Each website we release comes with what we call our Basic SEO Package out the gate. This means, in a nutshell, that we prepare the site to live well among its peers in the vast ether so that it’s fit for spiders to crawl and index with ease (see our SEO page for specific details). Often, however, individual circumstances require us to be a little more attentive to a new site’s needs and thusly we prepare for launch in a tailored manner to ensure each new website will keep the link juice from the old one.
For instance, many of our website design and development projects conclude with us evaluating our clients current host for suitability to run the application we’ve developed for them. As we typically deploy Content Management Systems (WordPress or Drupal, for the most part), the server resource requirements are more than your entry-level shared hosting offers and, more importantly, good server security practices are paramount (and frankly, most inexpensive shared-hosting environments have appalling security protocols in place). Because of this, we typically recommend a server change and, although it adds a layer of complexity to the migration both in implementation and from an SEO perspective, it is often the right way to go.
But a server change and a site structure change and content change *and* possibly a Top Level Domain (TLD) change all together mean certain disaster for SERP position, right?! SEO specialists will certainly recommend against such changes all at once, but sometimes it can’t be avoided. Luckily, there are many tools and tactics that we can use to ensure a site’s new digs inherit the position of its previous zip code.
One of the tactics that I regularly employ is what the esteemed SEO gurus at Moz call in this article, “doing the long, boring, hard work,” (the reason, in fact, that I’m writing this post). A recent site we released included a period of spreadsheet work for both myself and our client mapping all of the previous pages to the new content structure. The benefit of this boring, hard work is at least two-fold in that not only does the power of the previous pages translate to the new ones, but, as the Moz article mentions, it’s a chance for old content to be properly disposed of so it works for you rather than linger in obscurity.
The other important advice that the Moz article gives indirectly and I advocate for with every site launch, is to pay attention to what’s happening to your domain in the wake of migration in order to repair any indexing problems or unexpected errors that may arise and that are hard to see prior to launch. Moz also suggests, which I’m likely going to start to employ when it makes sense, to keep the newly launched sites out of the eyes of the search engines — either through authentication (which is typically impractical) or via robots.txt disallow directives — until you verify the work you’ve done is performing as it should. This is a great way to avoid hiccups before they might have an impact. I’ll release the results of this idea in a future blog post.
I’m always delighted when an outfit like Moz advocates for a process that I regularly employ to help our clients remain safe in the arena of search engine results. Good SEO practices out the gate have become par for the course in being relevant in the field of web development and I am pleasantly surprised that it’s never a challenge to convince our clients of this and in fact the vast majority of them simply expect it — as it should be.
May your content be found with ease!
Related content: Moz.com’s excellent migration infographic.