Each year, hundreds of brands give their website a facelift. This is an exciting time full of UX adjustments, graphic design, and landing page copywriting.
However, sometimes brands forget a critical component of their site migration: redirects.
Redirects can make or break your website. They can turn the exciting prospect of a new website into a complete nightmare. That’s why webmasters need to set up redirects properly before migrating your company’s website.
In today’s competitive landscape, URL errors are a handicap you just can’t afford.
Learn why redirects matter for your brand, and how you can follow redirect best practices for a smooth site migration.
Why Do Redirects Matter?
Redirects play a critical role in your site migration. Whether you’re moving to a new CMS or scrapping old site content altogether, redirects are key to preserving brand authority and SEO rank.
Site migrations are beneficial for branding, updating content, and simplifying your website. However, they need to be handled with care, especially if you’re changing your site URL.
A URL change is like moving to a new address. Unless you tell search engines where you’ve moved to, there’s a chance they’ll remove any SEO authority your site once had.
Redirects are a digital change of address. Redirects are beneficial for both users, who want to continue checking your website, and search engines, which want to crawl and rank your site.
However, even the most careful webmasters know redirects aren’t simple. Fumbles happen. Whether there’s a miscommunication, tight deadlines, or lack of expertise, sometimes redirects don’t happen as they should. The result is lost traffic, diminished brand trust, and loss of SEO rank.
4 Practices for Better Redirects
Don’t lose all of your hard work during a site migration. Follow these best practices for better redirects that preserve your SEO rank.
1. Eliminate Redirect Chains
There’s nothing worse than a redirect chain or loop. Even the best webmaster can make this mistake if they’re not paying attention.
A redirect chain happens when you redirect from an old page, to yet another old page, and then finally to the new page. This means that users go through three redirects before they get to the correct site.
Worse than a chain, a redirect loop creates a neverending cycle of redirects from page A, to page B, to page C, and back to page A again. The user never gets to access your site because it’s constantly redirecting.
You definitely don’t want chains or loops.
Ideally, you want as few redirects as possible. This will help search engines better understand your site, as well as improve user experience and site load times.
2. Crawl Before You Migrate
The best site migrations are handled with care. Before you change any URLs, be sure to crawl your current website first.
Use a tool like Screaming Frog to document and save your website crawl. This will give you a complete list of all your URLs as they are today. This data can help you see if anything goes missing during the site migration.
Remember to crawl your sandbox site (test site) before it goes live, too. This will help you check for any 404 errors, chains, or loops before the site goes live.
404 errors won’t hurt your traffic by themselves. However, if you let a high-ranking page accidentally die during a site migration, it will spell disaster for your SEO efforts.
If you do see some 404 errors, make sure you get them redirected.
Of course, there’s a good chance something can go awry during a migration. That’s why you need to test your links through regular crawling. Monitor your site before, during, and after the migration with tools like Screaming Frog, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console.
3. Log All Migrating Links
One-to-one is the best way to design your redirects. This way, every old page is now redirected to a single, new page.
One-to-one is more work. Instead of redirecting old pages to your home page, for example, you would redirect them to a new version of the page on the new URL. This is tedious work, but it’s the best way to plan a smooth, error-free site migration.
Log all of your old links in one column of a spreadsheet. In the next column, list the new version of the URL. Make sure each page is mapped to an appropriate updated URL. This will make it easier for your webmaster to redirect the URLs.
4. Adjust Internal Links and Images
URLs aren’t just a concern for your pages. When you migrate your site, the URLs also change on your internal links and images.
What happens if your blogs are all linking to an old URL for your Services page? If you’ve redirected all the links appropriately, this isn’t the end of the world.
However, it’s a best practice to update these internal links instead of relying on the redirection. This is because even a single redirect slows the user experience. Improve your load times and increase user satisfaction by adjusting internal links.
You’ll also need to update all image URLs during a site migration. Whether you realize it or not, search engines have been crawling and ranking the images on your site.
If you fail to redirect image URLs, you could potentially lose out on your SEO rank. Remember to redirect every single image URL. You don’t want a 404 to ruin your organic traffic!
The Bottom Line
Site migrations are risky, but they’re necessary to grow your business. If you’re updating your website URL, always follow best practices for your redirects. Partner with your webmaster or SEO to ensure your redirects encourage more traffic, not hinder it.
You don’t have to do your site migration alone, though. Logical Media Group specializes in site migration and redirects. Chat with us to get quick help for your website.