Rebuilding or migration of website is one of the greatest challenges facing positioners. There is no secrret – nearly always the rebuilding website is related to temporary decreases of positions in Google. These declines are natural and unavoidable. They are related to activity of Google robots on our website and require time for the reverification of website by algorithms. Carefully planned and well conducted updating website will however cause that decreases will be transient and future increases of positions – considerable. As well planning the update as its skillful implementation requires great attention to details and many tests.
The visibility of our website will not drop for a long time and then it will increase, when we will take care of following factors:
- Collection of knowledge about the structure and the operation of old version of website and about behaviour and the flow of users on it
- Identification of these areas of activity, in which changes on website will be needed
- Careful planning the structure and the appearance of new website
- Attention to technical details, including especially redirections and broken internal links
- Careful tests and evaluation of results of our activities
Important factor influencing the limitation of temporary decreases of positions is avoiding interruptions in the operation of website. Even short interruption in the operation can be negative signal for Google algorithms. Website should be available for indexing robots at each stage of changes. All changes have to be made first in test version.
Minor technical problems
Rebuilding website is often related to many minor technical problems, which are easy to be missed. It often happens that during rebuilding appear errors in files robots.txt, in the configuration of SSL certificates, in the configuration of such tools as Search Console or in maps of website. In extreme cases errors in file robots.txt lead to complete removal of website from search results and to lasting for many months decreases of positions. So we have to take care of all small details: although they are apparently trivial, they can become the cause of very serious problems.
The reason of many problems is the multitude of versions of website created during works on rebuilding. It often happens that we will apply wrong version of website. It can contribute to falling website out of the index and many technical problems. So it is of great importance to make all changes first only in test version. It is also necessary to pay much to file .htaccess. Errors in it cause often incorrect functioning the server and redirections.
Redirections and URL addresses
Rebuilding website is mostly related to changes in the form of URL addresses and the structure of redirections. If our structure of redirections is confusing and the form of addresses is not intuitive – it is good time to change this state of affairs. Even in the case of quite large websites it is worth to prepare the list of all URL addresses and all redirections of as well old and new version of website. It will help us to avoid the chaos, the loss of content, unnecessarily multiplied redirections and above all – reduplication of content, which is negatively evaluated by algorithms of Internet search engine. There are many popular plugins, which allow to write out quickly the structure of addresses, especially for websites based on WordPress system.
During building new structure of URL addresses, it is important that the content of subpages of new version of our website should correspond as closely as possible to the content of analogous subpages of old website. Sudden changes of the content are evaluated negatively by Internet search engine. It is particularly essential in the case of these subpages, which large number of high quality external links lead to. Sudden change of the content of subpage can lead to – usually irreversible – loss of “power” of incoming links.
Therefore let us try to ensure that the content of analogous subpages of old and new website are at least approximate. In the situation, when new website concerns something completely different than old website – we have to take into account obviously very significant decreases. The expectation that new website with completely different subject matter will have the same visibility as old website is entirely unrealistic.
The introduction of appropriate structure of redirections is essential also due to incoming links. However introducing changes on website we have to take into account the fact that “the power of links” can be reduced. It is not always temporary change.
Additional removals of content or its changes belong to frequent problems concerning the content of changed website. Reduplication of the content appears also often. Thoughtless, accidental shifts of content within the hierarchy of website should be avoided too. Also in the case of these problems, which influence strongly positioning, frequent and exact audit of the structure of addresses is of the greatest importance.
Rebuilding website and users
In our times the number of users and their behaviour is particularly important factor in positioning website, which importance increases. We want our website to be user-friendly, comfortable to use and aesthetic. However it is necessary to remember that these issues are essential not only for marketing – the behaviour of users is also ranking factor for algorithms of Google search engine.
Therefore each rebuilding website requires careful analysis of changes of behaviours of users by means of Google Analytics and other analytical tools. We usually plan to launch new website as single event. However due to habits of our users and the effectiveness of tests, it is worth to take into account different approach: rebuilding website in several or even over ten stages.
Rebuilding website is also related obviously to changes of its graphic elements and templates, on which it is based. Just each element of website should be optimized. The change of templates is of particular importance for SEO activities. We should choose not only these templates, which are nice and comfortable to use for us and users. The most important for positioning is the structure of templates and their lightness, which is crucial to the speed of loading website.
The change of domain is bad idea
The combination of considerable changes in the structure of website and the change of domain is in fact always bad idea. The change of domain influences in obvious way image and marketing losses. It contributes always to the decrease of power from incoming links – even with careful introducing redirections. In addition the more changes we will make simultaneously, the more difficult it will be for us to monitor problems and the more probably they will happen.
Tests, evaluation and monitoringchanges
After rebuilding website let us not wait for its updating by Internet robots. Let us report changes in Search Console tool – above all uploading new maps of website is designed for it in its current form. Unfortunately it is no longer possible to add quickly and comfortably new addresses manually. In the case of not large pages it is worth to attempt to add addresses manually, what should insignificantly speed up indexing new version of website. In the case of very large websites it is worth to add manually at least the most important subpages of website.
The most important test tool, which we should always use is the tool to capture broken links and redirections. Many broken links mean significant decreases of positions, make the activity of indexing robots difficult and is above all frustrating and uncomfortable for users of our website. There are many such tools – in the case of smaller websites we can often use free versions.
It should not be assumed in advance that our new website will operate in the same way as previous website. We have to perform all tests on different browsers and various devices. Not only the comparison of functioning and the appearance of website on computers and mobile phones, but also tests of the speed of website by means of proper tools are essential.
Tests of new version of website consist mainly in periodical monitoring fluctuations of positions. In the first weeks of functioning new version they should take place often – they will frequently help us to realize appearing technical problems. Monitor changes in behaviour of users by means of Google Analytics is equally essential. New version of Search Console enables quite comfortable and exact monitoring subpages, where technical problems occur (for example subpages, which are not yet indexed by robots and errors 404). Besides Google tools it is also worth to use the panel of Bing search engine, what will allow us to verify results twice. Important test tool is also careful review of maps of our website in the form of XML files.
The service of SEO projects does not consist of single actions. Conducting SEO campaign is spread over time, long-term and multistage process. During tests of new version of website it is worth to pay attention not only to its technical functioning. Also evaluation of the degree of implementation and effectiveness of whole strategy, which we adopted at the beginning of our activities is also essential.