How to Move Pages on Your Site Without Breaking Your SEO
Launching a new website to nail your new branding or sell more products could give your business a big boost. But it could also tank your hard-earned SEO efforts if you don’t take the right steps during your launch. According to Linchpin SEO, the average website drops roughly 5% to 7% in traffic during a redesign. They also warn that redirects not executed properly are one of the most common reasons why traffic drops.
The good news is, your site should recover in a few weeks if you’ve done everything correctly in the first place. You can get on top of your SEO, work on redesigns, and move pages – or your entire domain – without losing all of your hard work. But it takes a careful strategy that protects the integrity of your SEO. Here’s how to get started moving pages on your site without breaking your SEO.
Clean Up Broken Links and Images
Figure out which pages you should move before taking the time to move everything over to a new site. You may find you have broken links and 404 errors to dead pages that shouldn’t be moved in the first place.
Finding broken links isn’t that difficult if you use the right tools. Your content management system probably already offers plugins for broken link checkers that can dramatically reduce your time spent. For example, the Broken Link Checker plugin for WordPress can scan your website, fix broken links and find missing images.
A free service like Atomseo can help locate 404 pages and dead links on your site. You can also install their Chrome extension or Shopify application to help identify outdated and dead links that could ultimately impact your SEO and lead to lost sales.
Audit Your Best (and Worst) Performing Content
It’s hard to let go of low-performing pages and blog posts after spending months or years meticulously building up your content. But in reality, deleting a large percentage of your website can actually help improve your site ranking. At the same time, it can save time and effort when moving pages over to a new site.
Just a few years ago, it was the norm to write 500-word blog posts and still come out okay with your Google page ranking. Today’s top and high-performing content often hovers in the 2,400-word range. You can actually increase your Google ranking by ditching your low-performing content and focusing on a site where the majority of your SEO rich pages and blog posts drive quality traffic.
Use a tool like Panguin to hook into your Google Analytics account and scan through your traffic history and flag any drops. You can also take a look in Google Analytics to see which content performs the best, and which barely makes a blip on the radar.
Noindex Your Test Site
Don’t move or redirect your pages without blocking search engines from indexing your new site first. Otherwise, Google could start indexing your test site and complicate your SEO and page move before you’re really ready to pull the trigger.
Fortunately, Google lays out a relatively simple way to block search indexing with meta tags to prevent it from crawling. Include a noindex meta tag in the page’s HTML code so Googlebot will see the noindex meta tag and drop the page from Google search results. The process is relatively easy even if you’re not that tech savvy:
- Place the following meta tag into the <head> section of your page: <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>
- Request that Google recrawl your page using the Fetch as Google tool. It’s possible you can skip this step altogether since Google probably hasn’t crawled your test site yet. However, play it safe and run the fetch anyway just in case both your current site and test site got indexed. Otherwise, you could run into duplicate content and other SEO issues.
- If you have robots.txt, use the robots.txt Tester tool to unblock your page from Google. This tool is also useful if you’re not really sure whether you have robots that are blocking Google web crawlers. It will tell you if you’re in the clear or if in fact you have robot files blocking their attempts.
Keep in mind this will prevent most search engine web crawlers from indexing your pages, although you really need to monitor your results and complete the steps in the rest of this article to ensure the most accurate move possible without breaking your SEO.
Focus on 3xx
After completing the steps above, you’re now getting into the phase where you can start focusing on 3xx. The term stands for 301 and 302 redirects. But don’t let the terminology confuse you: ultimately, it just means your website is asking the search engines to redirect old links to your new links. People once assumed Google frowned upon using any type of 3xx redirects and feared it would dilute page ranking. However, in 2013, Matt Cutts from Google said 301 redirects don’t lose value.
There are plenty of tutorials on redirecting web pages safely and quickly. To redirect URLs, you can use iPage’s convenient URL Redirection tool:
- Log into the .htaccess Editor, and then click URL Redirect. The current settings for the selected directory display in the Current Redirect Settings section.
- Enter the URL to redirect, relative to the root of your site. Example: /olddir/oldfile.html = http://yoursite.com/olddir/oldfile.html.
- Enter the full URL to which the redirected URL should go.
- Click Save to save your settings. Optionally, click Reset to clear the fields.
- To delete redirect entries, click the delete icon in the table in the Current Redirect Settings section.
Keep in mind there’s more to think about than just redirecting your links. Focus on best practices and cleanly move your existing content to a page or blog post with the same content. In other words, taking a high ranking page link and directing it to lower quality can negatively impact your SEO. In addition, your SEO could take a hit by directing it to a completely different page or post.
Test Your New Pages
Moving pages requires careful testing to catch any hiccups or mistakes before you start indexing your new site. Take a moment to test your pages and posts on your new site and look for broken links. And once you’ve pulled the trigger on the redirect, you can remove the noindex request on your new site.
You also might want to consider putting a temporary noindex request on your old site until you’re certain you’re ready to take your old site offline. Just don’t let it sit too long or you could end up accidentally having Google crawl both sites and negatively impact your SEO.
Think About Your Meta Tags and Site Map
Remember to migrate over the content in your title tags and Meta Description fields, especially if you’ve already been working with an SEO company on this area. You should also execute a sitemap that can crawl and spider your new site and submit it to Google to speed up your site index.
Check Your Backlinks
In theory, your redirects should cleanly send your audience to your new site. But you should also be thinking about your backlinks and making sure they’re also cleaning moved over to your new site. A tool like WebMeUp can quickly check your site’s backlinks to see who is linking to you. However, this step is for the abundantly overcautious who want to ensure their backlinks are working properly.
Not all backlinks are created equal. If you find low quality, spammy sites are linking back to you, then there’s no point in jumping through hoops and trying to contact their webmasters to change the links. Focus on quality links and sites, and reach out to those website owners. Although your links should now be directing to your new site, it can give added insurance to ask that the links be changed manually.
Monitor and Refine Your Results
Following best practices and being excessively thorough and cautious does not replace the need to monitor your results. Search engines and algorithms can be fickle, and the rate for human error or unforeseen issues is high. Take the time to monitor your results to see how your page ranking is impacted, either positively or negatively.
As you’re monitoring your results, focus on creating keyword-rich, lengthy and high-quality articles with plenty of images or media like infographics and video. Use a plugin like Yoast SEO to help do SEO checks on your content and optimize your keywords. At the end of the day, your new website strategy should be proactive about the health of your SEO. Not only is it just good practice, but focusing on your SEO for the long haul can help smooth out any potential issues in your SEO move.
Do you have any tips or insights on moving pages on your site without breaking your SEO? Let us know by leaving a comment below:
Feature Image: Pixabay