6 Important Lessons We Learned After Website Migration
Nothing screams SEO accomplishment loud and clear than having pages from your website rank first on Google’s search results.
Of course, nowadays, it’s common knowledge that page rank isn’t everything, but you can certainly benefit from being the top spot on Google’s search results. When you look at statistics, it’s incredibly easy to see that the majority of clicks go to the highest ranked search results. At minimum, 75% of clicks go to the first page of search results.
But then, the turning point in your story comes when you decide it’s high time for a site makeover. After deciding that site migration and web redesign is the best course of action, you set about accomplishing it only to realize, after an hour or so later, that you have completely lost your page’s ranking.
What a disaster!
Unfortunately, cases like this do happen. One of the most common reasons is when sites undergo migration and extensive redesigning. And in the hype of it all, they completely lose track — neglecting a comprehensive redirect plan in the process.
A couple of pretty changes is all it takes before your arduously built ranking comes crashing down around you — negatively affecting your SEO as well as your page authority.
Fortunately for you, this is an error that is easily fixed. Through our own experience, here are 6 ways to salvage a page ranking that is suddenly lost.
Check for Noindex Tags
A noindex tag tells search engines that a specific page shouldn’t be indexed in their search results. It keeps the bots from crawling your pages. Sometimes instant loss of page ranking within the hour can be blamed on the simple case of accidentally overlooking codes.
Because as standard practice mandates, any new website that is still within the development stage shouldn’t be visible to users or search engines.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t fancy the idea of my competitors having a sneak peek at what’s going on behind the scenes, or what’s my new ‘it’ product. For this reason, a noindex tag is necessary to keep precious information behind a secret wall.
When the time for the big reveal comes, all anti-crawl codes must be removed so the final product can be fully visible.
But humans err, so sometimes you might neglect to erase a noindex tag or two. And this seemingly small slip-up can cost you your page rankings. So before your revamped site goes live, make sure to check for noindex tags.
Removing these tags after a sudden pagerank loss will allow the Google bots to crawl the specific page once again.
Look for 404 on Old Sitemaps & Have an Effective Redirect Plan
The number of 404s increasing as a result of website redesign is pretty common. Most businesses don’t fancy the idea of having a 404 page on their site, but you can either mope around about it, or take steps to prevent that from happening. Another alternative is to flip 404 over on its head.
How does 404 happen during site redesign or site migration?
Moving your old site into a new CMS can be one of the culprits. This process moved all of your pages on your old website to a new URL.
The trouble behind this is the fact that some of your old visitors may have bookmarked the old URLs. Google is still showing the old URLs in people’s search results. And perhaps some of your email newsletters still contain links to the old URLs.
So what do you think hundreds of people do when they constantly run into an error page? 9 out of 10 of them leave and find new resources. That’s a huge loss of traffic on your part.
Without an effective redirecting plan put into place, you can easily fall behind in the race. And every savvy marketer knows the value of time.
How do you fix it?
After extensive redesigning and migration, it can be quite taxing to manually input each and every page URL on the address bar and check every single one until you come across an error page. (Kudos to you if you’re up to doing that.)
To easily identify the 404 pages on your website, you can easily use Google Search Console.
In most cases, it’s much more preferable to not show a 404 page at all. Instead, simply redirect people to a different page altogether. If you update a page and change the URL, just make sure you redirect the old URL to the new page.
Also, make sure to implement a redirect to avoid link equity loss you previously earned from external links.
And when it comes to a WordPress site, you have the option to download a plugin that makes creating redirects easy. Upon downloading the plugin, simply log into your account and navigate to settings.
While in settings, click the 301 redirect tab, and fill in the request tabs with your old URLs and the destination tabs with URLs from your new site. Save the changes, and voila! You’ve successfully created a redirect.
Test and Repair Broken Links
Websites are built on hyperlinks, and linking between web pages is a staple feature. When everything is working perfectly — as they should be, every link available on your site will lead exactly to the right place.
But sometimes, during the process of redesigning to make your website look better, links suffer breakage.
A lazy developer would write it off as a trivial thing, and simply think that site visitors will find their own way and keep browsing through the site to find what they’re looking for. But this kind of thinking falls short from reality.
Broken links are:
- Frustrating for users (and that’s why most site visitors will simply leave and find other better functioning websites),
- A reflection of poor website maintenance,
- Possible signs of lazy developers,
- Harmful to your domain authority,
- Dangerous to conversion in your website especially if it’s on a sales page,
- Sources of your site’s SEO and page ranking failures.
How do you fix it?
There are numerous ways to identify and begin fixing broken links. In fact, you have plenty of tools available online to choose from.
- Free Broken Link Checker: It’s the easiest you can find. Search for a way to fix a broken link, and this immediately appears at the top of the list. You can edit the URL, unlink a page, and recheck for extra validation.
- Broken Link Checker Plugin for WordPress: A site powered by WordPress works with a plugin that checks for broken links. Upon installation, you can readily access it through Settings > Link Checker. On the Broken Links page, you’ll see the URL, the Status Code, the Link Text, and the Link Source (a page, a post, or a comment).
Make Sure That Each Page Has Meta Tags
One of the most basic elements of SEO are meta tags. It’s a must-know for every SEO practitioner, and chances are, you’re already aware of its significance. They are a huge part of search engine history.
Even if meta tags don’t do much when it comes to page ranking, they are still important. Search engine bots validate their relativity to your website’s content.
- Meta Title: It’s the title text shown in search engine listings. It’s not necessarily a meta tag, but it functions like one.
- Meta Description: This is where the site’s summary is usually found. In this tag, you put what your site is all about and what you offer to your customers. Be wary of the length of your meta description, however. Perhaps 150-200 characters would do.
- Meta Keywords: All of the keywords that you use for your site go here. It’s what will bring you to the top of the search engine results. Every user must know what your site is all about upon looking at your keywords.
Check Archive History for Old Page Content
No matter what other people say, design and content work hand in hand. They work together to aid you in your page rankings. A sudden loss in page ranking can sometimes mean your content isn’t as relevant to your niche as it was.
Make sure to review and refresh your content. If you didn’t do it back in the development stage of your new site, then it’s not too late to do it — even if your new site is already live.
Old content should never be deleted. Every kind of content previously written can use improvement in the present. You can even find ways to repurpose your content. It’s the core element of SEO, after all.
But if you did delete your old content, by some misfortune, you can always check the internet archives to see what your site looked like before you decided to redesign it. It’s not surprising that you probably missed something. It doesn’t hurt to double check.
Install the New Console & Monitor Site Progress
As soon as your newly redesigned site is ready for launch, introduce it to Google Search Console so you can ask Google to crawl, fetch, and index your new site. (Fetch it for both desktop and smartphone).
For the next weeks and months, monitor your new site very very closely. You can easily check back into Google Search Console to see if there are any glaring errors or issues that you need to report. Also, check for “crawl errors” to see if Google is having trouble finding a particular page.
Stay vigilant and observe your website’s performance with Google Analytics to ensure that all traffic is being redirected to your new site.
It’s perfectly human to make mistakes. And as your site improves and evolves from one design to the next, you don’t have to live in fear of losing your page’s ranking on search engines. There are ways to rectify the problem. All it takes is a vigilant eye and meticulous process.
So when you suddenly can’t find your site pages anywhere on Google, all you have to do is:
- Check for overlooked noindex tags,
- Look for 404 on old sitemaps and strategize effective redirect plans,
- Conduct a test for broken links and fix them,
- Ensure that each page has meta tags,
- Check internet archives if you deleted old content that can still be used,
- Install the new console, and
- Monitor your new site’s progress in the coming weeks and months.