How to Keep the Traffic When You Migrate to a New Site?

Migrating to a new website can be challenging, especially when it comes to maintaining traffic.

Video transcript:

Tricia: So basically, here’s the scenario, a business has a new website design, but they have a new URL because they did rebranding. But they have the old URL domain up with the old business name, so right now, at this point, they have two websites at two different domains. The old website with the old name they really want to get rid of and just forward to the new one, but they’re getting lots of traffic from it. And leads. So, what should they do to prepare to redirect this entire old domain?

David: Okay.

Tricia: It’s a little similar but different to the question a few weeks ago.

David:  Yeah. So, we have to understand what redirects do and don’t do.

Tricia: Okay.

David: Redirects will help Google index the new site because it’ll say, oh, you were at this place, now you’re at that place. It will deindex the old site. It’ll help reindex the new site, but it doesn’t preserve traffic.

Tricia: Yes.

David: Right? So, your traffic will drop as Google deindexes the old and reindexes the new. And by traffic dropping, by the law of large numbers, theoretically, you might see fewer leads. So, then you have a business decision to make, not just an SEO decision. It might be worth that to just not have to maintain two different websites. Right? The expense of having two different websites, the time it’s going to take to maintain two different websites, it might be worth taking a little bit of a loss, presuming that the new website is better. But remember, you want to set the redirects to the new page on the new site that is most relevant to the old page on the old website. So, don’t redirect everything to the home page.

Tricia: Okay.

David: So, let’s say both sites have a page that says plumbing services. And both sites have a page that has to do with water heater installation. So, the water heater installation page on the old site should redirect to the water heater installation page on the new site, and the plumber page on the old site should redirect to the plumber page on the new site.

Tricia: So, what I believe they intended to do was to just take the URL and say redirect every that hits this URL passed it to the homepage. So, we’re saying don’t do that, redirect every single URL for this website to what it corresponds to?

David: Right. So, Google has basically said if you just redirect everything to the homepage, they’re going to ignore the redirects.

Tricia: Say that again?

David: Google said, if you just redirect everything to the homepage, they’re going to ignore those far as passing pagerank. People who have the old URL will still get to the new page, but it’s not going to help as you redirect. So, there are two ways you could do this. Number one, you have a host that only exists with the purpose of redirects, and you add a redirect list to that old host that has the old domain. And then, you can send individual URLs to the new place. Or, at a registrar level, you can say, send from this website to that website, but keep the last part of the URL in there. What that’ll do is create a whole bunch of 404 errors of the new domain because oldwebsite.com/ourplumbers does not exist on newwebsite.com. The page is now plumbers. So, it’ll send traffic to /newplumbers, and in Search Console and maybe Google Analytics to the 404 error, and you’ll say oh, now I’ve got to set up a redirect for new plumbers or, you know, whatever the URL might be. So, that’s the best-case scenario because you don’t have to have two hosts.

Tricia: So, you said doing it in the registrar?

David: As a registrar level. I don’t know the name of the setting, but it’s a setting where you pass the parameters and the rest of the domain name to the new site because then it won’t just redirect everything to the home homepage. It’ll redirect it to whatever the old URL was on the new domain.

Tricia: Okay.

David: And now you can get ahead of it, make sure the redirects are set up, from the old site to the new site, and that way, when it launches, they automatically go to the right page. But you’ll probably not be able to catch all those, even if you do your best. And so, in the future, you have to monitor your 404 errors, and you’re going to find out you’re getting a bunch of 404 errors to this page, and you didn’t know that page existed or at one point existed. And you’re going to redirect that, using a 301, of course, to the new page of the new site.

Tricia: Okay, and I’m wondering if, for the immediate future, maybe having them change something on the home homepage, just to say click here for our new site? And then wait a little while and then do the redirects?

David: In this case, probably the best thing to do is do the domain registrar level where you preserve the remainder of the URL in that redirect.  

Tricia: Okay.

David: And just make sure the domain registrar sets a 301, because again, by default, it’s 302, and that is not going to pass pagerank. So, we want to use a 301. We want to keep the remainder of the URL, besides the homepage, in that redirect. So, it tries to redirect it to the new site with the old URL. And then, we’ll carefully watch 404 errors on a regular basis. And as we discover them, we redirect them to the right page.

Tricia: Okay.

David: Now there’s going to be some pages that are removed and no longer exist, so you want to find the best possible page, and then if there’s nothing else, just redirect to the homepage.

Tricia: Okay.

David: But you really want to take the time to redirect it to the most relevant page.

Tricia: Got it. Okay.

David: That is the number one way newly designed websites lose traffic.

Tricia: Yeah. I mean, right now, both sites are up. But the old site actually did a name change. So, some people may not necessarily know that they’re the same business.

David: Yeah. Well, this becomes another issue where you really do want to go through using a backlink tool to see all the old websites they’re linking to the old URL and update them to the new URL. But it’s not going to get possible to do all of them. That’s why you need the redirect. But that could be a really good opportunity to re-establish relationships with these other websites and say, “Hey, at one point, you mentioned us. We have an article about us. Would you like an update?”

Tricia: Yeah.

David: Or, “Hey friend, can we give you a new testimonial for your website?” And update the link to our new URL.

Tricia: Okay.

David: But you’re going to use a backlink tool for that. You have to know where those backlinks are.

Tricia: Okay. Okay.

David: You got it.

Tricia: Yes. Thank you.


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