Website redesigning is an art form. Many critical moving parts are involved, so it is important to properly plan every step right down to the most minor detail.
During the process of revamping a website, some webmasters might decide to alter, edit, or revise URLs to improve rankings. But this is a very risky move that can actually have the opposite result. If done incorrectly, URL changes can cause data loss and make search engine indexing impossible. These outcomes lead to a significant drop in search engine rankings.
So, why would anyone want to take such a big risk? There are many reasons for changing a URL.
Oftentimes, rebranding or restructuring a website is the main reason why business owners might decide to move their website to a new URL. You might also consider making URL changes if you are updating your website, repurposing an existing link, building backlinks, changing your company name, dealing with domain security issues, directing users to other branded online platforms, or simply building a new website.
How Changing URLS Impacts Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Changing URLs when revamping a website isn’t a decision that should be made lightly. In fact, most SEO experts would probably advise against it and do everything in their power to avoid making this move unless it is absolutely necessary. As mentioned above, sometimes changing URLs is a necessary evil. But it will inevitably have an impact on your SEO rankings.
It Takes Time for Google to Recognize URL Changes or Site Moves
Site migration, particularly URL changes, require a lot of work and planning ahead of time. Unfortunately, the changes made don’t take effect overnight. It can take months for Google to fully process, recognize, and index the URL changes that are made.
In the meantime, you will experience a significant decline in your website and webpage rankings. Until Google can properly identify and re-index the URLs associated with your webpages, your rankings and website traffic could suffer tremendously.
Google Indexes URLs on a Per Page Basis
Changing the address or URL of a webpage means that you have to forward or backup all of the data on that page. Otherwise, you risk losing all of it during the migration process. Any major or minor changes you make to the URL, such as removing a dash or completely restructuring the site, can negatively impact SEO.
Tips to Follow When Changing URLs or During a Site Move
If performing URL changes is absolutely unavoidable, then here are a few important tips to follow to make the process as seamless as possible and minimize the risk of losing webpage data.
Research Domain Names
Moving to a new domain incurs a great deal of risk. Your rankings will deplete somewhat because a site migration was performed. However, using a compromised domain name can make it a lot worse.
Take some time to thoroughly research potential new domain names. Make sure there is no history of spam, penalties, or other factors connected to them that could negatively impact your rankings further.
Backup the Whole Website
It is always a good idea to backup your entire website before restructuring it or building an entirely new one from scratch. WordPress has a unique drag-and-drop website builder that allows you to store all of your existing themes, plugins, widgets, and files on their server. So, if something goes wrong or certain data is lost during the migration process, it can easily be retrieved. All you have to do is go back to the previous version of the website.
Professional SEO services can manage all of the changes you make to your WordPress website on your behalf to minimize the risk of data loss or corruption. They can also ensure that your new website is ready to go live as soon as possible.
Identify the Right Time to Move a Website
Timing is of the essence when it comes to site migration. Site migration is a months-long process that requires a great deal of in-depth planning to ensure proper execution and minimize or eliminate the risk of data loss.
Plan the website redesign when business is slow. For instance, if you are in the retail industry, avoid or work around holidays when website traffic is at its peak.
Keep in mind that revamping a website requires a plenty of time and patience. It takes Google months to completely process URL edits, revisions, or restructuring. The good news is that Google processes URL changes deemed necessary much faster than those that are less urgent. And, the fewer changes made to URLs, the faster the changes will be processed.
Check How and When to Use 301 Redirects
When performing URL changes, Google strongly recommends implementing 301 redirects to prevent indexing errors or broken links from happening. The way this works is that every time users enter or click on an old link, they’ll automatically be redirected to the new web page.
Maintaining link equity in the process of site migration is paramount. For that reason, you should map out a step-by-step link maintenance strategy that allows you to retain the same authority and referral traffic for your new URLs that you had for the old ones. This will prevent you from having to build up link equity and authority from scratch while also helping you regain your rankability a lot faster.
To make the transition a lot easier, Google recommends keeping 301 redirects in place for at least one year until the indexing system finishes processing all URL changes and website migrations.
Create a Custom 404 Page
A 404 page appears as an error message when a user is able to locate the desired domain, but not the exact web page they are looking for. This can be because the web page was taken down, the URL was entered incorrectly, or because of a site migration gone wrong.
To reassure users that your website does exist and they didn’t do anything wrong, it is best to create a custom 404 page that reassures users they are in the right place. Indicate in the message that your website is currently under construction and it should be up and running soon.
Audit Your Existing Website First
Before foraying into site migration, perform a thorough website audit. Keep the most relevant content and get rid of whatever no longer serves you or your users. This limits the amount of URL changes required and will make the process a lot smoother.
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