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Your Website Redesign Could Be an SEO Disaster

Websites should change along with your company. Pages and content should be rearranged, modified and deleted as well as the navigation structure changed to reflect the growth and changes to your company. Here’s a thought, what if a highly ranked page or pages need to be deleted or moved? You could kill all that great SEO you built up over the years. Well, I am here to help.

If you are unfamiliar with 301 redirects, you shouldn’t be. Basically a 301 redirect is done on a web server to let search engines and more importantly, visitors know where the page they are searching for has moved. It’s kind of like when you fill out that form at the post office that said you moved so all your important mail doesn’t end up in the dead letter pile. I know what you are thinking, sounds complicated besides I don’t have access nor do I want access to my web server. I understand but I’ll get to some easy ways to set this up but first you need to plan.

Break out that spreadsheet and start mapping the changes

The easiest way to do this is to create a column in Excel or whatever spreadsheet program you use and list all the pages URLs on your site not just the page titles. Next, in a second column, list the corresponding new page URLs. Wherever there isn’t an exact match you need to create a 301 redirect. If the topic doesn’t exist any longer, you can redirect to a similar topic page or to the list of services or products you do provide. The important thing is for a link to go somewhere beneficial as opposed to nowhere.

Something to keep in mind even though the page titles are the same, if the URL changes, you will end up with a dead link. This typically happens if you move from one type of development platform to another, for example, Wix to WordPress. It could also happen even if you stay with the same platform.

How do I create a redirect?

Typically redirects are done in the server’s .htaccess file and there is a formula to handle that which could take a whole article to understand it but, if you use WordPress, there are a bunch of plugins that you can use to do this from the WordPress Dashboard. I use Eggplant 301 Redirects(https://wordpress.org/plugins/eps-301-redirects/) particularly because I can import a spreadsheet as a .csv file so I am not doing double entry. If you are not using WordPress and the platform you are using doesn’t have a module or plug-in, your web developer can help you with it. Hopefully they already addressed it with you.

Planning Ahead Can Save You Headaches

Whether you are hiring a web developer or doing the redesign yourself, it is important to make sure you plan ahead. Missing this step can set you back in both time and money. Yes, a 301 redirect should be in place as you launch. You want to make sure that search engines don’t start realizing that they are linking to a bunch of dead links on your site. Your site could get penalized and drop in ranking. It is important to remember, 301, good and dead links, bad.