We recently changed our company name from Omoii Ltd to It Works Media Ltd and therefore had to change the website URL, something we know many companies will face.
How did we do this without negatively impacting customer and SEO performance? We break down each stage and detail what we did and the tools we used, which helped us to retain 90% of our current keyword rankings.
Track your current performance
Before making any changes to the URL, we recommend you analyse your external link profile in order to highlight which external links point to which pages.
We used Open Site Explorer (OSE) to list the top performing pages (the ones with the most links) created an excel spreadsheet to retain this information. Once tracked, we then matched these URLs to the new domain structure, to help us build the URL map.
Migrate the content
Once we had highlighted which content got the most links, we planned to migrate it over to the new website – as we were keeping the same WordPress CMS, this was relatively easy.
We also took the opportunity to update the content, tweak some of the data and add in more source references; basically repurposing what we had already created.
We also removed a lot of subject matter, such as old landing pages and supporting content, as they were not needed and added little value to the site or customer experience.
Map the URLs
Once we had migrated the content over to the new dev site, we used the URL map from OSE and in the column next to the old content URLs we added in the new ones. This allowed us to visualise how the new site will work with the old content and also allowed us to find alternative URLs for content which had been removed.
The .htaccess file and 301 redirects
We then used the URL map to build out our 301 redirects, this tells the search engines that the old URL has permanently moved to another location and any SEO score should be migrated to the new URL.
This is VERY important to help ensure the SEO performance of the old site is migrated to the new and organic rankings are not impacted.
The .htaccess file controls these redirects and sits on the old domain informing the browser (and search engines) to redirect to the new URL.
When you go live
When the new website goes live, check that the .htaccess file works as needed and that all old URLs are redirected to the new pages.
We also recommend monitoring Google Webmaster tools for at least 7 days to track any 404 errors and then updating the .htaccess file to amend any missed URLs that customers were still using.
Open Site Explorer also has a great tool which highlights any external links that are pointing to 404 error pages. This is a good way of highlighting any opportunities that are available to improve the flow of link equity from the external link.
By following a well planned and executed site migration we retained 90% of our target keyword rankings with zero impact to organic traffic. We also immediately gained rankings for our new content, helping to drive traffic to new pages in a more efficient time period.
We always advise our clients to retain a URL, but if that is not viable, then there are processes in place to minimise the impact to their current SEO performance.
The key is to plan your migration, analyse the assets you have in terms of content and external links and migrate the most relevant and powerful content to the new site.
There are plenty of tools and guides available from Google to help migrate a domain, but ultimately working with a team of experienced SEO professionals is always going to help 🙂