Maintaining SEO When Your Website Changes
You have a job board, and maybe you need to change the domain name. Maybe you’re upgrading your CMS, or even your entire job board’s structure and technology.
No matter why it’s changing, when your existing URLs change, it will impact your site’s SEO. It will also impact traffic from sources beyond search engines – think of your established audience who types in your URL directly or has you bookmarked. Think of all the places online that link to pages on your site.
If you make a change that affects those URLs, you’re going to get hurt. Yes, even if you’re moving to a better system with nice, clean, human-readable URLs to replace the less-than-ideal dynamic ones you had before.
There are ways to mitigate the damage, however, and it helps to plan ahead.
Step One – Google Search Console is Your Friend
Formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools, Google Search Console lets you do things like submit sitemaps, monitor search queries to that lead people to your site, and catch crawl errors.
Yoast has a great guide to setting up Google Search Console. One of the important things to pay attention to is to make sure you register your domain name correctly. Some URLs use “www” and some don’t, you may use an SSL certificate, which means there is an “s” in “https://”. All those pieces are part of your domain name, so make sure you enter it correctly.
Step Two – Submit Your Sitemap
Before you make your big changes, submit your sitemap to Google using the Search Console.
This tells Google where your site is and what pages are associated with it. (Google probably already knows most of it, but it’s good to stay up to date.)
Step Three – Plan Your Re-Directs
Getting a big picture view of your website by looking at its sitemap will help you in planning your re-directs. A re-direct is like a forwarding address. If you move, you tell the post office to re-direct all your snail mail to your new address.
It’s the same with re-directs.
To plan out your re-directs, take your list of page URLs and match them to their equivalents in your new domain or URL structure. More than one of your old pages might re-direct to a single page on your new domain, but that’s okay.
What you want to prevent is someone from reaching the old URL and getting an error, instead of being sent to a new page that’s close to what they were intending to find.
Step Four – Make the Switch and Re-Direct
Once you’ve made your change, implement your re-directs quickly.
Every web host and CMS will do this slightly differently, but if you use a CMS like WordPress, you can use a plugin like Safe Redirect Manager to set them up.
Step Five – Submit Your New Sitemap
Submitting your sitemap to Google a second time, after setting up the re-directs and submitting it the first time, provides Google’s bots a clear path from your old URLs to your new ones.
Your changes were structured, intentional, and now have clear pathways to their equivalent pages. This will help Google find your pages and deliver them in search results when appropriate.
There are more ways to optimize your site’s SEO using Google Search Console, and other tools like Yoast, but if you’re in a bind (like many Simply Hired sites may be), taking these steps can help mitigate loss in traffic due to a change in domain or URL structures.
And remember, regardless of whether or not you’ve set yourself up good SEO from a technical standpoint, you still need to market and promote your site and its content to really get found in search results.