How to upgrade your website successfully without losing PR

SEO Upgrade your website

Upgrading after a website redesign

Introducing our new responsive website. Using WordPress and the Elementor framework we put all the pieces back together and upgraded our 5 year old site. It needed to complement our new work and web 3.0 direction.
 
There are only a handful web design companies that take the time and effort to make sure they are following this process. The worst thing is their clients don’t even know this is a huge issue most of the time.
 
A company will typically upgrade its business or corporate website every 4-5 years. I thought since we where in the process of upgrading our old site that I would write a quick reference. This article is a outline that could keep you from loosing your ranking due to an upgrade. At Blue Light Labs every website we redesign and upgrade re-established with care.

Match up or 301 redirect to current URL structure

If the new website has a different URL structure, always make sure that you either match them up or setup 301 redirects. You can quickly find the primary pages by Googling the business name or URL. Google will typically output what it believes are the most prominent pages. Most CMS websites have SEF components or plugins that allow administrators to create URL aliases. You should have the option to re-direct to the new URL. This will make sure Google, Bing and other search engines know where the new version of that page is.

Sitemap Setup

The best way for Google to keep up with your changing website is to submit a sitemap using Google Search Console. When you add an article or new item to your website your sitemap should dynamically add the link reference to the sitemap.
 
Sitemaps are a great way of letting Google know you have an update. Websites with sitemaps will get indexed faster because they get pinged more frequently. I recommend submitting your sitemap as soon as you go live with your upgraded website. This way all your pages will get indexed faster and all old listings will get updated. Bing webmaster tools also has a sitemap submission I am not 100% sure how well it works but I am sure it is worth the effort.

Google verification / Bing verification

If you have not already done so, make sure your Google and Bing verification tags and files are copied over. Normally they give you 2 options either paste verification code in theof your template or upload a file with a long name to your root directory. Both options work fine don’t forget to do it. This lets search engines know that you are still the owner of the website and your re-indexing is legitimate. If you are moving your site from http: to https you will have the opportunity to submit the https version of the site.

The .htaccess

If there any custom 301 re-directs or PHP settings this file typically takes care of that. The .htaccess file is what controls what is public and what is private. We always make sure I have a backup of it because it keeps growing from year to year.
 
This file also lets you to deny access to specific paths so search engines don’t index things you don’t want them to. Depending on the CMS you are using for your new site it is good practice to block paths pointing to directories you don’t want public.

Check and improve on internal linking

Any old links you had from content within the external pages should worked over again. I would personally recommend 3-5 internal links per page. These links aid in letting search engines know what pages are more important for specific key phrases. For example, if I had a blog item that mentions web hosting it might be a good idea to link from “web hosting” to my web hosting service page. Internal linking is a way to spread PR across all the pages of your website.

Optimize images Alt Tags and CSS

It is hard to tell how much weight search engines are putting on this, but I try to make it a habit. I Optimize my images and CSS so the site loads like a champ. You can compress your images using a number of compression tools such as tinypng.com. It is also good practice to make sure your image tags match up.

Remember to create an upgrade list so you don’t forget anything when you’re in the process of moving a site to push live!

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