The Clapping Dog Media Knowledge Base

Redesigning your site? Here is how to not lose traffic

Mar 3, 2022

Are you planning to refresh the design, rethink the main navigation or do a full on overhaul to your site?

If you are, amazing! Congratulations!

That means that big things are happening in your business.

But before you change one pixel, know this—site migrations are one of the BIGGEST causes of traffic drops.

What Is a Website Migration?

Website migration is a broad term that can be a lot of things. But basically, it means when something significant changes on the site.

Some of the most common reasons clients do a site migration are:

  • Changing URLS to make them shorter or if you want to remove the date to make them future proof
  • Updating the site design
  • Changing content
  • Switching the Host
  • Changing the site platform
  • Changing the domain names
  • Combining websites
  • Any combination of the above.

Since your business is a constantly changing, living thing— your website needs to keep up.

But maintaining the SEO Health of a site as it evolves – well that is a bit tricky.

If you want to update your site, then you need to work with an SEO who understands site migrations.

How Website Migrations are like a House

How to have a Successful Site Migration

Now it isn’t all doom and gloom.

Helping clients maintain their SEO health during a site update is something we do A LOT here at Clapping Dog Media. Our goal is to not only maintain the search-ability of the site but to increase it as well. 

We recently helped a large interior designer migrate from one huge site that was a blog, a shop and a studio to three unique, but connected sites. The new sites have been live for 6 weeks now and we are happy to say that both ranking keywords and organic traffic is higher now than it was prior to the migration. 

Another recent migration was for a large ecommerce site. This client migrated their site to WordPress from another platform, updated their service offerings, removed 5-10% of the old site and added 25% more pages. It was a doosy, but 10 weeks out, the client is able to spend less on paid ads because Search Traffic has increased.

The process of a site migration may be tricky, but it is possible for traffic to grow as a result.

Don’t just change the site, do an SEO Migration.

We define an SEO Migration as a site migration with the help of an experienced SEO.

The ultimate goal of any website migration – from an SEO perspective –  is to minimize traffic losses as much as possible.  Why go through the cost and effort of rebuilding if you lose traffic, amiright?

Here is what we consider to be super important when work on site migrations.  

1. Lots of communication

A site migration will be MOST successful if the SEO, the client and the web development team have a high level of communication. We only do migrations if we can openly connect with the team, this is key to a successful migration. 

2. Create content inventory

The first step is to inventory the original site. It is crucial to identify all pages, URLs, media files and any other assets that are published (or being crawled by Google). 

An accurate site inventory is really helpful, it will allow you to ensure that all of the old URLs are transferred over to the new site. Also, having accurate tracking helps to evaluate which content needs to be updated, optimized, consolidated or removed altogether.  

3. Map Site URLs

This is a biggy and is often the main reason why sites lose noticeable traffic after an update.

You see, Google has set aside a section of its memory to each website. Google is constantly crawling and taking inventory of all the content so that it has a thorough understanding of the entire website. 

When a site changes, Google will try to find all of the original pages, pictures and videos.  Just like in the video above, Google wants to know where the forks moved. If Google can’t find them, well, then the result is a broken page or a 404 error. 404s are bad for SEO because they create a poor user experience and a poor user experience means less traffic.

Now it is expected for pages to be replaced during an update, but the old URL has to be accounted for somehow.

We create a detailed map of URLs on the old site to corresponding URLs on the new site. This helps us keep track of where pages are moving. 

4.Track Ranking Keywords

The number of keywords that a site ranks for is like the canary in a coal mine. It is one of the first indications that the SEO health has either  improved or declined with a site update. 

We track the number of ranking keywords before the migration and watch the rankings VERY closely after the changes are live. If we notice any dip in keywords – we quickly can figure out which keywords dropped and can create a plan to get those keywords back. 

What you need to know about site updates.

Site updates are a part of a growing business, but they must be handled with care. If your site is ready to be refreshed, reach out, let us help you grow.

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