When brands launch new websites, change their CMS or rebrand, SEO – and site migration in particular – is often overlooked in favour of design, content and website development. The results can be catastrophic. Tom Geekie looks at five key errors and how to avoid them.
The consequences of ignoring SEO during a new website development can be far-reaching, including lost revenues from a significant loss of search visibility, an unnecessarily costly development cycle and wasted paid media budget.
Here are five common mistakes, and how to avoid them:
1. ‘Search engines will find my content naturally’
They will. Eventually.
If you launch a new site with no regard to SEO, it will take considerable time. Search engine algorithms favour established and reliable information that they are confident matches the user’s needs. So you need to make the effort to signpost new content and guide the likes of Google. Think of it with the same logic as you would if you were relocating physical premises. You’d tell customers where you’d moved to, redirect your mail, transfer your phone number and so on, in order to make it as easy as possible for your customers to continue to find you. Otherwise you’d risk losing revenue.
2. ‘I’m only changing my CMS – not my brand – so it’s not important’
Afraid not. If the code base of your website has changed, search engines need to know. Your site’s visibility depends on many factors and using same URLs with different underlying code will throw the algorithm. It needs to know things like whether the content is still relevant or if the site loads quickly enough before determining whether the site has the same authority as previously.
3. ‘Let’s get the website sorted and launched first’
SEO is just not as simple as adding a few metadata tags later. Search engines respond to content, site structure and more. For example, lovely content in a terrible structure can make it too arduous for the algorithms to crawl your site to find it and result in reduced visibility. Having a site migration expert involved from the outset, at least 2-3 months before ‘going live’, will ensure the best performance, not just in terms of search results but also by providing key insights into what is driving leads, sales and conversion to ensure nothing is lost in the new design. Plus it will avoid a sticky moment when there is explaining to be done about why your fabulous new site appears to have gone into hiding.
4. ‘My website developers are mapping all of the URLs’
A redirect strategy is critical to any site migration and is usually the biggest job but it’s not the only thing you need to do by any means. Which is why this can be a false economy. Sometimes you will find developer and SEO skills combined but they are rare beasts.
5. ‘I’ve already got an SEO agency/expert so they’ll be handling it’
Site migration truly is a specialist field of its own. It requires a broad set of marketing experience combined with exceptional SEO technical expertise to get the best results. So you really need to check credentials here. Have they done any site migration before? In what sectors? And using which platforms? What strategies did they employ? Are they achieving economies of scale where possible? And focusing on more detailed tasks when appropriate.
These are assumptions that any organisation that values its digital channel for revenue generation simply can’t afford to make. Can you?