigns.